A mountain walk in perfect winter conditions

February 23, 2019 0 By NatalieM
A mountain walk in perfect winter conditions

The weather in Scotland is notoriously changeable, but two weeks ago I enjoyed one of those magical winter hillwalks with sunshine, clear views and just the right amount of snow.

The mountain I climbed that day with some people from my hillwalking Meetup group, has an almost unpronounceable name if you’re not a Gaelic speaker. A’ Bhuidheanach Bheag, apparently means “The Little Yellow Place” (I have no idea how or why it got this name!) and it’s pronounciation sounds a bit like “A Vouyenach Veagh”. In Gaelic, “bh” and “mh” are pronounced as “v”.

A’ Bhuidheanach Bheag sits adjacent to the much easier to pronounce mountain Carn na Caim, which I climbed in November 2017 with two friends. Both mountains are classified as “Munros” (Scottish moutains with an altitude of at least 3,000 feet or 914m), and they are often climbed as a pair.

However when we attempted to do this in November 2017, the snow was so deep that we were sinking up to our knees or thighs with almost every step, which significantly slowed our progress. That, combined with limited daylight, meant that we only had time to climb one of the two mountains, Carn na Caim.

It was always my intention to come back and climb its neighbour – hopefully in better conditions. And luckily, this was the case.

Both mountain summits are on a high plateau, which is prone to deep snow in winter, and I expected similar conditions for our walk this year. But I really wanted to do this as a winter walk, because the high plateau can get very boggy in summer conditions.

We were very lucky. The snow turned out to be thin and crisp, preventing us sinking into either snow or bog. And there was a fantastic path all the way up to the plateau. This path had been submerged in snow in 2017, and the visibility was very poor. This time, the air was crisp and clear, and the views were magical.

A’ Mharconaich and Creagan Mor, mountains on the western side of the A9 trunk road.

As we climbed higher, the views became more spectacular, with the hills covered in a white blanket.

The western hills, with Loch Ericht barely perceptible in the valley below.

When we ascended onto the plateau, we decided to put on our crampons, as the snow was quite icy and occasionally slippy to walk on. With crampons on, we crunched our way forward at a good pace.

The sun shone brightly throughout the day.

The summit cairn was partially submerged under the snow.

Which made it very easy to climb on top!

Me on top of my 106th Munro.

It was only about 12.30pm when we reached the summit, and we considered having lunch there, but with it being so exposed, the winds were quite strong, so we looked for a more sheltered spot on our way back down to stop and eat.

The weather felt almost springlike as we lounged in the sunshine eating our lunch, chatting and laughing.

The walking had been so easy, and there was still so much daylight left that two members of the group decided to walk to the summit of Carn na Caim, the neighbouring Munro at the northern end of the plateau, while the rest of us decided to descend and head off for refreshments at the House of Bruar café.

We walked down very slowly, almost mesmerised by the glorious views.

In November 2017 we’d only had a brief glimpse of these views through the murk.

Conditions on the same plateau in November 2017.

I was looking at some photos of this mountain that a hillwalker had posted a couple of days ago, and the snow has completely melted – in fact, the weather has turned unusually mild for the time of year.

We have had a very mild winter this year, and it follows one of the longest and bitterest winters on record.

It’s not over yet. There is still a chance that winter could return before spring settles in. In Scotland, the weather is never predictable!