ARRIVED and in the fells it’s proper, have a look at my latest walk on Skiddaw!
For the umpteenth time this winter I have returned from a walk dripping and cold, having slithered around ‘the circuit’ as we call it on drenched lanes, sopping grass and of course the creeping menace of mud. Contrast to the picture perfect image of the soon to be removed Christmas cards and the hardy adventurers who leap from the pages of the latest walking book that found its way in to your stocking and it is difficult to reconcile the two contrasting images. The reality is of course the muddy walk by the beck…well at least it usually is.
It is easy to forget that last March (less than a year ago) we were in a drought, hose pipe bans cropping up around the country and farmers complaining that nothing was ever going to grow. Only a year prior to this we had the coldest winter for years with an easterly air flow and the snow lay for seemingly months. Conditions for winter walking were superb then and I have always said – walking in the snow in the hills is the best walking of all.
In the past I used to travel up to Scotland for a weekend of winter walking and it was exciting. En route to a few days in the Grey Corries I slept in the car at -22 degrees and was woken by a policeman concerned about my well fare (or possibly the dog, Bracken at the time). The following day was superb, crampons on we headed on to the ridge and piled along on a crisp and sunny day. The added danger of winter snow walking, particularly in somewhere as remote as most of the Highlands, adds a real sense of alertness and anticipation. It is rare days are as good as this but it happens and brings memories for years after. A similar day on Crinkle Crags also stands out
One thing always to be aware when walking in the snow is that any walk takes significantly longer than a) in non snow conditions and b) than you expect. Breaking through deep snow is exhausting and ceases to be fun after 5 minutes. Walking the Munros to the west of the Spittal of Glenshee was one such occasion when I though the 3 easy Munros would take me no time at all but it did with me floundering around thigh deep snow in the gathering gloom. As well as crampons, an ice axe and some type of bivvy equipment always take a head torch in winter, I certainly used it that day. Similarly staggering back from Ben Macdui towards my mates (who had taken the more sensible skiing option at Aviemore) was certainly exciting and great fun.
Another fabulous day was the climb up Jebel Toubkal in Morocco. 2 guides were available but one had gone down early with one of our party so we persevered with 1 looking after the other 6 of us. We were the first to climb the mountain after the heavy snow fall so breaking trail was needed – myself , an Aussie and the excellent guide took turns until we made it to the ridge then the cloud partly blew away and the scenery was staggering. Do have a look at the full story of the trip by clicking here.
However there is no need to travel as far away as Morocco or even the Highlands to get your winter fix of winter walking. Despite the awful weather at present there will be days when the snow arrives and the sky turns that icy blue colour that photographers dream of. Last winter I hit a perfect day in Langdale, walked up Mickleden and came back over the Pikes. The pint in Stickle Barn did not half taste good. Similar days over Malham and on the hills above Settle live long in the memory.
Be patient, that perfect weekend (or scive for a day!) will arrive and when it does be ready, book a B & B and enjoy one of the most memorable days you are ever likely to have on the hills.
Enjoy the walks
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