Saturday 15 February 2020

Between the storms: a snowshoe walk in the Cairngorms

Storm Ciara fades away, Storm Dennis approaches. For one day the mountains are calm. Before the fury erupts again. Taking advantage of this brief lull I wandered across the foot of the Northern Corries of Cairn Gorm and up to Miadan Creag an Leth-choin. The snow brought by Ciara was deep, although many areas were wind-scoured, and I was on snowshoes all day. The air was chill but there was little wind and I never needed an outer jacket or even hat and gloves much of the time. 

Whilst the weather was quiet there were still great sheets of dark cloud drifting over the summits. Coire Cas was busy but once out of sight of the car park and ski area there were few people and those there were looked well prepared for winter. Walkers coming down were wearing crampons. Higher up I realised why as I encountered large areas of rippled, refrozen, icy snow. My snowshoes have metal edges and crude crampons underfoot and bit easily into the ice. 

I had planned on going to the top of Creag an Leth-choin for the view down the Lairig Ghru and across to Braeriach but as I neared the broad flat top of Miadan Creag an Leth-choin (the name means Meadow of the Lurcher’s Crag) the clouds swept in and I was quickly shrouded in mist. 

Leaving the summit cairn – if this slightly raised spot can be called a summit – I crunched northwards towards Creag an Leth-choin. This was familiar country but in this mist I could see very little, just rocks and snow and ice fading into nothingness and occasional brief glimpses of distant peaks. Above blue sky came and went but the mist stayed.

With steep slopes falling into the Lairig Ghru not far away I paused to check my exact location on my phone then took a compass bearing. It would have been easy to go astray here and wander round in circles. Standing still I felt the complete silence wrap round me. There was nothing but the mountain, nothing but snow and rock. Peaceful and hostile at the same time. A world of harshness and beauty.

A short descent took me to the head of Lurcher’s Gully. Ahead and not far above was Creag an Leth-choin. I turned away, seeing no point in ascending this oft-visited peak and seeing nothing. The snow in the broad gully was deep. I followed ski tracks down then cut out of the gully to head back to Coire Cas. 

As dusk fell the clouds on Cairn Lochan and Cairn Gorm began to lift and disperse. The mountains glowed pink then slowly turned blue and cold. Ahead Meall a’Bhuachaille was pale, floating, mist wreathed. 

1 comment:

  1. Superbly atmospheric photos, Chris! All the best from Mark & Helen xx