Cairn Gorm

It is the sunday, the first day out on the hill after the course, and we leave at 8am, just at first light.  Almost as soon as we leave, it started to snow.  We moved increasingly slowly though the woods of Glenmore, following the Allt na ciste, an easy path in summer but heavy going in fast accumulating, knee deep drifts.
No chance to find the path, just follow the water course.  The deer tracks give us a lead, but they tread much lighter than us humans.

Up to the end of the treeline at 600m, crampons on, and onto the higher stuff, following the ridge line of the coire.  A straight line, up, and away.  It gets cold and the snow keeps falling, and even though the wind is picking up, it's not enough to clear the hills, the east side of the plateau will hang onto the cloud until dusk.

At 750m its whiteout time, after a while we have first lunch and reluctantly turn around and head down - it seems pointless, only an exercise.  And almost immediately, we double back,  as it starts to clear down below.  We cross the ski run again and take aim for Cnap coire na Spreidhe.  We're back in the soup soon enough.  Our field of vision narrows further and we focus on bearings, but our pacing is terrible, and after a while we lose track of how far we've come.  A bit further and we lose our nerve a little, decide to turn right and aim off for the Ptarmigan restaurant - Cheats!  Liars!  Brigands!!  But we are relieved when only a few minutes later we hear the snowplough making heavy weather of the heavy weather, and slowly ski slope butchery emerges from the icy dreich.  We are glad of a hot chocolate in the restaurant, and annoyance at ourselves and others is duly shouldered!  A brief second lunch and a dash for the top, a final wind swept push - its easy to find, just follow the wooden post tops, just visible in the drifts.  Usually its T who argues for the summits but today I am the one to move us on and up.  

We are the only ones there, and its science fiction - surreal and ghostly.   In fair weather, nowt but a long stroll for us, but today, a sense of real achievement despite our unscheduled pitstop. I feel like we cheated, but we made the high bit, and not in ideal conditions - our navigation was actually fairly good, we just lost our bottle a little.

Later, we walk down the way we have come, but on the opposite ridge of Ant t Aonach, right through the ski centre, but still manage to see some beautiful snow fields as the weather clears out a little for the last hour of daylight.  We should have gone round and down on the Chais ridge, but not to worry.  An OK skiing day, a bad walking day, but a GREAT nature day.

DjL 9.1.11