Monday 6 May 2024

Spring Arrives: Ryvoan Pass & Meall a' Bhuachaille

Some years spring creeps in so gradually it’s hard to say when it has begun. This year spring has arrived with startling speed. One day the end of winter was still dragging on. The next the sun was hot and winter felt long gone. April was mostly grey, wet, and windy. The snowdrops in the garden lingered most of the month. The buds on the trees appeared to be making no progress. Then May arrived with sunshine and brightness. The world had changed. So fast! It was hard to adapt. I still had winter gear – snowshoes, ice axe, crampons – in the car. Winter boots littered the porch. Suddenly all redundant. Until the autumn.

A favourite spring walk called. Well, it’s a favourite anytime, but especially in spring and autumn when the woods are glorious. Ryvoan Pass and Meall a’ Bhuachaille never fail to delight.

Still not trusting the sunshine I set off in a windshirt. It was in the pack in less than ten minutes and never reappeared. A t-shirt was enough. And dark glasses and a sunhat. In the trees it was hot.

The birches were just coming into leaf and starting to glow green. The stars of wood anemones lined the path. An Lochain Uaine was pretty but, for once, rather bland. Higher up, as the trees began to thin out, I heard a bird singing. A pause and I spotted it, a willow warbler, tiny and olive green, perched, appropriately, on a young willow shoot. Another summer visitor soon showed itself, though silent. A handsome stonechat perched atop a young pine.

More willow warblers sang as I approached Ryvoan Bothy, which is being renovated by the Mountain Bothies Association. The corrugated iron porch that has been there for decades was gone. It will be replaced. Inside all was the same.

The paths were a surprise. I had forgotten they could be dusty. I’d grown used to sodden ground and mud. I was wearing trail shoes for the first time since last summer and had assumed they would get wet but it would be warm enough for that not to matter. They were to stay dry all day.

The climb up Meall a’ Bhuachaille felt hard work in the heat. Having cursed the endless winds all winter I welcomed the breeze higher up. Across Ryvoan Pass Cairn Gorm and the Northern Corries still sported strips of snow, though far less than usual at this time of year.

From the summit I could see the mountains fading into a hazy distance, the light more like high summer than early spring. The sky had clouded over as I climbed. Now the clouds began to break, bright and dappled as the sun cutting through them.

As soon as I reached the first trees I heard a willow warbler and spotted another stonechat. There were wood anemones again too, even more profuse than earlier.

To the right of the path a large area of spruce had been recently felled, the ground covered with pale stumps. The skeletons of long dead pines rose into the air, presumably ones left when the plantation was created. The plantation on the other side of the past was felled quite a few years ago and now has thickets of young birch and a few young pines springing up as it recovers. I noticed that regenerating spruce had recently been cut down here.

For a short distance the path runs in a corridor of scattered trees with the felled areas either side. In the decades to come this land should recover and become a natural forest again.

Soon I was into the dark confines of the mature forest and back in the glen. My spring walk was over. I thought of willow warblers, stonechats, and wood anemones, three symbols of the new season for this year.

No comments:

Post a Comment