Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Winter in the Scottish mountains (2)

A few weeks ago Jaap and I stayed at Braemar for the weekend. We had hoped we could go skiing  but on Friday it was stormy so we decided to go for a walk instead. We parked our car at Linn of Dee and walked through Glen Dee. The light was so flat I thought it would be better to take some black and white photos. I think it perfectly captures the atmosphere that day!

Linn of Dee bridge ©Fenfolio2015

Icicles at Linn of Dee bridge ©Fenfolio2015

River Dee meandering through winter landscape ©Fenfolio2015

Eerie landscape ©Fenfolio2015

The next day looked very promising for some skiing as we had some fresh snow overnight and there was not a lot of wind forecasted. It was Jaap's first day on the skies again and we didn't want to encounter any icy/rocky/heathery areas so we decided to go to ski resort Glenshee. Our luck was with us; once we climbed up our first hill we were able to ski down one of the groomed slopes which was not being used, so we had this run for ourselves! Some someboarders, who were waiting in the long queue to take the towbar, probably noticed our excitement as they followed us climbing our second hill.

Jaap skinning up to the top ©Fenfolio2015

Overnight the thaw set in unfortunately so a lot of snow was lost. Initially we wanted to go for a cross-country tour to Loch Callater but the track had become so icy that we changed our plan and had a walk in the snowless Cambus O'May forest instead.

The Cairngorms on the other hand hadn't lost its snow cover and lots more snow had fallen since that weekend in Braemar. Perfect timing because on the first weekend of February I signed up for a ski mountaineering course organised by the Mountaineering Council for Scotland to refresh my skills.

On Friday the weather was stunning and as I was on my own I went out for a cross-country ski tour around Loch Morlich and Glenmore Forest.

View across Loch Morlich to The Cairngorms ©Fenfolio2015

Line sand shapes along the bank ©Fenfolio2015

Cross-country tour Glenmore ©Fenfolio2015

A perfect winter day ©Fenfolio2015

Following the tracks ©Fenfolio2015

On Saturday I had an early start to be skinned up halfway Cairngorm mountain and meet the group for the course at 9am. After we split into two groups we went up the mountain and learned all about skinning techniques, avalanche awareness, snow quality, navigation and group leadership.

Having a good time on top of Cairngorm mountain ©Fenfolio 2015

On Sunday we went for a tour in the Monadhliath, West of A9, which I had never been before. Our plan was to skin up munro A'Chailleach.

The route we took up and down the mountain ©Fenfolio2015

We had some very fine weather, almost spring-like in the valley.

Taking our bearings ©Fenfolio2015

Making steady progress ©Fenfolio2015

Stunning views ©Fenfolio2015

Approaching the hidden ski hut, purposely built in the early 20's
©Fenfolio 2015

Lunchbreak in the ski hut ©Fenfolio2015

Room with a view ©Fenfolio2015

The ski hut is a wonderful building! ©Fenfolio 2015

More splendid views ©Fenfolio 2015
Only when we were close to the top the weather closed in and the wind was forceful again. Perfect again for putting our navigation skills into practice.

Good practice of navigating in poor visibility © Fenfolio2015

Only then I (or actually the course leader) realised that my Silva Expedition 4 compass was faulty. The black line, which should always stay on the top, was moving along with the dial when I was taking a bearing!

Faulty reading 1 ©Fenfolio2015

Faulty reading 2 ©Fenfolio2015

I'm so glad it happened in a relatively safe environment. The course leader is a volunteer with the mountain rescue team and was shocked to see this could happen. Thanks to her efforts I might get a replacement, even though my compass is out of warranty. Since this all happened I downloaded the app Viewranger on my mobile as my old Garmin GPS doesn't have the option to view a contour map and place a point on it to navigate to. I'll be practising with this together with my new compass so that I get more confident in my navigation skills.

I have learnt so much in these two days and had a great time with like-minded people. If you're a member of MCofS, do consider their courses. They are great value for money!

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