Filling our own adventure pot; a day alone on the hills.

Sometimes, no matter how great adventures are as a family, we need to get out and do our own thing. On that note I have set myself the target of walking 10% of the Munros (mountains over 914m) this year – that’s 28 in total. I hope that we might be able to do about a third of these as a family, but the remainder I will most likely do on my own.

On the 29th December 2015 I had one such mountain day, walking four hills to the North East of the Glenshee Ski Centre. These were Carn an Tuirc, Tomount, Tom Buidhe and Cairn of Claise. It was not the most stunning weather forecast – something like 20% chance of cloud free summits, and wind around 40 mph, raising to 60 mph as the day went on, but none the less it was fantastic to get out and walk full tilt across wild empty space for a day. It was only a day before there was significant flooding in the river Dee valley, which has washed away sections of road, and flooded a number of villages and towns along its course.

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On the summit of Tolmount

These particular hills are some of the most accessible hills in Scotland, but despite this I only saw three other people all day – one ahead of me for the first hour of uphill, and then a pair passing me in the opposite direction through the mist near the end. For the vast majority of the time I was on my own, with the knowledge that no one was around, even anywhere near where I was. In fact I am pretty certain that I was the only person tackling two of the hills that day.

There is a Ptarmigan (small grouse like bird) in its winter coat on there somewhere
There is a Ptarmigan (small grouse like bird) in its winter coat on there somewhere

The peaks themselves were not the memorable bit of this walk, rather the features that stick in my mind were the wind driven ice crystals stinging my face, the occasional glimpses of features, like which vague ridge I was following, and the conditions underfoot in this pathless place. It was truly wet – everywhere was waterlogged except for quite significant wet snow patches.

These snow patches gave the full ‘snow crust roulette’ experience; you could never predict if you were going to stay at the surface of the snow, sink in about a foot, or end up waist deep, trying to crawl back on top. On one particular snow patch, just a short time after my first summit I lost. Both feet fell through the snow at once, and without ceremony I landed in a foot-deep river of icy melt water that the snow had been concealing. Oddly, moments like this, when icy water surges into your boots and you could choose to turn back after only one top but decide to continue your day, are what really stick in my mind.

Heading down after completing the four tops I had aimed at
Heading down after completing the four tops I had aimed at

Sometimes getting out and doing our own thing is exactly what we need – the risk levels (both actual and the risk levels you might tolerate), as well as the distance you can cover, and the conditions you can tolerate are very different on our own than as a family, which just makes the kind of days out you can do on your own and as a family different. I love adventuring as a family, seeing our son push what he can do, experiencing new things and places together and experiencing it all as a family, but sometimes, just occasionally, it’s important to get out by yourself.

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