Chapter 3


Our first winter in the hills…and it was a mild one.  There wasn’t a lot of snow to contend with that year.  The first winter walk – Ben Vrackie – had to be of our all time stand-out days, everything was there – great views (other than from the summit), great snowy scenery…and our one and only brocken spectre.  Before the end of 2006 we went back to Ben Ledi, tackled Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn), had a couple of outings up the Meikle Bin and a long cloud-soaked slog past Lochan nan Corp (Lochan of the Dead Bodies!) to the Corbett Benvane.

Early 2007 found us on little Ben ‘an, back into the Ochils on The Law and Ben Cleuch before settling back onto the Munros Ben Chonzie, Meall nan Tarmachan, Meall Corranaich and Meall a Choire Leith.  Before mid-March we’d conquered King Seat above Dollar and had a failed attempt at Stuchd an Lochain, our first hill outing with Cap’n Jack.

I wrote this next part when I first thought of editing the “Tails” sometime in 2010 or 2011.  I thought I might keep it in as it really captured our winter hillwalking mood.

Late last week I noticed the first snows of winter covering the mountains above Callander and tickling the top of Ben Cleuch, the high point of the Ochil Hills.  The snow line on Ben Vorlich, just south of Loch Earn, looked just above the 600m contour.  Admittedly I was some 30 miles away at the time so I might have been the odd metre or so out.

It did however bring back memories of good days out in the snow when FD and I would venture onto the high tops when the early winter weather was at its calmest.  I don’t think we ever could have been described as adventurous hillwalkers, we rather flattered to deceive on that point, but we did manage to make it sound as if we were risking life and limb as we slogged our way through…oh…sometimes a whole 2″ of snow!  But that was the fun of it; straying into the freezing white wilderness to test our metal against the freezing cold, those deep swathes of fine ice crystals, the cloudless blue skies and that blazing sunshine; us and generally about 20 other seekers of impossible solitude all intent on doing the same.  Let’s face it, it wasn’t exactly life on the edge.  But it was great fun and if I managed the camera shots properly then we at least looked like heroes.

I think those sunny winter days provided the most satisfying summits; that feeling of elation knowing that the slow slip/sliding of upward torture had ended and another peak had been erased from the mandatory to-do “list” .  Needless to say that feeling of elation lasted about as long as the summit photos and the much needed cuppa before it was rapidly forgotten in the decidedly faster slip/sliding of our somewhat anarchic descent.

While elation was the norm on those sunny days of blue skies and pristine white snow, on hard fought days through less favourable conditions other emotions took hold.