A last minute day off on a cold February morning left me wondering what to do with myself. Fortunately Simon was in the same boat and suggested hitting the hills. By the time we were ready to go, our options were limited due to the light but decided that the glenshee hills would be a good choice since they were relatively close and should be able to bag a couple.
I'd done the 5 others from the Glenshee car park on previous trips, so knew that since we'd start up quite high, the mountains wouldn't take too long. I was looking forward to a crisp day out in the snow, the blue skies in Aberdeen as we left were promising and when we got there it was looking good. Parked at the small car park just north of the ski slopes.
A chilling wind met us as soon as we opened the car door which sped up our preparation time - layers on, hat and gloves, and off we went.
The route suggested takes you over the road bridge and along the river heading south until the river forks. We followed the river to the left at this point, following in the footsteps of those before us because the snow was so deep there was no way of telling if we were on path or on heather, or in fact above river, as I'd find out later!
The walk is not too challenging as you travel up the valley alongside the river, and it's only when the bulk of Cairn of Claise is right in front of you that you face the first decision - is it straight up? or a less strenuous but longer round the side route..... we opted for straight up of course which involved a lot of puffing and panting from me, and less so from the very fit Simon! Passed a guy who was coming down, warning us of icy slopes and gale force winds at the top.
After about an hour and a half from leaving the car we were at our first summit, enjoying a sandwich hidden out of the cold wind behind the shelter that's been built up there.
We checked the map and set our directions/timings for the next one because the weather looked to be closing in a bit and I didn't want to get caught in a white-out situation..... which is exactly what happened! We set off eastward from the summit, with the intention of walking 10 minutes and then heading SSE to hit the summit of Carn an Tuirc. As you walk east however, the hill tempts you into strolling down its gentle slopes, thereby slinging us off course slightly. Not to worry, the vis was still fine until suddenly the world went white! No view behind, none ahead, and the difference between sky and ground was suddenly imperceptible. We checked the compass, kept our bearing and were reassured that the direction we were taking was still leading us uphill, although it's such a gentle uphill and very easy walk between the munros, it feels a bit cheeky claiming the two summits as separate.
Eventually out the mist there came the shapes of the fenceposts/wall that marked the boundary between the counties, so we followed it uphill to the summit cairn. As it turns out we hadn't done too badly navigating blind because the summit was very close to us.
The wind was bitterly cold at this point, no views, so we didn't stay for long, just a quick check of the map to make sure we'd be heading in the right direction. We'd just decided to head back the way we came since the vis was so bad when all of a sudden the clouds cleared and we were treated to the view....
There's nothing quite like a winter panorama and it was made better by the fact we were resigned to a sightless plod all the way back.
In light of our new vision, we were able to check out the alternative route that we'd planned to do, heading down into the valley heading west down the shoulder of Carn an Tuirc. It looked good, and the further we went down the more chance of the visibility holding out, so we went for it.
The slope down to the valley was quite steep, and the snow had been hard packed so was quite slippy which meant very slow going for a period to make sure we didn't end up sliding all the way down on our backsides. Although this was a very tempting option, I'd had a run in with a boulder field on a previous occasion so wasn't about to jeopardise the integrity of my arse cheeks for a second time...
Made it down onto the gentler slopes and eventually met up with the stream which runs up the valley. If you ever go this route, beware of the other stream that branches out! We saw it and knew that we'd be walking over it but the snow seemed so deep and solid there shouldn't be a problem until I stepped on it and my foot went right through, ended up in the stream bed with my feet in about a foot of water. Simon had to pull me out and I ended up with slightly damp feet although would have been worse if i'd not had gaiters and goretex boots on.
The walk back after that was simple enough, the depth of the snow changing all the time causing the time old problem of never knowing if you're going to sink in up to your hips or stand firm which can get annoying after a while but we rejoined the original path and were back on firmer ground in no time. A great day out in the hills and the perfect walk for a cheeky friday off work!
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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.