Monday, 16 March 2020


Jillian & Graham enjoying fabulous cramponing 
Jillian and Graham out with me for a day of winter skills and a Munro summit. The winds had returned this weekend and into today.
Brilliant snow from the word go
The couple are on a 10 day Alpine trek with me this summer. Jillian has completed all the Munros and been out in winter a few times already, including a day with me last November. For Graham this was his first taste of Scottish winter walking.
Good snow cover 
The weather forecast was for a dry and bright morning, deteriorating by early afternoon with some snow/rain. Biggest defining factor, as always, was the wind speeds. With 50 to 60 mph on the tops predicted for the Northern Cairngorms  we decided on something a tad lower. Sgor Gaoithe was a decent alternative and not too long a day.
Sgoran Dubh Mor with wind clouds
Our high point at 976m 
The 'Sgorans', has sometimes referred too, are a number if rounded, easy angled hills that radiate around the highest summit of Sgor Gaoithe. They offer excellent navigation and tend to hold snow in the many shallow angled Corries and stream beds. We had superb hard snow from about 600m. The recent Melt/freeze cycle had firmed up the snowpack beautifully. We went through self belay and self arresting before heading higher up the hills.
Firm snow and sheltered
After some step cutting we doned crampons. The crests of the hills were scoured and above 900m the winds were gusting above 60mph. The summit of Meall Buidhe was our high point. We decided to retreat around the Northern side of the hills were it was more sheltered and popped round into the notch between Meall Buidhe and Geal Charn.

This feature on these hills collects snow quite readily every winter. The wind gets funnelled into the notch, which was evident today. There are some good snow banks that steepen up which are great fun in a safe environment to practice some steep ground movement. It was also a welcome shelter from the gales.
Scored and snow banks

Good snowhole potential 

Something steeper
Rather than head back into the gales we opted for a descent into the less frequented  Allt a' Mharcaidh area with the wind behind us and sheltered by the hills. The ground here was also well snow covered and a joy to crampon down easily.
Great snowcover

Easy walking, no wind

Big drifts at stream beds
With the colder temperatures the ground once off the snow was quite dry so nice walking. This descent route is a favourite of mine. Very quiet and a feeling of a wilder side to these hills. The final hour brings you through the beautiful Scots Pines and back into Glenfeshie, just as the heavy rain came on. A grand day in the snow.
Lovely end to the day through the Caledonian Pines 

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