After dropping my mate off to his Winter skills course in the morning in Aviemore I drove down to Dalwhinnie looking forward to my walk up these 2 Munros Carn na Caim and A' Bhuidheanach Bheag. I wasn't sure what to expect as I was warned the snow gates had been closed in Dalwhinnie a couple of days before...something I was wary of to get back to Inverness for my flight back! Also I wasn't sure about parking given that most of the laybays on the A9 looked rather dubious icerinks and didn't want my car to get stuck. Still the day's weather was turning out great, blue skies and sunshine with little wind (unlike yesterday with my climb up Cairn Gorm).
I drove past the main turnoff to Dalwhinnie (A889) travelling south, and just to the left of there on the A9 is a small layby where I was the first to park (640828). As I walked along the A9 I could see a bigger layby on the opposite side which had more cars in it....so I knew I wasn't the first up the hills.
The first think I noticed was how deep and soft the snow was. Even along the roadside as I walked to the entrance to the main track it was knee deep. I thought it would be a relatively easy walk of the track to the plateau...I guess I underestimated the conditions! The track was lost in the depths of the snow and as I walked from the start I noticed some nice folks were ahead of me breaking in the trail....just was well as the snow was unrelenting...deep and soft. Even following the trail was difficult walking with the odd fall and sinking waste-deep into some trap! By the time I got to the plateau I was knackered!
There were quite a few folks on the hill by now, all experiencing the same akward conditions. Some had come with skis, which looked to be the best option for today. I would have settled with some snow shoes! There was even a guy with a paraglide on skis (never seen that before so not sure whats its called. Anyway from the bealach (which was 2 hrs slog) it was another 1.5 hrs slog to follow (what remained of) the fence posts. No navigation was required as I continued to follow the nice trail made for me
I managed to meet the 2 guys who were first, breaking the trail in fine form and thanked them as they returned to climb the 2nd munro. I knew with my poor speed and fitness levels doing the 2nd Munro in these conditions would be beyond me in normal daylight hours. When I'm by myself in the hills I often find myself making the 'safe' decisions as there would be nothing worse getting into trouble in sub-artic conditions with no one knowing your route!
By the time I got to the top I had decided... I thought it would have frozen over at top, but the deep snow continued. Rather than yomp to the 2nd munro before the end of daylight, I decided to enjoy my decent and the stunning views. As there was no wind it made for an enjoyable walk...and the 2nd Munro A' Bhuidheanach Bheag isn't going anywhere. I got back to my car as the sun was setting and was glad I had made the right decision!
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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.