Andy demonstrated impressive motivation this morning, getting the stove on and porridge started while Jamie stayed burrowed into her sleeping bag until the noisy grouse and smell of hot chocolate eventually got her bum moving! We were reassured that we had made the right decision by sleeping outside when the bothy emptied out and a few people mentioned that it had been noisy and smelly! We had experienced some noisy wind and the sound of the birds in the morning, but we’re hardly complaining; and at least the only stinkiness we had to deal with was our own!
Ascent to Bod an Deamhain was unexpectedly steep and icy for the first motions of the day, prompting us to put on our harscheisen (ski crampons) while still in close sight of the bothy. This was after about a 25 metre section of Jamie worrying she had managed to get herself into a situation that she
couldn’t get out of without a long and potentially dangerous slide back to the bothy – luckily some short-step shuffling with skins got her to a tiny patch of exposed heather that provided enough traction for the crampon fitting! We were entertained by some courting grouse, with the male so typically determined and focused he didn’t seem to mind or notice our presence. The female did her best at playing hard to get!
From the valley floor the terrain became even steeper so Jamie swapped skis for walking with crampons and even that pushed the limits of her ability (we were WAY passed “comfort zone” at that point!). This was definitely the steepest ascent of the day, which was reassuring news to Jamie who was beginning to fear that she was to spend the next ten hours panic stricken.
The day was generally favourable weather, providing yet another Cairngorms ski tour with decent visibility. This is one area where being able to see is a distinct advantage, with massive spans of plateau that make summits difficult to find at the best of times, let alone when you can’t see 5 feet in front of you! We linked these four mountains together, noting again that this wouldn’t be a bad place to bring cross country gear for future days out.
The descent line chosen from Braeriach was to maximise time on skis and we covered a few kilometres in no time at all.
That was then followed by some slower-going heather bashing before making our way on foot through the Chalamain Gap. There was debris clearly evident from the tragic avalanche in the same place only ten days earlier, a reminder of the need to bring constant respect, knowledge, and experience into this wilderness environment, and to be willing and able to amend plans when conditions demand. We were fortunate this weekend that all forecasts and plans fell into place and we had a fantastic and safe weekend in the mountains.
From the Gap onwards we were on foot, including what felt like an endless slog through open moorland. Funny how all walking seems difficult when you’re doing it in ski boots that have been on for ten hours! A massive curry out with Lucy in Aviemore was a great end to a great weekend, though driving conditions on the way home left a bit to be desired!