Published 27th January 2020, 11:16

    TWO weeks into the new year, and already there seems to be a better chance of a nuclear winter than a proper meteorological one.

    The higher mountains may be sporting white caps, but looking at the advance forecasts, there's little sign of a consistent snow event over the next few weeks. 

    It looks like 2020 can't be bothered, probably happier to sit at home playing Candy Crush. Instead, there are depressing signs that we are on a repeat cycle from last year.

    Windy, warm and wet during early January, a wee snow blast at the end of the month which didn't last more than a week, followed by a mini-heatwave in mid-February, then another teasing winter fall that didn't hang around. March stuck with the pattern.

    Some of the best snow walking came at the beginning of May, but anything falling at that time of year is never going to last. We can always hope something better is just around the corner, but I fear this will be another lost winter. There's not even the grudging consolation of settled conditions at height; high winds, driving rain and all-enveloping mists are not conducive to a pleasant day out.

    Living in our little weather bubble on the east coast, it's often difficult to ascertain just what the weather is doing in the wider Scottish arena. The sun may be shining through my window, but just 20 or so miles up the road it's a different story.

    In between bouts of visiting the plague houses of my family in the last few weeks, I have been trying to squeeze in walks within a short radius. No point driving hundreds of miles only to be faced with hours of misery when I can be just as miserable close to home.

    So I find myself wandering over lowly East Lomond and around the pretty village of Falkland with the hordes of Outlander fans, or discovering monuments and history trails I never knew existed just half an hour up the road.

    Even that isn't foolproof. I set off last Sunday for Loch Leven, excited at the thought that while the rest of the country was being pounded by wind and rain, I could manage a couple of small hills with beautiful water and wildlife views.

    I had only reached Perth when I realised I was out of Stephen King territory, bursting out from Under the Dome, the world transforming from clear skies into a greyed-out miasma. I like to think it was maturity rather than stomping away in a huff, but I hastily retreated to spend the rest of the day lying in front of the telly. It's become a pattern, just the weather, stuck on rinse and repeat.

    The hardest part for me is dealing with the guilt. Every time I see the sun shining, I feel I have to be outside. And if for any reason that isn't possible, it weighs heavily on my conscience for days.

    You could put it down to an inevitable fact of ageing, when you feel you have to make every second count. Except, I have felt this way for as long as I can remember. So it made me a hundred times better this week to discover I am not alone. Thank you, Andy Kirkpatrick. It's not good form to laugh at others' misfortunes, but in this case it's hard not to. Andy's tales of life on the world's big walls tread the line brilliantly between jaw-dropping and hilarious.

    His tunnel vision on any expedition is as extreme as the climb, so much so that the planning is often shambolic. There's a recurring theme of over and under preparation; misplaced gear (vital equipment left in a taxi, for instance), forgotten gear, necessitating desperate begging or borrowing, and dropped gear at the worst possible times; lack of food, too much food; getting the timing all wrong. The focus is so firmly on the gargantuan task ahead that everything else is lost in the haze.

    We can all relate. The hills are a treasure trove of lost gear; maps, gloves, hats, rucksack covers, water bottles, even an ice axe, and once, a pair of boots, so there's something reassuring in reading the exploits of the world's best and discovering they are no different from us mere mortals.

    But the one thing that stuck in my mind more than any other was when Andy referred to his guilt – the guilt of not being where he wants to be, of making sacrifices to his true path which he then spends too much time regretting.

    It's always easier to find excuses not to do something: niggling injuries, feeling a bit under the weather, lack of fitness, or the often false premise that there is likely something more important to be done (there usually isn't). Keeping moving is the key to good health. A few sniffles or a faint twinge should not be allowed to overcome your motivation. 

    For that reason, until there's some semblance of order in the higher regions, I shall continue to embrace the lower life as long as it means being out in the fresh air.