Sunday, 19 July 2020


Adult Male Snow Bunting with a feed
We're now into mid Summer and the weather is still quite nice. July and August are probably my least favourite months in the Scottish Highlands. The weather is generally quite wet, it's midgy, it's busy and when it is sunny conditions, the clarity of air is usually poor for photography. Of course this Summer is different and everyone will probably be relieved to be able to breath the fresh air and enjoy the mountains, whatever the weather. I am usually away working in The Alps most of July and August but this season I will be at home and working in the Scottish hills. I have some great guiding  days coming up over the next few weeks and that's great to look forward to. Amongst the activities and areas I will be working are: Torridon, Ben Nevis, Glen Shiel, Skye and of course right here in The Cairngorms. Guiding, navigation and wildlife photography. The last few days I have been getting a fair amount of new enquiries too.
Here's a catch up on stuff from this weekend.


My old friend for well over 20 years, Paul Milligan, was up in the Cairngorms and we had a great day out. Now the restrictions have lifted it is perfectly fine to meet up with friends, keeping social distancing of course. I've known Paul from my early days of guiding when he ran his own small guiding company, Lomond Walking Holidays. I guided lots of fun trips with him and met lots of great folk when we would guide all over the Highlands including one of the first companies to run the Cape Wrath Trail. Back in the the late '90's this long distance trail was hardly known. I guided 3 of these and brilliant fun. Plenty of Munro guiding, Scottish Coast to Coast treks and even West Highland Way 'strolls'. We also had some great adventures out of the UK. Trips to Mexico climbing Volcanoes, winter mountain trips in unknown places of the Pyrenees and even lesser known, smaller hills of the Alps. Today we had a wander in The Cairngorms for the day.

Paul and I in the snow tunnel
We met up at Coire Cas. Paul in his 2 seat BMW, me on my 1 seat push bike. It was a cloudy morning but forecast was to improve by mid day. It was spot on. By the time we walked into Coire an t-sneachda the sun was strong and blue skies above. We escaped any crowds and headed on up on pathless, rugged terrain to reach the Fiacaill Coire sneachda ridge. Beautiful conditions along the scramble. Only 2 folk behind us.

Fiacaill Buttress 

Pathless and wild

Paul enjoying the scrambling 
I've lost count how many times I have scrambled along the Fiacaill, Summer and Winter. Always brilliant fun. Last time I was out with Paul was actually along the very same ridge in winter 4 years ago. Time flies!
Great fun

Beautiful day

Near the top
We reached the plateau and wandered lazily along the easy, pathless ground over to the finest views in the entire Cairngorms. You know where. Stunning views down into Loch A'an in early afternoon light. With a cold front just gone through, the air was crisp and clear. Great for photography. Usually in July it's quite hazy. Not today.
The finest view

This ain't bad either

After taking in the glorious vistas we went down into the Coire and explored the huge snowpatch on the Feithe Buidhe slabs. I was down in this area less than a week ago. There was no real opening to explore inside the snow patch. Today we found a big enough slot between the slabs and snow to have a wander around. We could stand up and walk quite easily for about 30 metres. Excellent.
Feithe Buidhe snow patch

Easy way in

Easy walk

Still no big opening and tunnels at the bottom of the snow patch. We had a wander to the Garbh Uisge Mor waterfall for afternoon tea. A spot I could sit around at for an hour, easily. Lovely and warm out of the breeze here. Time was not of an issue, not this time of year with usable daylight up to at least 10.30pm.

Garbh Uisge

Back on top

Garbh Uisge snow patch

On our way back across  the pathless plateau we stopped and spotted the best wildlife of the day. Two male Snow Bunting ( plus possible adult female seemed to be about) and a wonderful wee fledgling who still had a lot of its soft, fluffy down coat. The adult males were busying about finding insects and flies to feed up the youngster. Brilliant stuff.

Newly fledged Snow Bunting waiting for his feed
A good meal

And more

It was a beautiful sunny end to the day as we strolled back down to Coire Cas carpark, finishing after 7pm. 30 minutes before we got to the carpark we bumped into a couple of guys with enormous rucksacks and carrying cans of beer. They were off camping near Corrour Bothy. That's a fair few hours over Ben Macdui with big packs. Oh well. Nice night for it!

This snow tunnel not quite as high 

Evening light in Coire an Lochain 

Someone going lightweight to the plateau
Fine evening back to civilisation 

After a farewell with Paul I had great blast down on the bike in glorious evening sun, whilst Paul drove down in his open top BMW!


Golden Plover with a Loch Alvie for a backdrop

Another fine day to be out on the hills. The big Cairngorm Mountains were forecast to be cloudy with some heavy showers plus strong winds. I decided to go up on the Monadhliath, lower and on this side of the A9 the weather was quite different. A mostly sunny day. A few short, sharp rain showers.

Bell Heather in full bloom

Round leaves Sundew
A day of wildlife photography, just for a change.  It was quite windy above 600m but I could still hear the wonderful Golden Plover calling down in the lee slopes. Some nice shots of these with the sun lighting up the golden feather nicely. Great backdrops of lochs and meadows.
Mountain Hare enjoying the sun

Golden Plover with a beautiful green fields backdrop

Idylic Golden Plover in summer terrain
Late afternoon and some wonderful cloudscapes.  Looking across to the Northern Cairngorms there were big clouds and rain showers being dumped. I caught a shower inbetween the lovely sunshine. Beautiful to watch the clouds rolling over.

Shower clouds

Late afternoon light over the Northern Cairngorms 

Big skies

The Mountain Hare the stars of the show again. Some lovely light on them in the afternoon sunshine. Lovely bike ride home.

Mountain Hare on high moorland


The weekend nice weather brought lots of folk up visiting the Highlands again. Finding somewhere quiet to walk or explore isn't too difficult up here in the Cairngorms National Park.  Plenty of unfrequented trails. Or to guarantee solitude then plenty of pathless walking in remote places. Or just drive around taking in the scenery. A bit of both this morning.

Sunshine & showers over Lochindorb 

Dava Way solitude

Red Grouse, Dava Moor
Sunday was another day of sunshine and showers. We had a liesurely low level walk along the Dava Way and a scout around Lochindorb in search of Black Throated Diver. We did see one of these amazing birds on the loch, but way, way distant on the West side of the water.

Greylagg Geese descending on Lochindorb
Spear Thistle just into flower

Bog Asphodal

No comments: