Monday 20 February 2023

Mist & snow on Geal-charn Mor

Woods & hills fading into the mist

Storm Otto brought damaging winds resulting in thousands of power cuts (our electricity was out for five hours). The weather station on Cairn Gorm recorded a gust of 120mph. Otto was short though, over in less than 24 hours, and behind it came cold weather and a night of snow, the first at low level for several weeks. The next day I woke to a calm white world.

The forecast for the hills was simple – fog all day. Light winds though, a gift in this windy winter, before storms returned the next day. I went to Geal Charn Mor, a Corbett (Scottish mountain over 2,500 feet/762 metres and 3,000 feet/914.4 metres), in the Monadh Liath hills on the Kinrara estate where Brew Dog is creating its “Lost Forest”. I wrote about that ill-thought out project after my visit last August.

The sun not quite breaking through

My aim this time was partly to see if there had been any further developments since then though mostly to enjoy a hill walk in the fresh snow. As it was, not much had changed though the fencing I’d seen was now complete. There was a scattering of heavy machinery along the estate track known as the Burma Road I took into the hills, but that was it.

The unfriendly sign

I wasn’t impressed by the sign on the gate at the end of the public road though. Who are these "visitors"? Not hillwalkers I presume. I guess it means those going to the Brew Dog plantation in some official capacity. It could easily put off walkers and cyclists though and maybe that’s the intention.

Birch in the mist

Shaking off my dislike of the sign I headed up the Burma Road in soft slushy snow. Two sets of boot prints went ahead of me. The clouds were low, brushing the tops of trees high on the hillside. Distant views quickly faded into nothing. Two walkers passed me, heading done. Soon the edge of the mist envloped me and the views became even hazier.

Blue sky over the Dulnain glen, briefly

Above the trees the snow hardened and walking was less slippery. At the top of the Burma Road I peered down into the glen of the River Dulnain where I could see the old pinewoods that could regenerate and spread if Brew Dog wasn’t so keen on planting an instant forest. There was blue sky in that direction and the clearest views of the day. Two walkers were descending. I saw no-one else.

Not really sunny but the glare ....

Leaving the Burma Road I headed up the gentle slops to Geal-charn Mor. A faint sun was just visible in the mist. The glare still was enough for me to don dark glasses. The wind, gentle lower down, was stronger and colder so a jacket went on as well.

Once I left the Burma Road there was nothing definite in the world. Tips of grasses and heather and the tops of rocks gave me something to focus on, along with the occasional line of mountain hare tracks. It wasn’t quite a white-out but it wasn’t far off. Somehow walking in this enclosed insubstantial world was relaxing and calming. Just myself, the mist, the snow, and the wind.

The snow was deep enough to level out the boggy ground but not firm enough to support me, making walking quite hard work. Higher up I trod on hidden stones at awkward angles, lurching from side to side. Above were tantalising hints of a clearance that never developed.

Summit without a view

On the summit I stopped for a snack, a hot drink, and in the hope the mist might clear a little.  It didn’t. 

There's something in that cloud

However on the way back down hazy mountains, or at least crags dark enough to show through the mist, appeared across Strathspey, fading in and out but never sharp enough to be really clear. Phantom mountains hanging in the white air.

That's better!

Lower down as the first trees appeared the views cleared just slightly as bands of mist rose and fell. The snow was thawing fast now and the walking less slippery. I hadn’t seen much in the sense of grand views and vast panoramas but that didn’t mean I hadn’t seen or felt anything. The mist, the snow, the sense of remoteness, the ethereal distant cliffs, all part of the mountain experience.

The Burma Road winds down into the forest

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