Winds, Wetness and Wipeouts

Saturday’s forecast was correct and we were hammered by strong, gusty winds then later heavy showers too, on a walk from Loch Muick with a vague target of either the base of Lochnagar’s cliffs, or the neighbouring hill of Conachraig.

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By the time we reached the point where we would have to go left for Lochnagar or right for Conachraig, the wind had increased to the point where shouting over it was required and looking into it was just painful. Visibility wasn’t great above so all thoughts of higher ground were ditched and instead an alternative route, circuiting Conachraig, was suggested and agreed upon.

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Rounding the north side of the hill and losing some height too, brought us some shelter from the wind and a place where we could stop for a quick lunch without cooling down too much. As we traversed this north side, we crossed the snow line and with that had rougher going underfoot until we joined a vehicle track on the east side of the hill which would lead us all the way back to our cars. It wasn’t much easier from there though, we were now facing in to the gusts and soon sleet started and was followed by driving rain which found every way it could through our waterproofs, a real reminder of how miserable walking in bad weather can be.

A nice lie-in on Sunday had us well rested and with signs in the sky of better weather we set off for a half day skiing at Glenshee.

Down at the base of the slopes, sheltered from the wind, I had no idea what was in stall for me higher up. Though it was drier than the previous day, it certainly wasn’t less gusty and as soon as I arrived at the top of the hill and looked west in search of my intended route, I was wishing I was elsewhere. Not only could I not see anything to the west, I could barely stand either as the lack of edges on my skis combined with gusts and an icy surface had me slipping, sliding and toppling over.

My chosen route, which I hoped would provide a sizable area of flattish ground suitable for my cross-country gear, was binned and instead I decided on getting down to lower ground via easy routes then across the road to the other area of the ski centre hoping it would be more fruitful. Even the easiest route down was a challenge for my skis (and lack of skill) and the light made it hard to tell the gradient of in front of me which was actually quite off-putting, this was not turning out to be fun.

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A red shed caught my attention and provided some distraction from the constant wipeouts I was having on my attempts at cross-country skiing.

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Over the other side, I did find some terrain I could handle, but I was still struggling with my ability to read the angle in front of me which was causing me to get caught out with unexpected speed changes. I lingered a while and went back and forth trying to get more familiar and comfortable on a stretch, but that was only so interesting so after a chat with some folks using more appropriate equipment, I set off for the base where I was due to meet up with the others later on. I did manage to descend the entire run this time with only a couple more falls which was some sort of progress.

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It is a shame I never got to test out the skis on some gentle terrain high up with good snow and good visibility, but based on this attempt I’ll probably not bother to have another go.

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