At the weekend while the club descended on the Lake District, Nick Russell and I decided to head up to Scotland to make the most of a good weather weekend up North.
Our initial plans were to head out climbing, but last week the snow didn’t stop falling all week with constantly cold weather and gale force winds. This meant there was a thick covering of snow right down to the valley and a high avalanche risk on north facing aspects up high.
This, combined with not wanting to spend all of our trip swimming in snow, we decided to learn to ski tour as it has been on our todo list for a while. Not wanting to make it too easy for ourselves; instead of heading out for a short day tour, we headed out on a two day expedition to attempt the 5 Cairngorm 4000ft peaks with a night at the Corrour bothy.
On Saturday, we headed off in perfect alpine conditions and climbed Cairngorm by skinning up next to the lifts, which got a a few odd looks from the downhill skiers. We then headed across the plateau to Ben Macdui before enjoying an amazing 700m descent on fresh untracked powder down into the Lairig Ghru for the night.
Unfortunately the next day we woke up to blizzard conditions with a northerly 40mph wind which were gusting to 60mph and funnelling straight down the Lairig Ghru. We didn’t abort straight away, but started our route for about an hour before deciding that it wasn’t going to be safe to head up onto the plateau due to the lack of escape route once we were up there.
We then skinned all the way up the Lairig Ghru, directly into the wind which was strong enough to blow us both over a number of times. By the time we got to the top and started descending the wind had started to die down and it all became a bit more enjoyable again.
Despite having to change our plans, it was still a brilliant days touring where we didn’t need to remove our skis all day and were able to appreciate the fantastic scenery Scotland has to offer.
After a long and tiring two days we arrived back at Cairngorm ski station to find my car surrounded by now having been in the way of the snowplow in the car park.
We were supposed to be staying up another day, but we were both feeling fairly broken and weren’t sure we could face climbing the next day despite a perfect forecast. So after a quick coffee at the ski hire shop, we left Aviemore and headed back to Bristol, arriving 60 hours after we left. It was a fantastic weekend and I am now looking forward to getting out on skis again, but next time maybe with my own boots which fit well…
Here is a link to my blog with a few photos: http://www.masterplan-mountaineering.co.uk/2015/01/attempt-ski-touring-cairngorm-4000ers/