THERE are a lot of fed-up walkers and climbers around at the moment. It’s no fun sitting in your living room watching the seemingly never-ending rain batter the windows while you are all dressed with nowhere to go.
But don’t panic, surely the good winter days are just around the corner? The snow has been piling up on the high tops, and when the big high pressure systems start pushing their way in we will all get our reward.
After the gloomy short days of December and the soaking wet conditions of January, the slightly longer days and colder, drier conditions bring us all to life again. February may have started stormy but often by the middle of the month it morphs into something much better.
A good example was 2008. Two solid weeks of settled conditions, cold and clear, wall to wall sunshine and views stretching forever.
I was in the North-west Highlands, heading first for Beinn Enaiglair, a peak sitting in the Beinn Dearg range just south of Ullapool. It was cold and icy but easy walking in sunshine and pure blue skies with minimal use of the map, the route ahead always in sight.
And the views at the summit, wow. The Beinn Deargs, the Fannaichs and An Teallach were all prominent but it seemed you could see half of Scotland.
A few days later and it was Beinn Loinne in Glen Shiel. I set off up the track along from the Cluanie Inn in darkness while an icy mist clung to the road. It was freezing and my jacket was covered with hoar frost, but by the time the day was starting to wake I was above the mist and heading into the sunshine.
All around was the perfect inversion, peaks in teasingly playful mood revealing only the delights of their higher slopes. Anyone on the ground in the freezing non-visibility would have been blissfully unaware that up above it was a different world.
Beinn Loinne isn’t the most exciting hill but it rose to the occasion. From the summit trig point, there was a sea of cloud covering the country with just the mountain tops standing against the blue sky. The sunlight reflecting back from the lower cloud sheet was blinding. I was not in a hurry to come down.
The walk into the Fisherfield peaks is long and strength-sapping in normal conditions and in winter it’s not something most walkers would take on. No, the mountains in here are more usually targeted during the long days of summer when darkness is a fleeting nuisance.
But the next week, with the high pressure holding, I decided to take the chance and head for Beinn Airigh Charr. I parked at Poolewe with the sun beating down and took the track towards Kernsary.
A shortcut over grassy terrain led to another track heading towards Loch Maree and then a path switching east and soon I was on the col between two subsidiary peaks, Spidean nan Clach and Meall Chnaimhean. A walk through a rocky bowl and then a short climb led to a breathtaking panorama.
To the north and west a lochan-strewn landscape sparkled in the sunlight in an array of colours while to the south Loch Maree and its many little islands provided the perfect platform for the blue hills which seem to stretch forever.
It may feel a long way off just now, but another Fab Feb would do just fine, thank you.
(First published Daily Record, February 6, 2014)