Archive for the X-Country Category

Cross-Country Ski Towards the Gaick Pass

Posted in Snow Sports, Wildlife, X-Country with tags , , , on January 22, 2015 by Jinja Coo

Having a weekday free and good weather forecast, I looked out my downhill skis and planned on heading to Glenshee for a day’s skiing without the weekend queues. Memories of similar days way back in the past came to mind and I was getting quite excited about the day ahead. Just one problem, the access road seemed to be closed due to … snow! Even later in the evening it was still looking like no progress for the day ahead and rather than gamble on a drive up the following morning, I changed my plan to one of cross-country skiing so I would not be reliant on roads or ski tows.

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My revised plan was to take me up the A9 as far as Drumochter pass where roadside webcams showed good snow levels. From there I had three intended routes I could opt to follow, my favoured being the furthest north and therefore highest too.

A good breakfast on the road up and encouraging signs of snow even as low as Pitlochry had me convinced plan A, ski in to a favourite bothy for lunch with a round of a scenic loch, was possible. Unfortunately though, access by car to the starting point was not possible due to the amount of snow on the access road. I had to backtrack a few miles to the start of plan B with a bit of short-lived disappointment.

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Plan B was to retrace part of a walk I had done a couple of summers ago as I knew the gradient of the approach track should be okay for cross-country skis assuming the snow cover was relatively uniform. As it turned out, I left the track almost immediately on exiting the initial forest section as the hillside above it was gentle enough to ski up and would result in better views and potentially less time in shade.

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Within a few minutes I had gained enough height to be enjoying views to the west, east and south. Only the rising plateau ahead to the north obscured things slightly. Numerous rests to catch breath and cool off, despite it being -7, allowed me to enjoy encounters with the wildlife in the area. At one point I was surprised by the proximity of a hare which seemed undisturbed by my presence. I spent at least five minutes getting closer and closer until I was just four or five feet away, quite an unusual occurrence.

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After this pleasant stop I made my way eastwards across the plateau to try and get a view in to the next glen and to delay my getting to my intended destination of Meall na Spianaig. From that top I got a view in to the narrow pass between the hills An Dun and A’ Chaoirnich which a semi-frozen Loch an Duin lay between.

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By the time I had reached Meall na Spianaig I was pretty hungry from my efforts and for the first time in ages lingered at a top for over half an hour, taking in the views and enjoying the silence. Just about everything about me was white except for the small, wooded area surrounding the ruins of Sronphadruig Lodge below me. With not a breath of wind and some extra layers I was warm enough to just enjoy the sunshine, eat my lunch and was in no real hurry to get back.

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The map showed the way out to be gently downhill all the way, perfect! Actually, it turned out to be a little too steep for my cross-country skis and my lack of skill to begin with resulting in numerous painful wipe outs, which got a bit frustrating. Following this though I had a spell of perfect gradient (for me) which allowed me to glide along effortlessly for a couple of kilometers.

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The final run through the forest with the low sun just visible through the gaps in the trees was taken as slowly as possible to prolong my day before finally setting off for home.

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Winds, Wetness and Wipeouts

Posted in Hiking, Hills, Snow Sports, X-Country with tags , on February 11, 2014 by Jinja Coo

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.

1st of December, 2010 – Getting Cross with the Early Snow … in a Good Way

Posted in Snow Sports, X-Country with tags on December 1, 2010 by Jinja Coo

With an idea inspired by yesterday’s visit to Calton Hill, I got my cross-country skis down from the loft for the winter ahead with the intention of kicking things of with a return to Calton Hill before work today.

My alarm was set early but ignored with umpteen snoozes but I still managed to get up to the hill in good time, skiing most of the way on pavements covered in nicely packed snow.

Very few tracks were evident in the fresh snow deposited overnight except for what I imagine would be a fox and a very few walkers so I got to ski my way about the summit’s various paths breaking tracks as I went.

Straight to work after this which, in the end proved to be a lengthy interruption to the day’s skiing as I took the long way home afterwards. This time, I crossed over the side of Calton Hill and headed for my previous city-centre ski destination, Holyrood Park. Having seen how much snow is lying, I was hoping to get in an entire lap of Arthur’s Seat rather than my usual shorter, there-and-back route from the Palace up to Pollock Halls.

Success, the upper section of the road surrounding Arthur’s Seat has not seen a car in days and I managed to make my way all the way round with just a few stops to catch breath, take in the views and admire some of the handy work made by others which included a snow-seal. Great fun descending the back after my struggle up the front.

8th February, 2009 – Cross-Country Ski, Glen Isla

Posted in Snow Sports, X-Country with tags on February 8, 2009 by Jinja Coo

My first taste of cross-country skiing in Scotland for me. A brilliant day out with good snow and despite messing up with the waxing of my skis they worked well on the snow.