The hills were covered in cloud, there were moderate winds and there were snow flurries. I wanted to go out for a long walk and test my navigation skills. The others were unable to go out due to Kelly’s neck injury and childcare, so I went alone.
My route was to go from the ski centre car park to the top of Ben Macdui and then pick a route back. I had never navigated in these conditions alone before so it was very exciting.
The walk up to Ben Macdui was good and I was pleased with my map and compass work. Some of the time I had poor visibility but the clouds would clear regularly so I could check I was on the right track which was very reassuring. Once I came away from the top of corrie an Lochan I was on my own which was great but a bit more scary. When the clouds cleared I was surprised with some lovely views of the surrounding mountains and the wind was behind me so I was not feeling the worst of the weather on the way up.
When I turned to come back down I had the wind head on which made me a bit more uncomfortable but I was OK when I had done all my fastenings up and put my goggles on to keep the cold out. I didn’t really stop anywhere long but took water and snacks regularly and pissed as few times as possible (I want some trousers with zips all the way up the sides!).
I didn’t want to go on too far but I also didn’t want to go straight back down so I planned to go back to Cairn Lochan and then drop down again the way I had come as the cloud was getting thicker. I came down off Ben Macdui and then started up to Cairn Lochan on a new compass bearing at which point the cloud came down really thick. I couldn’t see anything past my own feet and just followed my bearing. It felt like I was walking in a circle but I was going fairly straight. Horrible thoughts of walking in the wrong direction, having to stay out and walking off the edge of something did occur to me but I kept calm and trusted my bearing which brought me out very near the Cairn to my relief. As soon as I started to drop down off the top the cloud cleared and I could see much more. The contrast of seeing the surrounding land and the colours of the heather and rocks were great after only being able to see cloud.
This was a highlight of the trip for me as it consolidated the map reading skills that I have learned on previous trips and gave me lots of confidence about being in the mountains in hard conditions. It made me realise what a lot I have learned on Craggers trips already and gave me inspiration for future trips whatever the weather.