SOMETIMES I forget that when it comes to big mountain days after the turning of the clocks, running on enthusiasm is simply not enough.
Three hours' attempted sleep, a 2am departure for a four-hour drive west to Glenfinnan, half an hour rest in the car and then off to do an eight-hour circuit of the Corryhully Horseshoe.
It was a beautiful morning, crisp and clear, sunshine already painting the waters of Loch Shiel gold and sparking a white-hot brilliance on the snow-capped peaks. The mind was certainly willing, the body not so much.
I had under-estimated the difference between doing this length of trip in the darkness of late autumn hours compared to the full light of summer.
I had under-estimated the difference in the weight of my clothing and my pack, which now included crampons, ice axe, extra layers and an emergency shelter, not to mention all the camera equipment to capture the crystal opportunities the sharp air would provide.
And I had completely forgotten the annual onset of my winter malaise. It strikes every year around this time, and every year it manages to take me by surprise.
It's the natural consequence of the previous ten months' full-on schedule, a reminder from my body that every so often you do need to sleep to be able to keep going. I tell myself that one reason it may have hit earlier this year is because it was conspicuous in its absence in 2018, the result of being committed to the full moon programme. Maybe having a must-do list is an antidote to tiredness.
Anyway, the Corryhully experience ended up bordering on the narcoleptic. Legs were heavy, shoulders and neck feeling the weight of my load. I could hardly hold my head up at times: I felt as though I could just sit down and have a nap.
After more than three hours' laboured ascent, I decided this was not going to be my day and turned back. It was the sensible option since I was less than halfway round but my initial disappointment was tempered by the realisation that a six-hour walk on the cusp of winter had produced some spectacular images. Since then, I have been in sloth mode.
There's hardly been a minute to draw breath since 2019 blew in, and once the momentum of the chase to all corners of the country in pursuit of a Full House finished on Ben Nevis, it's possible the motivation took a nosedive as well.
It's not a unique occurrence. It happens in all walks of life. The main event is past and the focus becomes lost. Football and rugby World Cup winners are suddenly transformed from invincibles to being unable to string two moves together. Novak Djokovic managed to win all four major tennis events and then spent the next six months being knocked out of tournaments by unseeded players.
I am starting to wonder if the Corryhully trip was my Djokovic moment. Now, I'm not comparing myself to a tennis Grand Slam winner (I reckon the quarter-finals is the best I could do), but there's no questioning the analogy.
I have fallen victim to mountain fatigue, just another fatigue to add to the current list. Brexit fatigue. Election fatigue. Elderly parent fatigue. Home improvement fatigue. You name it, and I've got a fatigue for it. Even looking at this is giving me fatigue fatigue.
There's even car fatigue. My mode of transport has been off the road for around a week, and I had to rely on my wife's car – a vehicle that Fred Flintstone would have snubbed – to get to Glen Coe last weekend.
I had been invited to talk at the annual dinner of the Glasgow section of the Junior Mountaineering Club of Scotland at the Kingshouse Hotel. Weather conditions were perfect, and normally this would have been an ideal opportunity to tag on a couple of mountain days. But all things considered, I was content to stay on lower ground for a change.
A friend even sent me a text asking me if I had seen the spectacular sunrise. I hadn't. I was still unconscious two hours after the event. For someone who has spent the last 25 years chasing sunrises, the irony wasn't lost. Again, I contented myself with some pictorial serenity on Rannoch Moor.
I have decided to chill for the next couple of months. No more more distant journeys, no more middle of the night wake-ups. I shall stick to closer hills, shorter days and lower level walks until I get the drive back.
I'm heading to the hills this weekend but the jury in my head is out. Their decision may be a long time coming back.