First day of our holiday, we stopped off at Layby 87 (A9) on route to our destination. Unsure how conditions would be following the snow a couple of days ago, we were fully equipped for winter with crampons, ice axes and microspikes, alongside the obligatory spare gloves etc. Suffice to say the pack was heavy!
A Good Track Up
After crossing the A9 – thankfully there were sizeable gaps in the traffic today! – we followed a decent track for a long way up the hill. The upside of this was that most of the height got the day was gained in one, the downside that we seemed to be going nowhere fast and had a lot of walking ahead of us.
The snow line was around 700m, the freezing line slightly below that, and we had to move off the track and onto the snow covered heathery ground as a result.
Big Plateau & Boggy Ground
There should have been boggy ground to cross on route to our first munro of the day. However, along with making all the mountains in sight look so much more magical, the bog had disappeared due to the snowy conditions! Instead there was a satisfying crunch on occasion and the odd muttering as we sank into the snow unexpectedly.
The big climb of the day over, had it not been for the snow being so powdery this part of the journey would have been easy going; however, recent snowfall being powdery soft made it pretty slow going. A couple of hail / snow showers passed through, thankfully fading quickly after the dark, gloomy skies enveloped us briefly.
Càrn na Caim
The summit was unremarkable with a tiny cairn to show that we’d reached our highest point. The views, however, more than made up for it! I can see why these munros may not rate highly, but on a day like this they’re perfect!
A’Buidheanach Bheag, a long slog in the snow
We retraced our steps back across the plateau and found ourselves on route to the second munro. This saw us dropping down a fair bit and we went slightly off piste, the path being lost in the snow.
Although fairly easy walking, the snow was soft for the most part continued to be soft and made walking a little slower than usual. At times the drifts were deeper and we’d frustratingly sink right down to our knees.
We continued to plod along and finally reached the second summit, again rewarded by stunning views.
Easier on the Return
Having realised the error of our ways, we determined to find the correct route heading back. Staying close to the path, we skirted around a small top rather than going up and over.
Reaching the main tack once more we were delighted to find that the afternoon sun had melted the remainder of the ice on the track itself – the amazing icicles remained – and we were able to follow it from beneath the snow line all the way down. It was with a great sense of joy and relief that we met the cattle grid and the sight of the car. A great start to the holiday and a welcome seat indeed.