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Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Is this the way to Cairngorm?

Is this the way to Cairngorm?


Postby matt_outandabout » Mon Feb 15, 2021 1:08 pm

Donalds included on this walk: Blairdenon Hill

Date walked: 13/02/2021

Time taken: 3 hours

Distance: 11.5 km

Ascent: 500m

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It has been a stunning winter and we have sought to make best use of it.

The Ochils while being rounded and seemingly 'unexciting' on first glance, are in fact great hillwalking days out. As anyone who has seen them from the Hillfoots or the train out of Edinburgh will confirm, they often 'punch above their weight' when in winter conditions. The whole day remained bitterly cold, MWIS suggesting -20/-25*c on Munro tops, and I think we were the same. A reminder to take full emergency kit and strengthening the Ochils reputation of being 'proper' hills. :clap:

Today was one of them.

We set off having left our car early in the morning, off the road fully and facing downhill before the waist deep snow drifts blocked our way. Not everyone was as considerate or cautious - including this 4wd who came to a quick and quick firm stop in the snow. It took an hour of digging for them to get out... :roll:
ImageOchils loop from Sherrifmuir by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

It was -6 according to the car on the way, and a blast of fully arctic air meant a shivering start for us both as we sought to get our roast on uphill without sweating too much. Avoiding the windblown snow and drifts meant a meandering path for us - but we barely broke through the harder surface, so making quick progress.

View from Glentye Hill - the road passes the small stand of trees in the centre foreground, the usual parking place.
ImageOchils loop from Sherrifmuir by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

We deliberately stayed on the windward edge of Glentye Hill, leaving the lee slope of deep snow to the gathering skiers and boarders. Clearly word was out that the Col Du Sherrifmuir ski area was open.
Our route follows the horizon line of this picture, from left across to right.
ImageOchils loop from Sherrifmuir by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

The pull up to Meikle Corum and Blairdenon is a stiff one even in the best of conditions. Add in 40mph wind and the sub zero temperatures and it was much more akin to Cairngorm.
ImageOchils loop from Sherrifmuir by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

Again we were careful to follow 'good ice' areas to walk on, rather than the path which was in many places knee and more deep in snow and would have been a much harder walk.
ImageOchils loop from Sherrifmuir by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageOchils loop from Sherrifmuir by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

By now we could see the clouds gathering and the Trossachs being enveloped in some poorer weather, time to exit the hill.
ImageOchils loop from Sherrifmuir by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageOchils loop from Sherrifmuir by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

It was a novelty crossing the moss without wet feet, although as soon as we left the wind-blasted summit the snow became challenging. A layer of ice over soft snow saw bruised shins, knees and thighs. Hard work ensued despite the conditions looking great.
ImageOchils loop from Sherrifmuir by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

We soon swung back to the return leg, now able to see our outward leg to the north.
ImageOchils loop from Sherrifmuir by Matt Robinson, on Flickr
ImageOchils loop from Sherrifmuir by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

At this point the sun disappeared and the wind whipped up again, our exit hastened without stopping much or taking many pictures. Everyone likes the glamour of a plantation wander off the hill....

ImageOchils loop from Sherrifmuir by Matt Robinson, on Flickr

We followed the track back down to the 'other' car park at the foot of Old Wharrie Burn. Amazingly some cars had got down the icy, steep road to it. How they got out again I have no idea... We walked up the road to our car with seemingly half of Dunblane, who were making use of the new paths on Sherrifmuir for a walk out from the houses.


A fine day of walking in our own back yard. Recommended.
matt_outandabout
Wanderer
 
Posts: 220
Munros:58   Corbetts:20
Grahams:21   Donalds:18
Sub 2000:20   Hewitts:154
Wainwrights:143   Islands:12
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Re: Is this the way to Cairngorm?

Postby gaffr » Mon Feb 15, 2021 2:52 pm

I totally agree the wee hills have given us good exercise and fine days out during this very different winter both in and just outside the National Park. A nice run down on skis from Carn Daimh on the Speyside Way loop while out with the reindeer folks looking for wayward animals and on Ben Rinnes on a alpine like day.
IMG-20210201-WA0002.jpg
An alternative to Cairngorm day out.
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gaffr
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Posts: 1990
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Location: Highland.

Re: Is this the way to Cairngorm?

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Feb 15, 2021 7:15 pm

Looks great. Love the 4th photo climbing through the wind-sculpted mini-"sastrugi".
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Mal Grey
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Location: Surrey, probably in a canoe! www.wildernessisastateofmind.co.uk

Re: Is this the way to Cairngorm?

Postby litljortindan » Wed Feb 17, 2021 9:02 pm

Sounds a bit cold but looks a great day's walking. A winter like this does transform everything.

Don't think I'm brave enough to take our non 4wd car anywhere other than a fully cleared and gritted road but there's still been a few accessible places even near 100% snow cover at low levels.
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litljortindan
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Posts: 2010
Munros:120   Corbetts:63
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