Tuesday, 13 March 2018


Loch Coire an Lochan and the Northern Coire of Braeriach
Sgoran Dubh Mor from Braeriach's Northern slopes
Glean Eanaich & Braeriach 
Fabulous snow and Strathspey views 
Braeriach plateau 
Cornices over the Northern Corries gullies 
Evening light on the descent 

Braeriach is my favourite mountain in the Cairngorm National Park. The UK's third highest hill is big, remote, complex and invariably a quiet mountain for those reasons. The finest walking route up in winter is via the mountain's Northern Corries. These corries are well seen from the centre of Aviemore. Indeed some folk mistake this view for Cairn Gorm!
The weather was forecast to improve by late afternoon so I had another leisurely start again, after mid day. This time of year there are long daylight hours, it doesn't get dark till after 7pm. I biked up Gleann Eanaich which knocks off a considerable time for the day. There was a light flurry of snow as I started walking up the hill. About 20 minutes later the sun popped out and the views were lovely in the afternoon light. There are several shallow gully lines that run down from the north side of the mountain, just above the Eanaich track. These are well filled in with deep snow by mid winter and linger through to Spring. I reckoned there must be 3 metres of snow at the moment in these. The walking was brilliant up here after the melt/freeze spell. These gullies lead up to Loch Coire an Lochan which sits under the Northern Corries of Braeriach. This is one of the highest stretches of water in the UK at over 1000m. The lochan is well frozen over just now and the coire above has a thick coating of snow with some big cornices above. From the lochan there are a few choices to gain the plateau, today I chose the west bounding slopes which consisted of well frozen snow and a delight to crampon up. Just as I got onto the summit plateau the cloud drifted in again and I had no views after this unfortunately. In fact it was almost white out conditions on the summit area. Hardly any breeze on the top.
A windy couple of days ahead with some fresh snow fall. The weekend looks much colder but calmer. Clear skies forecast in the NW and freezing levels dropping. Winter continues......

Monday, 12 March 2018


Cairn Lochan above the temperature inversion
Temperature inversion, fog bow & Brocken Spectre!
The cloud creeping up Coire an Lochain
The two folk in the bottom right give the scale
The cloud creeping up Coire an t-Sneachda
Fiacaill Buttress
What a sight!
Cairn Gorm and a fog bow
It's creeping higher!
Approaching Cairn Gorm summit, the cloud wins!
Would rather have this!
One of the finest weather phenomena in the mountains has to be a temperature or cloud inversion. If you go into the mountains on a regular basis, you will no doubt encounter one of these sooner or later. If you're really lucky you may even get a Broken Spectre too. If you're very, very lucky you may get a Temperature Inversion, Brocken Spectre and a Fog Bow all in one day. There were all three in the Northern Cairngorms today. For any weather forecaster, these must be quite difficult to predict. A period of high pressure, light winds and relatively warm air are the ingredients. Most occur during  the Autumn and Winter months. I guess there is an element of luck involved too. There has been warm air during the day and colder nights recently. All good to get the snow pack stable. It was definitely much easier to walk over the last few days and the avalanche risk has reduced in the melt/freeze cycles. Some lovely walking  underfoot. All the stream beds are well filled in with snow to lower altitudes in the Northern Corries.
Another leisurely 10.30am start this morning. It was cloudy and clagged in at 630m. It was so warm I was down to base layers on the approach to the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda. Above 850m the sun was trying to burst through the thin cloud cover. Was it going to be clear skies soon? The anticipation on days like this is fantastic. How could you not get excited, even if I have been up the Fiacaill Ridge more times than I care to count! At an altitude of 1000m it was gloriously hot and there were clear skies. What a sight! 'Below us only cloud', as the song goes. There were a few parties on the ridge enjoying the Alpine conditions. Half-way up and a glorious Fog Bow was arcing over the ridge. Down toward Coire an t-Sneachda the Brocken Spectre made its appearance. Magic!
By the time I reached the plateau, the top of the cloud had started rising again. I headed up to the summit of Cairn Lochan. The only mountains poking out of the sea of cloud were Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Ben Macdui, Beinn Mheadhoin and Cairn Gorm. I sat sunbathing in the warm, still air for over half an hour before the cloud finally crept up over all the summits.
I wandered across the plateau and up to Cairn Gorm in the hope that the cloud would sink again, but it never did. Well, mustn't be greedy!

Sunday, 11 March 2018


Great day for Mountain Hare's
Coire an Lochain looking fab
The Vent well filled in
Coire an Lochain above the clouds
They were very photogenic this morning
Plenty of croaking ptarmigan
Big cornices
Not to be out done
For the first time in a while the freezing levels were above the summits in The Caingorms. Not a breath of wind this morning in The Northern Corries. Down to base layers by 11am. Of course we have so much snow that the Highlands can handle a small period of warmer temperatures. In fact it is welcome to get the snow pack into a safer condition. There have been a few big natural avalanches just recently, high up in the corries. A good melt/freeze is exactly what we need. Brilliant day for wildlife and photography again. The air so silent we could hear every sound form the ptarmigan, grouse and snow bunting. Along with the chattering climbers and dogs. You can always find a nice corner of the Cairngorms to escape the crowds and see the wildlife. The mountain hare's in particular were brilliant today. Some very photogenic and posing nicely. Another calm, benign and bright day tomorrow. All is well. Don't forget that The Scottish Highlands has heaps of snow and will survive this wee rise in temperatures, unlike England and Wales were the hills will strip very quickly. If you want winter, we have it up here!

Friday, 9 March 2018


Late afternoon, Fiacaill Coire Sneacda
Coire an t-Sneachda (Note the Crown Wall from the avalanche)
Ben Macdui, Cairn Toul & Sgor an Lochan Uaine
Fabulous light on the Fiacaill
Beinn Mheadhoin & Shelterstone
Loch Morlich from The Fiacaill

Lovely cornices above Jacob's Ladder
High altitude Shrew looking for his snow hole
Cairn Gorm from Alladin's Couloir
More cornices
A fine sunset at 1141m

Buttress & Ridge

We've enjoyed some fine weather over the last few days here in the Cairngorms. Nice to get good views and sunshine after last weeks miserable low cloud cover. It was showery and a tad windy this morning but it was forecast for a big improvement later in the day. With so many weather forecasts available nowadays and being more and more accurate you can really plan you time in the mountains better. The Met Office forecast for the Northern Cairngorms was for sunshine and blue skies and lighter winds after 4pm. That is exactly what we got! So I set off for some photography with this time slot in mind. Brilliant snow cover all the way to 600m at the moment. Below 900m it is consolidating well and some wind scoured areas so easy walking. I headed up to the foot of the Fiacaill Coire Sneacda, by this time it was 2pm and the last of the short snow showers had finished. Forecast was spot on! 30% chance of a shower and sunshine around this time! It was brilliant hard snow along the lower section of the ridge and easy cramponing whilst taking in the views. The Crown Wall of the recent avalanche in Coire an t-Sneacda was very clear in the afternoon sunshine. There was also a large natural avalanche at the same period over in Coire an Lochain too. Check out the SAIS blog from a couple of days ago for details. Of course ridges are always the safest places to be in any avalanche risk. The only folk I saw today was a group of mountain rescue guys from the RAF who were training on the ridge and just heading down. The rest of the afternoon I had the place to myself. With fine light it was just a brilliant time for some photography. Just as I was capturing the sunset from the 1141m summit, a wee shrew was scurrying about looking for his snow hole. I'm always amazed how such a tiny animal can survive up at at these altitudes in winter. A stroll down the Cais ridge in superb hard windslab snow to end a fab day. Time your day around the weather, when it comes!

Thursday, 8 March 2018


Mountain Hare in winter coat
Spindrift, Coire an Lochain
Male ptarmigan
Climbers on the Fiacaill Ridge
Female ptarmigan
Avalanche fracture line, Coire an t-Sneachda
Hare on watch
Enjoying the sun
Plenty of ski tourers out at the moment
Nice light
Looking fine
Think I will have a nap in the sun now
Another glorious morning in The Northern Cairngorms. Light winds and blue skies the order of the day. The full cover of snow in the Northern Corries is just fabulous. The windslab below 900m is a real pleasure to walk on now it is consolidating a bit. A great day for some wildlife. I took advantage of the light winds, bright sun and beautiful light to catch our Cairngorm specialities in their winter coats, ptarmigan and mountain hare. Some nice moments for photography, no cold fingers today. It won't be long before the hare's and ptarmigan will be changing into their Spring coats. Until then it's a great time to enjoy the rest of winter. I still have plenty of free dates for winter courses in March. If you want to photograph the wildlife then may be come on one of my wildlife and photography days.