The Lairig Ghru - March 2015

One of my projects this year is to see - and photograph - how a particular walk changes during the course of the year.  I’ve picked one of the UK’s most famous mountain walks, which goes up through the Rothiemurchus Forest in the  Cairngorms National Park into the Lairig Ghru.

My first iteration of the walk was in January when I was forced to turn back at the edge of the forest when the snow was getting up to the top of my legs.  In February I got to pretty much the same point, but on that occasion the wind was strong enough to lift me off my feet. 

By mid-March the weather had warmed up significantly and there wasn’t any sign of snow down in the forest, but higher up there was still plenty of snow around. 
Sunshine on the Lairig Ghru
As in January and February, I started from Loch an Eilein - an outrageously photogenic location a pretty much any time of day (and anytime of year).  I got to the Loch early enough for the wind to be still and the reflections clear, before heading east from the Loch through Rothiemurchus forest and up into the mouth of the Lairig Ghru - where I needed full winter gear a couple of months ago, was pretty close to shirt-sleeves conditions.

Loch an Eilein
Lochan Deo had been frozen across in January, and still showed remains of the ice in February, was now just dark and mysterious.
Lochan Deo
The path threads it’s way south gradually climbing past the Sinclair Memorial (once a mountain refuge, but now just a memorial stone) between Lurchers Crag to the west and Braeriach to the east, and up into the snow.  I saw no one in the upper part of the pass, and the only wildlife were occasional pairs of grouse impossible to spot against the snow, but oh so obvious when they ventured off the snow onto the rocks.

At the top of the pass (835M above sea level) you get to glimpse through towards Deeside, with the way apparently block on Cairntoul.

Looking through the Lairig Ghru
Walking in the Scottish Mountains is a bit of lottery - but when you’ve had to bet on a single day hoping that the weather will play fair it does feel a bit like pushing your luck.

When I did the lower part of the walk in January I did come away with the idea that it was quite likely I won’t see as beautiful a day again.  I’m tempted to make similar assertions after the March walk.  I hadn’t expected to be able to get to the top of the pass this early in the year, and I think it pretty unlikely that I’ll get the place to myself again later in the year. 

I'll be back in the Cairngorms in April - it'll be interesting to see what the post-Easter weather has to offer.

There are a few more pictures from my March day in the mountains on my flickr account.