Sunday 23 February 2020

A Stormy Walk on Craigellachie

Weeks of stormy weather. Snow, thaw, rain, snow. And worst of all wind, howling shrieking wind that roars through the tree tops and crashes down mountainsides, deafening disorientating wind that upsets the balance of body and mind. Day after day after day. 

Searching the forecasts, trying to second guess the next blast, hoping to seize any brief lull for a day in the hills that isn’t too much of a struggle. A week ago I managed this for an afternoon. A week later I didn’t. There was a suggestion of less stormy conditions for a few hours, at least on the lower hills. Meall a’Bhuachaille, I thought. Always good for a half day and the walk in and out is in the forest.

Blue sky and touches of sunshine looked promising on the drive to Aviemore. At first. The snow came in fast and hard, within seconds I was crawling through a blizzard, following the just visible taillights of the vehicle in front. 

In Aviemore I sat in a cafĂ© watching the snow swirling. Meall a’Bhuachaille didn’t seem attractive now. Neither did a longer drive. A shorter walk from here appealed. Craigellachie, that steep, wooded, craggy hill that rises above the town. Most of the walking would be in beautiful birch woods, sheltered from the wind.

I set off in driving snow, the air thick with flakes. The woods across a little lochan were hazy and half-hidden by the blizzard. The muddy path wound through the trees, a dark line between the snowy trees. 

Above the woods the path was snow-covered. The wind was fierce and harsh, stinging my face. On the summit I gazed onto a bleak arctic landscape, a different world to the town that lay not far below. I didn’t linger.

On the descent the snow eased briefly. Some hazy sunshine gave a touch of warmth to a rugged knoll. Back down in the forest the trees were silent, mysterious, encompassing, welcoming. 

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