I SEEM to have spent more time talking about the mountains recently than actually climbing any.
February has been an avalanche of book festivals and events, and coupled with the wild weather, has led to an almost three-week gap in my outdoors activity.
There has been the occasional decent day during that spell but typically it would appear at the same time I was already tied up.
Still, I suppose if you are going to be talking about the mountains, where better to do it than the Theatre in the Hills?
I was invited to present a Moonwalker talk on the first Saturday of the Winter Words festival in Pitlochry but, due to a late call-off by another writer, I ended up doing a second show on the Sunday morning which put the kibosh on my plans for a walk. So apologies if anyone heard my occasional internal whimpering - my eyes kept noticing Ben Vrackie through the window as I addressed the audience.
The next week I was off to the Fort William Mountain Festival. Once again I had planned to take advantage of the venue and fit in a couple of days on the hill but the weather was wild on the days either side of my talk so talk was all I managed.
The compensation was sharing a platform with John Allen, aka Cairngorm John, and the octogenarian adventurer Bob Shepton and listening to their stories. Bob’s closing video, with a bunch of mad climbers known as The Wild Bunch, brought the house down.
And last week it was the National Library in Edinburgh. My moment of mountain solace here was standing at the entrance of the castle watching the late sun washing over Arthur’s Seat.
But with the talking now over for a while, I was up early next morning and off to feed my habit. The weather hadn’t settled down and I had spent the last few days checking and rechecking the forecasts, looking for the best (or at least the best of the worst) mountain areas to tackle.
Gales were sweeping the country from the west, accompanied by rain and snow, but the further east you came, the less severe it was. It was a simple choice of the most easterly peak of Mount Keen or heading into Glen Doll, where I could decide on arrival which hill route was best.
I settled on Broad Cairn, an old favourite. It’s always a good bet on a dodgy day, a relatively straightforward route with a fine approach. But the bridge at Bachnagairn was like a portal into another world. The day - and the temperature - changed dramatically. The exposure to the driving wind and snow showers on the wind and ice-scoured mountainside only served to reinforce the savage beauty of such country at this time of year.
I was there to take a picture at the summit holding a banner highlighting the dangers of undiagnosed concussion in memory of teenager Benjamin Robinson. Keen rugby player Ben tragically died from a head knock after a schools match and the Concussion Challenge RnR (Recognize and Remove) campaign aims to raise awareness of the dangers.
Mission accomplished I headed to the pony hut where I hoped for some refuge from the elements for a quick snack, but that plan was foiled by snow piled almost to the roof which ruled out any shelter.
My route down involved sticking to open ground as the path kept vanishing into massive snowdrifts, some around 20 feet deep. By the time I reached the bridge the snow was falling heavily but it seemed reluctant to cross over with me. I had descended into the calm from the teeth of a ferocious wind - the result was a pleasant stroll back to the car.
For further information on Concussion Challenge RnR, follow this link https://www.facebook.com/pages/Concussion-Challenge-RnR/432275913577877