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Things I have learned about walking this weekend

Written by Fiona January 03 2012

In the last three days I have enjoyed two great winter walks. On New Year’s Eve I headed to the summit of Meall nan Tarmachan with the G-Force and friend Top Blogger Ellen. The full outing is revealed on my linked blog Run Every Day in December (which I did, by the way!). Yesterday, despite the threat of heavy rain, sleet and wind the G-Force and I walked most of the way to the summit of Ben Vane, from Inveruglas, on Loch Lomondside.

The camera reveals the utter wetness of our Hogmanay walk!

The camera reveals the utter wetness of our Hogmanay walk!

We knew the weather would be harsh but we just felt the need to get outdoors and burn off some festive sluggishness. Both the G-Force and I have been hit by a horrible cold and cough virus and so we have spent a lot of time being idle indoors when we would have preferred to have been walking out of doors.

Walking Ben Vane from Inveruglas

We began the walk in relatively mild conditions, with just the odd 20 minutes of lashing rain and sleet. We even enjoyed a few breaks in the cloud and a couple of moments of almost-sunshine. The first section of the walk is on a tarmacked road before reaching a path at the base of the Munro. Once on the hillside, the going was very boggy and then very snowy.

As we climbed higher the snow became thicker and the wind became stronger. Both of us like plodding through a snowy landscape and it wouldn’t normally put us off a day-long outing but yesterday’s conditions became too full-on and difficult to justify a potentially unsafe summitting. We reached the two-thirds mark and by then we were walking in a white out and so after a coffee in a sheltered craggy spot and a quick discussion about time and risk, we decided to turn around and head back down the mountain.

Great fun in the snow!

Great fun in the snow!

Both of us agreed that the walk was worthwhile even if we didn’t bag that Munro (the G-Force had reached the top several times before while I am yet to add this to my growing Munro bagging list). We had enjoyed the scenery, chat, exercise and huge sense of freedom. And that’s when I started to think about some of the things I’d learned over my recent weekend of walking in Scotland’s great outdoors.

11 things I have learned about walking this weekend (in no particular order!)

  • It might be wet, windy and there might be very little in the way of views but a walk in the great outdoors can still be hugely rewarding if the company and chat are good.
  • Waterproof trousers bought for £25 in the sale are a good buy even if they are not made of Goretex. If, like me, you enjoy sliding down the snow on mountainsides you will quickly destroy the bum of your waterproof trousers and so spending £25 on pants that are waterproof but not breathable means you do not need to worry so much about wearing them out. (I plan to buy another pair of Berghaus waterproof pants in the Go Outdoors sale before they sell out.)

    He missed!

    He missed!

  • Walking in the snow is great fun. It might be hard work going uphill but it eliminates all that annoying tufty grass and bogginess of walking on terrain that is rough but not covered with snow. And the descents can be enhanced with a few sections of bum sliding (see above!). There is also the potential for mega snowball fights!
  • A mouse mat would be a very useful item for sitting on wet or snowy ground. Top Blogger Ellen told us about her step-mother who always carries a mouse mat in her rucksack when walking so that she has a dry patch on which to sit when eating lunch.
  • A simple lunch of oatcakes filled with delicious cheese leftover from Christmas can taste like the best festive meal you have ever had when out in the winter hills.
  • Stopping for a coffee and a mince pie (or similar) just when you’re feeling like the weather is becoming too awful and you can’t really be bothered can hugely boost your spirits and energy reserves.
  • A can of cola never tastes as good as an ice cold can drunk at the top of a Munro.
  • Tucking your glove cuffs into your jacket sleeves prevents the rain running off the sleeves and into the inside of the gloves. (But you need a partner to help you to achieve this and you can’t then take the gloves off to attend to things such as finding oatcakes in your bag).
  • Turning back even though you’re close to the top of a Munro can still produce a very rewarding day.

    Proper whiteout on ben Vane

    The stuff of challenges: A proper white out on Ben Vane

  • Sometimes there can be too many straps on a rucksack. The G-Force is hugely impressed with his new Osprey rucksack but he is wondering if there are too many straps and if the straps are too long!
  • Layering is the only way to walk in winter. Adding layers and removing layers as the weather conditions change is vital to comfort. Ensuring that these layers are breathable and sweat-wicking is also important.

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