Sunday 2 March 2014

Cairngorms February 2014

Looking up from the comfort of my armchair I could just make out the lower slopes of the Cairngorm Mountains, but the summits were still hidden from view. The rattle of the tiles above told me that I would have to wait a while longer before setting off on my adventure.

The forecast looked good for Friday, so I cut my pieces of freeze proof cake, donned my multiple layers, fastened my boots and checked once more that I had all my safety equipment.

The plan was to slog my way up the steep ridge that arrives on the Cairngorm plateau below the summit of Cairngorm. The sun was out as I set off, but the wind was fierce. Crampons were soon needed, as the combination of slippery ice and strong wind threatened to dump me on my arse.

As I neared the plateau the visibility had reduced dramatically, but I was feeling strong and the summit of Cairngorm called. It was now time for goggles and my trusty balaclava.

Though it was very cold, the conditions were fantastic on the summit, but where was the weather station?

Cairngorm Weather Station 2014

Below is the same view, but in February 2012:

Cairngorm Weather Station February 2012

Eventually after a drink and a piece of fruit cake, I set off to do the Northern Corries route. The visibility once again deteriorated as height was lost. At times it was difficult to see anything. My navigation was good except for one occasion when the edge of Corrie an Lochain loomed large right in front of me. The cliff edge is quite jagged and real care has to be taken to avoid walking off the plateau in poor visibility - an 800 foot drop awaits the unwary.

Looking Over the Plateau Towards the Ridge that Separates the Two Corries

Drifting snow and strong wind slowed my progress. It would have been easier to have done the route in an anti-clockwise direction and have the wind at my back. However, I do like to enjoy the weather! Plumes of snow spiralled across the plateau twisting this way and that.

Not once did I hear a Ptarmigan call. There is a saying that when Ptarmigan go down the hill, humans should follow.

I Wasn't Alone (this was one of the better moments on the plateau)

Reaching the Corrie I found a little bit of shelter from the wind, but this is also a dangerous place with lots of terrain traps. I found myself walking across a frozen lochan. I only realised this when I noticed a large crack in the snow. Peering through the crack, I could see I was walking on a layer of frozen snow held aloft above the frozen surface of a lochan (small lake). A hollow tomb lay in wait below me, so I carefully re-traced my steps and headed away from the danger. The main lochan was completely buried in snow. normally you can see blue ice just below a thin layer of snow.

At last I found some Ptarmigan - a female and three males hunkered down against the wind.

Male Ptarmigan
Looking Back Towards Corrie an Lochain

Quite a contrast to the previous days gulling, but both require dedication and just a little craziness. 

1 comment:

  1. That weather station photo is just awesome Carl... Some great photos once again from your trip.