/ Ethical issues with wild camping in Cairngorms in winter?
I ask because I see there's not a lot of online guidance on camping in this area in Winter and so I wonder if this just isn't the done thing, for ethical reasons rather than that it's a bit uncomfortable.
What I'm really wondering is just why more people don't do this, given the numbers who do it at the Col du Midi for example. Or is there something specific like that it's impossible to get pegs in, for example?
Excuse my ignorance if there's something glaring I've overlooked! I wanted to ask before just showing up with a tent.
I guess it's a mix of: The availability of warm accomodation in Aviemore coupled with the ease of access from the ski centre balanced with the potential for your tent to get blown away or buried.
Snowholes are probably more common.
Seems to be the "in" word on the fprum lately...
I'll probably be camping up there this winter unless I decide on something else. Didn't think to ask anyone if I should.
Because it is not pleasent in the teeth of a Cairngorms storm. Accomodation is close and walk ins are reasonably short, and many climbers etc would like to get maximum enjoyment out their day by being refreshed, warm, dry and fed and watered. That is not to say I would not do a Cairngorms winter camp - I would. I would only do it for that reason itself and not as an appendage to another activity.
I'd spotted the preponderance of "ethical" queries too (maaaan) but this genuinely is a question about ethics rather than practical issues although I'm also keen to hear any practical suggestions.
The reason we're proposing to camp is (1) we're getting the sleeper train up from London just for the weekend so want to maximise time on the hill and avoid queues on the Sunday (2) that train is expensive so we want it to be the only expense of the weekend and (3) we want to build experience in this type of environment and the area we have in mind seems like an appropriate first testing ground as it's quite easily escapeable if things go south. We considered snowholing but think that's for later in the season, for us.
Those are very much the constraints and reasons my mate and I were working to about ten years ago, and we came up with the same approach. You may never do it again - and if it does storm you might find it a handful - but the experience in itself will be valuable.
Like you, we fancied snowholing - but we had two feet of dry powder sat on top of icy slush, so that had to wait for another trip.
I've wild camped in the Cairngorms in winter, but it's not something I've done for quite a few years now.
There aren't really any ethical considerations beyond what you'll do with your waste. The northern Cairngorms run a successful poo project: http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=49686. In other area's you'll need to think what you do as the ground may be too solid to dig a hole as in the summer and anything left in the snow will eventually melt out.
There are other practical considerations, however. Like you said pegs can be an issue. The ground may be frozen or inaccessible under snow. Strong pegs and something to bash them in with can help. You can tie your guy rope to rocks or use bits of climbing gear to anchor it down. Axes can hold crucial guy ropes, on the assumption that you'll only be there one night. An other common idea, which I've never tried, is to tie your guy rope to a bag filled with snow, buried in the snow.
You also need to consider that it will be very cold in the tent. A snow hole is much warmer. The wind in winter can be much stronger than in summer. Also, if you're camping on snow then your body heat can make you sink into the snow overnight.
You often hear that in standard gas cartridges the gas mixture separates in the cold, making it unusable. The normal recommend solution is to keep the canister somewhere warm until you need it or use a petrol stove. This isn't something I've come across in my experience of cold places, but perhaps I've just managed to keep the cartridge warm.
I'm sure there are other practicalities to think about, but there's a start.
It's definitely possible to camp if you want to, but snow holing may be more practical.
Hope this helps,
Only ethical issue I can see is covered by the cairngorm poo project mentioned above. If you use this, (info, bags and waste dump at the cairngorm base station at the cas carpark), then you will be doing less environmental damage than camping somewhere this service doesn't operate.
Practical issues- there are many. In stable weather its a wonderful experience (if cold). In poor weather its wild, scary and often hazardous. Snowholes *may* be a better bet, but have their own very scary safety considerations and wouldn't undertake lightly.
Interesting about the gas separating. I had my first bivvy earlier this year at the bottom of the approach couloir to the Pigne d'Arolla N face, only at about 2,800m. My watch said it got down to about -4 which wasn't as cold as I was expecting but I remember having difficulty with my jetboil the next morning, although it did eventually light - I assumed something had frozen rather than that the mixture had separated. I can't remember how I got it to light - a few dropkicks might have helped.
Perhaps we (the Royal We) should heed the total lack of meaningful responses if you google "camping" "winter "sneachda"! It seems generally ill-advisable.
Can it really be that much more hardcore a place than, say, the Greater Ranges or the Alps where camping in these kinds of winds is routine and indeed the only option? Please feel free to slap me with a naivete fish if this is required.
Never had the separation problem myself, but IIRC it depends on the mixture of propane and butane in the cylinder, and you can buy cylinders with different mixes to suit your needs.
Don't kill yourself. Cooking in a tent that's covered in snow and therefore more-or-less hermetically sealed is a good way to turn all the nice breathable oxygen into carbon monoxide. And don't camp at the bottom of an avalanchey slope.
Egg-sucking courses available on application.
If you did camp in Coire an t'Sneachda in winter, may I recommend that you take in 10 kilos of bacon, enough rolls and 200 tea bags, milk and sugar. You could easily make the cost of your fuel getting there by selling bacon rolls and cups of tea to climbers.
> Can it really be that much more hardcore a place than, say, the Greater Ranges or the Alps where camping in these kinds of winds is routine and indeed the only option?
Comparison with Patagonia might be more appropriate; if you camp, your tent will sooner or later get blown down. So, for a prolonged stay, a snowhole is the sensible option. Of course, in the short term, given a spell of calmer weather, camping will be fine.
> If you did camp in Coire an t'Sneachda in winter, may I recommend that you take in 10 kilos of bacon, enough rolls and 200 tea bags, milk and sugar. You could easily make the cost of your fuel getting there by selling bacon rolls and cups of tea to climbers.
What a brilliant idea! I might pack in my job, take up residence for the season by the first aid box and make my fortune.
I take milk and 6 for energy tea. Brown sauce on bacon.
I don't think I am the first with this idea. I heard that Jean's Hut went because McDonalds were looking at turning it into a "walk through."
Other than to hand out bacon rolls there seems little point in camping in Sneachda. If you were going to the trouble of camping out in the Cairngorms you might as well go somewhere remote?
Thanks - I think then we'll make a late decision on this when the relevant MWIS is out. Hope the high pressure holds. It won't!
The justification is that as an initial foray into winter camping this is a pretty escapeable option
> I take milk and 6 for energy tea. Brown sauce on bacon.
> I don't think I am the first with this idea. I heard that Jean's Hut went because McDonalds were looking at turning it into a "walk through."
That's fine, you can have your Reggae Reggae sauce, but if you encroach on my "Joe's Espesso, An Aladdin's Cave of Coffee Sensation" stall I'll throw snowballs at you.
> The justification is that as an initial foray into winter camping this is a pretty escapeable option
Ah ok. Another option would be camping near one of the bothies.
I have done it twice on climbing trips. The first time was depressingly expensive as I ended up with 3 broken tent poles and a shredded flysheet on my Ultra Quasar courtesy of the Cairngorms weather. The second time was an even bigger disaster as we ended up floundering around in a blizzard in waist deep powder in Loch Avon for 2 days and got bugger all done.
These days I firmly believe good food, a decent night's sleep, dry clothes and a light pack easily outweighs 2-3 or even 4 hours of extra walking over a couple of days.
I went to-do something similar one year in janurary, ended up spending both nights at the rothiemurchus campsite and hitchhiking into the ski center.
I'm a huge advocate for wild camping but you must remember to respect the weather. I got caught out in a storm there once which took out 2 of our 3 tents leaving us having to shelter in an emergency bothy. The wind was strong enough to literally throw us about. We bumped into mountain rescue the following day who were looking for a missing climber that was caught in the same storm. This obviously was very sobering. Just make sure your well equipped (with skills as well as decent gear) and perhaps more importantly know several possible escape routes/emergency bivi spots just in case things turn sour. Don't let this put you off too much though, for me there's nothing better than waking up in the hills, especially in winter, it feels more like an adventure than just kipping in a b&b.
As for pegs. I've always used "V" or "T" shaped ones for winter as they can be buried as deadman style anchors in decent snow or as others have said, a rock or bag of snow will work too.
Hope this helps a bit.
I'm going to open a soup kitchen. "The Mess of Potage" should do as long as we stick to french oignon.
> Just make sure your well equipped (with skills as well as decent gear) and perhaps more importantly know several possible escape routes/emergency bivi spots just in case things turn sour. Don't let this put you off too much though, for me there's nothing better than waking up in the hills, especially in winter, it feels more like an adventure than just kipping in a b&b.
Most of my wild camps tend to be on summits, but the first thing I do is look for a couple of emergency bivvi spots. I can't sleep properly unless I know where I would be heading if things got too hairy (actually, who am I kidding, I never sleep properly on a mountain in winter!).
Never had to ditch the tent, but it's been close a few times. There's nothing like an 70mph wind on a summit in winter to remind you how insignificant you are!
But as you've mentioned, you just can't beat sleeping on the hills in winter. The wind dipped down to absolutely nothing from about 5am on Sunday morning when I was up Beinn a' Chrulaiste. Being able to get out in relative comfort and admire the highlands under the bright moonlight for miles and miles is something you just can't describe. Completely peaceful and wonderfully grand, it's a very humbling experience.
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