Wednesday, 4 March 2020


Dawn light on An Teallach
A catch up on the last few days. It has been a fine wee spell of weather recently which makes a welcome change. Some of the best weather and snow conditions have been in the NW Highlands. Here is a round up of recent days.

Wednesday 4th March

Usually the finest times of day for landscape photography are dawn or dusk. The light at this time of day can be magical. I've been wanting to capture An Teallach at dawn in winter for a while now. The classic view is looking across to the Corrag Buidhe and Sgurr Fiona from Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill. To achieve this either requires lugging a tent up to the summit the day before or setting off from the bottom very early. I chose the latter.
Moonlit start at Dundonnell
Looking at several weather forecasts before heading up to the North West was mixed. There was an indication of a small weather window at daybreak. Exactly what was needed. I took a chance and headed to Dundonnell on Tuesday afternoon, camping at the foot of the mountain. There seemed to be a run of beautiful early mornings the previous few days in this part of the world. I hoped for this spell of weather to repeat itself. It was less than a week ago I ran a photography guided day to the very same mountain that ended in whiteout conditions.

Improving snow above 700m
It was a glorious moonlit night when I set off at 2am. The terrain on the trail up was a mixture of verglased rocks, deep unconsolidated snow and much firmer snow above 700m. There was a thin, breakable crust most of the way. I was amazed how much snow is in the Allt a' Mhuillin, the easy angled slopes leading up to the main An Teallach ridge. Having climbed  'The Forge' many, many times I only needed to gaze at the map once all the way up in the dark. By using my memory and the contours was adequate navigation.
First light over the Beinn Dearg group of Munros
It was a wonderful starry night with a crescent moon. No human footprints on the way up, just Mountain Hare and Ptarmigan tracks. I timed the walk to the foot of Bidein a' Ghlas Thuill's North ridge perfectly. Daylight was just breaking on the steepest part of the walk up to the top.

Bidein a' Ghlas Tuill summit
I reached the  Munro  in perfect time, just as the sun rising over the Beinn Dearg group of hills to the East. I don't quite think I have seen An Teallach with so much snow before. A thick blanket of white lay over it's many ridge crests, crags and corries. A well plastered mountain. The temperature was around minus 4 C plus a moderate wind was blowing at times.
Sun is up!
There was some light cloud coming and going and initially I was thinking the cloud may obscure the hill but I had a fine views and got my tiny weather window of an hour or so.
I got lucky. What a marvellous sight to see the main face of An Teallach illuminated in a subtle pink light.

Looking North to Sail Mhor and out to sea
I descended back along my same route. The ever changing light was just beautiful. There is something quite special being high up on a mountain in early morning. A far easier descent now!

Glas Mheall Mor ridge
Looking down the Allt a' Mhuillin
It was almost Spring like temperatures once I got below the snow line. The sunshine kept coming and going as clouds swept by. March is like that. Winter on the mountains, warm in the glen. Sometimes! So pleased that I caught the ridges in full winter conditions. With warming temperatures at the weekend I doubt the rime and snow will linger much longer along the cranellated and rocky crest of An Teallach. But you never know!
The impressive NE end of Glas mheall Mor
Thursday 5th March
Beautiful March light on the Mountain Hare
Back home to Strathspey and following the good weather East. A fabulous snow cover still down to around 450m on the Monadhliath hills. A day of Mountain Hare photography with a promise of some nice March bright sun to show them off at their finest.

Braeriach's Northern Corries
So much easier walking on the better consolidated snow in this area. There has been a slight melt/freeze cycle recently which is making for better walking conditions. No sinking into big holes! The hills over this side of the A9 are far less busy, I saw just 3 other folk. Afternoon sun came out just in time to capture the wonderful Mountain Hare. Their white coats looking a treat in the bright sunshine and surrounded by bright snow. The perfect image of the winter hare.
Enjoying the sun

Still on alert

Or maybe just have another snooze

With calm winds and sunshine it was very pleasant conditions to sit and lie in the snow whilst photographing. The hares looking very content and peaceful with the glorious backdrop of the Northern Cairngorms across Strathspey. Idyllic really.
Nothern Cairngorms and Feshie hills

Excellent walking conditions on untrodden snow

Cold nights
On the way down I spotted another couple of low altitude Mountain Hare, no doubt they had a better food source with the vegetation poking through the snow here.

Low Hare

Distant Hare
Another fine end to another fine weather day.

Nature taking over
Friday 6th March

Laura & Katie enjoying the sun 
Friday was looking to be the last day of fine weather conditions. Another day of cold temperatures on summits. Minus 4 C on the Cairngorms. Sisters Laura and Katie out for just one day with me. They certainly chose a brilliant weather and snow day.
Self belay

Sliding in the sun
Light winds,  sunshine and a well trampled track into Coire an t-sneachda with fabulous snow cover. Does it get any better? We were quickly at the toe of the Fiacaill ridge for some essential movement skills before heading along the ridge line. Some great cramponing snow here where the wind has scoured the ground leaving icy snow exposed.
Coire an t-sneachda 

Looking fine
Around mid day the cloud rolled in and very quickly conditions changed. Still great views mind. Chilly when stood about for any length of time in the stiff breeze. The snow to the side of the Crest on the Fiacaill is fabulous. Well trodden and very easy all the way to the plateau. The ladies loved it.
Easy snow

Skiers heading down Alladins Couloir
Great walking across the plateau. Icy and firm snow cover. We finished the day by bagging Cairn Gorm.
Cairn Gorm
Heading down Windy Ridge the winds had picked up again. Plenty of skiers around. There was some nice light towards the end of the afternoon. Another top day. Big change on Saturday with temperatures above freezing and high winds. With cooler temperatures on Sunday the snowpack should freeze up nicely.
Afternoon light across Coire Cas

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