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The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout


Postby Mountainlove » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:35 pm

Route description: Carn Gorm, Meall Garbh, Carn Mairg and Creag Mhor

Munros included on this walk: Carn Gorm, Carn Mairg, Creag Mhor (Meall na Aighean), Meall Garbh (Carn Mairg)

Date walked: 12/03/2013

Time taken: 7.2 hours

Distance: 18 km

Ascent: 1310m

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Camping in the snow (or at least in double digit sub-zero conditions)...it was one to do list item in my bucket list and with a Metoffice warning of 'Freezing Conditions' was there a better day to pick? :D :D :D
I fancied getting the Glen Lyon 4 under my belt, after a failed attempt in autumn, when the hill side was closed, due to the stalking season. :(

I had studied maps for a good place to camp close to the hills and decided to drive up the wee road past Ben Lawers and the starting point for the Tarmachan Rodge walk. It was dark by the time I approached and driving past the loch on top of the dam, the road conditions were turning worse until the road was thickly covered in ice and snow...no conditions for my car for sure. I turned around and drove alongside the loch trying to find a suitable spot. I found a little path just at the end of the great dam wall below Creag an Lochain and at the end found a suitable spot at 489m. Not with the amound of snow I had hoped for , but when I got out of the car I had to let out a scream...it was freezing!!!!! :shock: :shock: :shock:

I quickly put on my jacket and yet again misused my summer pop up tent for winter time (magic wee tent :D ) 4 season tents are so over rated (even though I own one)
Struggling to get the pegs into the rock solid ground, I moved sheets and blankets into the tent. With 4 layers underneath me and my 3 season sleeping bag, topped with a duvet, I was hoping it was enough insulation against the biting cold. I closed the tent to return to the car - by that time my fingers were frozen :o . Turning on the engine (no point to get too cold yet) I had dinner washed down with half a bottle of 'alcohol free' :wink: white wine.Remembering my little thermometer I always carry in my backpack, I put it outside the tent and when it was time to retire for the night it showed -10C. :shock: :shock:
It was the coldest temperate I have slept in and my gear proved warm enough to keep me toasty. I have to say that 2 items were the clear winners. For starters my hot water bottle ( I had boiled some water and poured in in one of my metal water bottles, as a wonderful hot water bottle (in a sleeping bag it stays warm for 4-5h) and secondly a plain fleece blanket, which I wrapped around my head and face, to combat a cold head and frozen nose syndrome. Both worked amazingly and at one point I woke up being far to hot!

But the night held some strange events! :shock: I drifted off to a light sleep when I was dreaming about a female voice, commenting about my camp spot. I woke up, not sure why and fell back asleep.
I woke up again shortly after midnight feeling thirsty. Having left my water in the car there was no way around, but to get out and get some water. Maybe just as well, as by the time I poked my head into the freezing night, I saw the most amazing view of the stars you can get in Scotland. Getting up I looked up and came to an abrupt stand still. In the distance I could see the light of a head torch??? :shock: :? :o
I checked my watch -half an hour after midnight. Who in their right mind would walk at that time of the night (and temperature)? Ok they could have said the same about me and camping :roll: , but I camped miles away from any civilisation.
It was to cold to stay outside, so I went back to my tent. Surely of anyone would need help they would have seen my light, just as I have seen theirs. A short while after a beam of light hit my tent, but no other sound was heard. I stayed awake for a while after, with all soprts of thoughts going through my head, but fell back to sleep a short time after.

I woke up at 7:30 during the next morning and getting out of a warm sleeping bag was hard, but I had a long walk ahead of me. I packed my car, boiled some water for my flask and a cup of tea
and drove down to the starting point. On my arrival I met two others walkers, but as I still had to brush my teeth and make up sandwiches, they left well before me.

Checking my gear I realized that even though I had packed my GPS I forgot to load the right map onto it. Instead I had a basic street map, which isnt very helpful at all. But I did had the walk description and a compass and it was a clear day, so I thought I would not get into any trouble...very wrong as I found out later that day.

The start of the walk is through a pleasant forest. The only difficult thing I encountered up the first munro (Carn Gorm) was the frozen path and soft snow, which made the walk rather slow going.
Close to the top it was time to put the crampons on and the conditions had changed dramatically. The wind was very strong and it was -5C, not sure what the wind chill factor it would have been, but I guess at least -15.

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Looking towards the last of the round of 4- Meall na Aighean

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Frozen winter wonderland. Time to put the crampons on

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Frozen ice

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The wind is stong and forces the loose snow over the frozen ground

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Dark clouds gathering in the distance

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The fog like 'clouds' you can see on the snow , is snow being blown up the hill by the storm

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Full gear required to stay warm with a windchill factor of about -15C

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Looking back to Carn Gorm

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An ugly eye sore in summer makes art in winter

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Schiehallion just before the approaching white out coming from the left


While walking I had noticed the day turned out to be a lot worse than I had thought (and hoped for) Dark snow clouds were forming in the north/east and the wind had picked up speed. I was on my way up Carn Mairg and had followed the line of fence posts. I worried as otherwise the landscape was featureless and yet again I could have kicked myself for forgetting to load the right map to my GPS. :thumbdown:
When the clouds started to come closer, I decided to get the compass and GPS out of my bag for save measurement and by the time I lifted my head, the visibility was down to 2 meters. :shock: I walked in the direction I thought I had to go to and it was one of the worst conditions I have ever walked in. Gale force winds battered me and all I could see was white snow and white featurless nothing around me Within 2 minute I had lost all sense of direction and switched my GPS on...BUT no satellites found :o , so I kept on walking.

Things seemed rather wrong, when I realized I was walking down hill...that was wrong, but were to go? Cursing me for not checking the compass a few minutes earlier, I could understand how easy it is to get lost an panic. I walked back, but literally was walking around like a blind person...fence poles for directions in bad weather are great, if I would have been able to see them. :? :? :?
Checking my GPS again, I had a signal and at least I was able to see, I was walking in the complete wrong direction. Making my way in the opposite direction I kept on walking. Thoughts like , how will I manage to find the summit with no real map, went through my head and I was praying the white out would disappear. It did, finally after the longest 20 min in my life and never again I was so happy to 'see' again.
Scary stuff but a valuable lesson learned!!!

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frozen snow

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To guess the common wind direction is easy here

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Looking back towards Carn Mairg

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Meall na Aighean the final Munro

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The impressive clouds

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On the way down


Short video of the conditions
Last edited by Mountainlove on Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby weaselmaster » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:49 pm

Great stuff - winter camping is clearly where it's at :clap:
I did these in early january in poor visibility and also found it difficult to navigate in parts
Love the pic of the snowbound cairn of metal fence posts - looks so much better that way :lol:
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby The Rodmiester » Thu Mar 14, 2013 4:56 pm

I'm well impressed :clap: :clap: Bulgarian Hills now these, your getting about this year! Some wonderful pictures there, I have never tried a pop up tent out in the open before, but had one up for the Grandson in the house for him to sleep in, easy to put up but a nightmare to pack away, still not put away right after their Christmas visit :lol: These are a fairly big day in good underfoot conditions, so once again, I'm very impressed :clap: :clap:
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby Mountainlove » Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:22 pm

weaselmaster wrote:Great stuff - winter camping is clearly where it's at :clap:
I did these in early january in poor visibility and also found it difficult to navigate in parts
Love the pic of the snowbound cairn of metal fence posts - looks so much better that way :lol:

Many thanks!! Good to know that someone else found them difficult to natigate (in bad wether conditions) I remember reading your trip report when I reaserched for it...you were really fast!!! :clap:

The Rodmiester wrote:I'm well impressed :clap: :clap: Bulgarian Hills now these, your getting about this year! Some wonderful pictures there, I have never tried a pop up tent out in the open before, but had one up for the Grandson in the house for him to sleep in, easy to put up but a nightmare to pack away, still not put away right after their Christmas visit :lol: These are a fairly big day in good underfoot conditions, so once again, I'm very impressed :clap: :clap:

Thank you :D Yes I was lucky this year...walkhighland meet up next :D
Pop up tents can be a nightmare to put away...easy when you know how, but I remember when I bought mine (many gears ago) it took 4 adults to figure it out...which took about half an hour at the time...those are times you stop believing in your intelligence :lol: :lol:
If you need help youtube has some good videos in how to put them away...when you know it takes about 10sec :D
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby kevsbald » Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:32 pm

Some beautiful photos there and well done on your extreme wild camp.
But, I would go back to your report and perhaps edit the fact you were consuming a half bottle of wine in a car in case Ayrshire Constabulary review..... :roll:
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby The Rodmiester » Thu Mar 14, 2013 5:39 pm

Mountainlove wrote:
weaselmaster wrote:Great stuff - winter camping is clearly where it's at :clap:
I did these in early january in poor visibility and also found it difficult to navigate in parts
Love the pic of the snowbound cairn of metal fence posts - looks so much better that way :lol:

Many thanks!! Good to know that someone else found them difficult to natigate (in bad wether conditions) I remember reading your trip report when I reaserched for it...you were really fast!!! :clap:

The Rodmiester wrote:I'm well impressed :clap: :clap: Bulgarian Hills now these, your getting about this year! Some wonderful pictures there, I have never tried a pop up tent out in the open before, but had one up for the Grandson in the house for him to sleep in, easy to put up but a nightmare to pack away, still not put away right after their Christmas visit :lol: These are a fairly big day in good underfoot conditions, so once again, I'm very impressed :clap: :clap:

Thank you :D Yes I was lucky this year...walkhighland meet up next :D
Pop up tents can be a nightmare to put away...easy when you know how, but I remember when I bought mine (many gears ago) it took 4 adults to figure it out...which took about half an hour at the time...those are times you stop believing in your intelligence :lol: :lol:
If you need help youtube has some good videos in how to put them away...when you know it takes about 10sec :D

Thanks for that, I didn't think of looking at U tube for instructions to put away, will do that now, wish me luck, think I'll need it :lol:
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby The Rodmiester » Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:02 pm

Moutainlove, I've DONE IT! so easy when you know how :D , my wife is extremely grateful, it has been cluttering up the spare room since Christmas, and so am I :D
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby ceaser » Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:58 pm

fantastic report and pictures ML :clap:
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby ChrisW » Thu Mar 14, 2013 6:58 pm

Fantastic report ML, so exciting during your white out wanderings. I do think you may be marginally tapped in the head to actually 'fancy' camping in minus double figure temps :shock: but each to their own....I will gladly sit in my warm living room reading your exploits and shivering a little at the cold bits :lol: Really enjoyable report as always, I am in awe of your madness :clap:
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby Mountainlove » Thu Mar 14, 2013 7:16 pm

kevsbald wrote:Some beautiful photos there and well done on your extreme wild camp.
But, I would go back to your report and perhaps edit the fact you were consuming a half bottle of wine in a car in case Ayrshire Constabulary review..... :roll:


Many thanks Kev...maybe a stupid question...but since when is one not allowed to drink in a parked car, in the middle of no where...when there is clearly a tent next to it? Maybe a rule I was not aware off (coming across a few of those lately) :? :)

The Rodmiester wrote:Moutainlove, I've DONE IT! so easy when you know how :D , my wife is extremely grateful, it has been cluttering up the spare room since Christmas, and so am I :D

Oh CONGRATULATIONS !!!! Thats fantastic! Glad I was able to point you in the right direction!! :D

ceaser wrote:fantastic report and pictures ML :clap:

Many thanks!!


ChrisW wrote:Fantastic report ML, so exciting during your white out wanderings. I do think you may be marginally tapped in the head to actually 'fancy' camping in minus double figure temps :shock: but each to their own....I will gladly sit in my warm living room reading your exploits and shivering a little at the cold bits :lol: Really enjoyable report as always, I am in awe of your madness :clap:


:lol: had to laugh about your first sentense...it's those ideas who come to mind and not go away again...but I have to say camping in summer (minus midges) wins every time!! :wink: :D
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby Lenore » Thu Mar 14, 2013 7:19 pm

Oh I'm so impressed!!! :clap: :clap: Great report, excellent photos, but above all a great adventure :D I'm very very glad you didn't get horribly lost during the whiteout, though. That's scary stuff. You'll always see that the one time you do forget to bring the map etc you get into such a situation. But then again, that map wouldn't have done you any good if you couldnt see where you were going. You stayed calm, noticed your mistake, checked the GPS, so that all seems wise to me!

R E S P E C T sister! :wink:
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby Mountainlove » Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:24 pm

Lenore wrote:Oh I'm so impressed!!! :clap: :clap: Great report, excellent photos, but above all a great adventure :D I'm very very glad you didn't get horribly lost during the whiteout, though. That's scary stuff. You'll always see that the one time you do forget to bring the map etc you get into such a situation. But then again, that map wouldn't have done you any good if you couldnt see where you were going. You stayed calm, noticed your mistake, checked the GPS, so that all seems wise to me!

R E S P E C T sister! :wink:


Many thanks Lenore...it was when I read your report about you last camping trip in the Netherlands, that I was reminded about my own bucket list...so thanks to you as well :D :thumbup:
Very true about a map...it would have been rather pointless at that time...one thing is for sure I wont forget the GPS upload again 8)
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby Mountainlove » Thu Mar 14, 2013 8:24 pm

kevsbald wrote:Some beautiful photos there and well done on your extreme wild camp.
But, I would go back to your report and perhaps edit the fact you were consuming a half bottle of wine in a car in case Ayrshire Constabulary review..... :roll:


Hope you like my editing :lol: :lol: 8) 8)
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby Bod » Thu Mar 14, 2013 9:20 pm

Quite an adventure Mountainlove, impressive effort! It's more than 20 years since I camped out in similar conditions and that was with friends, 3 or 4 of us in a Vango force10, Lochnagar Coire and such places...Great atmospheric photos too :wink: :D :clap:
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Re: The sub-zero camping, 4 Munros and a scary whiteout

Postby nathan79 » Thu Mar 14, 2013 10:36 pm

Good to see a report showing conditions not too far south of myself and Morecambe Monkey on the same day. I must start that trip report to show you how we had it. Pretty similiarly white, windy and cold, though neither of us had braved a tent the night before :lol:
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