Our blog - Cairngorms, 10-11 Feb'18

A blog of our mountain adventures in Scotland, hiking, biking, rock-scrambling and more !

Cairngorms and Feshie hills

10-11 February 2018
A couple of days of winter hiking up hills in the Cairngorms and Feshie. Richard Kermode was leading....

Day 1

The plan was an ascent of Ben Macdui and Cairngorm for Saturday though the weather forecast had been changing a fair bit with the winds for the day, but we decided that we would have a go and take it one step at a time. It was then that I heard the ski road was closed so some frantic messaging and our full group met in Aviemore to look at our options as the time was fast ticking away for Ben Macdui with the volume of snow on the plateau as well as any winds we might need to deal with up there.

A new plan formed and we drove to the Loch Morlich carpark where we also met the end of the queue for the ski road. Our new objective was to walk through Ryvoan Pass and traverse Meall a'Buachaille hopefully covering some winter skills along the way. As we started walking through the forest the queue began to move, but we were happy with our new plan and it was already well on the way to 10 o'clock. It was a nice walk though the pass along an icy track with a good amount of sunshine and after some food at the bothy we started the climb on a still icy path.

As we became more exposed to the winds that were now changing to westerlies we donned the crampons to continue the ascent and get some practice in for several members of the group. Visibility came and went a little though as we arrived at the top in the raw wind we could see views of the Cairngorms and impressive spend drift plumes along the plateau.

We headed over to the next summit on the ridge in glorious sunshine where we opted to begin our descent as the snow was quite deep and it was a cold wind. The descent was great fun and we soon escaped the wind for a sunny walk down through the trees closely dodging some heavy showers at the carpark. Not the planned day, but everyone enjoyed the walk and we covered some good crampon skills instead.

Day 2

Our second day saw a change of group size from 6 to 4 and 2 new faces as we rendezvoused down Glen Feshie on an icy morning. After fitting some crampons for size and packing them we were soon underway enjoying some early morning sunshine on the untreated road before setting off up the path towards Carn Ban Mor. It was steady going and actually surprisingly warm as we climbed following a lone walker ahead of us on the path.

We stopped for some food halfway up and then made our way up onto the plateau where the wind was much much colder and the cloud was very much plastered to the hillside. More layers and drinks were had before we walked into the white room carefully navigating over the fresh deep snow and sometimes scoured older deposits. It was hard work breaking trail and visibility was zero not even a boulder to be seen. Just as we were avoiding the top of the gully guarding Sgorr Gaoith we spotted our lone walker from earlier on who joined our trail to the summit. Tough conditions to be out there solo so some good navigation.

As we sat down for lunch at the summit a skier and a snowshoer appeared from the direction of Sgorran Dubh Mor enjoying a different and more direct ascent. The sun and a view suddenly happened and we were trying to take photos while we could see.

I checked my watch and realised it was already on 1 o'clock due to the challenging snow conditions. We had a quick chat and I suggested we change our plan from the long deep snowy route to Mullach Clach a'Bhlair and instead head over to Sgorran Dubh Mor and then pick our way down into Glen Feshie from there. Everyone was happy with this and off we went into a very enjoyable clear spell with views of the northern Cairngorms as well as our new objective. It didn't take long for the white room to come back and we were on the summit go Sgorran Dubh Mor having done some group trail breaking with the temporarily better visibility.

A direct bearing took us out of the wind and snow to walk over deep fresh snowy hillsides with views of Stathspey before we were plunged into yet more whiteouts! As we were on the big descent through gorgeous snow we emerged from the weather again and had a lovely walk down spotting some Ptarmigan along the way. We finally arrived at the track below us in time for a late afternoon tea in the sunshine setting us up for a fine finish through the trees back to the road down Glen Feshie. It was a fun and challenging weekend that certainly demonstrated the benefits of staying flexible and being prepared in the winter mountains.

More photos by Richard Kermode are here on Flickr.

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