Along with Rachel and Richard and some friends from England I headed for Newtonmore in the Cairngorms for a week’s holiday over New Year.
The forecasts were looking pretty dire, but we never let that dampen our enthusiasm!
So my friend Amy and I set our alarms for early on Sunday morning, the first day of our trip and headed straight for the Northern Corries. We battled into the coire against the 70mph winds, but after Amy was blown over twice, we decided that hot chocolate and cake might be a better option and retreated to the Cairngorm Cafe.
The forecast for the next day, New Years Eve was looking slightly worse. Ok so the winds were predicted to drop a bit, but rain, sleet and high temperatures were headed our way instead. But when did we ever let that stop us? So even more determined we set our alarms early and headed to the Northern Corries again.
Ever optimistic we made it to the coire the next day and were delighted to discover that the wind was ever so slightly weaker than the previous day. Unfortunately everything was melting, and Fiacaill Ridge looked like the only climbable option. As more of a mountaineering route, it wouldn’t matter too much if the snow was slushy. As Amy and I headed up towards the start of the ridge I wondered if I was about to relive my infamous ‘voyage into the abyss’, an early winter climbing experience where I had ventured out in a blizzard only to discover just how disorientating a Scottish whiteout can be.
As it turned out Amy and I quite enjoyed battling the weather on our climb up the ridge, the only difficulty being that the wind was funneling through the coire and up the goat track, so that we actually couldn’t get close enough to the Goat track to descend that way and had to walk all the way round.
New Years eve was very enjoyable, we went out for a few drinks in Aviemore, but returned in time to sample the festivities in Newtonmore. This involved a torchlit procession, fireworks and a tasty local drink called stags breath. It was actually a really cool way to see in the New Year and well worth staying up for. To top it all off, just around midnight it started to snow.
Of course we had planned to go winter climbing again the next day so alarms were set early, and I dragged myself out of bed and we drove to the Northern Coires. However when we arrived, we just sat in the car waiting for each other to make a move and open the door. The weather actually looked better than it had the previous two days, but still Scottish. Although it took a while to admit it, we just weren’t motivated to spend another day out in the ming. So instead we treated ourselves to a sleep binge for a few hours and a gentle walk in the afternoon.
On Wednesday I headed to Laggan for a mountain bike ride, which was great fun, although I am getting a little rusty and my brakes needed adjusting which made the descent rather exciting.
Thursday was really nice as we all joined together for a walk to Creag Meagaidh. I’ve never been to the cliffs of Creag Meagaidh before, but it looked very impressive and I was very inspired by the sight of some of the routes there!
On Friday, whilst Richard and Rachel were chasing Reindeer and Soay Sheep the rest of us all decided to aim for the North Ridge of Angel’s Peak. A stunning looking grade I ridge scramble right in the heart of the Cairngorms. At 30km it was going to be a very long day, but I’ve never made it beyond the Northern Coires before, so it was quite exciting to be heading somewhere so remote. We were out for 10 hours and much of that was spent in the cloud. But it was an incredible day for the glimpses that we had of the mountains above the cloud, with the sun low in the sky, really stunningly beautiful. It was just amazing to journey into the heart of darkness as the guidebook so aptly describes one of Scotland’s most beautiful wildernesses.
Overall it’s been yet another fantastic week away, with excellent company and great fun adventures. What a brilliant way to start 2013, I can’t wait to see what other adventures lie ahead.