Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Mild Winter Hanging In The Cairngorms

Myself and Pete went up to the Cairngorms last week for a few days, we try and time it after a decent snow fall but there's been very little this winter so far. After monitoring the forecasts for a few weeks and then checking the snow gate webcam, we made the decision to pack for carrying rather than taking the pulks. I booked some time off at work and so last Wednesday lunchtime we loaded up the car and headed north.

Wednesday 22nd January

The journey up was fairly pleasant, a few HGVs slowing things down across the A66 but progress was good and we were eating sausage and chips from the Chinese chippy in Blairgowrie before we knew it. Half an hour later we pulled up in the car park at the Lin of Dee, sadly even in the dark we could tell there was hardly any snow about. We had a quick brew at the car and packed some final munchies, grabbed our packs and headed up the path for Glen Lui. I guess it took us a couple of hours to bimble up the valley towards Bob Scotts, candles were lit inside the windows when we got there so we continued on past the mountain rescue hut. Crossing the footbridge we headed for a stand of Scots pine we'd camped at before, we found suitable trees for the hammocks and got set up. After a bit of scram we retired for the night fairly early, I warned Pete that it'd been a while since I was in a hammock so he probably won't see me until the afternoon.

Thursday 23rd January

I think it was around 11:30 when I finally got up, not quite the afternoon but not far off. After a late breakfast of coffee and pop tarts we kicked around camp before going to explore, the westerly winds were starting to pick up so in the back of our minds we were also looking to move camp. Further north along the river we found a cosy little secluded area behind an embankment and made the decision to go back for out gear and come back.

We got a little base camp set up with hammocks on neighbouring trees and strung Petes polycryo tarp up over his hobbo stove. Days are short at this time of year, by the time we'd set up camp, collected water and gathered a few bits of fuel for the stoves, the sun was down and it was approaching dark again. We relaxed around the fire in Pete's hobbo stove and dodged snow flurries until bed time.

Friday 24th January

It was another late rise for me, Pete was kicking about but I was struggling to prise myself from the toasty hammock again. After a bit of food we set off for a wander up Glen Derry, climbing out of the forest the landscape changed from green to white, the winds picked up slightly and the air was cold and damp. I know Pete wanted to push further up the glen but a fast and icy river crossing was a good stopping point for me, it would've been nice to make it to the bothy but we didn't really have enough time and like a numpty I'd not brought my spikes let alone any crampons. After late lunch next to the river we turned round and headed back down the glen, we stopped at a pretty waterfall and checked for future hanging potential. Friday night was the coldest of the trip, although we were tucked up away from the strong westerlies, there was a constant flow of cold air sinking down the valley right through our camp. I think the last time we checked it was -4.8*c and that was quite early in the evening, I'm guessing it dropped to around -6 or -7*c overnight. Hardly cold in the scheme of things but we'd both brought 3 season gear for the trip, it was a good test and I layered up in down and Primaloft come bed time.

Saturday 25th January

Surprisingly I managed to stay toasty warm all night, the only cold bit I had was my nose poking out of my balaclava. I thought I'd suffer with a touch of CBS so had a piece of refletix standing by, I slept right through so never really needed it. I was actually awake before Pete for once, I made coffee from the hammock and snoozed for a while. 

The plan for the day was to head back down the glen to the car and move down to Glen Quoich for a few more nights. The walk down was beautiful despite the heavy sleet and snow storms that blew through, by the time we reached the car we were both pretty soggy and cold. We made the most of the conveniences in the car park and shuttled down the road to the Punch Bowl, we parked up, grabbed the packs and set off up the path.

Time was knocking on again, it would've been nice to make it further up but we decided to head for an island camp we'd used in the past. A new footbridge was in place so the crossing to the island was simple, we got setup in the heaviest snow shower of the week which was then followed by a cold northerly for the rest of the afternoon. After the storms blew through we were treated to an amazing night sky, almost zero light pollution makes for an impressive display. We huckled under Pete's tarp for the evening, trying to keep out of the winds and staying warm with several coffees and Baileys. There were a couple of trees I had concerns about on the island so I couldn't get off to sleep straight away, a huge full tree of a widow maker leaning against a skinny pine was one, the other was a pine within spitting distance which seemed to sway more than the others and made some funky squeaking noises occasionally, I eventually reached for the mp3 player and dozed off to sleep.

My camera got a good soaking in the sleet showers so it didn't come out that day, I did manage to get a timelapse of Pete wrestling some angorra wool though.

Sunday 26th January

I was up first, the wind was still blasting through camp and it was still cold, I made a brew under my tarp and sat in the hammock for a while. Pete got up and we made the decision to drop down the valley and find somewhere sheltered for the next night. We'd seen some nice pitches in the past not too far from the car park, as we wandered down to have a look the weather dropped off completely and we were even treated to some sunshine. We setup camp and got some gear dried out, we went for a bimble up the river and generally chilled out on our last day. A guy and his young son came by and chatted about camping, he'd never seen a hammock setup before and was amazed how we just carried it on our backs and setup wherever we liked, I think he was going to check them out when he got home, another convert no doubt.
As the weather was much milder Pete set his tarp in porch mode and we spent the last night finishing off food and took a night walk up past the waterfalls. More star gazing in between more snow flurries and with the hope of a heavy snowfall we called it a night.

Monday 27th January

We'd been looking over at the snowy Morrone birch wood from camp so on the last morning we packed up and took a drive round. Boots back on we took up walk up through the ancient wood land, it was nice to actually find some decent snow at last and we scouted out some possible hang sites for the future, it was a nice end to a good trip. 

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