BCS Instructor Graham Melloy heads up onto the Arctic Plateau of the Cairngorms.
After a very busy period at work prior to going out of the country for six months I found myself with some free time on my hands. Apart from the normal family stuff on the calendar I decided that an overnight trip to the Cairngorms to shake off the cobwebs was just the ticket. It was minus seven on the Moray coast when my son and I set off and it was still minus seven when we got to the ski centre car park so it was going to be a tester.
Between the pair of us we had more Fjallraven than the new Cotswolds in Inverness when we set off for our trek with the Kaipak 58 the bag of choice and having used it many times it still never fails to let me down. Even though we were only out for one night with the temperatures as they were and the ever unpredictable weather that we have all experienced on the plateau we had to ensure we had all the necessary kit and this bag can take a fair amount without all the unnecessary straps and gubbins we find on gear these days.
It was with relative ease that we headed up the hill skirting to the western side of Coire an Lochain with some detours due to ice patches up on to the plateau with striking views all round working our way across to Hell’s Lum Crag to get a good view of Loch A’an which was covered in ice with the plan to drop down to the shelter stone. With the amount of ice on the ground and fast fading daylight the sensible decision was to backtrack and cross Coire Domhain towards Coire Raibeirt to find a nice spot to pitch the tent with good views. We chose a nice spot to the south east of the Cairngorm summit overlooking the saddle with great views down towards the Fords of A’an.
The Keb Endurance 2 is a gleaming bit of kit and takes no time to erect though with the ground frozen putting the pegs in required some size 9 action! Once that was up and our gear stashed we had a wander along the edge of Stac an Fharaidh along towards Ciste Mhearad taking in the views and enjoying the silence. The temperature was still very low but the wind was definitely picking up when we got back to the tent in darkness to get some food on the go and my LED Lensor H7R.2 lit the place up like a football stadiums floodlights! This sudden change of weather whilst not unusual definitely made us re-evaluate our plan for the next day.
I had a Real Turmat beef stew tucked away in my bag left over from a previous training event with Rosker and having sampled these extensively in Afghanistan courtesy of the Danish Army I know how good they are. My son though had to make do with a boil in the bag! Once we were well fed and watered there wasn’t a great deal more to do apart from listen to the wind which was now howling and shaking the tent like crazy so it was an early night! It was still cold and the Sarek 3 season down bag I have worked a treat with my home made silk liner. (Three panels from a
parachute…..try it!) With the wind increasingly getting stronger I got up to check that the pegs and guy lines were still intact and I was nearly blown off my feet but all was well. Sleep was interrupted by the wind throughout the night and at about 2am I thought the tent was going to take off but the guy lines held out and the poles stayed strong. Daybreak brought a calm of sorts and the plan was to head off to Cnap Coire na Spreidhe and beyond to locate the El Alamein refuge but with a heavy fog and the wind picking up again it was the sensible thing to head down off the hill at our own pace.
So with plenty more excursions planned over the next few weeks before heading to warmer climates this was definitely a much needed shake out. The Fjallraven gear never fails to amaze me and the Keb jacket was ideal for this trip with the Eco shell over the top when required. The tent was excellent and the Primus Winter gas did exactly as it said on the tin compared to the normal Primus gas I also took along to conduct a comparison.
Here’s to the next one and a bit longer and hopefully more snow!