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Ben Challum – 5th February 2023

Two words from Walk Highlands description – ‘undistinguished trudge’ gave me a pretty good idea of what we had in store but I was not prepared for what happened after the trudge.

It was a frosty start to the morning and scraping ice from the car I looked up at the blue sky and hoped from the best views from the top of what should have been my 28th munro. My backpack was bulbous from my many emergency layers, doubling up on gloves and hats, a hot flask, enough food for a weekend and a couple of foil blankets that were years old that always came with me ‘just in case’ - it never occurred that snow spikes of any depth would be required.

We parked at the already busy lay-by, and set off on a small section of the West Highland Way, passing a picturesque farm, an ancient cemetery, ruins of a cottage and a newer graveyard sloped and walled like a scene from a movie. Crossing the railway track, the ‘trudge’ immediately began…

Walking up the gradual, sloping, boggy fields, the frost made the terrain firmer and underfoot received far better conditions than if the weather had been warmer. Clouds blew in and over, changing colours as they went and as we climbed, visibility reduced. The flow of smiling faces that descended deceived me into thinking that the conditions wouldn’t get much worse as we climbed.

As the paths iced over, we stayed parallel to the track finding the grassy clumps a much safer option. We reached level ground where winds were slightly stronger but we stayed on our feet and continued. I pulled my hat lower, jacket neck higher, my glasses steamed, my eyes watered and made trippy swirls like frost on a window. Blinking and wiping all leaky areas on my gloves, I was getting more and more wary, “what the hell am I doing?”.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the snow, I LOVE the snow but only from the safety of my living room window with a bucket of tea! Maybe a short venture to the local shop but that’s as adventurous as I like to get. Being up this high (998m) made me very vulnerable but as we were SO close to the summit, lets just push on.

Visibility was intermittent and as the clouds gathered then blew over, it revealed a couple of jolly spiked runners bounding towards us. They attempted to reassure us that it wasn’t too bad, ‘no spikes needed but be careful’ and then the final push was exposed - rocks on one side, snow to the other – “sod that” we decided, and turned on our un-spiked heels.

Overall, it wasn’t a hard walk, the climb is gradual and moderate and the bogginess in wetter weathers could be quite disabling but we all got back to base with dry feet and intact.

The Drovers for a stodgy feast by the fire, an inevitable picture with the taxidermy and to discuss the next adventure…

(Pictures in no particular order)

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