Friday 27 May 2022

Storms & Rainbows: A Walk Over Meall a' Bhuachaille

May has been a stormy month with high winds, cloudy skies and rain. Sunshine has been rare. I had planned a long walk, two weeks or more, in the Cairngorms, as part of immersing myself in the right frame of mind for writing a book about the area. I was almost ready to set off when an appointment suddenly appeared. As I’d been waiting well over a year for this I wasn’t going to turn it down. The long walk would have to wait. Instead I headed out for three days, as described in this post, with the intention of starting the walk later in the month, after the appointment. I also thought I’d wait for a change in the weather. I’m still waiting.

No long walk doesn’t mean no walks of course and I have been ambling round the local area, admiring the lushness of early summer, the brilliant green of new leaves, the spreading wild flowers. Nature doesn’t mind the wind and rain. A few days ago, wanting to stretch my legs a bit more, I went on a favourite short hill walk – Meall a’Bhuachaille. The forecast suggested, as so often this month, high winds and low cloud on the highest summits. On Meall a’Bhuachaille I’d be some 400 metres lower and wouldn’t be up high very long anyway so I hoped conditions wouldn’t be too severe. I went in the late afternoon too, as the weather was supposed to improve then. I do love the long hours of daylight at this time of year. 

Rain was falling lightly as I set off through the forest to Ryvoan Pass and An Lochan Uaine – the Green Loachan. I could hear the wind in the treetops. The wind-rippled lochan was green, blue and white, reflecting the trees, sky and clouds. 

As the path led up out of the trees the rain grew heavier and the wind stronger. By the time I reached little Ryvoan Bothy the storm was fierce and I decided some shelter would be welcome. Inside a figure in a sleeping bag greeted me. From Germany, he told me he’d been coming to the Highlands for two weeks walking in May for many years. This year, the pandemic having prevented him visiting since 2019, he’d decided to be ambitious and walk the Cape Wrath Trail. The weather had been appalling though and after several days he’d abandoned the walk and headed east. “This is my holiday after all!”.  Now he was wandering through the Cairngorms from bothy to bothy, mostly staying low because of the weather.

Outside the rain turned to hail, a deafening roar hammering on the bothy roof. I wondered about continuing. Soon it eased though and there was a touch of sunshine. Meall a’Bhuachaille beckoned. During the ascent I turned and looked back frequently to see rainbows curving over the wet hills. 

The sun was suddenly blindingly in my eyes. I hadn’t expected to need sunglasses. Not for long, the sky soon darkening again. Across Glenmore Forest the high Cairngorms were briefly out of the clouds.

The first drops of rain fell. I raced the storm to the summit and lost, of course. The wind up here was strong, the rain hard. I didn’t linger but was soon heading down, the rain keeping me company all the way back to the car.

In ten days I’m going south to spend three days wandering round bright halls packed with outdoor gear at a trade show. I expect the weather will be lovely.

Next month the long walk.

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