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...
Ken the alarm clock
Still standing :)
Loch Etchachan Ice Rink
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
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,