Saturday, 21 December 2019


Robby and Shirlene on Ben Macdui
Robby and his partner Shirlene are out with me for two days of festive fun in the Cairngorms. Robby booked two days last winter but we were defeated by high winds, especially on day 2 which was a planned Ben Macdui ascent. He said he'd be back and sure enough he's up again this weekend.
Glorious morning 

Frozen snow

Coire an Lochain 
We've had some milder weather the last day or so. Perfect to get some melt/freeze conditions going. Sure enough, colder conditions returned yesterday which has frozen the snowpack up nicely. From late morning onwards we were clad in crampons. Also welcome was lighter winds and blue skies in the morning. We set off for Macdui.
Fabulous snow cover across the plateau 

Solstice sun 

From blue skies to poor visibility 
The blue skies were replaced by cloud by mid day. Soon after we  were in poor visibility but on superb hard, frozen snow. There is full snow cover all the way across the plateau from the western slopes of Cairn Lochan all the way to Macdui summit. The walking is so much easier than in the summer on this stretch of the route. No boulders now just firm, easy snow. Of course your navigation needs to be spot on. I used GPS today. That is Gary's Positioning System which translates as my internal memory without the use of a map and compass. Just familiarisation and reading the landscape. A key navigational skill which is lost on folk who rely solely on technology.
The team on top

Summit selfies

The mountains to ourselves
It was near white out for the final stretch to the summit but just reading contours and we were on top. Didn't see a soul since leaving the Coire Cas carpark. 2.30 and it was time to go. The shortest day of the year but we were quite prepared to walk off the mountain in darkness. A good hill to celebrate the Solstice. We returned via the Northern Corries over Stob Coire Sneachda and 1141. The skies finally cleared again by the time we reached Windy Col. Beautiful sunset and the last glimmer of light. Despite it being the shortest day, we only needed torches on the final 45 mins in the ski area in Coire Cas. A beautiful end to a fab walk on the UK'S second highest mountain.
Robby sporting some rimed up hair

Skies clearing

Beautiful end to the day

Dusk up high

Final pull up to 1141m

Darkness on the Solstice 

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