Wednesday, 21 March 2018


The classic view of An Teallach
We've had some fantastic snow and weather conditions over the last few days here in The Highlands. Another blast of cold and snowy conditions to transform the mountains, then some wonderful clear skies.
Just catching up on my blog after four magic days in the hiils.  At the weekend it was the fabulous NW Highlands. Monday and Tuesday, The Cairngorms.

The 'Beast from the East' made a return visit to our shores at the weekend. Heavy snowfall and high winds due to hit The Cairngorms. With this in mind Karen and I headed away to the NW Highlands for a couple of days. This area was to be the finest weather on Saturday and Sunday. Sunshine and dry conditions almost guaranteed. Just by chance some of the finest mountains are up that way. We had two nights in Dundonnell, base camp for An Teallach, the finest mountain on the planet!
Windy at sea level!
There was a stiff wind blowing down at Dundonnell when we started up the hill. We trusted the forecast and made a leisurely start and a stroll up the trail. Afternoon wind speeds were to be much lower on the tops.
One of  the easiest routes on An Teallach  leaves direct from the village of Dundonnell on an easy angled path, up beside the Allt a' Mhuillin. It is usually boggy and wet in places. With the sub zero overnight temperatures all the bog was frozen solid. From about 700m onwards we were walking on fabulous frozen snow in the stream bed. Over a metre of snow in here.
The Allt a ' Mhuillin
Ice falls on Glas Mheall Mor
Some wonderful looking ice on the NW aspect of Glas Mheall Mor. These are less than an hour from the road. If this was Glencoe or The Cairngorms climbers would be queueing up for these! We saw no one all morning on the trail. We reached the bealach below the north ridge of Bidean a' Ghlas Thuill expecting to be hit by a savage wind. It was almost calm! The views from here suddenly get spectacular. The western seaboard under blue skies looked beautiful. From the bealach to the top of Bidean a' Ghals Thuill (one of two Munros on An Teallach) it is just 30 minutes. Easy slopes in summer along the narrowing ridge line. Under a winter mantle it feels more serious. There was a full cover of snow today, axe and crampons for sure.
The final slopes to Bidean a' Ghlas Thuill
The 'Dearg's' & The Fannichs from the summit
Sgurr Fiona and the Corrag Bhuidhe
From the Munro summit of Bidean you get one of the classic views  of An Teallach. Ice filled gullies plunge down from the pinnacled ridge line to the wonderful Toll an Lochain. This is a view to savour. There was some cloud around but within 30 minutes of taking photographs  the cloud was blown away to leave bright sun and some beautiful late afternoon blue skies. Hardly any wind by on the top.
Lovely light on the descent
 Just one summit of An Teallach today. We will be back, for sure!

Another beautiful day in store. We had an easier day today but equally spectacular. An Teallach again, not the tops but a visit to the wonderful, spectacular and seldom visited Toll an Lochain, the main coire of An Teallach. Here lies a lonely lochan and for Karen a chance to swim in a stunning location.
Loch Toll an Lochain & An Teallach
Alpine An Teallach!
It's approx a two hour walk into this loveliest of corries. The cloud broke up just as we arrived. Perfect timing! The winds had died down  and we enjoyed the sunshine amidst a spectacular backdrop. Luckily for Karen there was some open water at the outflow of the lochan so no ice axe required to chip away the ice. What a place to swim! Not for too long in these conditions.
Swimming in Loch Toll an Lochain
We saw no one all day. Another beautiful late afternoon. The Fannichs on the way back home looking absolutely stunning. Another day!

Alpine conditions Fiacaill an Coire Sneacda
 Back home in Aviemore and 'The Beast' had had it's say. Apparently it was wild and snowy in The Cairngorms with the ski road once again closed due to heavy drifting. High windchill on the tops by all accounts, for those who struggled up. Today it was calm and a blue skies throughout, what a difference. It was an absolutely stonking day to be out on the mountains. Full cover of snow. Eastern aspects were wind scoured with fabulous hard neve. It was quiet and peaceful up on the hills. Many instructors from England & Wales now gone home for the remainder of the winter. As always my winter courses run right through to Easter and beyond....!
It was just magical on the Fiacaill. Th ridge covered in snow and rime plastered rocks. It was an easy romp up.
What a day!
Cairn Lochan
Loch A'an in all it's glory
Cairn Gorm & Coire an t-Sneacda
Fiacaill Buttress
A stroll up to Cairn Lochan then over to Loch A'an for the afternoon. What a place to linger for a while. Hardly any wind but still cold. Must bring the sunscreen tomorrow!

All things come to an end. The final day of cold, dry days and fabulous snow conditions. A big change to come on Wednesday with the dreaded Atlantic lows back on our shores. So today was a day to linger and soak up the views and sunshine once more.
Cairn Toul - Braeriach plateau from Ben Macdui
 There was a bit more in the way of cloud this morning, but by the time I reached Ben Macdui it was starting to break up and some fantastic views. One of the finest sights in the Cairngorms is the enormous Cairn Toul to Braeriach plateau. From just West of  Macdui's summit, the second highest peak in the British Isles, you get stunning vistas of the third, fourth and fifth highest mountains in the british Isles!
Full snow cover on the plateau
Cairn Toul & Sgor an Lochan Uaine
Coire an Lochain
Still chilly on the tops of course. Down in Coire an Lochain it was like a furnace. Sunbathing time and chance for some ptarmigan photography. The air was still and the croaking ptarmigan could be heard from some distance. They are just coming into Spring plumage. Weather forecasts suggesting more cold, wintry weather to come. This winter has a long way to go yet!
Male ptarmigan, Spring plumage visible
Climbers on the Fiacaill in afternoon sun
Coire an t-Sneachda & Coire an Lochain in the sun

Tuesday, 13 March 2018


Loch Coire an Lochan and the Northern Coire of Braeriach
Sgoran Dubh Mor from Braeriach's Northern slopes
Glean Eanaich & Braeriach 
Fabulous snow and Strathspey views 
Braeriach plateau 
Cornices over the Northern Corries gullies 
Evening light on the descent 

Braeriach is my favourite mountain in the Cairngorm National Park. The UK's third highest hill is big, remote, complex and invariably a quiet mountain for those reasons. The finest walking route up in winter is via the mountain's Northern Corries. These corries are well seen from the centre of Aviemore. Indeed some folk mistake this view for Cairn Gorm!
The weather was forecast to improve by late afternoon so I had another leisurely start again, after mid day. This time of year there are long daylight hours, it doesn't get dark till after 7pm. I biked up Gleann Eanaich which knocks off a considerable time for the day. There was a light flurry of snow as I started walking up the hill. About 20 minutes later the sun popped out and the views were lovely in the afternoon light. There are several shallow gully lines that run down from the north side of the mountain, just above the Eanaich track. These are well filled in with deep snow by mid winter and linger through to Spring. I reckoned there must be 3 metres of snow at the moment in these. The walking was brilliant up here after the melt/freeze spell. These gullies lead up to Loch Coire an Lochan which sits under the Northern Corries of Braeriach. This is one of the highest stretches of water in the UK at over 1000m. The lochan is well frozen over just now and the coire above has a thick coating of snow with some big cornices above. From the lochan there are a few choices to gain the plateau, today I chose the west bounding slopes which consisted of well frozen snow and a delight to crampon up. Just as I got onto the summit plateau the cloud drifted in again and I had no views after this unfortunately. In fact it was almost white out conditions on the summit area. Hardly any breeze on the top.
A windy couple of days ahead with some fresh snow fall. The weekend looks much colder but calmer. Clear skies forecast in the NW and freezing levels dropping. Winter continues......

Monday, 12 March 2018


Cairn Lochan above the temperature inversion
Temperature inversion, fog bow & Brocken Spectre!
The cloud creeping up Coire an Lochain
The two folk in the bottom right give the scale
The cloud creeping up Coire an t-Sneachda
Fiacaill Buttress
What a sight!
Cairn Gorm and a fog bow
It's creeping higher!
Approaching Cairn Gorm summit, the cloud wins!
Would rather have this!
One of the finest weather phenomena in the mountains has to be a temperature or cloud inversion. If you go into the mountains on a regular basis, you will no doubt encounter one of these sooner or later. If you're really lucky you may even get a Broken Spectre too. If you're very, very lucky you may get a Temperature Inversion, Brocken Spectre and a Fog Bow all in one day. There were all three in the Northern Cairngorms today. For any weather forecaster, these must be quite difficult to predict. A period of high pressure, light winds and relatively warm air are the ingredients. Most occur during  the Autumn and Winter months. I guess there is an element of luck involved too. There has been warm air during the day and colder nights recently. All good to get the snow pack stable. It was definitely much easier to walk over the last few days and the avalanche risk has reduced in the melt/freeze cycles. Some lovely walking  underfoot. All the stream beds are well filled in with snow to lower altitudes in the Northern Corries.
Another leisurely 10.30am start this morning. It was cloudy and clagged in at 630m. It was so warm I was down to base layers on the approach to the Fiacaill Coire Sneachda. Above 850m the sun was trying to burst through the thin cloud cover. Was it going to be clear skies soon? The anticipation on days like this is fantastic. How could you not get excited, even if I have been up the Fiacaill Ridge more times than I care to count! At an altitude of 1000m it was gloriously hot and there were clear skies. What a sight! 'Below us only cloud', as the song goes. There were a few parties on the ridge enjoying the Alpine conditions. Half-way up and a glorious Fog Bow was arcing over the ridge. Down toward Coire an t-Sneachda the Brocken Spectre made its appearance. Magic!
By the time I reached the plateau, the top of the cloud had started rising again. I headed up to the summit of Cairn Lochan. The only mountains poking out of the sea of cloud were Braeriach, Cairn Toul, Ben Macdui, Beinn Mheadhoin and Cairn Gorm. I sat sunbathing in the warm, still air for over half an hour before the cloud finally crept up over all the summits.
I wandered across the plateau and up to Cairn Gorm in the hope that the cloud would sink again, but it never did. Well, mustn't be greedy!

Sunday, 11 March 2018


Great day for Mountain Hare's
Coire an Lochain looking fab
The Vent well filled in
Coire an Lochain above the clouds
They were very photogenic this morning
Plenty of croaking ptarmigan
Big cornices
Not to be out done
For the first time in a while the freezing levels were above the summits in The Caingorms. Not a breath of wind this morning in The Northern Corries. Down to base layers by 11am. Of course we have so much snow that the Highlands can handle a small period of warmer temperatures. In fact it is welcome to get the snow pack into a safer condition. There have been a few big natural avalanches just recently, high up in the corries. A good melt/freeze is exactly what we need. Brilliant day for wildlife and photography again. The air so silent we could hear every sound form the ptarmigan, grouse and snow bunting. Along with the chattering climbers and dogs. You can always find a nice corner of the Cairngorms to escape the crowds and see the wildlife. The mountain hare's in particular were brilliant today. Some very photogenic and posing nicely. Another calm, benign and bright day tomorrow. All is well. Don't forget that The Scottish Highlands has heaps of snow and will survive this wee rise in temperatures, unlike England and Wales were the hills will strip very quickly. If you want winter, we have it up here!