IT feels like summer has only just made an appearance but already the year is about to turn.
Midsummer’s Day is here, the longest day of the year, and from here on in the daylight hours are chipped away gradually to lead us back into autumn and winter.
The summer solstice was a time of celebration for the ancient Celts and it’s the one time of the year when the nocturnal walker will find plenty of company on the hills.
Royal Deeside’s finest mountain, Lochnagar, is one of the most popular night climbs. There’s a superb path all the way to the summit and on a good, clear night it’s little more than a stroll.
For those not too sure about going out on their own at night, there are mountain guides you can hire to lead the way. The summit area can seem busy at times and mass cook-outs are not unknown.
Despite being a regular night walker over the years, the experience of going up Lochnagar on the longest day has so far eluded me.
Perhaps the fact that it’s a reasonably local hill for me has been a factor - if I’m doing a night hill I tend to go much further afield.
We had always been talking about going up a mountain on the longest day, but as far back as I can remember the weather hadn’t played ball.
The forecast wasn’t much different this time, so we ruled out travelling from Glasgow to Lochnagar. But there was a chance of a short window of dry, clear conditions, so we decided to climb nearby Ben Lomond instead.
It was bang in the middle of the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea, and because of the time difference matches were being shown here early in the morning.
England were facing Brazil and we were due in to work around 8am. It seemed perfectly logical to go and climb a mountain the night before.
We left the car park at midnight. It was dry but the sky was overcast so head torches were needed for the early part of the walk through the forest. It was also very warm and the sweat was rolling down our faces as we made our way out of the tree cover.
By the time we were two-thirds of the way up, we could see the lights of Stirling twinkling in the distance. It was the last view we would get.
As we plodded onward through the grey towards the summit we were greeted by the rain you only seem to get in Scotland, that fine drizzle known as smirr. Our chances of getting a beautiful midsummer’s view were nil.
There was only time for a souvenir photo, myself standing on top of the trig point on one leg, arms out wide like the Brazilian footballing superstar Ronaldo in his Nike adverts. It seemed a fitting pose although I’m sure his photoshoot was done in more pleasurable conditions.
We had planned to be on the summit to see the sun rise. Instead we had darkness and rain. Had we set off two hours earlier, we would at least have gotten a view and probably stayed dry.
Just to add insult to injury, when we were getting stripped and dried off at the car park, the midges attacked in force. The Midsummer night’s dream was truly over.
(First published Daily Record, June 20,2013)