It was a fairly spontaneous idea. Sometimes the best plans are just that: not very well planned. A quick message to a friend and a skim through the MWIS forecasts were enough to plan things out.
Albeit the weather was telling us the first real snow of the season would be falling at low levels, in the back of my head was Alfred Wainwright telling me, ‘There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.”
Our clothing was on point, at least we had that much sense. Often climbing a mountain in winter contains one part sense, three parts daring.
Really, we weren’t all that daring; Schiehallion in the relatively wintry conditions forecasted wouldn’t be too bad.
The land might be turning white, but the pines stayed green – a timeless reminder of an enduring landscape. Entering the Sma’ Glen is an experience every traveller has to have – this is when you officially enter the hardy country to the north.
The sun rose as we entered Aberfeldy, stopping in the Co-Operative for the bakery. The cinnamon swirl was, if not that warm, a sweet taster of the day ahead. It was also an opportunity to get out the car and say, ‘Ah! It isn’t that cold”, before proceeding to dash from shop to car, half of which spent performing as an amateur ice-skater.
It’s longer than you remember, getting to Schiehallion from Aberfeldy. Although the local in the town is named after the mountain, she’s still fair beyond the town, her presence evidently permeating the air between them.
Perhaps Charles Mason stopped at the pub on his way to find a mountain suitable to measure the density of the Earth. For him, it was summer 1773; for us, it was November 2017.
Arriving in the car park at the foot of the hill, our first sign the seasons had changed was the block of ice that was the parking meter. The buttons required some defrosting, and even at that it wouldn’t accept the new £1 coin.
One man drew up just behind us, but we never saw him leave the car. We only noticed he’d gone when we saw the car empty, and sighted him strolling away through an unmarked glen into the abyss. According to Ordnance Survey, he was in NN 74792 54314.
I was tempted to think the little specks of white falling around me were emanating from the trees, but as we left their sanctuary it was plain the forecasted weather for 11am had arrived earlier than we.
The path was encased in ice. It was as if the mountain was giving us an easy way out of this one, trying to send us on our backsides back to the car, not wanting you to find the buried treasure it had to offer.
We stuck fast, walking into her wilderness, keeping to the soft heather and shallow clumps of snow ticking to it. In parts, the snow would consume your leg, one of us falling knee-deep into this star-like powder. It shimmered everywhere, flashing its teeth and flaunting its bejewelled surface to us.