Monday, 30 January 2012
Up into winter on Little Wyvis
A visit to Inverness gave an opportunity for a half day's hillwalking recently and although the weather forecast wasn't too great, I thought that Little Wyvis would fit the bill. Just half an hour from Inverness and of a modest 764 metres, it just makes Corbett status and as a bonus it's one I hadn't climbed so another "tick"!
I arrived at the car park in cold temperatures and light rain. A few other vehicles were already there, the occupants all headed for the Munro of Ben Wyvis. As is sometimes the case, I got not a single good view of the hill I was climbing, but across Strathgarve the Kinlochluichart hills were plastered with snow to low levels.
The path climbs through pleasant pine forest alongside a stream and emerges onto open moorland. The heavily trodden path to Ben Wyvis heads north up the steep slope of An Cabar (the rafter) en route to the Munro, but my route involved crossing the stream and heading up pathless moor to the top edge of the forest. |to the northwest, the sky darkened to an angry grey colour as a huge snow shower approached. I took the hint and battened down the hatches just before the world changed from a pleasant hillwalk to a real battle in strong wind and driving snow.
I saw nothing else for some two hours as I pushed up onto the broad ridge leading to the summit of Little Wyvis. At about 650 metres I crossed from plus to minus temperatures and my clothes almost instantly froze. The wind was biting, almost painful and I needed to concentrate on the compass to keep me on line for the summit cairn. A line of old fenceposts helped guide the way and I reached the summit without difficulty.
I was now really enjoying the conditions - this is typical wild Scottish hill weather. The combination of wet, cold then freezing conditions overlaid with strong wind provides a real winter challenge. It's true to say that in winter, there's no hillwalking, rather every outing is mountaineering. In Europe, perhaps only Norway has similar conditions. Our hills aren't very high, but they bite!
Descending by my outward route, I was almost back at the forest before a slight shift in the wind signalled the end of a two hour battering by wind and snow - it was forecast as "showers"! To the north west the Fannich mountains appeared and disappeared in a monochrome slideshow.
Smaller snow showers swept across the landscape. All the snow in the foreground had fallen in the short time I'd been up the hill.
Heading back to the car park the skyscape was really dramatic as the weather began to settle. Towering clouds slowed from sweeping showers to reveal glimpses of the scenery plastered white.
The whole walk took a little over four hours. One hour was a pleasant wander and the other three a winter test. Back in Inverness just 30 minutes drive away, there had been no snow, little wind and the sun was out.