Mr. Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) forecasted bluebird day, using words such as ‘certain’ when assessing the chance of a cloud-free summit, so we chose an ascent of Ben Macdui from the ski centre, the normal problematic winter navigation not looking like being an issue. What we got was total clag as we passed the foot of Coire an Lochhain, which set in until lunchtime. I would not choose to go so far onto the plateau in total whiteout conditions, and I had to concentrate very hard on my bearings. I had to walk for 4k from P1083 on dead-reckoning, as there was no features whatsoever.
We were in snowshoes, as there had been a serious amount of snow over the proceeding few days, and we took it in turns when possible to break trail, as even the shoes sank into the deep powder. It would have been simply impossible to cover the ground we did without them. I must admit to being rather pleased when we judiciously checked the GPS at the point I said we had reached to find that I was 100% correct – I do this navigation game so often, but I still get a feeling of sorcery when it all comes together! The point we were at was at the penultimate steepening, just as you ascend off the plateau, and Lo!, the sun came out. Just reward for our efforts!
We marched happily to the summit, gawping and clicking our cameras at the now extensive views. Indeed, our exuberance with the views meant we took a detour to look over Loch A’an, which therefore resulted in lost height above Coire Domhain, a peek down the very steep and corniced Goat Track and finally a tired pull up the Cairngorm for Colm to bag the summit. Again, the views were spectacular, and wrapped against the cold NW we grabbed our last snack before the snowshoe-less descent down Windy Ridge.
A simply sublime day, with the unexpected poor conditions early on adding some frisson I suppose, though I was a bit miffed at the time. The longest and best day on snowshoes in the UK I have ever had. Tired legs all round in the pub!