Carn a’Gheoidhhike

February had been a month of high winds; Storms Ciara and Dennis had gusts of over 70mph on the munro tops making mountain outings unwise, but also dumping some much needed snow. The Cairngorm Club meet on the 22nd although not having a named storm, still had forecasts for 50mph+ which would could make the planned route impractical.

Not far outside Aberdeen, the minibus was engulfed in snow showers, but blue skies and white hilltops peeped through clouds. At Braemar, the snow gates were open but it was questionable whether they would remain so, so instead of disembarking at Glenshee ski centre (head ducked out into the spindrift gale..hmm) we continued on to Spittal of Glenshee where we were outside the gates.

Heading towards Glenshee. Plenty sna

Our hastily concocted plan B consited of trying corbett Ben Gulabin from the lee side, seeing how it was once we emerged on to the plateau, then proceeding on the gradual ascent north to munro Carn a’Gheoidh (pronounced ‘carn a yoy’) as far as conditions allowed.

A postcardy Spittal of Glenshee with Ben Gulabin behind

Heading up the track around the east foot of the hill

Above us a herd of deer watched, reluctant to return higher
Looking back down the track
Our intrepid crew, heads down into the snow flurries
The track hoarded snow, hiding the odd hazard. Did the snow to the side hold my weight? Nope.
The wind sculpted snow waves as we emerged from the gully. Half our group decided that the wind was already sufficiently intense to stick with the corbett and not proceed further. They turned off towards it and the rest continued north
In and out of snow flurries. All waterproofs had went on early, mainly as extra windproofing
Bursts of sun lit up the landscape
Further up, the brutal wind scoured the ground, we were immersed periodically in whirling spindrift
Rocky top of Carn Bhinnein

Heading over Carn Mor at 876m, the wind really let loose, and we trudged through spells of whiteout. A sudden clearing revealed an unexpected shape.. seemed to be a hut. We went over to investigate..

A couple 100m NNW of Carn Mor, unknown hut, not on the map
We expected it to be locked as most remote hunting huts are..but yay, shelter
Lunch view: a high-speed white void

Lunch was taken: outside we’d have had sandwiches ripped from our hands and tea vapourised, inside we could view the furious spindrift streaking past. There was a book with occasional entries: most like us had happened upon the hut by accident. We carefully closed up before heading on; a previous entry had found the hut full of snow after a careless closure.

Refueled and briefly rested we were on a roll so we continued to the munro: to turn around would have meant facing the onslaught which now lay mostly side/ slightly behind us
Up there would be the target for the day. We contoured around to approach from the windward side to avoid the steep rocky bits/ deep snow on the lee side
The wind was sculpting interesting shapes
More incoming snow from the south west
Reaching the high point of the day: the ‘shelter’ at 975m.

At the top, the snow blasted past so we didn’t hang about, but within a minute the hard and icey old snow pack underfoot combined with the windforce meant crampons had to go on to stay upright. Very conscious on opening the rucksack to access them, that anything loose would be whipped away never to be seen again. Had to sit on the rucksack while attaching them. Glad of my mitts on wrist straps, and of hand warmers inside: fingers were numbed by a minute of crampon-strap-twiddling.

Winter magic

A brief respite descending the lee slope, the wind dropped and the snow was deep fresh powder, the spindrift waves washing past were magical, an mesmeric winter wonderland. It makes the efforts needed to reach these places in such conditions worthwhile. Stunning.

A spell of wow-factor pristine scenery was enjoyed by everybody
Wading through powder

The slope steepened so we contoured round, aware of avoiding avalanche hazard, though the snowpack didn’t appear to have any of the layering which might indicate a problem. We had a lot of wading in front of us: we sighted The Cairnwell as a bearing home, before the visbility closed in again.

Hanging on against the storm

Near Carn nan Sac the wind found another gear: we had to stop for a few minutes and brace and just hang on as we’d get blown over otherwise. I took a seat and waited for it to pass… there was no let up so eventually we crept onward taking small careful steps. To our right somewhere was the sheer edge of Creag a Choire Dhirich and undoubtedly large cornices which we didn’t want to be stumbling about too near to.

Slow progress was made around the crags (looking back up to them), then a descent to a burn before the final ascent
Over the ridge and the end is in sight, Glenshee ski centre lying below. None of the upper pistes were active so we made down them before joining in with a few intrepid skiers lower down. Our other party were contacted, they’d take the minibus back to us.
A welcome slice of cake and pot of tea guzzled, a high calory kind of day out. A bit of further thawing out and refreshment in a Braemar pub rounded off a top day out

A few video clips show the conditions better than the photos

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