Saturday, 5 May 2012

What season are we doing next?

I biked into Glen Einich in occasional snow snowers towards the northern corries of the Western Cairngorms. From Aviemore they looked like an advert for Lapland and as they got closer the illusion did not fade. From around 800 metres the snow cover was mostly intact - in recent years that's unsual for February but for the first week in May it is pretty unique.
I ditched the bike at the ford of the Beannidh Beag and strike out over the heather moors and glacial bluffs towards Braeriach. On the tundra like foreground I passed a small herd of reindeer which were a long way out from Glenmore but looked the part as light snow fell from the darkening sky. One of the hinds sheltered a tiny days old calf between its legs.
The ground steepened up to the snow line. Given that its May it would be reasonable to expect what the ski resorts call 'spring snow' or as it's also known slush. However, almost from the start the snow was bullet hard taking a good slash with the boot edge to get purchase before a steep, intact snow slope at 1000 metres forced me into crampons. I stomped upwards and on towards the summit as snow devils chased each other across the plateau. At the top the views encompassed the deep green spring of the Spey valley to the north and the massive ice age chasm of the Garbh-coire to the south. This might be the finest view in Scotland but it is no place to linger today as the ice age makes itself felt on the north wind. I retraced my crampon scratches over that wonderful white wilderness of the plateau and dropped down towards the Einich in thickening snow showers. Inside of two hours I was eating chips in Aviemore spaced out by the contrast of all the seasons in one afternoon and looking up longingly to the deep shadowed corries of Braeriach's late winter.

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