3 Day Winter Expedition in the Cairngorms
Two years ago I spent a great weekend with a guy called Cédric. Cédric had asked to be taken up Striding Edge on Helvellen in February (and thus winter conditions). We arranged to do Striding Edge on the Saturday and left Sunday open. We met up and tackled the Edge on the Saturday (I think that Cédric was a bit disappointed at how un-technical it was) and decided that rather than hunt snow to do some winter skills we would just go on a massive walk together the next day. So on the Sunday we walked up to Stickle Tarn from Langdale then on to Sergeant Man – High Raise – Greenup Edge – Greenup Gill – Langstrath – Stake Pass and back to Langdale. Cédric is a fantastic photographer (all photos on this page are his, though cropped and photoshopped my me) and I still have quite a few of his photos from that trip on my computer wallpaper. Anyway, the next year when he called up looking for some mountain adventures I was away on my winter holiday with friends, so Siobhan stepped in and they managed to combine some more wintery adventures and some rock climbing above Langdale. But this isn’t about previous years in the Lake district, this is about 2017 in the Cairngorms – this time with the rest of his family.
I met Cédric, his wife Laure and two daughters (aged 11 and 13) from the train at Aviemore station at about 11:30 on the Saturday Morning. After a briefing in a local cafe and a sorting out of crampons, ice axes and goggles we drove down to park up near Glenmore Lodge. We then shouldered our packs and started on our hike towards Strath Nethy. Our Day 2 objective was Bynack More so we tried to camp at the end of the North West ridge of Bynack Beg. Unfortunately we had a bit of trouble pitching on the heather, in the wind, so made a quick change of plan and crossed the river and with relief found some shelter behind a small spur about 500m away just as it was getting dark. There was still a lot of heather and it was a bit boggy at times but we had been mentally preparing for a long walk out again in the dark so it was very welcome.
After a peaceful night we got up, packed up and started the long walk up the hill to Bynack More. We started off in sunshine but by the time we got to the top the cloud had come in and we were down to about 20m of visibility. The wind had picked up so we continued on to the Barns of Bynack (some impressive lumps of granite about 700m from the top) and sheltered behind them for lunch. My lunch consisted of alternate mouthfuls of lumps of cheese and crushed Warburton thins; in contrast the family got out a stove and cooked up some soup with tofu chunks!! We then marched off to the South West for a couple of km on a bearing and down to the Refuge at the Fords of Avon for the second night.
The final day plan was to get up early and go over Cairngorm. The forecast was for light winds in the morning strengthening to 75 mph by dusk. We got up before dawn and felt that the winds were not light so decided that the weather front must have come in early so elected to walk out north along Allt Dearg. This turned out to be a good decision as the winds we experienced in that relatively low walk out were strong enough to make progress difficult and even blow the youngest participant over at one point.
We had a fantastic though challenging few days and the tenacity of the girls was more than impressive. We covered 36km in the 3 days and camped in temperatures well below 0 degrees.
If you are interested in a winter expedition or winter walking day then please take a look at our winter pages