Carn na Drochaide & Crichehike

After the previous day’s epic and long lie and something shorter was in order for Sunday at Muir Cottage. I’d not taken my skis so was a bit jealous of the others heading for Carn Liath for some cross-country ski practice along the mellow slopes of it’s ridge. Myself and another also skiless and who’d done a long run, decided to have a wander up nearby Carn na Drochaide.

A quick wander down to the icey Dee before getting started

The thermometer had headed down even further the night before (-16c) and everything was well coated in hoar frost. We found a fragment of path at the foot of the hill at Allanaquoich and followed it up, it eventually disappearing into nothing. We did however have the tracks of another walker with a dog to follow, and following those soon had us on another section.

Frost woods at Allanaquoich
Thick frost on a young pine

There had been northern winds so there was the odd drift we avoided but mostly easy enough going with light snow cover. Once we made it on to Carn Dearg 700m the chill began to overcome the climbing-heat a bit, we were bimbling along and taking in the views to other hills to the south and west.

On from Carn Dearg into the snow
Looking west beyond the Lairig Ghru

At the top of Carn na Drochaide however the view north is the main event, with Ben Avon and Beinn a Bhuird close by, the corries of Bhuird in particular impressive, the tors of Avon hidden behind a summit layer of cloud. The howff was duly pointed out, a speck of ‘man made’ hard to pick out with snow on the ground (the tin roof being easier to spot at other times). While we weren’t here with skis, we were keeping our eyes open for good terrain for future – in particular as we headed west and down to Carn na Criche there’s less rocky terrain, and also looking north on the hills above Glen Slugain a flat expanse looked promising.

Panorama appearing
Beinn a Bhuird into view with A’Chioch prominent
Carn na Drochaide
A warming sip at the top. A miniature from Dramathon a few years back
Cloud patterns across Bhuird. I can see the best snow tunnel location is beginning to fill
Looking west past a cairn
A’ Chioch shadow
Grassy terrain – some more depth and there’d be some cross-country skiing here
Frozen riffles in a pond
We didn’t test the ice for strength and went around
Carn Fiaclach, lower right, is tiny in front of the Slugain Buttress
Flat snowfields across The Slugain, noted for future cross-country skiing possibilities

We eventually pottered over to Carn na Criche before the low sun reminded us to head down, and again found footsteps leading us to the path. It’s not generally a good idea following random footprints in snow, but these are mellow hills unlikely to lead us into trouble. I did take a tumble at a cairn though, slipping on a rock trying to get a good camera angle. We also spotted a shelter of sorts made from rock slabs.

Slatey sheltery thing. Seat,cold, for one
Sparkly grass
Cairn just before slip

The sun began to set and we arrived on to a landrover track heading down into the glen. Quite suddenly, the temperature began to drop sharply – it appeared we’d entered a ‘thermocline’ a layer of very cold air sitting in the glen bottom out of the sun and not agitated by any wind of note. Within 50m of descent the temperature dropped 5 degrees or so.

Sunset imminent
Landrover track tyre tread growing crystals
Past the Linn of Quoich and punchbowl
Cosy back at the cottage

We had a brief look at the Linn of Quoich (not quite frozen) and saw a brave chap setting up tent (he’d have been better off higher up). Back in the car we were shortly at the cottage and soon had the kettle boiled, and the stove roaring in expectation of the ski party’s return. A nice shorter trip to round off the weekend’s proceedings.

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