Wednesday, 31 October 2018


Five Sisters ridge, Kintail
Winter has definitely arrived in The Highlands. The last few days have been constantly below freezing on the Munros, the North West and Cairngorms seeing the best cover of snow. I've had three excellent days out starting on Sunday with Karen who ticked off another two new Munro summits in the Creag Meagaidh area, Carn Liath and Stob Poite Coire Ardair.

Coire Ardair from the summit of Stob Poite Coire Ardair
The ridge from Carn Liath
Sunday was a glorious day to be out. Clear skies were to be found the further west you headed. You didn't need to travel too far from Aviemore to find the best of the weather. So we chose the two summits of Carn Liath and Stob Poite Coire Ardair which are the two outlying Munros off the Creag Meagaidh plateau. These hills give super views into Coire Ardair, the main feature in this area.

Good snow cover
Dusk on the tops

Nice sunset
We mad a late descent off Stob Poite Stob Coire Ardair. We reached the top at 2.45pm only to realise one of us had dropped their mobile phone somewhere! Guess who!  So we retraced our steps, 4 times! Eventually after the third ascent to the top we found it! All good and of course we had a fabulous sunset on our route off to 'The Window'. It was torches out on the descent down into the coire. An excellent covering of snow amongst the boulders which was well trodden so much easier walking than in the summer months. A beautiful star studded evening and a beautiful moon rising at the car park.
Loch Duich
The North West Highlands has been the best place in the UK if you like your mountains to be snow covered and sun kissed over the last few days. So on Monday I headed up to Kintail to get some of it! The area boasts some of the finest ridge walks in the country and spoilt for choice. I arrived late morning at Shiel Bridge under beautiful blue skies and sunshine. With  the shorter days it had to be just a quick romp up to one of the peaks. I chose Sgurr nan Saighead, the most westerly of the Five Sisters of Kintail ridge. A fine viewpoint from it's summit looking out west.
Looking out to the peaks of Knoydart
Sgurr Fhuaran, Ciste Dubh & Glen Shiel
The snowline was around 600m but of course the snow is unconsolidated and hard going once you come off any trodden trails. There has been no melt/freeze cycles taking place since the falls of snow so its quite powder-like at the moment. Over toward Knoydart it looked very wintry with even more snow. I stood on the top for over 30 minutes photographing the sun setting and the light changing. A magical time of day, chilly too.
The distant summits in Glen Affric

The Saddle, Knoydart and Skye
Aonach Meadhoin & Dgur an Fhurail
Tuesday dawned fine and cold again. Today's jaunt was on Sgur an Fhuarail & Aonach Meadhoin, two Munros above the Cluanie Inn. It is not a big day and a good winter choice when the days are shorter. Another wonderful ridge walk. It was slightly milder by late morning with lighter winds and the approaching Atlantic weather front.  Very fine views in the morning. The cloud rolled in from the west during the day.
South Cluanie Ridge
A' Chralaig & Mullach Fraoch-choire
For two days I saw no one on these hills. Brilliant. Some fine mountains and always a pleasure to walk in this area. It felt like it could be any month in winter with the unusually cold conditions plus good snow cover. It's still only October. Will this be another cracking winter? Probably, maybe. Watch and see!
Winter ridges, love 'em
A' Chralaig and Loch Cluanie

Friday, 26 October 2018


First of the season's Fiacaill travers

Rime and soft snow

Awkward for crampons?

In cloud all day

Rime ice

Today's attire

Snow in depth in places
Fiacaill Buttress

Last month  we received a few odd days of snow high up but today saw the first proper 'winter's day'. Overnight the cold front had swept across much of the Highlands on a Northerly wind. North winds, of course are much colder and any precipitation will fall in the form of snow. This morning the snow was down to around 600m. So was the cloud base! Not much in the way of views all day. But what great fun and excitement as always for the first real taste of the winter season to come. I had my first traverse of a winter Fiacaill Coire Sneachda this afternoon. The first of many to come, no doubt. Rime, soft snow and some frozen turf along the ridge. It was well sheltered for much of the way from the chilly winds.  There was a strong 40mph blowing across the Cairngorm plateau and visibility was poor. Only other souls I saw today was a gentleman from China at 850m walking behind me into Coire an t-Sneachda. He wasn't quite dressed for the wintry weather and his mapping consisted of a photograph he had taken of the ski piste map in the Cairngorm car park! Thankfully he turned back after I gave some valuable and completely free advice. The other person I met was a Cairngorm Mountain Rescue guy who was out on Cairn Gorm checking out the wonderful wintry conditions. It was great to have a chat with him on the way back through the ski area.
Of course it is still October and there will be a rise in temperature next week, probably. Good to get the ground cold in preparation for a good base when we do get the winter season arriving for real. Until then enjoy this weekend has it's due to be cold for quite a few days, until mid week at least. Looks like plenty of sunshine about and lighter winds on Sunday. Welcome back winter!

Thursday, 25 October 2018


Everyone loves a Red Squirrel
Caledonian Pines
loch Vaa
He loved posing
Autumn in the forest
The only Capercaille spotted today
But this guy stole the day
The Caledonian Pine Forest in The Cairngorms are home to much wonderful wildlife. One of the rarest of these is the iconic Capercaille is one of these. This threatened species due to habitat loss and disturbance is a sight to behold and I have had some wonderful close encounters, but not today. Instead a wonderful Red Squirrel was the highlight of the day in the forest. I had the privilege of spending 15 minutes with one of these cuties. No feeders, no peanuts to entice, no car park just behind me. Seeing these guys in 'the wild' is always a bit special. I had to bike and hike over an hour from the house to observe him. Some things are more than worth it! A lovely morning to be out before the next weather front came in from the west. Tomorrow sees much colder weather and snow.

Wednesday, 24 October 2018


Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda
Orographic cloud over Cairn Toul
Coire an t-Sneachda
Loch Morlich & Fiacaill
Clean air, fab lichens
Cairn Gorm
Braeriach from Cairn Lochan
Cairn Lochan
It was a good day if you like cloudscapes. The strong winds up high shifted the stubborn cloud in the afternoon. A good blast along the Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda which was deserted. Beautiful Orographic cloud over to the west on the Cairn Toul-Braeriach plateau. Then it was suddenly back to a cloud covered plateau on the way down. Colder weather coming our way by Friday. Some snow forecast on the hills.

Sunday, 21 October 2018


Glenfeshie from high up on Sgor Gaoithe

Summit of Sgor Gaoithe

Braeriach from the plateau

Autumn on Sgor Gaoithe

Glenfeshie , sunshine & showers

The Glenfeshie Road looking stunning 

We had a leisurely 2pm start up Sgor Gaoithe today, just because you can! Even at this time of year, with the nights drawing in, you can still get a good Munro hill day in from a late start. Sgor Gaoithe isn't a big day out and you can be up and down it in 5 hours. Having an early afternoon start meant we had the best of the sunshine as it was dull in the morning. It's also quieter. Not that this hill gets that much traffic, even at weekends. The light was ever changing as we headed up. Cloud, sunshine and some terrific shafts of sunlight poking through the gaps in the clouds. There were sudden changes from bright and clear spells to dark and moody conditions.
The colours in Strathspey are just wonderful right now. Probably the final week of colours in the leaves of the trees. With the strong winds they won't last much longer. Get out now and enjoy it.
Winter coming up next weekend! Low temperatures and snow showers for the high tops forecasted.

Saturday, 20 October 2018


Fieldfare with rowan berry
Redwing in amongst the rowan
Redwing with rowan berry

Lochan Dubh
More berries!
Loch Morlich and The Cairngorms
Fine colours at Craigellachie

A weekend of a bit of photography and some easy local walks in the Aviemore area. We are so very fortunate to live in a fabulous environment here in Strathspey. High mountains, the finest Caledonian pine forest in the UK and wonderful wildlife. All on our doorstep. The Autumn colours are probably at their peak just now. One of the finest short walks from Aviemore is the Craigellachie Nature Reserve. The woodland here on the lower ground is mainly Birch also Willow, Rowan and Scots Pine amongst other species. I like the reserve best in Autumn, the colours are stunning. The view once you come above the treeline is beautiful and a grand view of the Northern Cairngorms. You can even go swimming up at Lochan Dubh if so inclined! :)
Just now it is a fantastic time to see a few of the migrant birds that visit here in the Autumn months. Two of these are the Fieldfare and Redwing, two thrushes from Scandinavia on route to warmer climes south. Their diet is supplemented by the abundance of berries this time of year. On Saturday these birds were all over our Rowan tree in the garden, gobbling up the berries. I've never seen so many on the tree. Won't be much left if they keep at it! Hopefully the beautiful Waxwing will be visiting soon.
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