Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Cairngorms Glacier Mint

Sometimes I just end up being in the right place at the right time.  For the 5 days we were in the Cairngorms last week this was certainly the case, as a hard thaw, followed by a fierce freeze, brought near perfect snow conditions. Right up until we arrived I wasn't sure what kind of reception the mountains were going to give us. Knowing things were meant to cool off we took a punt on it being ok and set off on the sunday afternoon at the height of the thaw and some wild stormy weather.  Five days of brilliant time in the hills is a lot of blogging, so to keep it simple, here are some of the best photos in an attempt to sum up the week.

Day 1: Strong winds today, so we went straight up on to the Cairngorm Plateau to see what it was like! Apart from the wind, the plateau was frozen in to a giant lollipop of neve. 

Checking out the tops of the climbs in Coire nan Lochain. 

Day 2: We did Aladdin's Mirror, which takes a hidden snowy couloir up the right of the blackest buttress, in to the snow field above, and then trends back left. An exposed grade 1- Very icy today.

Day 3: A "day off"- exploring the Rothiemurchus Forest- a small corner of the ancient Caledonian Forest that still survives.   
Breathtaking views over the forest.  This is almost a proper woodland wilderness- even if it is a small one. 

 Heaven for a tree hugging hippy like me.
Looking up from the tree line towards the Lairig Ghru. 

Day 4: Back in the mountains! Icy approach to Spiral Gully. 

 Wally leading up to the first difficulties- a narrow groove of ice. 

 Lovely view across the face towards Aladdin's seat- you can just make out a climber approaching the "pommel" of the saddle. 

Looking up the final gully of Spiral Gully. 

Cairngorm Plateau twinkling in the sunlight

 Snow buntings amaze me- they manage to survive in the most ferocious conditions- on what? (Climbers' sarnies?)

Day 5: Forgot to get pictures on the route today (oops) but here is me trying to get over a large cornice at the top of Crotched Gully. 

Aha!  Made it.

 A picture of me thrutching up the cornice courtesy of Bill at Scotch on the Rocks Guiding, who was with a party on Spiral Gully, and was kind enough to send me copies of his photos of us topping out.

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