The Cairngorms

The joys of winter walking with a 9 year old in the highest Scottish mountains 😀.

We were in Boat of Garten for a few days during October half term and I was keen to get out into the hills. Hannah, my 9 year old daughter, would rather spend her days playing Minecraft, but enjoys the odd walk if I bribe her with flapjack and the promise of a trip to the zoo.

I’d been thinking about Fiaciall Ridge but I could see there was a good dusting of snow on the tops and I thought I was pushing my luck enough taking Hannah up into the Northern Corries in the snow without attempting a scramble as well. So we settled on a nice, easy circuit of Cairn Lochan and Cairn Gorm.

We had an early start and started walking from the Coire Cas car park at 8am. The weather was due to deteriorate later and I like early starts. More precisely, I like spending my afternoons drinking tea and relaxing. We walked slowly up the well made path as Hannah was clearly having a go slow day. There was no rush though, we had plenty of time and the views into the Northern Corries were lovely. I was pleased to be back in the Scottish mountains.

The path up towards Cairn Lochan was gradual and easy to follow. The snow line was at 1050m and we lost the views at that point as well. There was a cold north westerly wind but we had plenty of warm clothes and spare hats and gloves. I also had our crampons but the snow wasn’t quite hard enough to need them much to Hannah’s disappointment. She likes wearing crampons. We stopped for food and hot chocolate at the top of Cairn Lochan then followed a compass bearing along the edge of the plateau, taking care to keep away from the edge. So far so good.

The trouble started soon after Cairn Lochan. “Mum, you’re going the wrong way” said Hannah. “No, I’m not, I’ve looked at the map.” I replied. “Well there’s people coming up that way” she said, pointing down Fiaciall Ridge. “That’s Fiaciall Ridge” I said, “I didn’t want us coming up it in the snow so we’re definitely not going down it”. “Why do we always have to go the way you want to go?” she sulked. Very good question I thought, but not one for debating today.

After Stob Coire an t-Sneachda it started to snow heavily and visibility worsened. I asked Hannah to put on her coat and she refused. I’d have done better asking her to take all her clothes off as she often does the opposite of what I ask her to do. Envisaging hypothermia I was more forceful. She sulked, told me she hated me but put her coat on. I tried to get her to eat something but of course she refused that as well. How I am looking forward to her being a teenager 🙄.

As is often the way she apologised to me after a few minutes and after some hot chocolate and flapjack was her usual happy self and enjoyed the rest of the walk even though the weather was miserable. Important lesson for me though in taking people into the hills in winter. Most people will do as they are asked, but my own daughter (and probably others) resents being told what to do, doesn’t realise the risks and makes life difficult when I’m wanting to focus on navigation in a snow storm.

After Cairn Gorm we followed the line of cairns to the Ptarmigan and then down the well marked path straight back to the car park. An educational day out for us both and Hannah finished the day by asking me to take her out in winter again, so it can’t have been that bad a day 😉.

Published by alpinejane

Explorer, hill walker, mountaineer, backpacker, scrambler, Mountain Leader, member of Teesdale and Weardale Search and Mountain Rescue Team and lover of wild places

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