Last week the cloud cleared from the mountains of Glen Affric. There had been a few days of rain and the temperature had been dropping. From my vantage point high in the glen and looking through the autumnal coppers, russets and golds of the forest, I was presented with a view of mighty mountains draped with a shroud of virgin snow. With this first true glimpse of winter, my spine tingled as I drew a breath for I know what this season has for those willing to experience it.
For me a trip into the wild places and in particular the mountains isn’t just about being there but also about becoming there. The winter clothing that our Scottish hills wear, provides the lucky explorer with the experience of discovery. Each year the new covering of snow and ice presents a magical landscape waiting for the 1st human visitor of the season. It’s a place of excitement and exhilaration, of wilderness and beauty, of solitude and magnificence, of danger and enlightenment.
To bring others in to my world and share this space is a privilege. The high places are my preference and this is what first brought me to the Highlands. I live in a perfect location with majestic wild scenery but also within equal distance to many of the other amazing wild parts of the Highlands. Torridon, The Cairngorms, Kintail, The Fannichs, Glencoe, Lochaber – all amazing winter walking holiday destinations and all about the same distance away from me should plans have to change. Walking in the Scottish wild places always commands respect of natures’ moods which is magnified in the winter season. Planning at home before a trip plays a vital part in the outcome of any day in the mountains.
Leading up to a day in the mountains I will have been keeping a check on general and specific mountain weather as well as avalanche forecasts. All are available on-line and revised daily during the winter season. If the forecasts and predictions aren’t going my way then it is simple – go for a walk in a location that is safer. Nothing is more important than your safety versus bagging a mountain or route just because that is what you planned to do a week ago.
This is another fun aspect for the Winter Walker. Christmas is in winter and as such this is a chance to get the latest shiny lightweight spiky stuff or the newest GPS or the most up to date trend in under-middle-shell clothing in the most recent of fancy colour schemes. It is great to have all of this but more importantly it is crucial that you go to the hill correctly dressed, equipped and prepared. Whatever the forecast always carry an ice axe and crampons and know when and how to use them. As your kit list has grown for winter so must your rucksack to accommodate that new down jacket, flask and snow shovel. Don’t try to squeeze it all in to your summer rucksack unless you really do fancy the prospect of squashed sandwiches. Using dry bags will keep the spare clothing dry ready for when you really need it.
Having had an amazing day with your friends with everything having gone to the route plan that you’d have left with a trusted person or at the hotel, it’s time to swap stories, share a dram and post those piccies on to facebook in front of the pubs roaring fire. If you are looking to plan a guided winter walking holiday in Scotland then think about joining me on our trip to Knoydart.