Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

Playing in the snow

30 Jan 2014

A predicted lull in the seeming endless series of storms tempted my out for a day in the hills to try out the MSR Evo Ascent Snowshoes.  A lull is probably a bit of an overstatement, from the Mountian Weather Information Service (MWIS): : ….a rare day of light winds…..,25mph South-easterly; snow flurries, -4C.

The Glen Shee ski tows just seemed to be getting cranked up for business as I arrived at the car park at 10:00am with maybe 40 cars parked up already, a lot of people walking around with planks on their shoulders and lots of white stuff about!

I chatted to a couple of walkers from Dundee who were heading off up the Cairnwell; my plan was in the opposite direction Glas Maol and Creag Leacach then perhaps over to Cairn of Claise.

The eastern chairlift and tows weren’t in operation so I donned the show shoes and headed off straight up the piste.  Once at the upper chair lift station (760m) I enter the clag and by the time I’d reached Meall Odhar (922m) the visibility was down to 5 m.  The last 120m climb up to the summit plateau of Glas Maol was quite tough going through deep powder snow, kicking in the snow shoes up what seemed like a 45 deg slope was quite tiring but soon over.

I crossed the summit plateau towards the summit head down straight into a 30+ mph wind being blasted with snow and ice, I didn’t see the summit cairn but according to the GPS I walked right around it (perhaps it was buried), all I saw was:

IMG_0500

I set off downhill SW towards Creag Leacach but on reaching the bealach and I decided that wandering through the clad wasn’t much fun and perhaps a bit of discretion (the potential for large unseen cornices) was in order so I did an about turn and headed off back north across the west flank of Glas Maol.

Heading off back down the steep upper slopes towards Meall Odhar in snowshoes provided a little entertainment, at times rapid progress was made ‘skiing’ sideways, a lot easier than going up!  Lower down the hill the ski runs had plenty of novice traffic so I decided to swing a little south to avoid getting run down, I think I made it down to the lower station quicker than some of those on planks.

IMG_0965

I arrived back at the car around 3:30hrs after departure which having covered around 8.5km with 550m of ascent.  I was very pleased with the first snow shoe experience, they definitely made the trying conditions bearable and if the cloud base hadn’t been so low I think the planned trip would have been easily doable, and enjoyable, without the snowshoes I would have turned back a lot sooner.

Given that the snow conditions in Scotland aren’t ‘reliable’ some would question whether snowshoes are worth it.  I justified the purchase after spending many weeks over the years avoiding the tops, particularly the big Cairngorm’s plateaus after dumps of snow.  I found that sticking to the glens waiting for the snow to consolidate or ‘postholing’ though even 30cm of snow frustratingly painful and tiring; I also picked up a good deal by buying in the summer!

IMG_0502

I was quite impressed with the general design and built of the Evo Ascents; the teeth on the lower rails and the toe ‘crampons’ do bite very well into compacted snow and ice making for sure footed travel, even up quite steep slopes; the heel lifter although only giving around 15 deg of lift does make for easier passage on a long uphill section, the lift bar has to be latched into position manually and is quite firm, but after a bit of practice I found that I could snap it down easily with a walking pole; while the deck is small (in comparison with some other makes/ models) is seems an ideal size for the terrain that I’ll generally encounter (even in deep soft snow I was only sinking 15cm) and they’re not too heavy to carry (~1.8 kg) when they’re not needed.  I did learn not to tighten the binding too much as I go a bit of cramp in the feet and had to loosen them off after a while.  I should thank Chris Townsend and Phil Werner (Section Hiker) for their knowledgeable advice during my purchasing research.

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This entry was posted on February 3, 2014 by in Gear, Reviews, Trip Reports and tagged , , .
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