I had a wee job to do up in Aberdeen that involved driving back down the road via the Cairnwell Pass. Dunno, bad road the other way or something. It was a lovely day and with the previous few days throwing out inversions all over the place. I couldn`t resist a wee lunch break up on the hills to see what it would bring. It was a beautiful drive through Aboyne, Ballater and Braemar. Copper coloured roadside hedges turned to frost covered trees the further west I went. The temperature dropped to -5, but the sun still scorched my face.
I parked up at the Ski Centre and headed up the path. I had read all the guff about how horrible it is with all the ski lifts and buildings, but so what ?
These Munros may start about 600 metres but it felt really steep and my heart was punding. I encountered a large patch of snow and as I only had an old pair of cheap trail shoes on, I slipped (make that stretched and pulled) on an odd pair of Yaktraks my wife bought for herself and the kids that bad winter a few years ago. They worked well and I wore them further on up the hill off the snow before taking them off before I ruined them. I saw the sign ..and it opened up my mind..I saw the sign. Not many signs on the hills are there ?
So, I thought , another ten, fifteen minutes or so eh ? Two minutes later I was on top !
Not before scaring two Ptarmigan away first though.
It was a bit breezy on the way up. But on top ? **** me , it was Baltic ! And my hair was all over the place !
My plan was to just climb this one, have a bite to eat and head back. But 1. it had only taken 25 minutes. 2. It was **** freezin. 3. I could see a cloud inversion further south.
so I headed off towards The Cairnwell, masts, huts and all.
The wind eased as I dropped height , but it didn`t stop the bloody Grouse springing up from nowhere and screaming that mad scream they do.
I passed a pretty loch which looked frozen.
If you look closely at this picture you will see a fleeing Grouse.
The path is really stoney and sometimes I got a sharp shock when I stood on a rather pointy rock. But I carried on regardless...
The wonderful site of stainless steel was now within my grasp and I hauled myself up the final steep climb.
And yes it was windy ! I had a look around and made my way along to the viewpoint away from the towers and sheds, like everybody else i imagine and plonked myself down and pretended it wasn`t there.
My first inversion, Magic. Over an area with no mountains.
But at least I had clear blue skies and had nice views for miles.
I sat and ate my sandwiches until my hands were red raw. This took about five minutes, before I packed up and headed back down.
As I got to the top of one of the ski slopes I decided to head down that way. There were still plenty of snow patches and I went for a bum slide. I had left my waterproofs at home as it was January. I didn`t slide very far so I got out my big orange survival bag. I saw on the news recently how this could save your life. So yeah, this was a life or death situation.
I kept it folded up and sat on it so that if it got too fast i could just whip it out from underneath me. The patches were broken up a bit so I didn`t go down in a oner but I must have descended that hill in about 5 minutes
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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.