THE January cabin fever has subsided and normal service has been resumed.
My diatribe last week about the merits of being alone in the mountains certainly struck a chord with many hillgoers and feelings of guilt in others (you know who you are).
So let me repeat - I enjoy having company in the mountains and I look forward to much more of it in the year ahead. But I’m also looking forward to many days where I can have the hills to myself.
Being unable to get out as much as I had hoped over the last four weeks, due to a combination of wild weather, unpredictable roads and a winter bug, was the perfect brew for a volcanic reaction. Sometimes I’m just a great, big, grumpy old Hector.
Anyway, as so often happens when I need cheering up, I paid a visit to two old friends, Mayar and Driesh. These Munros in Glen Doll are my local heroes, guaranteed to lift the spirits.
A drive of less than an hour to a beautiful, icy landscape was just what the doctor ordered. Not that the drive up was without its moments. The road looked like it had recently come under heavy shell fire, and it took a fair bit of dodging and weaving to stay out of the potholes.
The remnants of the recent snowfalls were scraping the underside of the car at times but I made it to the parking area with my bottom intact. I knew it was going to be a good day when I went to pay and found the machines were out of order. There were a few cars around, a few walkers getting suited and booted.
I had gone in without a plan, no idea where I was heading. My last outing had been cut short due to feeling unwell halfway round so it seemed sensible to stick to what I knew. No big journeys, no big ambitions.
Eventually I decided on a yomp through the woods, heading for the Shank of Drumfollow. I could always turn back there if it wasn’t going well. As it turned out, by the time I hit the Shank I was also hitting my stride so Mayar became the first target.
The snow had been surprisingly plentiful down at the roadside and there were some really deep sections on the climb up through the trees, but there was a curious lack of whiteness on the plateau and the walking was easy.
Hard-packed snow on the way down from Mayar lent itself to some controlled bum slides and then it was a solid walk over to Driesh. White hares stood out against the snow-free slopes, and the lack of any wind gave a spring-like feel to the day. It was all in sharp contrast to the finger-numbing cold down at the car park.
On the way home I stopped to watch a huge stag which had been standing at the roadside leap the fence and take off across the hillside. I also stopped a few times to take pictures of the spectacular sunset skies.
It was good to get back to working at my own pace, the feeling of being in control of the whole day and not having to fret about anyone else‘s needs. Inner calm had been restored.
Selfish? Hell, yeah. But not so long ago I had mentioned to a few of my hill walking friends that I was going to forgo any celebration for the completion of my third round and go up alone.
I was immediately met with: “You can’t do that. We’re coming with you.”
So then I mentioned that my final Munro would probably be the In Pinn.
“Stuff that, you’re on your own,” was the reply. See, it works both ways.