Mountain Adventures

Exploring the Chalamain Gap in snow

Being an early riser, I was up first and although somewhat prepared for it, I was still shocked to see that all, I mean all, of the snow was gone. A powerful warm front had come in over the night. The strong winds from yesterday were a pretty good indicator of this. As it happened, we were looking to have a shorter day today anyway, as we had 5am wake up for the long drive home the following day.

We had been chatting about our options, these were – heading to the mountain’s vs being out of the wind, which although, had backed off considerably were still pretty strong. I put forward the idea of walking up and heading through Chalamain Gap. Castle Hill was added into the mix and we had a plan.

forest in scotland
Walking through the Forests after a day in the Caringorms

 We left the vehicles slightly further down the road from the ski resort today in a car park that resembled more of an ice rink. We couldn’t make that many special manoeuvres on the ice despite our efforts!
Like at the house, a lot of the snow had melted away here as well. Even on the summits we could see that they had far less snow than yesterday. Undeterred, we set off into the forest heading down to the river and crossed the bridge. As well as taking another group photo.

bridge over river in a forest
Crossing the bridge in the Caringorms National Park

 That was when we first felt the wind, after we had climbed up the short but steep path to the other side, where there was a reindeer farm. The path was good, really good, I could have driven the Micra on it although it was somewhat narrow to say the least. It was also ridiculously windy, easily pushing 40mph enough that everyone was getting blown off the track and walking in the heather. This was a surprise; the wind was meant to be around 25-30mph. That was until I realised the orography was not on our side. The wind was coming down the mountains and then reaching the small valley below, where it was then being forced up, increasing the pressure causing the stronger winds. Reaching the valley and small ford, the wind dropped away hugely.

group walking in the scotland, richard matthews
Walking towards the start of the Chalamain Gap

The path continued on, with large patches of snow some of which were deep in places. Causing us all sorts of amusement, as one person just kept standing in the exact spot of the water run off. He had also managed to fall over several times elsewhere over the previous days.

We finally reached the Chalamain Gap, which is an impressive gulley in the land full of large boulders a great place for scrambling and climbing as well. Much of it was snow free although there were still a few patches that had a considerable amount of snow on them. It was slow going picking our way through the boulder field trying to not fall in between any rocks along the way. Some climbers, that were there, looked on as we made our away across. Those at the front had the most difficult task of making the route for everyone to follow.

scotland, winter, scrambling, richard matthews
The imposing Chalamain Gap

After, what seemed a very long time, we finally reached the end of the pass and then went up the hill, not zig zagging our way but straight up in the snow on a pretty steep angle. Which was incredible fun! Some opted to stick to the heather, I can’t blame them it was really hard work moving up the snow wall.

Reaching the top of the incline, which levelled off but kept on rising slowly. Some people had begun to make their way to the rocky outcrop on top of the hill. The wind had increased once more and the snow had completely dissipated leaving the heather and grass exposed to the elements once again.
Reaching the top we re-grouped before dropping down the west side a couple of metres to have a spot of lunch and practice our snowball aim with the little snow that we could find.

Moving on from lunch we descended down onto Castle Hill and the carin marking the top before moving onwards heading back to the vehicles. That’s be found a section of snow that hadn’t been melted off. The races then begun!

snow sliding, caringorms national park, richard matthews
Sliding down the snow face

Nearly everyone got down to business showing off their tobogganing skills… although the toboggans were a ramshackle of random things that everyone happen to have from rucksack raincovers to rucksacks and anything else that could be used.

This went on for quite a while, before we headed off down the hill encountering some boggy ground under foot. Which for some people, who boots by this point weren’t the most waterproof, was not the most comfortable of places to be, having soaking wet feet. Although some of them did bring it upon themselves being muppets trying to slide the iced over ponds.

Just before reaching the river crossing, we saw some reindeer doing their thing in the Highlands, chilling out and eating, completely at home with the weather.

Make sure to the read the previous days from this trip: day 1 and day 2

river walking, scotland, richard matthews
Someones fallen in the Water

This was before the final stretch of the walk, taking the lower path to avoid the incredibly strong winds the on the top path. It was a great path, I think not!  There wasn’t really a path there to be honest, more of sheep or in this case maybe a reindeer trail.

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