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Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Chritmas on Ben Macdui


Postby mountaineagle » Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:48 am

Route description: Ben Macdui and Cairngorm

Munros included on this walk: Ben Macdui, Cairn Gorm

Date walked: 24/12/2010

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Munro’s: Cairn Gorm & Ben Macdui.
Munro Tops: Stob Coire an t-Sneachda to Cairn Lochan
Date: 24/25 Dec 2010.
Distance: 20.74Km/ 12.96 miles.
Elevation: 1760m
Weather: Cloud level Apx 740m, with poor visibility. Wind reaching Gale force as it got dark, lasting time morning. Temperature dropping below -15, not taking in the wind chill. Weather improved by morning with the cloud level lifting above the summits.
Attendees: Just me.


I decided to do something different this Christmas; some might think it’s mad others that know me this is nothing out of the un-normal for me. It was also a chance to try out TSL 325 Snowshoes, how well they performed you can read in this report.

As I travailed up the A9 the weather look good but is soon came apparent, if I was hoping for any views my luck run out.

I arrived at the Funicular Base Station around midday, to find the car park less busier than I was expecting. The first part of the plan was to follow the M2 up to Ptarmigan Station then onto Cairn Gorm summit. I move up to the start of I2 (T-Bar) with all my equipment, right from the start it was on with the snowshoes. I had a few concerns about the snowshoes, the first was that the shoe is made from plastic; but it does helps to keep their weight down to just under a kilo per shoe. In places it was just sheets of ice, to combat this it has six small spikes placed under the foot and three toe crampon which helps to give grip as I pushed off as long take off the heal fixer. With the manufactures top end guideline weight limit been 250lbs, I surpass it to 280lbs with me carrying all my gear; this trip was going to put them to the test.

As I move off I flicked the climbing bar on the snowshoes, this made going up the slope easy by giving less strain than would be normally expected.

Looking back at the Funicular Base Station before going above the cloud level.
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It was not to long before I move above cloud level, which was approximately at 740m and the uncertainly if I would get any kind of views that which makes any hike really enjoyable. I made good progress up the slope, so it wasn’t long before I reached and passed the Ptarmigan Station to the top of Cairn Gorm.

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Someone made a wee Igloo.
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The radio relay station on top of Cairn Gorm was well lagged with the ravages of winter, protecting it till the warming of a spring sun where it will emerge from its ice cocoon. This would be last time I speak anyone till arrive back to Cairn Gorm the next day.

From Cairn Gorm I headed for the cairn that marks the top of the spur Fiacaill a’ Choire Chais. Once there I would follow the ridge over Stob Coire an t-Sneachda to Cairn Lochan. Only one problem, for most route I had total white out conditions, where the sky immerge with the horizon to become one. The only thing I could do was to look down approximately six feet in front of me and micro navigate, stopping around every one hundred paces sometimes less and check the compass to make sure I was heading in the right direction. Time to time, I would pick up ski tracks and foot prints in the snow. However I still kept checking my compass, for you cannot be guarantee that they are going to the same place as I wanted to go. Also in the back of my mind I was walking close to cliff edge, so I needed to be spot on. The odd time I would see the edge would come into sight, showing the true visibility was down to around twenty meters.

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I do carry a GPS, but only used it twice to confirm that I was at Stob Coire an t-Sneachda and Cairn Lochan.

The route from Cairn Loachan to Ben Macdui was not any easier, in fact part from the odd foot print or ski tracks to keep me company I could have been walking anywhere. Only the feeling of going up or down hill and my pacing which would let me know where I was. In a strange kind of way, I enjoyed it. The feeling of me been complete alone, me against whatever the mountain/conditions can throw against me. I truly felt I was in my element.

Light was starting to fade as I arrive at the top of Ben Macdui, at the same time gale force wind greeted me as it welcomed me to its top. This made pitching my tent interesting and with the temperature now dropping fast, so as soon as I could get myself out of the wind and in the tent the better.

It only took me four hours to get there and in the current conditions I thought it was good going. I would say that the snowshoes what made a big difference, to my progress. I am more than happy with them and in these kind of conditions I would use them again.

After a hot scoff and a few hit drinks I settled down for the night. I did not much sleep as the wind rattling of the tent kept me awake for most of the night. With the conditions, I could have been at the North Pole, than on Ben Macdui.

All set up for Christmas morning.
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The follow morning the weather looked like it would be more challenging than the day before.

Top of Ben Macdui still blowing a gale. You can just make out the Trig point.
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A closer look.
[imghttp://img31.imageshack.us/img31/9444/christmas2010024.jpg][/img]

As I packed up the weather improved greatly, however it was still blowing a gale. Even that settled down once I finally headed off, for my return trip. Then it cleared, giving some fantastic views of the snow covered mountains that surrounded Ben Macdui. I couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present. I crossed from one side of the slope to the other, so I could take in the views, which I was denied the day before.

Some of the views.
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By the time I reached back to the top of Cairn Gorm, there were a good number of people who made it to its top. While a few walked up, others were on skis. I use to do a wee bit of skiing now and then; this was me taking part in my last competition.

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I arrive back to the car happy with the last two days. It tested some of my skills and in return I was rewarded with some fantastic views.
Last edited by mountaineagle on Mon Dec 27, 2010 12:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby mountain coward » Mon Dec 27, 2010 2:55 am

You were brave on 2 counts there camping atop Ben MacDui... one was that it was soooo cold, the other was that Fearlas Mhor lives up there somewhere in the mists around the summit (the big grey man!) :o

That's made me so cold reading that, I'm going to have to go and put my heating on now! :lol:
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby Merry-walker » Mon Dec 27, 2010 6:37 am

And I thought I was a fruit cake..... :lol:

Good report and photies 8)
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby sloosh » Mon Dec 27, 2010 9:48 am

Yer a mental case! :D That looked ridiculously cold, windy and blizzardy (is that a word?) but what a place to wake up in the morning! Awesome! And great photos. A wee shame Santa never left you anything what with you putting out your stocking and lights on the tent and all. :lol: He probably got blown into the Lairig Ghru.

What made you decide to spend Christmas Eve / Morning on the top of Ben MacDui?
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby dooterbang » Mon Dec 27, 2010 11:21 am

Stunning stuff Mountain Eagle.

So glad you had views in the morning, makes the effort worthwhile. . . .
although reading your report it would appear you would be happy with whiteout conditions :wink:

There is a taste of the unknown in poor visibilty and the senses become raw and alert, which is strangely enjoyable :)

Well done, and will you be doing something different for New Year?
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby mountainstar » Mon Dec 27, 2010 11:46 am

Superb stuff, extream exposure, glad your tent was up for it, great picture of your tent with lights etc. will make a good Christmas card next year?
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby Gable Gable End » Mon Dec 27, 2010 11:49 am

nice one! shame about the blizzards; must have been a very cold night given the wind :(
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby briansolar1 » Mon Dec 27, 2010 11:50 am

Yes I can imagine that you didn't get much sleep in the wind out there. Well done, it must have been epic just taking that photo of the tent!
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby Tateson » Mon Dec 27, 2010 12:46 pm

I love the Fairy Lights!
I have a winter camp South of Cape Wrath & have difficulty with deep snow. Which is better snowshoes or cross-country skis?
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby mountaineagle » Mon Dec 27, 2010 12:49 pm

sloosh wrote:What made you decide to spend Christmas Eve / Morning on the top of Ben MacDui?


I already had my christmas so it was just another day for me. Why Ben Macdui ? Well I was not fixed on doing any hill, but it was down to Kinley after comment "Rubbing it in" so I thought to rub it in a bit more for I know he enjoys camping there. :D :wink: Sorry Kinley :lol: :lol:
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby mountaineagle » Mon Dec 27, 2010 12:52 pm

dooterbang wrote:There is a taste of the unknown in poor visibilty and the senses become raw and alert, which is strangely enjoyable :)


Yep it's strangely enjoyable :shock: You never know

dooterbang wrote:Well done, and will you be doing something different for New Year?


You never know, I'm in Glen Cole for the New Year. :D
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby sloosh » Mon Dec 27, 2010 12:57 pm

I sense a wee wild camping competition with Kinley approaching. Ace! Photos are always brilliant. :D
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby Wanderlust » Mon Dec 27, 2010 6:07 pm

mountain coward wrote:You were brave on 2 counts there camping atop Ben MacDui... one was that it was soooo cold, the other was that Fearlas Mhor lives up there somewhere in the mists around the summit (the big grey man!) :o


It would have been so cold up there, even he had a night off!!
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby Montymac » Mon Dec 27, 2010 6:43 pm

Looks scary, exhilarating and fantastic all in one go!! What a view to wake up to though! :D
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Re: Chritmas on Ben Macdui

Postby CheeseHat » Mon Dec 27, 2010 9:25 pm

Wow - that's brilliant. Really inspiring... and a little embarrassing when I think of the 'bad weather' that has 'forced' me to call off planned walks occasionally... :oops:

If my girlfriend will let me, then I know how I will be celebrating Xmas next year.
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