Published 20th January 2019, 18:09

    THE first real blast of winter this year and I'm sitting at a sunlit summit gazing over a sea of white mountains stretching from Glen Etive to Glen Coe and beyond.

    Or maybe it was a walk round a high rolling circuit on crisp, frozen ridges in the Galloway hills, every step offering a history lesson.

    Actually, it was neither. Just like Bobby Ewing stepping out of the shower in Dallas (one for older readers, probably) this was a timeline gone badly awry. 

    I had envisaged both of these options as I laid out my gear and checked my maps last night. The huge ball of sun on the weather maps had definitely gotten inside my head. Never mind the summit wind chill forecast of minus 20, never mind the likelihood of ploughing through deep snow and never mind the warnings of ice on the roads: I was heading for the hills.

    Now you'd think I would have learned my lesson over all these years of winter walking. Short hours of daylight, combined with long journeys, are a recipe for trouble.

    Much as I lecture against it, tunnel vision has set in again. I am agonisingly close to a Full House finish, and, just like those in the fanatical last throes of their Munro rounds, I want every day out to count towards the finish. Instead of shopping local and just enjoying a day out in the likes of Glen Doll or the Cairngorms, I was aiming for more far-flung prizes.

    The mildness of the last few weeks has seen me ticking off big rounds in the Borders, and I had my eyes on the Corran of Portmark group above the old mine workings at Garryhorn, south of Dalmellington. That's a 300-mile round trip, three hours each way, and a seven-hour walk, touch and go to beat the darkness.

    The more I thought above another battle on roads congested with rush-hour traffic around Glasgow, however, the more my enthusiasm waned, so I started looking for a better option.

    The nearest remaining Graham on my list is Meall Garbh, near Dalmally on the road to Oban. This would involve a mere five-hour round trip, some 225 miles, and the roads would likely be quieter. The problem with this hill is that it is awkward to get to from any direction, and a tougher prospect than many a Munro.

    My proposed route would mean a climb to a high bealach, then a big drop to a col before another 1,000-ft climb to the summit. It's not any easier on the way out, either, the climbs having to be reversed.

    A minimum six hours would be needed, and if there was any build-up of snow under the passes then again I could easily struggle to complete the walk in daylight. It still seemed the better bet, so this was where I was headed.

    I was up at 5am, away before 6am. It was dark, it was cold, it was windy. And it was snowing. I tried to juggle the options again in my head. I had until Perth, about an hour, before I would have to choose which direction I was going.

    As the white flakes got larger on the windscreen, the voices on the radio were talking about blocked roads, accidents due to icy conditions, slow-moving traffic. The conditions were not to be taken lightly. 

    I began to question the wisdom of a long drive only to meet with possible failure. I was getting close to Perth – I had to decide soon. At times like this, it is always good when an independent arbiter appears to break the deadlock, and right on cue, it did.

    For some unfathomable reason, I suddenly thought about my boots. And then I remembered: I hadn't put them in the car, they were still drying out at home. The decision had been taken out of my hands and I retreated, somewhat sheepish but also relieved.

    When I posted about my epic fail, I was surprised to hear so many tales of similar feats; it seems every man, woman and their dogs have been there, done that.

    I had only managed this once before, but that was summer and I was able to get round the hills of Glenshee in a pair of old battered trainers. Mind you, they had be binned at the finish, as the combination of bog and water had pushed them into a state of disintegration that there was no coming back from.

    I'm going to stay calm and ignore the siren song of those unclimbed hills. The next time I pull on my boots, it will be for a walk in my local mountains.