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Last updated: 28/02/17

Alternative Snowholing Adventure
25-26 February
, 2017


Here's my pictures from a fun 'alternative' snow holing weekend. That was something a bit different to my usual Saturday evenings. Thanks Garry for all the hard work of organising and planning and Ken for driving. Very grateful for my nap on the way home. Met Office observed Cairn Gorm summit wind speeds were 48mph gusting 67mph  around the time we were up Derry so perhaps it really was a bit windy.




At base camp :)


At the bar with Garry, Mike and Rafa...


Lights out


Ken the alarm clock





Still standing :)


Loch Etchachan Ice Rink


Polar explorers


Bit wet...


Here is Ken’s account, a bit more wordy but Izy's pictures have captured the main points:


Thanks to Garry for a memorable “day” meet lasting rather more than 24 hours, with no snowholing required.  Having inspected the Upper Deeside snow last Monday, and experienced the mid-Deeside snow on a Thursday Mid-Week Walk, I’d almost decided to call off, but a weather window on Saturday afternoon/evening, with the possibility of it extending into Sunday morning, persuaded me otherwise. So seven of us set off from the Linn at 1 pm in reasonable weather (the odd very light and short shower), with no snow under foot, and stopped for a bite at Bob Scott’s, with the river flowing very high nearby. Then the difficulties started: it was impossible even to get to the Derry Lodge footbridge without navigating a substantial swamp, and the path up Glen Derry was pretty muddy as far as the dam-site bridge higher up.





From there on, it just got wetter and wetter underfoot, the only variant being slush higher up, and a nasty little burn at the upper plantation. Our main concern was of course the Glas Allt Mor, but in fact this proved crossable with care, though the youngsters all chickened out of the obvious stepping stones and chose to go 100 yards further upstream.




Then the “Club path” (repaired at our expense in the 1990s but now showing signs of wear and tear until entering Coire Etchachan, where some snow plodding was necessary before reaching the Hut at about 5pm. Three residents looked relieved when we said that we’d be camping up at the Loch – I don’t blame them!



A final pull up the moraine to the Loch, with more snow under foot, especially at the top, where we didn’t take long in the gathering gloom to decide on tent sites on the left. A gusty wind and ice and grass under the snow didn’t help tent erection, but we got up all 5 tents just in time. With the wind, a good deal of cloud higher up (though plenty of stars visible), and as hefty hike behind us, no-one felt too inclined to do an evening ascent, so we settled – some faster than others (see bar photo in Izy’s pics above) – to eat, drink, and eventually sleep – most fairly warmly, I’m told, though gusts and some spindrift kept the tent walls a bit noisy. I certainly slept reasonably well, especially after the old man’s necessary middle-of-the-night excursion.



The morning was not too welcoming – cloud almost down to the loch, and a bit of a breeze, but eventually (after at least 2 hours!) we had the tents down and bundled up, and most if not all of the tent pegs recovered. With Derry Cairngorm in our sights as more rewarding than a simple retreat, less out-of-the-way than Beinn Mheadhoin or the Shelter Stone, and less intimidating than Macdhui, we ascended Creagan a’ Choire Etchachan, encountering stronger wind, dense cloud, and soft snow underfoot.




Past the cairn, we relied on Garry’s navigation supplemented by Izy’s whizzy GPS to negotiate the rest of the ridge. Derry Cairngorm itself proved as stony as remembered, with the wind near the summit a definite impediment, especially with snow shovels on the packs acting as sails. Heading south, we stumbled about on rounded (but hard) boulders and soft (but sometimes deep) snow for quite a while, fighting the wind, and trying – not always successfully – to stay on the highest point of the ridge.




The temperature was about zero, and a definite drizzle from here on. As we got lower, stretches of clearer ground and a bit less wind provided some welcome relief, but we were glad to stop for a break and a bite before the final lift over Carn Crom and the drop down to Derry Lodge. Despite pleadings from Ivor, we pressed on down to Linn in increasingly heavy rain, encountering no-one all day except 4 under umbrellas near the car park. A welcome change of clothes and a cuppa in Muir before the drive home in cars packed with wet gear, feeling that we’d made the best of some harsh conditions: thanks again, Garry!

Author - Izy Kirkaldy & Ken Thomson
Photos - Izy Kirkaldy & Ken Thomson