Sgòr Gaoith – Full Winter weather walk in spring

  • Height – 1118 m (ascent 860m)
  • My Time – 7 hours
  • Season completed – Spring
  • Difficulty – 7 / 10 (due to weather, not the climb)
  • Weather – Snowing from the start. Deep snow, visibility was poor, but sometimes excellent.
  • Just want to see the photos to get a feel for the hike – click here
  • Route Map

Caution

Rather than start with my usual – starting point, I’m changing it for this tip. Even though it was the 8th April, it was full on winter, and even if you don’t read much and head over to the photos or the route map – read this!

The walk had lots of fresh snow, lots of deep snow, but as I was coming down from the summit and I could see the route back down the side of Càrn Bàn Mòr.
Look closely at the photo. You can see two darker patches of snow. These patches are not just snow!

Warning – look at the ever so slightly darker patches.

They are ice with a little snow on top. They are on a slope and if you walk in that area then the snow will change from fluffy snow where your boots sink in and get grip to a hard hard surface in the space of a single step.

Same photo as above, but tweaked colours to make the ice patches more obvious. In real life they are not this obvious.
Same photo as above, but tweaked colours to make the ice patches more obvious. In real life they are not this obvious.

This is how you take the quick way down – and not in a good way!

So avoid these areas or better still put your crampons on. I spent the entire walk with zero need for crampons until that point. Really if you don’t put your crampons on and hit this section you’re asking for trouble. Having seen it from afar, I told myself to avoid it.

Starting Point

The Sgòr Gaoith route, as seen from the map has a car park marked on it, and it’s a large one. You can’t miss it! You drive south from Feshiebridge, then keep going until you see a sign that states – “No parking beyond this point”. The car park you wish to park in is right beside the signs. You really can’t miss it.

After that it’s a small walk to a gate that is also sign posted with Sgòr Gaoith and Càrn Bàn Mòr marked on it.

Trees

How wonderful it is to start a walk hiking through some well established trees, and what’s more it was snowing. Beautiful!

Snowy path through some trees.
Snowy path through some trees.

The path is most excellent and carries on through the trees for around 1 km. At no point in this whole hike is any of it overly steep. Also I’d say if the weather was good then I’d not consider this a hard/dangerous (within the context of hiking) walk. I did rate this 7 out of 10 due to the weather (deep snow and visibility), but if it was the summer and there wasn’t snow then I’d probably give it a 2 or 3.

Path

Even with the snow, in most places you can make the path out, or at least portions of it. Perhaps it was around 700-800 m that I lost sight of it in the much deeper patches of snow. Love to see it without snow, as it must be a well made path and it seemed to go pretty much all the way to Càrn Bàn Mòr.

Path covered in snow
Path covered in snow

Actual wildlife!

Well, it has to be said that although you are in the wilds when hiking, you don’t often get to see wildlife! I guess because the Cairngorms are a national park, that increases the chances considerably of seeing something other than more people (of which I seen none on my hike 😀). There were some grouse, ptarmigan and even a snow bunting. All battling with the snow, certainly doing a better job than I was at times.

Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting

Almost didn’t make it…

So, as you can see it was a little bit on the snowy side, and visibility was not great. In places the snow was very deep – like waist height deep! Wish I had my snow shoes… The deep snow could have stopped me as I found it quite hard (plus the lack of view wasn’t motivating), but thankfully they didn’t last for too long.
Visibility was the worst. It was meant to be much better, but the mountain weather forecast can be fickle and not always right. I knew there wasn’t any cliffs or step drops, and the one thing of going up, you could always tell that you where going up. An occasional tuft of heather or a rock sticking out helps and when going up you tend to see these markers.

Once I reached the cairn at the top of Càrn Bàn Mòr the surface flatted off and at this point you lose those markers of stones and heather. There were zero markers and zero visibility. Everything was white! Heading off on a compass bearing only. Walked for a few minutes and thought this was mad. I do these walks for fun and for photos. You can’t take photos if you can’t see anything! So what to do?

At times you couldn't see much! It only got worse as you gain elevation
At times you couldn’t see much! It only got worse as you gain elevation

Back down

So even though I’m at over 1000 m, decided to head back. Descend around 200 m, stop to have a sandwich (in a blizzard, but why not) and in a moment of brilliance the clouds parted and I could go from seeing zero to 20 miles+ I could also see the next bank of clouds approaching, but it gave me hope. I had reception to get data so I checked an updated mountain forecast, which suggested it was in the process of clearing, but it would go from excellent to very poor once more in around 2-3 hours time.

Given the clouds were coming and going, and I headed back up. Ever hopeful.

Back up

Heading back up I could probably see 20 or 30 meters for the most part. Sometimes it extended but that was most of it. This made for lots of false hopes for the summit. I half expected a cairn at the top, so each time I spotted what looked like a pile of stones I was – hmmm that must be the summit as you couldn’t see anything past it. So you go, I’ll reach that rock and re-asses, then you reach it, and then you can just see another. And so it went on.

Probably around 0.5 Km from the summit, the clouds lifted in a meaningful way and from there is was obvious. There is no cairn or shelter, it’s just a summit – with a rather nice view.

Down for the second time

As mentioned at the start in my word of caution, you can see where the ice was located and if anything it’s easier to see from afar than it is when you’re beside it. So if you do spot different/darker snow then take note. It may well be ice.

The clouds came in a little, but most of the walk down the views where brilliant. You could see the dark snow clouds coming through the glens, and watch them clearly as they passed by.

At the same time the sun was coming out to give some dramatic clouds coming up from Loch Eanaich.

Overall – for a winter walk, I’d recommend this one. But if there is snow, bring your snow shoes. REALLY wish I had. Walking (felt like climbing) through waste height snow, even if only for a few meters at a time is hard work!

Route Map

Sgòr Gaoith - Full Winter weather map route
Click to open in OS Maps

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.