Whiteout Weekender! - Starring Creag Meagaidh
by weaselmaster » Mon Mar 18, 2013 1:57 am
Munros included on this walk: A' Bhuidheanach Bheag, Carn Liath (Creag Meagaidh), Carn na Caim, Creag Meagaidh, Stob Poite Coire Ardair
Date walked: 16/03/2013
Time taken: 14.45 hours
Distance: 41.5 km
Ascent: 2170m3 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Car Park by 23weasels, on Flickr
Lovely morning for a drive up to Loch Laggan - arrived at a busy car park just before 8 and set off. We seemed to be the only walkers doing the circuit of 3, with the other walkers and the climbers heading straight for Coire Ardair. The morning was cold and crisp - car had read -6 when we drove along from Dalwhinnie and this meant that all the boggy bits were tamed by ice.
View Back to the W by 23weasels, on Flickr
P1010200 by 23weasels, on Flickr
It was a pleasant walk along the track through some trees, then the path cuts up R into the hillside. This involved a bit of squeezing through vegetation before we reached the hillside on Na Cnapanan There were some bits of frozen snow amongst the heather which needed a bit of care. Aftter we reached the top of this hill the remainder of the walk was all in snow. Looking backwards over to the W of Loch Laggan there were good views of the Grey Corries
Towards the grey corries by 23weasels, on Flickr
West of Meagaidh by 23weasels, on Flickr
whilst over to the left were good views of The Window, with what looked to be a fair bit of snow lying.
And window in better view by 23weasels, on Flickr
coire ardair by 23weasels, on Flickr
It was a steady pull up the flank of Carn Liath
carn liath by 23weasels, on Flickr
carn liath nearing summit by 23weasels, on Flickr
and today I was trying out my new Kahtoola KTS Steel crampons, which fit to approach shoes (or many other types of footwear it seems) - these proved very comfortable to walk on for extended periods and did a good job of ensuring secure footing for most of the walk. My feet were happy
The summit of Carn Liath afforded some great views of the Monadhliath hillls and the Cairngorms and along the ridge towards Stob Poite Coire Ardair. We were hoping the fine weather was going to remain with us, but this would not be the case - we could already see the sky turning gunmetal grey and a promise of snow to come.
Panorama from Carn Liath by 23weasels, on Flickr
view to SPCA & CM by 23weasels, on Flickr
Derry Cairngorm? by 23weasels, on Flickr
Meggy! by 23weasels, on Flickr
SPCA & CM by 23weasels, on Flickr
SPCA by 23weasels, on Flickr
SPCA & CM by 23weasels, on Flickr
The walk along towards SPCA was stony/snowy at first. There's a steeper drop before Coire a'Chriochairien and the hillside facing us had a build up of a lot of snow, with a little kiss curl on the top - looked quite dangerous and we did our best to skirt around to the N of the main snow field.
Overhang snow by 23weasels, on Flickr
Coire a'Chriochairien by 23weasels, on Flickr
Coire a'Chriochairien bealach by 23weasels, on Flickr
snow overhang by 23weasels, on Flickr
coming up Coire a'Chriochairien by 23weasels, on Flickr
Once the top was reached, it was an easy walk along the broad ridge towards SPCA with some good views of coire ardair and CM. As we followed the frosted fence posts to the top of SPCA the clag came down and views were to be a thing of the past for the rest of the day
The clag is rising! by 23weasels, on Flickr
Nearing SPCA by 23weasels, on Flickr
SPCA by 23weasels, on Flickr
scary cornice! by 23weasels, on Flickr
Summit CM by 23weasels, on Flickr
Popsickle by 23weasels, on Flickr
Summit SPCA by 23weasels, on Flickr
We stopped at the cairn to have a quick bit to eat, having taken just over 4 hours to get there, but the wind and snow/hail didn't make for comfort. Pressing on we headed down towards the bealach of the window and met some other walkers who had come up that route - they suggested parts were quite icy, but there didn't seem dangerous snow build up - we decided we'd go down through the window rather than retracing our steps over SPCA & CL. We could see a bit going up CM initially, with a snaking path and fenceposts, but we were always aware of the drop over to our left which was quite considerable from our earlier views However, further up the fence posts ceased and ith was white on white - acres of nothingness. Fortunately the GPS performed an excellent task of allowing us to navigate between the crags on the R and finding our way to the cairn. That was not particularly pleasant I had assumed we;d have an easier time on the return leg following our footsteps but was dismayed to see the speed with which the wind removed them from sight - in a matter of minutes there was little or no trace of our passing, so it was back to the Satmap...
Summit CM by 23weasels, on Flickr
By the time we reached the window, the weather had deteriorated further with a fair bit of snow having fallen and more being blown into our faces. We started off down the steepish slope and for the first time I felt a bit uncertain of my KTS's being up to the task - into the sack and on with the proper kit, which certainly made me feel more secure underfoot. The walls of the valley were relatively clear of snow so didn't feel too concerned about getting caught in an avalanche on the way down.
View thru the window by 23weasels, on Flickr
starting down by 23weasels, on Flickr
Steep descent from the window by 23weasels, on Flickr
Once we reached the frozen waters of Lochan a'Choire it was back to snow and heather and the going was easy - a welcome, if long walk back to the car on good paths. We passed a group of trees which looked like they'd been freeze blasted - a reminder that winter is still going strong up here. Got back to the car in good light about 4.30.
frozen trees by 23weasels, on Flickr
end is in sight! by 23weasels, on Flickr
We decided to head over towards Dalwhinnie and look for a place to pitch the tent that would mean we weren't too far from the A9 if it snowed overnight - didn';t fancy being stuck up a small road in deep snow. However, due to numerous high deer fences, all the possible places en route were unreachable. By the time we got to Dalwhinnie it was snowing heavily and lying an inch or two on the ground. Hmm. Nowhere that looked possible. We went back onto the A9, hoping for somewhere near a layby, but again no luck and we were on the point of giving up and heading home - however once through the Drumochter pass the snow disappeared and we decided to try a wee road to Trinafour at Dalnacardoch lodge. This looked ok - we found a site beside a layby with some soft ground to pitch on and got set up. All was well until about 10pm we hear a car pull up beside ours at the layby and much goings on...was this the police out to move us on, or some landowner with a deathwish against campers - no, it was some construction guy who was there to survey a small bridge about 100m from where we'd parked. We chatted for a bit - he clearly thought us cracked to be camping in this weather, but the good news was there were going to be other workmen thru the night at the site. What's the chances of being distubed after dark on an unclassified road in the middle of nowhere by workmen? Anyway there were various comings and goings until about 2am, with vaguely audible mutters of "aye, you'd need a good sleeping bag on a night like this" and "campers!"
Morning, campers! by 23weasels, on Flickr
The morning came around and was dry, not too cold and we'd decided on an early start to get on the hills by about 7 and get home earlier too. After a welcome plate of porridge - tip from this week's campsite cuisine - you can get your golden syrup out of the container you've put it in when it freezes by putting it in a mug of warm water - simple! - we went to getr started - but the car wouldn't...
Oh no - the warning lights on the dash were all doing crazy flashings and the car was not starting - no manual (it's my boy's car, which I sometimes "borrow" for long drives to the hills, so I don't really know how it works)...phone Green Flag, who promise a mechanic within an hour or so. It's quite cold in a broken down car when your boots are cold and wet Eventually the mechanic arrived, diagnosed a flat battery and got us going
By the time we drove back up to Layby 87 it was after 9 - so much for an early start. There were several cars already there, more people than I expected to see on these hills. We set off across the A9 (always a nervy crossing!) and went thru the gate onto the path which was ankle deep in new snow.
Gates to CnC by 23weasels, on Flickr
Snow being crisp & even by 23weasels, on Flickr
Hills in ? Ben Alder group by 23weasels, on Flickr
Up the path by 23weasels, on Flickr
On the plus side, you do start off at over 400m elevation, so that helps. There were some great views over to the west of what I took to be the Loch Ericht hills. We followed behind another couple of walkers, which had its advantages as the visibility dropped the closer we got to Carn na Caim. Fencepost following also helped, although it did take a bit of searching to locate the poor excuse for a cairn at the top!
"Cairn" of CnC by 23weasels, on Flickr
The weather cleared a little as we descended, opening up briefly to show long rounded fingers of hills in the distance. By the time we neared the split in the path and had eaten some lunch, we had almost decided to call it a day at one top and head home - the sky looked heavy with snow and the thought of trudging through another white-out experience wasn't overly enticing. But that would be wimping out, and after a line of about 6 walkers passed us going up to CnC we decided to press on, again following the couple we'd trailed earlier. Things were ok until we came to the top of a'bhuidhenach with its unusual quartzite rocky cairn
a'bhuidhenach cairn by 23weasels, on Flickr
and had to do a bit of tricky direction finding - why yes it was back to white sky and snow. There were some fenceposts, true, but seemingly randomly scattered around or going in directions the GPS was altogether unimpressed by. Oh this is great - 2 km each way to do by GPS screen. And the batteries were failing - fortunately the new set I keep in the "emergency section" of my rucksack came into play and we were on the way again.
Eventually at a'BB by 23weasels, on Flickr
Eventually came to the trig point with a sense of relief and immediately headed back to have at least some chance of re-tracing our footprints before the snow and wind did for them. I had been watching quite closely and was interested in the way the hill seemed to close up the gashes of footprints like a scar forming over a wound, until all trace was gone of the intrusion onto its surface. At other times the wind would have pared away the snow surrounding the bottom of a footprint so that you were left with a raised imprint of what had been a depression of a footprint. There's little else to look at in a white out, so forgive my ramblings
The last section up from coire bhotie seemed much steeper up than it had coming down on the way there - totally unfair! My legs felt heavy - and indeed they were - the soft sticky snow had formed into balls and clusters on my shoes and trousers (should have put my gaiters on) and I was carrying atleast an extra 3lbs on each foot - well it felt like it. Justice was meted out with the business end of my walking pole and lighter legs ensued. The path back down to the car was quite treacherous with sheet ice under some bits of snow - enough to get those not wearing KTS's on the slide
Back at the car in around 6 hours, with the sense of having had a good work out in heavy underfoot conditions and good navigational practice in the white outs - to top it all the snow that had been forecast for today hadn't come (yet) and the drive down was fine
by Fudgie » Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:58 am
I was across the A9 from you yesterday and it was no different over there. I don't feel as bad now that someone else shared my pain
by weaselmaster » Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:47 am
Fudgie wrote:I was across the A9 from you yesterday and it was no different over there. I don't feel as bad now that someone else shared my pain
Yep - I've now done the 7 Drumochter hills and got no views - was quite looking forward to seeing something from the North of Carn na Caim but clag rules the day
by robertphillips » Mon Mar 18, 2013 11:57 am
by davedanson28 » Mon Mar 18, 2013 8:47 pm
by PeteR » Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:25 pm
by weaselmaster » Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:33 pm
PeteR wrote:Still think it's too colod to camp just at the moment though
Nah - just get a warmer sleeping bag and keep a down jacket on thru the night - no probs!!
Have yet to try it out when it rains and you have the cold and the wet to deal with - that might be a bit more of a challenge...
by Graeme D » Mon Mar 18, 2013 10:57 pm
by weaselmaster » Tue Mar 19, 2013 12:21 am
Graeme D wrote:Ha, you're getting a taste for this mullarkey now WM aren't you????
Unfortunately I recognise how obsession starts
A taste for the mullarkey has been well and truly obtained
Bring it on!!