Wednesday 30 March 2022

On Sgor Gaoith

View west on the descent

A dense grey sky. The hills hidden in low cloud. The temperature barely reaching 6°C. The barometer falling rapidly. After ten days of high pressure, warm temperatures, brightness and sunshine today felt like a return to normality.

View from Sgor Gaoith

The ending of the fine spell was not a surprise though, having been forecast for several days. For a last day out before the weather changed I headed for Glen Feshie and Sgor Gaoith. March 28th was warm and still but there was rather more cloud than in recent days, a sign, perhaps, of the change to come.

Leaving the forest

Walking up through the fine old pine forest I became aware of a vast silence. There was no sound in the trees, no wind, no birds. The Allt Ruadh down in the long narrow glen below me was roaring with snowmelt but somehow its noise didn’t impede on the quiet of the forest. That silence was with me all day, significant, part of the landscape. Every time I stopped and the crunch of my boots ceased it was there, all around me.

Braeriach from Sgor Gaoith

Above the trees the hills only showed strips of snow. I had expected more. Maybe the ice axe and crampons I was carrying wouldn’t be needed. I met walkers descending. “Which way are you going up there? Left or right?” “Left. Sgor Gaoith”. “You’ll be ok. People going right turned back, saying the snow was too soft and deep”. The snowshoes were in the car. 

Sunbeams & the East Drumochter Hills

The sun kept breaking through the clouds as I climbed, illuminating the sky with its bright rays. When I reached the long wide ridge of which Sgor Gaoith is the high point I understood what the walkers had told me. To the right big snowfields stretched out across the Moine Mhor to Mullach Clach a’Bhlair, to the left the slopes up to Sgor Gaoith were mostly snow free. 

Sgor Gaoith

The majority of the ascent over I stopped for a rest and lay against my pack watching the sky. Again, the silence was overwhelming. And here at over 1000 metres it was still warm. I had no need of a jacket. A t-shirt was enough, as it was the whole day. Not since last August had this been the case.

Snowbanks above Loch Einich

Rather than the main path I followed the eastern edge of the ridge with its tremendous views down to Loch Einich and across the Moine Mhor and up to Braeriach. I didn’t go as close to the edge as sometimes. The little path kept disappearing into cracked banks of snow, snow that I could see formed sagging cornices. Cautious, I stayed on dry ground. 

Sgor Gaoith with cornices
I continued along the ridge beyond the summit, gazing at more impressive cornices and at mighty Braeriach then turned west for the long spur stretching over Meall Buidhe and Geal Charn. This broad stony ridge was grey and brown with only a few traces of snow. I wouldn’t be needing the ice axe or crampons.

View back to Sgoran Dubh Mor & Sgor Gaoith from Meall Buidhe

Out to the west the landscape was hazy and subdued, the hills grey silhouettes lit by more silvery sunbeams. As I reached the edge of the forest the low sun sent an orange shaft like a searchlight through the clouds. 

 Tomorrow snow is forecast. I wonder when it’ll be a t-shirt day again.

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