Ice, sun and sky - at last!

Ice, sun and sky – at last!

Of what does a memorable mountain day consist? Good weather, great snow conditions, camaraderie?

 

A great day on the hill is the sum of its parts; it gains its integrity through an amalgamation of many small and different aspects that contribute to the whole experience.

 

Here are a few special moments from my last two days on the hill:

 

It was just before dawn on my expedition in the Grey Corries. A crimson colour was seeping across the sky with the rising of the sun.  All was still, soothed by a gentle cloaking of thin mist. I paused on the climb onto the flanks of Stob Choire Claurigh. Glancing over my shoulder, a stag had been silently observing me. More startled than I, it bolted, retreating to a safer distance to watch my progress.

 

One of my highlights during a winter day on the hill is the first snowpatch of the day. These normally linger in small hollows, and little irregularities in the hillside, shielded from the brunt of the milder weather that frequently sweeps past. The first snowpatch is, to me, a significant milestone, although small physically – a microcosm, which represents the spirit of resilience and strength in the face of adversity (winter must necessarily be tenacious in a maritime climate as Scotland). A small reminder each day to walk with a spirit of perseverance.

 

The Grey Corries ridge

The Grey Corries ridge

A trembling roar suddenly roused me from the steady rhythm of my short, regular steps up the slope. Initially I was anxious, the strident bellowing incongruous with the calm and restful atmosphere. However, the realisation quickly dawned that it was the  straining of the Fort William-London intercity express, pulling away from the outpost station of Corrour, several miles distant. No where is too far from wilderness or adventure, even London, and the overnight sleeper train will deposit you within reach of the Grey Corries or Ben Alder should you so wish.

 

Higher on the hillside, the softer tones of heather and grass became gilted with ice, as I passed through the freezing level. The pristine twinkle and sparkle of ice crystals brought memories of Christmas flooding back. The freshness and purity of the scene was uplifting. Later on the lustre and brightness of the rime was dulled by low cloud, the tones becoming monochrome and subdued. After several hours in the freezing clag, I dropped below the cloud level, and the world again came to life. Heather and grass regained their vibrancy, lit up by the sunshine and contrasting with the clear blue of the sky.

 

On top of the ridge a narrow crest of frost hardened snow snaked away for several kilometres. Although I was alone the paw tracks of a mountain hare accompanied me, marking the way forward for a remarkably long distance. The scene was humorous, reminiscent of something from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland; I imagined myself following the March Hare, perhaps to a bizarre mid-winter mountaintop tea party with various nursery rhyme characters. Isolation is a fertile setting for the imagination to run riot.

 

So, looking forward. Winter is forecast to return with some bite. I will be in Glasgow for a first aid course for a couple of days, then a longer, five-day expedition to Ben Alder area with Sam. This should set the stage for some great outings in remote hill country.

Beautiful end to the day

Beautiful end to the day

 

 

Simon is the Morocco Director and an instructor with The Mountain People. He is currently preparing for his Winter Mountain Leader assessment, as chronicled by the ‘Highland Hobo’ series.

Categories: Blog, NGBs, Personal, Simon, Winter
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