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The answer is blowing with the wind

The answer is blowing with the wind

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Jan 29, 2020 4:48 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Cnap Chaochan Aitinn

Date walked: 25/01/2020

Time taken: 5.5 hours

Distance: 20 km

Ascent: 618m

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Having finally recovered from a nasty virus, and bearing in mind the recent warm, snow-less conditions, Kevin kept nagging me to do "something bigger", possibly visit the Cairngorms plateau? Well come the weekend, his wish was sort-of granted. We didn't exactly reach the main Cairngorms massif, but we got as close enough as we could. One might ask, why did we only climb an easy 700m Graham on a sunny Saturday? In the given circumstances, the answer is... blowing with the wind :wink:

We had climbed Cnap Chaochan Aitinn in May 2015 and enjoyed fantastic views from the summit towards Ben Avon which was then covered with a nice layer of snow. This time, we didn't count on any wintry vistas and as expected, we didn't get any. I don't want to sound like a crazy eco-activist, but there is something seriously wrong with the current climate if there is more snow on Ben Avon in May than in January!
Our route was the easiest option for this Graham, a straight walk up and down the ATV track which starts from Wester Gaulrig farm and leads all the way to the summit:

Track_CNAP CHAOCHAN AITINN 20KM.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

We expected high winds once out of the glen and in January high winds usually mean freezing your a*** off, so we packed in extra layers: warm tops and bodywarmers. In the end, they proved to be completely unnecessary as the temperature was ridiculous: +10*C in Glenavon at 8:30 in the morning! Higher up it was a bit colder, but nowhere near as cold as it should be this time of year.
The walk starts in the car park just south of Tomintoul, at the entrance to Glenavon. Fiver years ago, we had actually cycled the whole length of the glen from here to climb Ben Avon via Carn Fiaclach - I can recommend this route as a fantastic bike & hike experience, allowing to explore the northern tops of the mighty Munro. But today, we aimed for much lower target... The car park was deserted when we arrived - no sane mind would get out of bed that early on Saturday, just to spend a few hours being blown from pillar to post!
BP ready to hike:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 001.JPG

The first stage is on tarmac road, very easy going and because we were protected from the wind in the glen, I felt like it was going to be a piece of cake today. Oh, how wrong I was :lol: :lol: :lol:
River Avon from above:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 003.JPG

I remembered from our previous visit, that the bridge to cross was about 30km up the glen from the car park, but I didn't expect to find a new monstrosity built right next to it:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 062.JPG

It seems the bigger bridge is needed for vehicular access to the moors (the local ATV tracks also show the usage of heavy machinery) but I hope it is only temporary as it really spoils the view.
After a few minutes of moaning about "a nasty, metal monster in a picturesque glen", we crossed the footbridge:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 008.JPG

...and followed the wide track to Wester Gaulrig, pas the farm and across a grassy pasture (no sheep there at the moment). So far so good:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 064.JPG

About half way through the pasture, I stopped to take a few photos and had to take off my gloves. Suddenly, a strong gust of wind snatched one of them and I had to give a chase! Managed to reclaim my property much to Kevin's amusement. Now we knew, we were entering the kingdom of high winds!
Panther fighting the gusts:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 011.JPG

Thankfully, the track now entered the glen of the Allt Bheithachan, a small stream which we knew we'd have to cross later. It looked benign, not much water in it and just as well. The wind was enough of a problem today :lol:
Kevin in the glen:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 068.JPG

After the crossing of the Allt Bheithachan, we were out in the sun but also out in the gusts. At the moment probably 20 gusting 30. We stopped for a quick snack and as I was biting into my Double Decker, the wind took possession of the wrapper. No chance chasing this one...
Kevin nearly lost his hat as he was putting it on :lol: :lol:
It was getting seriously windy now!
But the surrounding moorland looked so lovely in the sunshine...
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 014.JPG

We continued up the track over Carn an t-Sleibhe. This top is just under 600m but by the time we got there, we were walking bent in half. It felt more like swimming than walking, to be honest. To take any photos, we had to stop and turn our back to the wind. It was getting more and more interesting! :lol:
Looking north down the track, Ben Rinnes on the horizon:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 022.JPG

Panther wrapped up in multiple layers:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 026.JPG

Despite the gusts, the day was very warm and only the fact that the temperature was well above zero, allowed us to pursue our target summit. Had it been below zero, we would have been frozen solid before getting half way up!
Feels like late spring, maybe we should call it Januapril?
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 028.JPG

Creagan a' Chaise from near the summit:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 074.JPG

Surprisingly, Kevin was in an excellent mood and he chuckled every time I was forced to do another pirouette. Maybe I should put on weight, so the wind would not push me so easily. Or perhaps filling my pockets with rocks is a good idea :lol:
Ha ha, very funny!
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 077.JPG

Just below the summit there was a quieter spot, where Kevin managed to take a panoramic photo, looking north-east towards Glenavon and surrounding hills:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 033.JPG

We met a surprising number of grouse. Some flew away when we approached, but some didn't really care about us, just went about their grouse business:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 035.JPG

About 50 m below the summit the ATV track divides, the left-hand branch leading to the top of the Graham. Here, we saw the southern views for the first time, including Bynack More...
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 043.JPG

...and Ben Avon itself (it was rather hard to photograph with the sun behind it):
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 042.JPG

The final 50m were simply hilarious. One step to the left, one step to the right, one pirouette, one or two zigzags, one step back, then five seconds standing bent in half, waiting for a particularly strong gust to pass. It took us ages to reach the summit and I think it was the upper limit of what a walker can stand. Thank heavens the gusts were quite warm, so we didn't feel cold, but it must have been at least 30 gusting 40, maybe 45. Madness!
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 078.JPG

On the summit, it was simply too windy to stand for me, so in desperation, I crouched behind the small cairn and tried to take a few pictures...
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 045.JPG

...without much luck. The typical Panther's photo from that day shown below:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 088.JPG

Kevin, as being heavier and stronger, managed to withstand the gusts - just about. He performed some kind of ritualistic wind-dance trying to get a few decent photos :lol: :lol:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 092.JPG

2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 093.JPG

Not much snow on Ben Avon:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 090.JPG

View south:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 047.JPG

After five minutes of fighting the wind, we gave up on the idea of summit photography and hid behind the (very appropriate) wind monitoring station. Here, we could take a breather, untangle all wind-tangled straps, adjust hats and jackets. No way we were having lunch now, we risked losing sandwiches to the wind, so we decided to return to the sheltered spot below the summit. The decision was taken using hand gestures and facial expressions, because we couldn't hear each other at all. The cacophony of sounds made by the wind and the monitoring station itself was deafening!
Only when in the lee of the hill, we could have a proper lunch break. I felt like having climbed 1500m or so, no wonder. Swimming in the wind doubled the effort my muscles had to make, especially on the final stretch!
At least now, we were going with the wind...
The way back to Tomintoul:
2020-01-25 cnap chaochan aitinn 051.JPG

We retraced our steps all the way back to Glenavon and as we walked, it felt like the wind was actually getting stronger. No way any walker could have enjoyed a Munro in such conditions. Once in Glenavon and off the wind, we had a good laugh about the whole adventure. Cnap Chaochan Aitinn is a flat-topped, round hill, no steep sections and no ravines to fall into, so we were never in danger. It was sort-of test to how much we could stand and we enjoyed it in a weird way. Yet I would not recommend walking in such conditions, especially on steeper slopes and narrower ridges.
Back in the car park, we discovered it was full to bursting, but nobody else ventured higher than the bottom of Glenavon. We caught a few odd looks as we returned to the car looking like two wild cats, me meowing something like "I want more wind-dancing, pleeease!" :lol: :lol:

So what's next? Not a clue. The answer to this question is blowing with the wind at the moment :lol:
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Mountain Walker
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Re: The answer is blowing with the wind

Postby AHillTooFar » Fri Jan 31, 2020 6:44 pm

The wind puts me off as it is no fun especially at this time of year. Tomorrow is looking hairy as well according to MWIS.

That is also one thing that photos do not show, how windy it is. You can view old photos and reminisce but fire up a video and it all comes back what staring into the cold blasts of air really felt like.

Still, the colours are gorgeous, especially in that sun and I remember last year as well around late February there was a warm spell before a turn for the worse so perhaps winter will still arrive. Not a fan of the white stuff but it is something the environment needs from what I have read.
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