Winter had begun to fizzle out: streaks of snow remained high on the plateau, but from low down to all intents and purposes it was spring with bare heather all around. Storm Otto had swept through briefly, and the next day the club minibus headed out for the Spitall of Glenshee and it was apparent from the festooned trees that a snowy landscape would once again be the order of the day. Thanks, Otto!
The snowgates were closed, allowing for a coffee stop at Braemar’s Bothy, where we began pondering a plan B, but they soon opened allowing a convoy to head south.
Heading past the ski centre and steeply downwards the skies cleared to clear blue that hadn’t been forecast – a few of the party regretted not taking sunglasses.
I’d suggested to do the route anti-clockwise (normally clockwise due to ‘walkhighlands’ sheeping) as having done it the other way in summer, thought that a couple short steep bits of rocky path below Loch Nan Eun were better climbed than descended, particularly in winter conditions. The secondary benefit is the final ascent viewing the crags and corries of the mountain, rather than the gentle and uninspiring curve of the landrover track on west side.
Some online reports had said the footbridge was missing after a flood around 2018, and nobody had bothered to say otherwise since: an email earlier in the week to the estate had cleared this up.
Our party gradually split into a fast and slow group as we enjoyed the sunshine. Above a huge herd of deer eyed us passing below.
Nobody else had been up the glen so we occasionally lost the track as it disappeared under the snow. Something else that appeared and quickly disappeared under the snow: one mole, an unusual winter wildlife sighting.
Heading anti-clockwise also means you face the splendour of the plentiful waterfalls of the glen.
We’d now lost the blue skies but the occasional glimmer of colour above had us hoping that the forecast break would hold higher up.
At Loch Nan Eun we’d entered cloud, but it was very still here so we took lunch, allowing the other half of the party to catch up. The loch was mostly frozen over and we couldn’t make out the far side now that visibility was dropping.
The hoped for view into the corrie wasn’t to be, none of us approached closely to the edge which would undoubtably have a large cornice. Navigation in the gloom was assisted by a row of old posts that leads from hillock 858, past 922 and up the northern ridge of the mountain
At the top the cloud was freezing to anything and everything, exposed hair was a jumble of icicles, poles rimed, clothes frosted. We briefly chatted to some others looping the popular direction, but headed quickly onwards.
We followed the ‘railway track’ down, choosing not to ford (and ford back) to a section of good track on the south side of the burn, which with the temperature slightly above zero below the summit was probably reasonably high with melting snow. The railway track path was a quagmire of slush and mud
Lower down the cloud had turned into drizzle: we were pleased to decamp into the Dalmunzie hotel and get cosy with an ale in hand, while the other half of the party caught up.
With everybody down of the hill, we re-entered the minibus and headed to Braemar for a bar meal at Farquharson’s. A competition to win a bothy miniature escaped me with my guesses for the questions- years between Spittal of Glenshee hotel burning down initially and the rebuild burning down (55) and how many munros or Corbetts use Glas in their name (5) not being closest guesses. Ach well, nonetheless happy with an unexpected winter wonderland day under the belt, and a full belly.