Sun always shines on the mountains
“If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm”
We are half-way through this winter season and what a winter it's been so far!
In November 2017 I was sat outside The Old Dungeon Ghyll pub, chatting with the landlord. He suggested that 'good winters come every 7-years' and the last good winter was... Yes... You guessed it... 7-years ago!
He predicted a very good winter this year. And how right he was!
It's worth noting here that 'a good winter' is cold and snowy (not everyone's idea of 'good' but it's a mountaineer's dream!)
Preparing the mountains
Like readying yourself for a night out on the town, or preparing for that important presentation that you perfectly and seamlessly deliver, the mountains need to get ready...
We've all seen the stunning magazine photos of pristine snow and blue skies with a solo climber high on a ridge in perfect winter mountain conditions. What many people don't think about is the process that had to happen for those images and those landscapes to be so perfect!
We need it to snow, we need the storms, we sometimes need to experience that process of change to really appreciate those perfect weather days!
The mountains take time to dress in their perfect white suits and the wind needs time to move the snow and ice around to ensure that mountain is refined and dressed appropriately for those 'glory photos' to be taken and admired by everyone.
It sometimes snows...
These conditions are also prevalent when it snows. But add to that: Wind blasted snow and ice in your face... It can be brutal at times, but this needs to happen for those perfect days to be appreciated.
We experienced these conditions recently in The Cairngorms, when I led a small group of intrepid explorers high above the Lairig Ghru.
16km of zero visibility hiking with high winds and snow... All day... It was relentless, it was tiring, but it was so incredibly rewarding to safely experience mother nature's wild side.
But it's always sunny!
When the sun shines we feel warm, we feel happy, we feel energised.
When we hike in the mountains, regardless of the weather, there is a similar level of happiness. The exercise gives our endorphins that little boost to lighten our spirits. I have never ended a hike regretting that I took that hike.
Hiking in the mountains creates peace in your mind and gives you that sense of achievement that only the mountains can.
We climb mountains not only 'because they are there', but because they enable us to de-stress and escape, even only for a short while, from the increasing pressures of everyday life.
After that brutal hike in bitter conditions in The Cairngorms, our bodies may have been feeling tired, but that was outweighed by the sense of achievement and the knowledge that you have just experienced something that very few people have, or ever will - And something that you cannot experience anywhere else outside of the beautiful, raw, wild winter environment
Our closest star may not been seen all of the time in the mountains, but the benefits of hiking more than make up for its occasional (regular?) absence!
That said... It's always nice when the clouds do dissipate to give us a glimpse of our surroundings.
After a week of hiking through whiteouts, blizzards, high winds and sub-zero temperatures, the weather and the mountains worked together to give us the big reveal!
What had they been working on, so tirelessly, over the past week?
What is the result of the change process that we have been experiencing?
It was our final day together, as a small group, before more keen mountaineers joined us for a weekend in The Trossachs. We had relocated to Glen Coe and, seeing the weather forecast, got up a long time before the sun did to give us the best possible day in the mountains.
And what a day it was! Finally the group were rewarded with some of the most pristine, alpine-like landscapes that the UK has to offer.
The sun was out and spirits were high. Two munros were bagged and the cameras were rarely in pockets - such was this gloriously sunny view in all directions.
I've now relocated to The Lake District for a couple of weeks to lead hikes in this world-renowned, beautiful, picture-postcard environment of a National Park.
The past weekend had rain on one day (the less I speak of that 'winter day' the better - a blip in an otherwise perfect season) and beautiful vistas on the other...
Forecasters are suggesting that the winter will continue with bitterly cold air across the mountains.
Let's hope they're correct!
Long may this winter season continue - I really don't want it to end!
And to you, sir, of The Old Dungeon Ghyll - I owe you a pint for not falsely raising my hopes...