Saturday 29 October 2022

Waiting for Winter & a look back at early November last year

Cairn Lochan, November 4, 2021

The clocks go back tonight. In the Cairngorms sunset is at 16.35 tomorrow. Sunrise is at 07.24. Nine hours between them, daylight time that will shrink until the Winter Solstice. It's time for early starts and headlamps. It should be time for warm clothing and thoughts of ice axes and crampons but it isn't. It's unusually warm for the time of year. There have been dustings of snow on the summits but they haven't lasted. 

There's no sign of cold weather in the forecast but this can change quickly. Last year October was mostly snow and frost free, though not as warm as this year. Then in early November the first substantial snow fell and I had a great day out in winter conditions in the Cairngorms. All the photos in this post were taken on that day, November 4, 2021. Will it be the same this year? I hope so!

Cairn Toul appears amongst the swirling clouds

Here's a short piece I wrote for The Great Outdoors about how much I enjoy winter in the mountains, especially when solo.

View over Bod an Deamhain to Beinn a' Ghlo

Winter is exciting, challenging, beautiful. The mountains feel bigger, remoter, wilder. And they are. Winter means cold, short daylight hours, snow, storms. Time shrinks. Everything takes longer. The weather really matters in a way it doesn’t in summer. A storm doesn’t just mean you might get wet, it can mean blizzards, white-outs, hurricane force winds. Snow can bring avalanche danger too. Before every trip I check the mountain forecast and the avalanche forecast, and then decide on my plans. Winter mountains are not to be taken lightly. Especially when solo. It’s not the time to take risks.

Beinn Mheadhoin

At the same time the rewards of winter are immense. Being alone in the mountains as the stars sparkle in a dark sky above the ghost-white snow or the sun rises above a frosty camp. Making a new ski or snowshoe track through unbroken snow in the deep silence of a calm day. Navigating through a white-out with only your skills and equipment to keep you safe. 


Solo winter adventures mean self-reliance, confidence in your abilities. There’s no-one else to turn to.


  1. What a difference a week makes
    It was totally dark 6.45 last week up there
    Literally two hours earlier now

    Excellent post and suggestions

    More people should take note of you vs so many wannabe YouTubers out there now who just picked up a camera or phone recently.

  2. Thank you Chris,another lovely piece of words and photos,it brings back to me memories of years gone by when it was just me and my Akto on a mountain during winter,I miss being there but I can live on with reading your blog and books.I hope very soon we all will read that you have the winter weather conditions to enjoy a good night out.