Our own Off World Hogmanay

Back once again, two weeks later.  Up the west flank of Glen Quioch this time, then cutting over to Glen Derry via a mountain pass in miniature, hail and sleety rain and scree and rivers in spate after a huge thaw over Christmas.  It was good to be back, and with friends for New Year.

Unfortunately my girlfriend was caught up with work, and so there were 3.  We made camp in good time, and found a place not far off the beaten track.  Regulars to the Cairngorms will know where.  It's nice to camp under trees, a novelty.  Andy has a clever homemade windshield made of ripstop nylon that slots into the two pole ends not used once his SL3 is up.  It makes a fun and useful kitchen area.  Mulled wine was concocted, dinner was eaten, and the temperature plummeted. 

It started to snow.  Only a little, but cutting horizontally under the canopy.  We retreated inside the teepee tent and out of the windchill.

Some time later, the patter of snow on the flysheet slowed and stopped.  The snow had settled.  We went for a walk along the bank of the river, already less swollen as the re-freeze slowed the water high above us on the plateau.  Someone over at the bothy struck up on the bagpipes.  The magic began.

Later, we explored the small area around camp. We found bedraggled prayer flags and future hidden pitches on unassuming baby ridges, all the time shepherded by grand and silent Scot's Pine.  Walking, chatting, taking photos, we were soon toasty warm.  The moon emerged and stars twinkled.

The snow made our passage on the heather unearthly, spongy soft.  We bounced around as if gravity had lessened somehow, smiling to ourselves.  The land felt benevolent, the scene intimate.  Bright moonlight reflected on partially polarised vegetation.  Someone came from the bothy to welcome us in.  We declined as we were enjoying being outside, but were struck again by the generosity and camaraderie of people when in the mountains.  The pipes played on.

Late to rise, at noon we made our way to the Luibeg bridge and over towards Corrour.  Andy and Nic experienced their first stravaig across pathless heather and semi frozen burns.  We saw deer and red grouse.  As we turned our backs on Devil's Point, the weather turned on us.  Sleety squalls kept us company along the boggy path by the River Dee towards the terraced waterfall of White Bridge, where we donned head torches.  A 2 hour walk out in the dark on track awaited.

Andy and Nic have confirmed that 'the bright planet is Jupiter and the red planet (SSW, or about 7.30 o clock in relation to Jupiter) is Aldebaran, the eye of The Bull (Taurus).  This red giant is nearing the end of its life and is 65 light years away.  The star cluster to the right of Jupiter is Pleiades. Often referred to as the 'Seven Sisters' although there are over 250 stars in total in that cluster.  They are 'hot and young' stars - the Rihannas of the night sky'.
I could not have wished for a better first Hogmanay in Scotland, a place that has opened its arms and heart to me in the last year.  On New Year's Eve, with friends chatting and the pipes playing, something warming in the cup on a cold clear night, how lucky we are to have all this.  The air was heavy with Mountain magic.  Respects were paid. 

Go softly, thanks for reading, here's to 2013.