Facing the inevitable

A quick blast up to the Scottish Highlands on Saturday night with the intention of climbing on Lochnagar on Sunday. The forecast meant conditions were never likely to be perfect but the corries of Lochnagar can often be relatively mellow when everything else all-around is kicking off.

So as we left the Spittal of Glen Muick in fairly blustery conditions we were optimistic that there would still be some climbing possible. Considering it is early February there is a shocking lack of snow low down in the Highlands presently and there were a lot of nervous mountain hares bounding around through brown heather in their very white coats.

Luckily for them, snow showers were blowing in as we left the security of the few pine trees that remain in this corner of the Highlands. As an aside its a shocking example of what isn’t growing but should be, especially within a National Park and on a royal estate. There is a certain peace that comes from walking through and amongst Caledonian Pine which isn’t replicated by vast, monotonous swathes of grassland and heather. Whatever your view on ecology you surely cannot argue with the well-being that we get from being in native forest.

Roll-on an hour and the snow-showers had turned into persistent snowfall and the wind had increased. More people were walking out from Lochnagar than in, most of whom we dismissed but there were a few, clearly experienced souls mixed in amongst them that made me think all might not be calm in the corrie.

And so it proved. As we hit the col and began our descent into the corrie floor, the visibility plummeted. Not quite white-out conditions, but not far off, a swirling blizzard which reduced visibility to no more than 30 feet and at times less than 10. We made our way across the broken boulder field, plunging through occasional holes in the snow across to the base of the crags. I think we knew what the answer would be but we were still keen to actually see. Not that there was much to see, it was snowing hard, just the occasional glimpse of the crags revealed itself. There was only one way from here and it was back. Today was not a day for climbing.

Scottish winter climbing

Sammi and Andy readying packs at the Spittal of Glen Muick

Scottish winter climbing

The hardshells come out as conditions begin to deteriorate

Scottish winter climbing

Stormy conditions in the corrie

Scottish winter climbing

Andy negotiates the boulder field as we climb back to the col, having called it a day.


About Richard Talbot

An accomplished fell-runner as well as being a keen climber and mountaineer. Since 2005 he has worked for the UK based manufacturer Mountain Equipment and is currently Director of Product. He has worked in the outdoor industry for over 15 years.
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