Thursday, 16 June 2011

Seeing the Cairngorms in a new light (posted by James)

Up until the last few days, the Cairngorms to me have always been a place of winter. Climbing trips on the shortest days of the year in brutally cold temperatures and icy winds, the Runnel as my first winter climb, getting frostnip in Coire an't Sneachda. Even when going to summer rock climb I've needed an ice axe to cross vast snow patches on steep slopes.

Just below the level of the cloud on Ben Macdui

But the last week has allowed me to see the Cairngorms in a totally different light. I've had a week of holiday and the bulk of my walking has been in the East where the weather has been good.

A warm summer afternoon above Coire an Lochain

And it has been a totally different experience from what I am used to in the Cairngorms. Long walks in hot burning sunshine, crystal clear visibility…a long way removed from the blizzards and gales which so frequently ravage the plateau during the winter.

Coire a'Choire Bhoidheach - "The Rocky Hill of the Beautiful Corrie"

I'd previously avoided the Cairngorms in summer, thinking that the arguably less dramatic scenery of the East was best kept for the snowy months of the year. But I have enjoyed the last week immensely. Long walks of 20 miles over huge rolling hills without the dangers, stresses and heavy packs of the winter months have been very enjoyable, especially as a means of regaining the fitness I've lost during my period of forced inactivity.

A young red deer stag on Cairn Bannoch

And I've changed my mind about the scenery being "less dramatic" as well. Whilst walking over Ben Macdui on tuesday, the sheer awesome grandeur of the corries on Braerich and The Angel's Peak really struck me…as did the semi-Arctic atmosphere, even only a few days before the summer solstice. And there are corries here that few people know even know about, but if placed in the West Highlands would be major winter climbing venues and household names amongst hill enthusiasts.

The gigantic snow patches of Garbh Choire Mor, Braeriach

Added to that - the wildlife. As a previous volunteer conservation warden for the National Trust and the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, it is one of my main interests. And whilst you may often only see a few ptarmigan flying through the spindrift in the winter, the wealth of wildlife I've come across in the last week has been wonderful. Red squirrels, dotterels, peregrine falcons, snow buntings, golden plovers, reindeer and ptarmigan chicks - wonderful.

Young reindeer on Ben Macdui

So. Although I remain firmly a winter photographer and climber as my main area of focus, I think I'm finally starting to appreciate the summers far more. It is an amazing country, this adopted home of mine, and there is always something new to see.

The Northern Corries in summer mode.


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