One of my projects for this year is to get to know this area better, and to see how it changes through the seasons.
During the first two visits of the year, I've walked three routes (one of them four times over, as I get familiar with it) in the Rothiemurchus and the adjoining Glenmore Forest (also owned by the Forestry Commission).
Walk One is from the Rothiemurchus Estate car park at Loch an Eilein up into the Lairig Ghru. Walk Two is also from Loch an Eilein up into Gleann Einich. Walk Three is from Glenmore up to Ryvoan bothy.
This is the oft repeated route, and my intention is to do this as many times as is practical through 2015 to build up a ‘local patch’ level of familiarity with it. I'm interested to see how far up the Lairig Ghru I'm able to reach as the year goes round. In the winter on Cairngorm one needs to contend with both the short days and the bleak weather.
On the January iteration of the walk I decided to turn back at the point when the snow became too deep to walk through. In February, I was turned back, a little higher up the route, when the wind made it too challenging to go any further. Hopefully in the summer months the weather will be a little better, although I did have the passing thought on the first January walk that it’s quite possible that I was seeing the upper reaches of Rothiemurchus at its most beautiful, with temperatures around -7C and a deep covering of fresh snow.
|Rothiemurchus in January - Sunshine and Snow|
|Loch an Eilein in January|
|Lochan Deo in January|
|Lochan Deo in February|
|Cairngorm Club footbridge in January|
|Looking for the paths, Rothiemurchus in January|
|Finding paths gets easier, Rothiemurchus in February|
As the path climbs up from Piccadilly at 330 metres to the junction with the path from Rothiemurchus Lodge at 480m it really is clear that you are walking through a natural tree line. This isn't the hard artificial boundary that we so often see around the Scottish mountains, but a softer blurring from relatively dense natural forest through to open moorland with occasional trees. In January the climb up out of the forest started to become challenging as the route passed through various hollows filled with up to a metre of snow, and in places a surface crust was almost (but not quite) strong enough to take my weight. This seemed like the right point to retreat back down the path. My reluctance to turn round was compounded by the fact that otherwise the conditions were beautiful, with plenty of sunshine and almost no wind. When I returned in February, the conditions underfoot were better, but the vicious wind blowing down through the Lairig Ghru made walking problematic. Standing was just about OK, but doing anything else, like lifting one foot to take a pace forward, was pretty high risk. I’ll be back later in the year to explore this path again in other conditions, and hopefully to get a bit closer to the top of the pass.
|Top of Rothiemurchus in January|
|Top of Rothiemurchus in February|
This is also in Rothiemurchus, this time up through Gleann Einich to Loch Einich. I did this walk in February when the temperature was around 5C, although there were patches of snow on the sheltered areas of the path, and it was still cold enough for the showers to be a mix of rain, sleet and hail (in roughly equal measures). This walk follows the same route as Walk One up to Lochan Deo before heading southeast through a gateway signed towards Loch Einich. Mostly the route is a land-rover-wide track, although in a few places a footpath is provided away from the wide track. The forest fades away as you walk up alongside Am Beanaidh river, and you are soon walking in a pretty bleak valley. In most places there are footbridges when the main track fords the streams. But not everywhere. In one or two places you need to hop from slippery stone to slippery stone, and I think getting your feet wet might just be pretty close to inevitable.
|Gleann Einich in February|
|Loch Einich in February|
This is a short walk that I did on the January visit. This started from the roadside at the Glenmore Forest visitor centre and went up past Glenmore Lodge towards An Lochan Uaine through the Ryvoan Pass and on to the Ryvoan Bothy. One the day I was doing this the temperatures has spiked upwards (to just above freezing) and the paths were a mix of snow, ice, slush, gravel and (in a few places) running water.
|An Lochan Uaine in January|
|Ryvoan Bothy in January|
The speed of change was highlighted by the ice on Loch Morlich. In January there was ice much all the ways across from shore to shore. In February as the temperatures (and winds) climbed there were fantastic ice mounds on the northern shore. And 24 hours later there wasn't a sign of any ice at all.
|Loch Morlich in January|
|Loch Morlich in February|
|Footprints in January|
Images also available as a flickr album.