Sunday, 28 March 2010

Late Winter on Sgor Mor

Sgor Mor (821m) is an unremarkable Corbett near Linn of Dee in the eastern Cairngorms. Like many smaller hills surrounded by higher ground, it offers superb views. It made a perfect first hill after four months working away.

Late March is most definitely late winter rather than early spring in the Cairngorms. The vegetation is still seared and flattened after the winter's snow and wind.

There are some subtle hints of Spring though. Here at Chest of Dee where the infant River Dee falls over a series of rock ledges, a Skylark was singing, Meadow Pipits were chasing each other in courtship and a solitary Oystercatcher (a shorebird in the winter) was prospecting for territory.

It's a charming spot - and if you look in the clear water below one of the ledges, there's a perfect saltire in quartzite set in the schisty bedrock.

It's only 400 metres of climbing to the summit of Sgor Mor, but the reward is wide views in all directions. The walking on the long summit ridge is very easy, dwarf heather and gravel flats. Near the summit itself is this slab with two perfectly circular "pots" scoured out by wind action. Up here, the wind is king. Plants, animals and even the rock are dominated by it.

To the north, some of the Cairngorm giants were looming in and out of the wintry showers. Here, Derry Cairngorm is in sunlight while Coire Sputan Dearg of Ben Macdui is capped with cloud.

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