Saturday 26 February 2022

A Brief Respite From Storms and Thaw In The Cairngorms

Today the wind is howling in the trees again and the thaw that started last night has cleared the low level snow and reduced it on the Cromdale Hills to small patches. The pattern of the winter continues. Strong winds most days. Heavy snowfalls quickly followed by a thaw. One day a week seems to be calmer. This week that was yesterday so I set off to see what the snow and wind of the previous day had done to the Cairngorms.

The view of Meall a'Bhuachaille showed the wind direction during the snow fall. The north-western slopes were scoured. They were scoured too on the east ridge of Coire na Ciste. There were only small patches of snow but the ground was frozen and icy and I was soon wearing crampons.

As I approached the broad north ridge of Cairn Gorm the ice axe came out too as the snow was now extensive and a slip could have sent me a long way. Up here a chill wind picked up and I sought the shelter of boulders for brief stops.

The light was soft under rushing grey clouds, a feeling of the Arctic rather than the bright sharpness of the Alps. The Cairngorms can supply either. A bleak beauty today. And a feeling of remoteness and a different world even though I was only a few hours from the car. Height can make such a difference. 

I had thought I would wander up Cairn Gorm but the wind was strengthening and the clouds dropping. Gazing over Strath Nethy was enough. Turning back I retraced my steps. Lower down the air was warming. As I descended I slowly shed, crampons, ice axe, hat, gloves. The thaw was beginning.

Although the car park was busy I'd seen few people, as usual for this part of the Cairngorms despite its accessibility. On the ascent I watched a small group making their was up a wide swatch on snow on the side of Coire na Ciste. On the descent a lone walker crossed the ridge below me and headed off into Coire Laogh Mor.

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