Wednesday 29 November 2023



The cliffs of Coire an Lochain on Saturday

Out of  the office window I am watching the first falls of snow down to Aviemore level this season. It has been a great November, up on the mountains. We've enjoyed many days of winter conditions. Now the temperatures are dropping and snow falling to lower levels. We've also had some cloud, wind and warmer spells in the hills, all quite normal in November. Overall, a brilliant start to the winter season. Snow and low temperatures forecast down in England and Wales usually gets folk thinking of winter courses. On Monday I had 5 winter course enquiries in the space of 12 hours! Thank you, thank you for choosing Tarmachan Mountaineering! A winter course in the Scottish Highlands will offer far more reliable conditions than south of the border, of course.

A nice covering of snow at 750m, Monadhliath
Mountain hare tracks, following there usual run in summer

Cold, snowy and frosty at 700m
On Saturday I went up to my usual place in the Monadhlith to see how the lovely mountain hares were getting on. Above 500m there was snow lying and some icy, frozen bare ground to lower levels too. The cloud hung about until mid day before some lovely winter sunshine peeped up above the clouds. I was over thr moon to spot 2 pairs of Ptarmigan at 820m. In the 10 years I have been to this particular hill and area I have never once seen Ptarmigan. Absolutely wonderful.

This area isn't ideal for ptarmigan as it is largely made up of heather moorland with only a few small places where there are rocks. So it was a real treat that they had landed here. I know every contour, peat hag and mounds of rock on this particular hillside. Definitely a first, unless they hid from me on a few occasions :) .

I spent a good 30 minutes with these 4 ptarmigan, just has the best of the days bright light made an appearance. 

On Sunday I headed up high to the Northern Cairngorms. A cracking day with beautiful clear skies. There were plenty of climbers enjoying the conditions on the crags of Coire an Lochain & Coire an t-sneachda.

Rime iced rocks, looking over to Braeriach

The top of The Couloir, Coire an Lochain

Ben Macdui plateau with a good covering

Cloud rolling in from the west by noon

The next weather front was making its appearance out in the west. By 1pm the high tops were shrouded in cloud and poor visibility. 

Cloud about to cover Beinn Mheadhoin

Staying very cold on the high tops all this week and into next week. Summit temperatures of minus 8 C. Down in Aviemore today it is just about freezing point.
Winter is here!

Many weekends are now fully booked and first half of January is full. Plenty of midweek dates left in December and Christmas dates are still available.....for now :)

The snow falling is getting heavier outside :)

Wednesday 22 November 2023



Nice and remote area for Lizzie's 2nd day out
On Monday and Tuesday this week I was joined by Lizzie for her 2 days of mountain hare photography with Gary Hodgson Photography. She had made the huge trip al the way from the south coast of England, just to see and photograph the beautiful Scottish Mountain Hares. On Monday it definitely wasn't optimal conditions. We headed to a lower are in the Monadhliath to get away from the low cloud and rain. We didn't get a break! It was poor visibility, 35mph + winds and light rain/drizzle all day long. 

Fine day in the Northern Cairngorms

We saw 3 hares, one very close to us but with such poor visibility the hare saw us last seconds, no way were we going to expect him sitting there for us.

Going on a 2 day workshop will give a better chance of one day at least being good conditions. On Tuesday we got a fine day, thankfully.

It was much cooler overnight on Monday, with snow falling down to about 800m. Tuesday morning dawned fine and bright. There was very little wind on the high Cairngorms and great visibility. So we headed high up. We weren't disappointed!

Lovely hare in a remote spot
After 2 hours of walking I eventually spotted a lovely hare at an altitude of 1100m, in a remote corner of the plateau. Lizzie was over the moon and we spent a good 30 minutes with this wee fella.

A nice, fresh dusting of snow on top of an icy, old snowpack. More snowfall and much lower temperatures on Friday. 
Heading back down, Lizzie more than happy

Excellent skies

Saturday 18 November 2023


Sgor and Lochain Uaine & Brearich above a temperature inversion, Thursday 16 Nov

 Anopther wonderful cold spell on the Cairngorms this week. On Monday and Tuesday it was well below freezing and snow falling on the high ground. It doesn't take long before the mountains come into full winter conditions. On Thursday the winds had eased to viryually nothing miles per hour on the tops. A day of sun and possibly temperature inversions was on the cards. A good day to get up high with the proper camera. Karen and I decided on a good leg stretch up Ben Macdui to see how much snow was on the hills. 

Meall a' Bhuachaille amidst swirling clouds first thing

Snowline at 850m

We've not yet had any snow down to Strathspey level this season, but  I am sure it won't be far away. We have had some good dumps up high though. At the moment the snowline is around 850m. We set off with some wonderful atmospheric cloud at lower levels with bright skies on the mountains.

Bright sun and drifting clouds

Fiacaill Coire Sneachda & Cairn Gorm

We gained the Cairngorm - Ben Macdui plateau and the bright skies was transformed with drifting clouds from the south. Very atmospheric as we made our way across the plateau in ankle deep snow. At the lochans we had some wonderful Fog Bows being created in these brilliant conditions.

Deep snow, sun & clouds at 1100m

A fog bow at lunchtime

Quite a few of these today

The route up to Ben Macdui was in constant changing overhead conditions. Bright sun, fog bows, glimpses of distant mountains. If there wasn't already a track of foot prints in the snow today then the map and compass would most certainly been deployed in these conditions.

Will the sun break through?


Braeriach above a temperature inversion in the Lairig Ghru

We were just gaining Ben Macdui's North Top when we broke out of the cloud and into bright sunshine and blue skies! Absolutely fabulous. One of the finest weather conditions any hillwalker or mountaineer will experience in their life is a temperature inversion. The high tops were poking into clear skies above the cloud. Fine views across the cloud filled Lairig Ghru towards Sgor an Lochain Uaine and Braeriach.


Looking back down to the plateau

Cairn Gorm & Bynack More clear

We enjoyed 20 minutes of fine views in the sunshine but the final few minutes to the summit of Ben Macdui the cloud drifted over again and the views disappeared.

20 minutes from here to the top of Ben Macdui

but the cloud drifting over the summit

Ben Macdui summit in cloud

All the way back from Ben Macdui's summit, across the plateau and over to the Northern Corries we had zero views and very poor visibility. We saw no one for 3 hrs! Only when we descended the Fiacaill Coire Cas ridge did we come back out of the cloud. 

A top day out, one of many stunning winter days this season I am certain.

Finally out of the cloud


Stunning mid afternoon on Cairn Gorm

On Friday the fine spell of high pressure continued. Hardly a breath of wind again on the high Cairngorms. All the snow is still there and another glorious sunny day up high. There was a bank of cloud stuck in Strathspey all day. Above 350m it was completely clears skies until early afternoon. 

Beautiful, undisturbed snow above Strathspey
Bynack More

I had a day of photography and some wildlife watching. A lot of ski-tourers around, scaring off all the Mountain Hares. I saw plenty of footprints and wee snow shelters where they had been resting up overnight. No sign of ptarmigan, the snow quite deep so they've probably moved off to a better area with less snow cover.

Looking over to Beinn A'an & Ben a' Bheither

Glorious surface hoar crystals

Untrodden snow

I wandered up to the summit of Cairn Gorm after midday. There was some cloud rolling in from the SW which made for lovely images. Clear skies are not what photographers are looking for. Cloud and light make more interesting images.

Beinn Mheadhoin

Rime ice

Stathspey in fog all day

Spot where the mountain hare was resting

mid afternoon, last of the sun light

Excellent snow cover

Contrast of low angled light and clouds drifting in

Windier, wetter and cloudier on Saturday. You need to catch the glorious winter days when they come along.

Cloud moving in over the Fiacaill Ridge at dusk