Published 23rd February 2018, 12:58

    I KNEW it wouldn't be easy but this full moon chase is proving to be even trickier - and more frustrating - than I expected.

    It's a lot to ask for decent weather on 13 specific dates in Scotland's mountains. Some would say impossible. But when you factor in aiming at one particular mountain on each of these nights, the odds diminish further to somewhere south of winning the lottery.

    Last night was a prime example. I had chosen Cairn Gorm as the mountain with the perfect characteristics for this moon. Blue Moon on the blue mountain.

    This Blue Moon is so called because it is the second full moon in fall in the same month. It was also a Supermoon, as its closer proximity to Earth makes it appear larger, and a Blood Moon, courtesy of a reddish tinge seen from certain parts of the globe.

    So there you have it - a Super Blue Blood Moon. Now had it fallen today, the first day of February, it would have been a Snow Moon, rather than a Blue Moon.

    There are other blue mountains, Carn Gorm in Glen Lyon and Bla Bheinn on Skye for instance, but Cairn Gorm was the one that had that extra factor. The correct name for the Cairngorms is the Monadh Ruadh, the red mountains, so that added the Blood aspect into the mix.

    Then there's magnificent Coire an t-Sneachda, the corrie of the snows, a tip of the hat to the absent Snow Moon should the walk slide over into February. I had it all figured out. Unfortunately, all these extra specifics only made the likelihood of success even more remote.

    The idea was to summit Cairn Gorm, then stroll around the corrie rims with the moonlight lighting up the cornices. The weather put paid to that; high-level winds of between 35-50mph, strengthening to a possible 65, and frequent snow showers bringing possible whiteout conditions.

    The Cairn Gorm plateau is no place to be in zero visibility with the wind battering you. I decided to approach through the corries with the option of going up top if conditions were better than forecast.

    It didn't look promising on the journey up the A9, and I was in constant contact with friends in Aviemore during the drive, getting regular road and weather updates. I wondered if I should cut my losses and head for somewhere more benign, a mountain with a simpler ascent and where there would be more chance of seeing the moon. Ben Vrackie came to mind, not much of a diversion.

    I also pondered the idea of heading to Glen Doll and somewhere like Broad Cairn. A full moon over Loch Muick could be spectacular. In the end, I stuck to my original plan. I reckoned as long as the ski road was clear I would give it a go.

    Cairn Gorm was covered in cloud and the bitter west wind was whipping spindrift viciously across the car park when I got there, but I would be taking the more sheltered way in to the Northern Corries then figure it out from there.

    Patches of blue sky gave me hope on the way to the mouth of the massive Coire an Lochain and then on the way round into Coire an t-Sneachda. I was beginning to feel optimistic that I could climb up on to the Fiacaill a' Choire Chais ridge and then to Cairn Gorm

    By the time I was standing among the boulders under the soaring faces at the head of this corrie, that mood shifted. Cloud was piling in and there was a thunderous moaning from the wind sweeping across the top of the cliffs.

    Then I turned and looked south. The skyline was a black, fast-moving mass. Suddenly, the snow started driving across the corrie, the darkness became more absolute and everything disappeared.

    Any attempt to go higher would have been foolhardy. There was no chance of seeing the moon, only the prospect of battling whiteout conditions in the teeth of that howling gale, so I retreated, sticking to my bearing over ground now unrecognisable from the walk in.

    I consoled myself with the thought that this project is not just about full moons, but rather about the challenges of the mountains and the weather. It also cemented the fact that I may have to be more flexible in some of my future choices instead of sticking rigidly to set targets.

    It didn't help that the moon made a few fleeting appearances during the drive home, one particularly prominent session near Ben Vrackie. I knew I should have gone there.