Snow Hole in the Cairngorms

Jan 22nd, 2011 | By | Category: Expeditions, Featured, Personal, Winter Walking

With a sled dog race meeting taking place in Aviemore this weekend, all accommodation was booked, so it seemed appropriate to take the opportunity to go on an expedition. This gave the chance to practice some snow hole skills and allow me to get deeper into the Cairngorms than is realistic on a day trip.

Having picked up a few supplies from town, I drove round to Glen Feshie and started to long trek up to Carn Ban Mor. To start with, things didn’t feel much like winter. The snow line was at about 750m and cloud hung on the mountains from about 850m, so there wasn’t much snow in view. However, it turned out to be quite a day with the snow, thick cloud and relatively featureless terrain making navigation very difficult.

From Carn Ban Mor, it was about 4 and a half kilometers in white out conditions to the rounded top of Mullach Clach a Bhlair. A rather unimpressive top, but a challenge to find in the conditions. From here, it was another taxing 5 and a half kilometers to Tom Dubh. Again, this is a relatively insignificant feature in normal conditions, but proved useful in poor visibility.

My home for the night, with my rucksack placed where I'd 'mined' my snow blocks

My home for the night, with my rucksack placed where I'd 'mined' my snow blocks

I had hoped to get another 3 or 4km before stopping for the night but the challenging navigation had slowed progress and, with the time now at 3.30pm and knowing it would take a couple of hours to dig a snow hole for the night, I opted to set up camp where the Allt Luineag drops down to the east of Tom Dubh.  By 5.30pm I had a sufficient shelter dug but, with nothing else to do, I decided to expand my new home to make things more comfortable.

After some hot food and drink, I studied the map for the following day and realised that there was another Munro in the form of Monadh Mor right on my doorstep which I hadn’t planned to climb. The temptation was too great so, with a lightened pack, I headed out into the dark to get an extra peak. By now the cloud had lifted and visibility was actually a lot better than it had been during the day, making things more straight forward than I’d expected.

Angel's Peak with the cloud threatening in the background

Angel's Peak with the cloud threatening in the background

After a great night’s sleep, I was on my way again by 8.30am under a clear sky in contrast to yesterday. I followed the river round to Loch nan Stuirteag (being sure to stay a safe distance away, rather than falling in through the snow!), and traversed round Coire an t-Saighdeir before making my way up The Devil’s Point. From here, it was round to Cairn Toul and The Angel’s Peak in great conditions and wonderful views.

My original plan was to head round to Braeriach but, due to yesterday’s slow progress, it didn’t seem like a good idea with the amount of daylight that was left. So I descended back towards the location of my snow hole and headed back to Carn Ban Mor before branching north to Sgor Gaoith for the last of the peaks on my little expedition.

The trip was a great combination of difficult navigation, snow hole practice and a chance to enjoy the awesome creation we have on our doorstep. Brilliant!


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  1. Martin,
    I’m glad to see the Winter ML training is going well and I’m almost green with envy. We must catch up when your back home.

    Chris

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Member of the Adventure Activities Licensing Authority Member of the British Canoe Union Member of the British Cycling Federation Member of the British Mountaineering Council British Orienteering Qualified Coach Duke of Edinburgh's Award Approved Activity Provider (AAP) Institute for Outdoor Learning Full Member of the Mountain Leader Training Association National Navigation Awards Scheme Registered Provider Qualified Trail Cycle Leader under the Scottish Mountain Bike Leaders Association Award Scheme

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