A fortnight of seemingly endless rain and gloom had preceded this trip; I hoped much of it had been falling as snow higher up and was encouraged by the Sentinel Satellite view from a brief window on the 6th showing the Cairngorms painted solidly white, I fancied a mountain run, but a shout from a mate changed weekend plans to a combo bike/hike, and we hastily decided on Morven as doable within time and pace limits.
The plan was to ascend the track between Crannach and Culblean hills, I’d only ever been on the lower part but the gradient from OS maps seemed OK to be fully bikeable.
I was glad in some ways that because of the hike to come I’d worn trousers, these were saving my shins from a heather-scraping from the narrow trail but also soaking up the dew. I’d have put on waterproof overtrousers but felt the steady climb would steam them up too much.
My initial plan had been to dump the bikes here and then walk a loop over Morven, but it being 10k, though it better to reduce the walk part by grinding through another few km on the bike and then walking up and back rather than looping.
After a couple map-checks on some tracks heading up the side of the hill, we reached the correct one. Heading up it didn’t look like there’d be the deep snow predicted – not seeing any until past 600m
After a blether to a runner who was doing the Deeside runner christmas challenge to do a bunch of peaks in the area, we headed off.
With winter runs in mind, it can often be tough going on the plateau where deep snow can mean hard work ‘post-holing’ each footstep. I’d always pondered a pair of snowshoes for those types of days, but hummed-n-hawed about them: bulky and heavy extra kit. I’d read about inflatable snowshoes – lighter and more compact, but not cheap; a chance appearance of a pair on ebay, 60 quid lighter, and I was waiting for a chance to test them. I’d brought them along to try out, and on the way down found a section of drifted track that had maybe 3 feet depth.
These are from smallfoot.eu and I think are either the original kickstarter version or maybe a military batch, as all the new ones are red. They take a few minutes to blow up, and the tangle of straps didn’t initially inspire confidence, but once pumped and on, I was pretty impressed.
They sank in between an inch and a few inches, but without these on I’d postholed up to the knee in the same patch. The snow was soft/thawing without any crust, but not powdery at all. The felt light on the feet, and running in them was possible
Only a quick test but pretty impressed. There is the additional faff of inflating/deflating, but I think worthwhile if off-path and traversing deep snow for more than perhaps half-an-hour. I’ll need to try a sterner test with fresh powder and steeper slopes. I reduced the pack weight to just over 1kg by leaving the attachable crampons behind (they’re pretty chunky) and swapping the original heavyweight dry bags for one lightweight one of 6L.
Back on the bikes, the break in the clouds was short lived and the drizzle came on and the gloom began to chase us off the hill
A really enjoyable descent to finish off the day.