cold calm and clear on the cuillin

Mon, Feb 22, 2010

Three words that sum up this winter. January was Alpine, quite literally, with massive dumps of snow that made walking almost impossible in some areas, especially the route into the northern corries of Cairngorm, virtually no wind and temperatures down in the minus twenties. These are indeed, Alpine conditions and they make for hard walking and avalanches and so far this winter, the wind has been absent. Last year there 100mph+ winds that wrecked parts of the ski building at Cairngorm but so far, not a lot of wind. It really has been one of the best winters ever. Even the Cuillin are plastered. which drew me out for a simple day’s bimbling on Blaven on Saturday.

Blaven from the road to Torrin

Frozen path gave way to hard snow in the ascent groove above the east face with a nice tricky bit in the middle, smearing hard winter boots insecurely on warm gabbro while fingers bored into clear mushy ice. The snow in the groove was perfect for kicking steps and the rock on either side was warm in the sun, melting the ice from the skin scraping gabbro.

Looking down the ascent groove on Blaven

The higher I went the harder the snow became until I was kicking thrice with each foot to create a secure enough side step to move upwards, zig zagging across iron hard snow, adventuring through steep iced rocks and gullies, with just an inch of boot surface in contact with the convex slope.Then it eased, the snow deepened and I plodded up to the pristine summit, not a soul in sight.

There was a busy sky over the main Cuillin ridge with giant Cumulonimbus forming over Rum and charging inland to rise even higher above Sgurr nan Gillean

Sgurr nan Gillean from Blaven

with the middle peaks throwing up Cumulus Congestus to add to the growing thundercaps:

Cumulus Congestus over the Cuillin

The ravens weren’t around today and the snow was footprint free, dazzling in the sunlight before the big clouds came in and turned everything ominously grey.

Looking to the south summit of Blaven

I never tire of plodding up Blaven. There’s always something different to see. Different conditions, weather, moods, feelings and it doesn’t take long to get up high into the mountain environment and as I cramponed carefree down the ridge I almost did a little dance.

Looking down the ascent route on Blaven

You can see all the pics here.

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