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All things hiking News Suggested things to do Winter

Longing to escape? Winter in a city getting to you? How about escaping into the wilds of theHighlands?

Every year there are reports of people getting lost in the snow and ice of winter. Mountain rescue callouts are predominantly about navigation errors. To make winter a safer place, it is a good idea to book a guide to lead or alternatively join a group heading out into the hills. Some groups are organised by companies on commercial trips, others are groups of friends or clubs. Nonetheless there is safety in numbers.

Every year there are winter wilderness expeditions running under the guidance of Andy Bateman of Scot Mountain Holidays in the Cairngorms and Glen Affric. There’s also usually a trip to Knoydart, home to Britain’s most remote pub; however there is a major reforestation project going on there this year which makes it less attractive to visit and all the accommodation will be taken by the forestry workers.

Life will be reduced to basics during the expedition and the only concerns will be: eat – sleep – hike (repeat). The perfect way to clear the mind and return feeling completely refreshed after only a few short days.

  • winter walking Cairngorms
    Walking in winter has it's own rewards in the endless mountain views in crystal clear visibility.

Winter Expeditions 

1. Southern Cairngorms Winter Odyssey

This is a rare opportunity to experience one of the remotest parts of the Cairngorms National Park at a time when the mountains are probably at their most glorious. The High Cairngorms are renowned for their wintry conditions yet at this time very few folk dare to do multi-day trips

winter in the Cairngorms

Celia enjoying her second (or third) winter expedition with Scot Mountain Holiadays

Highlights: winter skills, Monadh Mhor (Munro), Devil’s Point (Munro) Carn a’ Mhaim (Munro), Derry Cairngorm (Munro), Beinn a’ Chaorainn (Munro)

 

Price: £ on application

Email: SCO@scotmountainholidays.com for full information about this trip.

MINIMUM GROUP SIZE: 3 PEOPLE – Private dates available. Please enquire.

 

2. Winter Cairngorms 4000ers

This is Scotland’s ultimate winter mountain journey. The high “plateau” route takes in Britain’s 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th highest peaks on a journey that circumnavigates Scotland’s finest and best known mountain pass, the Lairig Ghru.

winter in Scotland

Check out the potential avalanche sites on the head wall. You can see how the corrie came to be made

Highlights: winter skills, Cairngorm (6th Highest Munro), Ben Macdui (2nd Highest Munro), Braeriach (3rd Highest Munro), Cairn Toul (4th Highest Munro), Sgor an Lochain Uaine (Munro)

Price: £ on application

Email: CWO@scotmountainholidays.com for full information about this trip

MINIMUM GROUP SIZE: 3 PEOPLE – Private dates available. Please enquire.

 

3. Glen Affric Winter Shangri-La

Imagine the soft orange light of a winters dawn gleaming down from the snowy celestial heights. Surrounded by snowy peaks and cradling a mug of tea in the crisp air, indeed a stunning winter’s day beckons.

Highlights: winter skills, Mullach Fraoch – choire (Munro), Mam Sodhail (Munro), Carn Eighe (Munro), An Socach (Munro), Carn a’Choire Ghairbh (Munro)

winter expedition Scotland

Spotting deer in Glen Affric while on winter expedition in Scotland

Price: £ on application

Email: Shangri-La@scotmountainholidays.com for full information about this trip

MINIMUM GROUP SIZE: 3 PEOPLE – Private dates available. Please enquire.

 

Or for something slightly different

 

4. Snow Hole Expedition

“Porridge with whisky at 9am whilst warm & dry in my sleeping bag has never tasted better!” Ric Taylor,Bristol.”

Have you ever dreamt of taking a short walk amongst a moonlit snowy wonderland. Amazingly no need for a torch! Imagine reflected flickering candle light giving way to the soft light of a winters dawn as you emerge from you snowy abode. Not a soul about! We’ll have a vast pristine winter wonderland all to ourselves. It’s a remarkable experience.

Highlights: winter skills on Cairngorm, overnight expedition to sleep in a snow cave, creation of said snow cave

snowholing expedition

how to build a snowhole in Scotland

All digging and cooking equipment supplied by your hosts, Scot Mountain Holidays.

Check full details on the website 

 

5. Winter Knoydart Expedition

Highlights:

Accommodation: Barrisdale Stable (if available) or heated Tentipi

MINIMUM GROUP SIZE: 3 PEOPLE – Private dates available. Please enquire.

 

6. Winter Loch Nevis Expedition

Highlights:

Accommodation: Barrisdale Stable (if available) or heated Tentipi

MINIMUM GROUP SIZE: 3 PEOPLE – Private dates available. Please enquire.

 

Why book with Scot Mountain Holidays?

  1. The routes have all been checked carefully. In addition, routes are very familiar to the guide who will know how to adapt according to the weather conditions. He or she will also know where and how to avoid the cornices (overhanging snow features)
  2. Accommodation is organised therefore no tents flapping in the wind keeping everyone awake.
  3. Toilet and wash facilities will be available without having to “go native” and dig a hole.
  4. Cooking will be done by the guide.
  5. Food will all be prepared from fresh, local produce to a wide range of recipes including carrot and cardamom soup. Obviously no commercial packets for us.
  6. All group equipment will be provided.

Why go walking in winter

1. Why go walking in winter – Keep fit

It’s all in vogue these days. As our normal lives become more and more sedentary, there’s an increasing emphasis on keeping fit. As we get older too, it becomes increasing difficult to maintain our fitness levels. We can’t afford to hibernate over the winter. Instead of heading abroad, we can take on a new experience and continue getting out in the countryside throughout the winter months. If you find the winter weather a challenge or too scary, take a course to give you the confidence to get out walking the hills in winter.

Extra ways of burning calories while walking in winter include:

All of which you can tick when you go hillwalking in winter.

why walk in winter

As far as anyone can tell, the “one pound on your feet equals five pounds on your back” notion originated with Sir Edmund Hillary’s successful ascent of Mount Everest in 1953. Since then, numerous studies by academic researchers and even the U.S. Army have concluded one thing on the matter: Weight on the feet is disproportionately more exhausting than weight carried on the torso.* To find out more read the links in our further reading section. Therefore walking in winter boots requires more effort and will burn more calories!

2. Why go walking in winter – Spectacular views

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Glorious wintry views in the Cairngorms

The air in winter is so much more crisp and clear than in the spring/summer months. In spring the large estates who own huge swathes of the Scottish hillside, often start to burn the heather to maintain the grouse moors. Obviously this produces a haze from the smoke which can affect visibility. In the summer the air is generally more hazy due to the humidity which then affects how far you are able to see clearly.

In the middle of winter it is possible to see 100km or more from the high hills. For example, Ben Nevis can clearly be seen from the summit of Cairngorm.

3. Why go walking in winter – It’s a challenge

Challenge is the big buzz word these days. Have you run your first marathon? Have you participated in your first triathlon/ironman? Tough Mudder anyone? Compared with challenges like these, winter hill walking is much more accessible and something you could do every day (in season). The biggest challenge for winter hillwalking is building up your stamina when you’re also trying to hold down a full time job. Many of us have deskbound jobs these days and the closer we get to “middle-age” (our 40s and 50s) the more difficult it is to maintain fitness and stamina levels. However, in the course of a week, many people find that their fitness and stamina levels noticeably improve on a guided winter hill walking trip.

why go hiking in winter

Statistics gathered on an autumn walking weekend in the Cairngorms guided by Andy Bateman

On a typical winter walking day out with Andy, the guests record steps in excess of 30,000 per day! You’d be well on your way to your #Walk1000miles at that rate.

4. Why go walking in winter – Camaraderie

Sharing is a major part of walking. People tend to chat as they walk in a group and often end up discussing all manner of topics; setting the world to rights. When you share an interest (i.e. walking) already with the people you’re with, chances are you have topics in common you can discuss without coming to blows. Of course, camaraderie is not something which is confined to winter, but there is something about pitting your skills against the environment which pulls your group together and gives you something to share.

5. Why do walking in winter – Gear

It doesn’t matter what sport you’re enthusiastic about, people love to talk about their gear and share their experiences of using it. When it comes to winter walking, if you’re a novice, you will need to make some investments to upgrade from your summer/autumn walking equipment in order to be safe in the winter hills. If you’re not sure it’s going to be your thing (though if you already enjoy walking, you might get hooked quite easily), you can always hire the technical stuff – winter grade boots, ice axe and crampons, before making the leap yourself into buying the kit.

Using an ice axe on a winter skills course

Ice axe arrest on a winter skills course

6. Why go walking in winter – Legitimate adult play in the snow

Sliding around in the snow with a sharp tool – sliding down a hill on your bum – digging in the snow – kicking into ice with crampons – all become legitimate “skills” when you’re on a winter course learning the “personal safety skills” of safe movement on the winter hills.

 7. Why go walking in winter – Cheap alternative to skiing

To go out walking you don’t need to pay for a lift pass for every day you want to go up the hills.

You don’t need to buy the skis and generally you’re further away from the ski lodges, so you don’t have access to the cafes and restaurants, which means you have far fewer opportunities to spend your hard earned pennies.

8. Why go walking in winter – Builds confidence

Gaining new skills and becoming proficient in using them builds confidence not only in the activity you are doing, but also in other areas of your life. It is always a good idea to keep your brain active and to learn new things, particularly if you are also learning new physical skills which will help your body remain fit as well as your brain.

If you’re a novice or if you’re lacking time to gain the skills yourself, remember that winter is harsh environment and not everyone has the experience to head up into the mountains but there are plenty of local, highly-qualified guides who are very happy to take you out.

9. Why go walking in winter – Something to share

It’s much more fun to share unusual experiences with your friends. Most people like to see images and videos of adventurous activities, spectacular views, mountains, nature – you can tick all these boxes when you record your experiences out and about in the winter hills, then share then on your favourite social media channel. You’re virtually guaranteed some interaction with your friends/followers.

Resources/Extra reading

*A pound on the foot – the science

The Great Outdoor Forum (Stack Exchange) – discussion on the science behind extra weight on your feet.

http://www.infographicspedia.com/lose-body-fat-percentage-on-walking-infographic/

Winter walking holidays and courses in the Highlands of Scotland

January 2018 has been a very busy month which Andy is currently rounding off with (another) snowhole trip into the gale-bound Cairngorms with a team from the BBC Travel Show. Nerves were displayed by the newbies presenting the programme. I think they were daunted by the Triathlon enthusiasts who’d been drafted in to help dig.

New Year Winter Walking

We welcomed in 2018 in the company of our select winter walkers. The group all brought in the New Year with a great deal of good-humoured and crowded dancing in the street in Grantown on Spey. Dancing was followed by a magnificent firework display. Great fun for everyone which topped off some fabulous snowy walks.

New Year Winter walking

Striding out across the snow before bringing in the New Year in the Highlands of Scotland

Andy was even able to get out the tentipi and show off it’s capabilities over a cosy whisky in the evening. His market research (which might be skewed by the whisky and warmth inside the tentipi) shows some demand for his pony wilderness glamping proposals.

wilderness glamping

Checking out the luxury tentipi wilderness glamping beds – deemed superior and mattress-like

5 Day Winter Skills

5 younger enthusiasts joined us on January 1st for the first winter skills and navigation course of 2018. We think the photos tell most of the story. Great fun and quantities of cake kept everyone happy throughout.

Winter skills in the Cairngorms

Winter Skills group hamming it up for the camera

Winter skills course

Striding out into the Cairngorms to practice ice axe and crampon skills – January 2018

Winter skills in the Cairngorms

Practising cramponing techniques in the Cairngorms, Scotland. There’s nothing more fun than legitimate play in the snow.

Winter skills in the Cairngorms National park

Putting their crampon techniques into play on the slopes of the Cairngorm mountains

winter in the Cairngorms

January snow cover in the Cairngorms (2018)

winter walking skills

Tumbling down the mountain, alternatively known as ice axe arrest on a 5 day winter skills course with Scot Mountain Holidays

winter skills course

Successfully stopping a sliding fall on an ice axe arrest – 5 Day Winter Skills course

winter in the Cairngorms

Head first ice axe arrest – what fun!

mountain navigation course

What’s going on here? This is part of the navigation instruction on the 5 day winter skills course

winter in the mountains

Work or pleasure? Heading up into the mountains.

 

Classic Winter Cairngorms

Back for some more trailbreaking through the snow-decked Cairngorms. Our blog advice on how to keep your hands warm and how to keep your phone going in the cold were of great help this week.

Cairngorms winter walking January 2018

Atop Bynack Mor deep in the heart of the Cairngorms National park. Not everyone goes on to see these magnificent “barns”. Quite a feat of climbing to get to the top, especially after the walk in!

Guided winter walking (Cairngorms)

The view you’d be rewarded with for the challenge of pitting yourself against potentially the worst conditions nature can throw at you. When you come out on top, you can feel the adrenaline.

Winter walking January 2018

Walking through the snow – January 2018. Winter walking is a completely different experience and a different challenge. If you haven’t tried it, maybe this is your time.

Guided winter walking in the Cairngorms

Cairngorms (January 2018) Spectacular views are the reward for challenging yourself to a winter extravaganza.

Winter in Scotland

A winter wonderland here in the Cairngorms

walking in the Cairngorms

Getting a workout through the snow in the glorious outdoors. Plenty of fresh air and stunning views.

guided winter walking

Glorious winter walking on the Classic Winter Cairngorms week with Scot Mountain Holidays this January (2018)

guided winter walking in Scotland

Lucky or what? The views of the Classic Winter Cairngorms week were stunning at times as this shot shows.

Winter walking holiday and courses in the Highlands of Scotland

A view for miles – the snow brings this landscape alive.

Snowhole Expedition

Lorna chose to encourage her friends and family to join her on a Snow Hole Expedition with Andy to celebrate her 50th birthday. We felt honoured. Lorna herself must have enjoyed the experience because she’s back right now helping the BBC to dig in tonight. Let’s hope they get to see the blue moon despite the snow showers.

Snow Hole Expedition

Heading out into the Cairngorms fully prepared for a night out on a Snow Hole Expedition with Andy Bateman

Winter in Scotland

Snow mascara! Who would have guessed?

Winter in the Cairngorms

Lorna is enjoying the break through moment. Now they can see that their overnight residence is a real possibility

Winter in Scotland

Dinner in the snow hole – carrot soup and vegetarian bolognese

 

If you’d like to join us for a winter walking extravaganza or to learn new winter skills, there’s still plenty of time. Winter in the Highlands lasts well into March and sometimes even April.

Plenty of choice of walking holiday or skills course

Scottish winters – are you looking for a winter walking guide?

Winter is when the Scottish hills mutate into proper mountains which need as much respect as 8000m peaks in the Himalayas. Every year there are reports of people going missing or dying in the Scottish hills. Though most people don’t realise it, it is relatively common for avalanches to go off in Scotland as well as in the Alps. Anywhere you find snow and steep slopes, there could be avalanches. Before you consider going out in winter you do need to be aware of the additional hazards and take them into consideration when making your plans. It is sensible to think of booking a winter walking guide.

If you are thinking about starting some winter walking it is extremely important to make sure you get some safety training. There are always deaths in the hills in winter. Safety training is not a guarantee that you will never have an accident but it does minimise the risk. It is important to realise though that as with all skills, you must practise. If you don’t, then the skill won’t be useful to you. For example:

on a winter skills course in the UK you are always taught “ice axe arrest” as one of the skills you will need to prevent a sliding fall. Can you imagine slipping on ice on a mountainside? The speed you achieve in a very short space of time will amaze you. Reaching for your ice axe and using it the correct way, needs to be instinctive. This takes practise as does assessing snow and ice conditions and knowing the local terrain.

winter skills

How to ice axe arrest

Training 

Planning to go out winter walking? You’ll need to book a skills course or a guide to make a start.

Qualifications to look for:

If you are considering hiring a guide/leader you need to make sure that they have one of the following qualifications:

Winter Mountain Leader (WML) – lead groups of hill walkers in winter conditions

Mountaineering Instructor Certificate (MIC) – instructing the skills of snow and ice climbing

British Mountain Guide (BMG) – required to guide climbing (including the coaching of lead climbing) skiing and mountaineering on rock, snow & ice, and in alpine terrain

Unless you are yourself, considering leading groups in the winter mountains, there is no need to go to the extent of committing yourself to this level of training. The courses take a commitment of months or years and previous training. For pleasure, you would only need to consider a winter skills course or winter mountaineering course, which can be provided by the above instructors.

your walking guide

Andy enjoying winter conditions in the Cairngorms

Want a guide rather than training?

A skills course is not the solution for everyone. After all, just learning the technical skills is not the learning journey, you still need to know how to deal with the added challenge of navigating in winter. Many people prefer the security of taking a winter walking guide because of the added challenges of the winter weather.

Scot Mountain Holidays delivers a series of winter walking holidays, expeditions and challenges. We can also arrange a private winter walking guide for you (and your group) if you are unable to join an organised group.

Winter Walking Holidays

New Year Winter WalkingClassic Winter CairngormsWinter MunrosGlencoe Munros –

Winter Expeditions

Snow Hole Expedition – Cairngorm 4000ers – Winter Affric Shangri LaKnoydart Winter Wilderness Expedition 

Build a snowhole in Scotland

Build your own snow hole in the Cairngorms

Winter skills and courses

The main difference between our 2 winter skills courses is that there is not enough time on the 2 day course to cover the essential skill of winter navigation. We do run a separate winter navigation course over 2 days.

2 day winter skills course5 day winter skills course

Alternative providers across Scotland

If our dates or our format doesn’t suit you please use our directory below to find a course or holiday which suits your requirements

Across Scotland – CnDo Scotland or Wilderness Scotland

In the Cairngorms – Talisman Mountaineering or Tarmachan Mountaineering or Cairngorm Treks or Cairngorm Adventure Guides

On the west coast – West Coast Mountain Guides or Martin Moran guiding or Abacus Mountain Guides

winter walking guide

Spectacular Cairngorm ridges in the snow

 

 

Guided winter walking in Scotland

What a week of Guided winter walking in Scotland – almost 4 seasons in one week! From full whiteout blizzard to stunning views for miles from the summit of Braeriach, enhanced by a broken spectre with 2 silhouettes in the middle.

From conditions like this:

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Wintry conditions on the summit of Cairngorm at the beginning of the week

To glorious views like this:

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Stunning views to compensate for the lack of snow cover in the Cairngorms (courtesy of Claire Grogan)

 

The weekend at the beginning of the trip offered the worst of the weather, but unfortunately if you have to get back to work … maybe next time those who couldn’t stay on will be treated to views similar to those from Braeriach at the end of the week.

Quotes and reviews:

“Thank you again for a very enjoyable week. Andy’s knowledge of the mountains and of the geology, flora and fauna, together with the welcoming and homely atmosphere and Rebecca’s cooking makes for a great combination”

Guided winter walking in Scotland – the highlights from Gentle Giants/Classic Winter Cairngorms – January 2017

These are just a selection of some of the points which have made the week so memorable and will hopefully serve as talking points when everyone gets home.

Group:

included

– a diverse group of individuals (including one couple) united by a common interest.

Guided winter hiking in Scotland: Wildlife highlights:

We saw a vole and it didn’t just pop out and disappear; it stayed and snuffled around searching for food. We have a really good view of it.

Sightings of ptarmigan became quite common place as the week went on. The first was exciting but by the end of the week, we’d had at least 5 sightings. Ptarmigan sightings were exciting for one of our guests whose young grandson (under 10 years old) is a keen birdwatcher, so it was something he could share with him.

We spotted golden eagle and mountain hare in the white winter plumage.

winter wildlife Cairngorms

A ptarmigan makes walking across the snow look easy

Guided winter walking in Scotland: weather highlights

Many a hiker would love to be treated to a broken spectre. It adds a certain “je ne sais quoi” to the day and provides a talking point. Everyone wanted to see the pics (and it certainly proved popular on our social media.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BPhU-QVhzFg/?taken-by=scotmountainholidays

Guided winter walking in Scotland: Scenic highlights

Panoramic photos courtesy of Claire Grogan

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Stunning winter views in the Cairngorms highlighted by a slight wisp of cloud to add character to the picture

Guided winter walking in the Cairngorms

Loch A’an sparkling in the sunlight peeping through the drifting cloud

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Clear dry air in winter makes for views which stretch for miles across the Cairngorms and beyond

Guided winter walking in Scotland

Not so wintry in the Cairngorms but still enjoying the company and repartee as the group ascends the ridges in the Cairngorms

 

Check out our Facebook album for a fuller collection of the photos taken during our trip.

Guided winter walking in Scotland: Recipe requests

Lentil loaf – a great vegetarian recipe to have up your sleeve for parties/dinners with friends.

Other food: Recipes going live shortly:

Beetroot brownies

Banana and fruit loaf pudding

Grasmere gingerbread

Raspberry and pine nut bars

Tear and share tomato and cheese bread

Summary:

A great group who enjoyed the variety of walking options during the week and did perhaps feel that they accomplished more in the week than they would have done without Andy’s guidance.

Be prepared – the additional gear for winter walking

winter skills group

It’s now middle of November and winter in our mountains is knocking at our door. As the Atlantic storms pass our area the arctic air is drawn into their wake. With each passing front, the weather can be extremely changeable. It may be weeks yet before winter conditions are in full nick for full on winter walking, but sudden blizzards on the high tops are now common place – meaning the ill prepared can be easily caught out. Scot Mountain Holidays guide and instructor Andy Bateman takes us through some of the considerations over and above the essentials of ice axe and crampons in transitioning from autumn in winter trekking conditions.

1. Head torch

It is prudent to carry a head torch at most times of year, but especially in the case of winter. The days are short and even a minor delay can make the difference between coming off the hill in the daylight and dark. Don’t go without!

In addition, make sure the batteries are fresh so your torch is working at full power.  Carry spares too but try to avoid fumbling about to change batteries in a blizzard!

Consider upgrading your head torch to a more powerful model . Remember you may be trying to discern navigational features both in the dark and in the fog.

2. Winter boots

The stiffness of the winter boot is an integral part of ensuring crampons can be securely attached to your feet. This being said, bunging crampons  is not a “fix all” and the winter boot is as much a tool on your foot as the ice axe is in your hand. You need adequate stiffness to kick steps comfortably and efficiently into hard snow. Without it, it will be difficult to execute the technique of front pointing safely.

Proper winter boots are also better insulated. If you’re thinking about buying a boot for the winter go for at least a B2. A B1 boot may be fine for a serious summer glacier trek in the Himalayas, but they don’t come up to the mark when it comes to winter in the Scottish mountains.

Check the state of your soles. It’s those sharp right angled edges that help to prevent slipping and allow you to kick steps.

winter boots

Which boots to choose for winter?

3. Snow goggles

These are an absolute must and in our damp mountain climate they need to be anti-fog (double lenses). It may be uncomfortable – but not impossible – navigating into driving rain, but don’t underestimate how painful this is once precipitation turns solid. It can be literally impossible to see. Your sight is of vital importance so don’t skimp on the goggles and head torch.

winter equipment

4. Extra-warm clothing

Pack that extra warm layer. The ambient temperature at 1000m rarely drops below -10 degrees C but don’t underestimate how cold it can feel. A weak winter sun, the damp air and often a high wind chill all conspire to make the British mountains one of the worst places for hypothermia. You can chill quickly when you stop moving. A really thick fleece or over layering jacket is ideal. Be cautious about wearing duvets jackets under other garments – they can loose their loft and hence insulation.

5. Gloves

Make sure you gloves are warm enough for winter walking … i.e. they must be proper thick gloves. Not only do your hands have a very large surface area compared with their volume but also the body will reduce the circulation to them to conserve the core temperature – no wonder they get cold! So if you do have cold hands don’t just think of putting on warmer gloves, but also an extra layer on your body.

Also remember if you do particularly suffer from cold hands, mitts are better at giving you the option of adding heat pads.

Winter in the Cairngorms

If you’re coming on a winter skills course or winter walking holiday with Scot Mountain Holidays please don’t hesitate to contact Andy if you have any further questions, an expert in optimal gear.

Andy will be publishing further blogs on the subject of preparing for winter over the forthcoming weeks. Keep your eyes open!

You can also take a look at our Winter walking holidaysWinter Skills courses and Full moon Snow-hole Expedition.

A snow hole expedition in the Cairngorms National Park – a most varied group

Andy_P2.jpg
In February we ran a snow hole expedition, the second of the year, in the Cairngorms.

The group

The group was small but unusual.

Ian – our most frequent flier on the snow hole. This was his third snow hole trip. Ian first joined us in 2006 to attempt an overnight snow hole in the Cairngorms National park. The weather was against them on that trip and they had to turn back without reaching the snow hole site. The ski area wasn’t open and though the group attempted to ascend the hill they eventually had to turn back after being blown around a wee bit too much. There is video footage from their endeavours which makes for interesting viewing just to see the effect of nature, if nothing else. Ian returned again in 2007 with 90% of his group to try again – successfully

Andy – our oldest client to date on this trip – a celebration of his imminent 70th birthday.

Hui – our first guest from Singapore. A lone female traveller spending a few months in the UK on a sabbatical from her studies.

Andy’s Review

Read all about their experience in Andy’s words:

andy_P1.jpg
Late last year whilst at David Lloyd’s (gym), I said to my friend, Ian Thorpe, an experienced walker and climber, that I fancied carrying out some serious winter walking, but not climbing. Ian replied “Let me take you to the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland.” This was duly arranged by ian and off we set on 21st February at 10am, arriving at Fraoch Lodge in Boat of Garten, in the Cairngorms, at 16.15.

Rebecca, Andy and wee Gregor made us extremely welcome; dinner was baked salmon with a rich and wonderful sauce, followed by home made trifle containing shortbread and blackcurrants, wonderful.

Day 1

Next morning, along with fellow trekker, Hui, a lady lone traveller from Singapore, we were fitted out with ice axe, crampons & helmets prior to spending our first day on the mountains practising ice axe arrest. This was a daunting experience for some one who has never even worn crampons let alone walked on ice.

Later that day we walked till late on Lurcher’s Crag and the Chalamain Gap, looking towards Corrie an Lochain, before returning to Fraoch Lodge for another wonderful dinner, having first stocked up on copious bottles of red and white wine from the local Tesco.

Day 2

On Saturday 23rd February after a hearty breakfast at 7.30, we set off for the snow hole day. We arrived at Aviemore ski resort and walked in. At about 2pm we were ready to dig our snow hole. Andrew marked out 2 doorways on the ice covered mountain side. (We were about 3000ft up by now.) These door holes, roughly about 12ft apart, were then dug into using ice saws and snow shoverls. It took 2 hours to create a vertical face, then we had to further excavate in for about 5ft prior to turning inwards to join the 2 ends of the snow hole. This was particularly backbreaking work for Hui, thank God we had clear blue skies and sunshine. After about 4 more hours, the hole was completed. My feet were so cold I could hardly feel them.

Having put all our gear, including cooking utensils inside, Andrew started the evening meal. We had hot tea, followed by carrot and coriander soup, then a buckwheat and chorizo casserole. Dinner commenced about 10.30pm! Ouside the temperature was approx -9oC; inside however was relatively comfortable.

snow hole expedition

Stunning views from the “window” of your overnight accommodation deep in the heart of the Cairngorms

Day 3

Next morning we woke up to a complete whiteout. My fear was how do we navigate to the summit of Cairngorm Mountain? Andrew explained that we take a direct compass bearing but because I was finding the walk hard he explained that provided we walked clearly up and around the pudding shaped mountain, we would by definition reach the summit and incidentally GB’s highest automatic weather station. After approx. 600m of ascent we duly found the summit at 1245m.

Roughly 4 hours later, we had descended back to the ski lodge. It was particularly hard going with Hui hanging on the to back of Ian’s rucksack most of the way. We had the pleasure of seeing a Ptarmigan and 2 white hares.

Overall a fabulour experience which I will not be repeating, but one to tick off. Andrew’s knowledge of the terrain, geology, weather conditions, and navigation skills were par excellence.

Having successfully returned to Fraoch Lodge, we were treated once again to an excellent farewell dinner. Many thanks Ian, Andrew and Rebecca for a memorable trip which i will not forget for a long time.

Andrew Palliser

PS My 70th Birthday on March 12th 2013 – what a perferct birthday treat to myself!

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