Night Nav Nightmare !

The MWIS forecast said that East was best !

Cairngorms were just too far to make after a speedy exit from work on Friday, so I headed for Blair Atholl and into the hill just East of Glen Tilt.

I arrived at the car park around 18:30hrs, surprised to see another car parked.

It was pitch black outside with a slight breeze but not a cloud in the sky.

I changed into my outdoor gear quickly as the temperature was already low and finished packing kit into the OMM Jirishanca including strapping on some snow shoes I have managed to blag to “trial “.

I left the car around 7pm head torch on and map in hand.

I was already into the snow line and once off the road the snow was crunching under the ice bugs.

I followed the track up from Loch Moraig passing an old BV that the shooters use to get up onto the hill.

I was aiming to leave the track at the 2 buildings and head straight up the side of Carn Liath.

I was starting to think I had missed the buildings OR they were no longer there judging by the amount of time I had been walking.

I took a bearing down the track and checked this against the map, I must be close.

Doubt was creeping in but I chose to walk on a bit further and 5 minutes later came across the first building.

The sky was clear with an amazing array of stars showing, but no moon !

Heading up the faint hint of a track the going harder but as it was so dark I just did not have any concept of what I was climbing.

At about 800m the wind picked up and turned pleasantly cool into stinging,biting cold.

The superfly went on and so did hat and gloves.

It was starting to feel some strange Alpine start on some strange European Mountain only there would be no sunrise to look forward too for a while.

The ground flattened off and I headed for a cluster of rocks thinking that was the summit cairn and the trig point was one of the many icy coated towers looming in the dark.

I paused and then realised I was not at the top yet and walked another 100m to find the summit cairn.

At this point the wind was amazingly harsh and I should of set a bearing on my compass to drop of the Northern Ridge towards Beinn Mhaol, instead in my tired naive state I thought it would be fine !

I sent a spot at 8.43 from the top and set off down the ridge.

My main focus was getting down out of the wind, and at some point I lost the ridge on my right and ended up dropping down the west side of the ridge.

I realised what I had done and as I dropped past 700m I started looking for a site to camp.

The wind had disappeared as I found small flattish site on the hillside.

The snowclaw came out and I piled the snow I dug out into a small wall to protect me from the wind if it did pick up.

I pitched the 3 wire bivvy and pulled the PHD Minim 500 from the bag and let it loft, the Dri Shell outer being a god send as I clumsily kicked snow all over it.

9.19pm I sent a spot as I put a brew on, I didn’t know exactly where I was and this annoyed me.

I had messed up and should of known better, I wasn’t in any danger but knowing well I should of taken a bearing from the cairn.

So I put a brew on !

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I climbed into my bag at 10 pm read a couple of chapters of my book and then fell into a deep sleep till my alarm went off at 7am.

I stuck my head out the bivvy to see it was still dark and cloudy.

I slept for another hour and then got up, not easy as my sleeping bag has a left hand zip and the 3 wire has a right hand zip !

I melted snow for breakfast and pondered over the map as the cloud lifted.

I had a rough idea where i was but what was for sure was I was way off where I wanted to have been !

MorningI packed up as I waited for breakfast to re constitute and water to boil for a brew.

The gas stove was suffering from the cold and was barely burning by the time the water boiled.

I packed up and put the snow shoes on and started to traverse the hill 10 mins in  the cloud cleared and caught a glimpse of some buildings to get a fix on.

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The group of  2 or 3 trees you can see in the fore front is Creag Choinnich Lodge.

Traversing whilst wearing snow shoes is hard work, but I decided it was way better than trying to walk on the heather with a snow crust to fall through every step.

Every so often there would be a drift that would form a stable path to plod up and I tried to join them up as I could make good speed on those.

The cloud cam right in again and visibility was poor, the snow covered ground blended into the cloud and light was flat so identifying features was challenging.

I finally climbed up onto the saddle where I should of been 10 hrs before, the wind had picked up and I could make out the shape of another person on the hill.

I joined him looking up towards the tops debating if it was going to clear !

I decided it wasn’t and dropped down of the saddle following the burn towards Beinn Bheag.

The snow shoes were making easy work of the mixed ground conditions as I got used to the technique again.

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I paused on the saddle between Carn Liath and Beinn Bheag for some water and a munch.

Two things ruined that stop

1 I could get my bottle out of my bottle pocket but could not get it back in without taking my pack off !

2 As I opened my Trio Chest pouch the zip jammed on the weather flap after 5 mins of pulling, prodding and cursing the zipper came off the teeth ! leaving me with one functioning zipper !

I will take my pack off and have a drink then !

I descended onto the thick heather again and thanked the function of snow shoes as I covered the ground quickly.

There was a trio making there way up the burn to get to where I had been, their progress looked slow and arduous as the fell into thigh deep drifts.

Me gliding past them on the surface would not have helped their agony !

The cloud lifted giving another chance to enjoy being in the hills in winter.

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I crossed the burn and found the stalkers path, I strapped the snow shoes on to my pack with the MSC, had a drink and removed the PS3 as the sun was warm.

It felt amazing to have the weight of the snow shoes removed from my feet and then I dropped onto the shooters track with compact snow and ice.

I gently jogged out constantly eyeing Carn Liath in the hope I would get a glimpse of the top, but all the the way the cloud just sat perched on it as all other surrounding peaks cleared.

Its a big hill in the daylight !

Back at the car I changed footwear donned sun specs and headed off down the road stopping to pick up my dry-suit at Brookbank Perth.

Was it really time to start rafting again ???!!!!!!!

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9 thoughts on “Night Nav Nightmare !

  1. Nice account of your trip Bobinson. I finally saw the light with snowshoes today. I always thought they were something best left to Grizzly Adams but after postholing through crusty snow for most of the day I thought there has to be a better way! How did you get on with the Red Feathers?

  2. “I didn’t know exactly where I was and this annoyed me.”
    I was watching the SPoT pings with great interest as you wandered about the hillside!
    Good lad, looked like fun.
    Must hear more about these snowshoes also.

  3. I liked that and one thing stood out. You did not seem at all worried about not being sure of your location, just bothered. That being calm showed hill craft learnt through experience, and digging in for a bivy in the snow had a wildness about it. Cracking trip and thanks.

  4. andy

    I was on that hill on Thursday, just for the day. Not a soul on the hill all day long. MWIS forecast was for blizzard conditions. It turned out a fine kind of day, with just a bit of whiteout at the top of Carn Liath. Yes, there’s a false summit which must be confusing at night. The snow was gorgeous, crisp and pristine. And I took a bearing from the trig before going on! I don’t take any chances with snow on the ground…

    I’ve got a pair of snowshoes myself, but I haven’t got round to using them yet.
    Could you possibly post a picture of how you fix them to the Jirishanca using the MSC? I’m thinking of using those Alpkits mini-carabiners because the MSC looks a bit flimsy for that sort of weight. I’d be interested to see your solution.

    Great report, anyway. It’s my ‘local’ hill and it’s always different each time I go there. I envy your night under the stars!

    • bobinson

      Losen MSC straps and slide the shoes curved front tips inwards on either side of the pack then tighten the MSC.
      Funny thing was when I took them off and strapped them onto my pack I was going to take a photo !
      It didnt look tidy but done the job.
      The Red Feathers are super light and you dont notice them on the pack.
      Be keen to get back to Carn Liath in the clear as its an amazing area.

  5. Rob Sanderson

    Good to know you had a good time. But I think there was a bit a posing going on in the pictures would you use the snow shoes again if not can I have them

  6. bobinson

    Cheers all !
    I was kitted out to stay on the hill so the bottom line was it did not really matter where I slept !
    Obviously if there was large drops of the ridge it would of been a bit different !
    Snow shoes are the way forward ! like crampons you struggle with “do I put them on or not “.
    Good training for the legs too.

  7. Aye, I was looking at the map. There is much to be explored instead of zooming by on the A9.

    Zooming…in my motor…

  8. FamilyGuy

    I liked the picture of you drinking from your water bottle. It looked like you were casually waiting for the bus….; )

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