Tuesday, 19 November 2019

FIACAILL IN FINE FETTLE

Fiacaill Coire Sneachda

Brilliant firm snow on the ridge

Lovely rimed rocks

Coire an t-Sneachda

Profile

Ghostly sun all day

Quiet

Fiacaill Buttress shaping up nicely

Great snow steps now
The fine conditions and weather continues today. No blue skies this morning but some subdued light in The Cairngorms. After a very cold night in the glen it was actually slightly warmer up high. Only a minus 2 or 3 C today. There was a stiff breeze which was creating some light drifting up high and more of a windchill. A ghostly sun shone above the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda. It was very quiet with just two other folk on it when I arrived. The rocky ridge is well snowed up and some fabulous firm snow on the steps and ledges making for some very enjoyable axe and cramponing along this fine ridge. Lots of ski tourers out on the plateau again.
Some slightly milder conditions into the weekend but still freezing on the tops. The warmer conditions will be excellent o consolidate the snow pack, we may get some nice firm snow by the weekend. Just in time for my first winter course of the season on Saturday.

Monday, 18 November 2019

BEN MACDUI, SNOWSHOE HEAVEN

Cairn Toul - Braeriach plateau from Ben Macdui
Another glorious day in The Cairngorms, well The Highlands in general. A ridge of high pressure bringing clear skies and low temperatures through much of Scotland. Summit temperatures minus a lot centigrade but with only a slight breeze. Nothing much has changed in the snow pack, nothing consolidated. A day for the snowshoes or skis if going off any well trodden routes. Otherwise it's hard work.

Great conditions for snowshoes
I headed over to Ben Macdui early doors. Saw no one all the way up. There was some nagging cloud just sitting on the higher slopes but this dispersed just has I reached the finest viewpoint (it's not the summit cairn). You get one of the most amazing viewpoints of the Braeriach - Cairn Toul plateau across the Lairig Ghru from a short distance away from the second highest point in the UK. Looking across the clouds were drifting and swirling, very atmospheric. What a sight. After an hour of photography I ventured over to the next best view point in The Cairngorms, the Loch A'an basin.

Rime encrusted summit

Braeriach
Snowshoeing over to the Feithe Buidhe area was probably the finest section of the day for the snowshoes, just superb. There are virtually no rocks poking through the snow pack around the rim of the Loch A'an basin. Pretty amazing for mid November! I have to keep reminding myself that it's only the start of winter. It was a tad 'warmer' at this altitude. Beautiful views down Loch A'an.

Cairn Gorm and Loch A'an

Not much water in the Feithe Buidhe waterfall now
The crossing of the burn is easy, hardly any water and a deep snow pack. The loch itself is still ice free at the moment. Time to sit and enjoy the views until heading back over the plateau via Cairn Lochan.
Top of Hell's Lum

Looking south across the plateau
Last views from the tops before heading back. Another brilliant day in the snow and so pleased to have decided to bring the snowshoes. There's not that many days where the conditions are favourable. Today was one of those days. Brilliant.
Coire an Lochain

Cairn Lochan and Cairn Gorm

Delicate feathering
Surface hoar and a distant Cairn Gorm


Sunday, 17 November 2019

BUMPER SNOW FEST

Mountain Hare in their white pelage
Just catching up on the last few days. It's been a great weekend with the hills in superb winter conditions. The Cairngorms hs huge amounts of snow compared to the leaner coatings out in the Western hills. Quite hard going in The Cairngorms if you're venturing to the less visited areas. Snowshoes and skis are the most efficient forms of travel just now.

FRIDAY 15 NOVEMBER

I took a wander up into Coire an Lochain. Setting off late morning for the visibility to improve. There was a well trodden track up to around 800m  into the coire, after this altitude there was just a few deep footprints, presumably climbers heading directly to the crag. I had to get the compass out for the final 15 minutes to my usual spot for photographing the Mountain Hare.

Late afternoon sun on the crags in Lochain
3 folk and a pulk heading down
I spent around an hour for the cloud to lift and to take some images of the hare. You have to find him first! The footprints are distinctive, especially in untouched, deep snow. He was so relaxed and a real poser!
In his snow hole

Now for some posing

Check out those feet

Profile shot
This time of year the hares (just like all the wildlife in winter on the hills) are trying to conserve their energy so are quite reluctant to move anywhere. So good time to photograph these most beautiful of creatures. This guy I have been observing and photographing for over 12 months now. Such a pleasure.

poised

Beautiful markings

Alone in a world of white
Time to leave my friend and head back. The skies had cleared by late afternoon, what a contrast to the walk in. A beautiful end to the day, cloud lifting off the tops and the Northern Corries looking stunning.


Fiacaill Coire Sneachda in last light
The Vent area in Coire an Lochain

Not many rocks poking through the snow

Beautiful late afternoon light


Hard work in deep snow unless someone has been there!
SATURDAY 16 NOVEMBER

On Saturday Karen and I headed west and another Munro I haven't been up for quite a number of years, Creag Pitridh. This isn't the highest of Munros, just scrapping in at 924m. It's a long walk in from the west end of Loch Laggan but the good tracks make this easy, a bike even faster. The day started off with low cloud so we had another leisurely 11am start. Timed to perfection, the cloud thinned as we started up the easy angled terrain from the bottom of Loch an Earba.
High on Creag Pitridh

Above the cloud on Creag Pitridh

Monadh Liath high above the clouds

Another Munro

Fabulous cloud layers

Layers and layers
Some amazing layers of cloud. We had the mountain to ourselves. Saw no one all day on the hill. It was relatively warm compared to other days recently. Still below freezing on the top. It was definitely a day for cloud spotting with some amazing views in every direction. The snowline here in the west is around 600m and it's relatively a thin snow cover compared to The Cairngorms. It's still winter though!

SUNDAY 17 NOVEMBER

And for a complete contrast, today it was The White Room on Cairn Gorm. Very low cloud from about 700m upwards. Definitely no chance of breaking into clear air today! It was white out conditions on the Cairngorm plateau, no rocks about. The summit weather station and poles leading down to the ptarmigan café the only navigational landmarks. There was more light snowfall in the afternoon. Deep snow of course but plenty of skiers and walkers had been up and down Windy Ridge.
A very white Cairn Gorm

The route up

The poles up from the Ptarmigan café, half buried

World of rime

A sole ptarmigan at low level 

The Cairn Gorm rime monster is growing


Wednesday, 13 November 2019

FULL SNOW COVER IN THE CAIRNGORMS

Full winter conditions
It's amazing how just one day of snow can transform the mountains. Yesterday (Tuesday) it was raining down at Aviemore level, snowing above about 500m. Throw in some wind and already a reasonable base of snow and it's a recipe for some fine winter conditions up high.

Full moon over Glenmore
Full moon and inversion
I made an early start as I knew it would be hard going in the deep, unconsolidated snow. From the Coire Cas carpark I was trail breaking all the way up onto Lurchers Ridge. Ok at first but soon shin deep snow. Fabulous clear morning with the full moon high above the layer of cloud in the Strath. This cloud stuck in the valley all day, those poor folk mingling in Aviemore high street, should of got a bit higher and it was a glorious day.

Meall 
Meall a' Bhuachaille poking through the cloud layer

Sunrise above Cairn Lochan
It took me around double the time to get onto the plateau. There were a few folk behind me, time for them to take over! One group headed off towards Lurchers Crag, the other two were heading for Ben Macdui. This was my original destination today. Watching this pair in front of me it was clear they didn't know the route up towards Macdui, I changed my plan! I had an 'easier' day and set off up to Cairn Lochan. At the flattening it was almost knee deep snow. I made a good decision. Macdui is a 7 hour day in summer conditions, 8-9 hrs in ' good winter' conditions. Who knows how long in knee deep conditions!
Well rimed and snowed up crags


Easier going on the tops
Thankfully it was a tad easier going on the flat summit of Cairn Lochan. There was only a 10 mph wind today but even with the bright sun the temperature must have been  at least minus 5 C and the windchill on top. Apparently on Cairn Gorm summit first thing this morning it was minus 9 C. As always it's a stunning viewpoint here. There were a couple of climbing parties at the foot of Savage Slit.
Coire an Lochain

A distant Ben Macdui from Cairn Lochan

Cairn Lochan
One of the finest walks in the Cairngorms is the Northern Corries walk. A brilliant, high level and easy walk across the tops of Cairn Lochan, Stob Coire an t-Sneachda and finally onto Cairn Gorm summit. It was full cover of snow all the way along the route today. Looking south across the plateau and it was glorious, untouched snow. A beautiful clear blue sky but by mid afternoon some cloud from the south and west was slowly heading over.
Coire an t-sneachda and Cairn Gorm

Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda

Fingers Ridge
A few folk going both ways across the plateau now so easier going, phew! I think I had my full body work out this morning, thank you. It felt like a January of February day out on the hills with all this snow. Quite remarkable. It was a bit like the 2012/13 start of winter, remember that one? It was a cracker. Fingers crossed this is the start of a great winter season.
Top of Alladin's

Beinn Mheadhoin

Cairn Gorm and 1141m
From 1141m it was still a full cover of snow all the way down through the ski area and back to Coire Cas. Won't be long before the ski area is open. There is well enough snow for ski touring at the moment and more snow to come over the next few days. Temperatures remaining well below freezing on the summits. A brilliant start to winter. Fabulous day and a work out into the bargain :)
1141m

Coire Cas
Love a full moon