Well then, 2013 is up and running. It started for us, in grand fashion with a beautiful walk on New Years Day. We managed some very good walks last year but alas only managed a few with our friend Guy and all of those in the first half of the year. A mixture of work, family commitments and bad weather conspired to mess up any plans we had and so we’d decided to try and get out for a walk together some time over the Christmas period. It did seem quite hopeful for a short while but that terrible trio struck once again and before we knew it we’d run out of available days, leaving Guy with the only option of a walk on Monday 31st Dec and us, a walk on January 1st. Weather wise we were certainly the lucky ones, there being a brief break in the severe mountain weather, especially over in the east and so Nita and I decided to have a walk in the Ochill Hills to the east of Stirling.
Of course a walk on New Years Day does mean forgoing the usual festivities as a reasonably early start is called for. That meant getting up at 06.00 but this allowed us an easy drive on empty roads through Glasgow to Stirling and we were in sight of the hills by half past eight and they were looking fine in the early sun …especially with a coating of fresh snow. We were walking through the beautiful woodlands on the south side of the hills by about half past nine and so had a good six hours of daylight ahead of us. Our plan was to walk the same route we’d done on a couple of previous occasions, following tracks beneath the side of The Nebbit, then up onto Ben Ever and across to Ben Cleuch, the highest point in this range of hills. If time allowed we’d then wander over to Ben Buck and back down to join our outward route.
We really had picked the right day, the light and colours were amazing. Big dark clouds interspersed with patches of blue sky and bright sunshine coupled with the patchwork of snow, grass and shadow, made everything look superb. By the time we were well up Ben Ever there were several centimetres of snow underfoot and on the open flat and wind swept top of this hill, the snow had been blown into numerous little ridges like sand on a beach. Ben Ever is a cold spot. We’ve walked over it on several occasions and it’s always been freezing cold …it seems to catch whatever wind is around …and some that’ not, I’m sure! It’s definitely a place for plenty of hats and gloves especially as you just have to stop and take in the views.
Ben Cleuch looked beautiful in the sun and snow and for the most part it had a feint shroud of misty cloud on its very summit. This increased as we neared the top and it was a strange cold place when we arrived with weak sun shining through the mist. We followed the ice covered fence over to the lonely little top of Ben Buck and only then did we get below the mist and once again had the beautiful views. The snow was melting and the lower slopes of Ben Ever were now an intense yellow green in the low afternoon sun. We were back at the car by half past three and feeling very glad we’d made the effort to get up early and out ….it had been the perfect start to the New Year.
Our friend Guy had an equally good walk to end his year although conditions were pretty miserable for the most part. Forecast for the mountains on December 31st were not good…..gale force winds with frequent snow showers creating whiteout. Definitely not a day for the tops, so instead he chose a low-level route from Inveruglas on the shores of Loch Lomond following forestry tracks over to Arrochar and then the road to Tarbet to catch the bus home. It’s a very nice route following around underneath a couple of the big Arrochar hills and despite the wet weather he had a good time by all accounts. That said however, I was a little worried as the route involves crossing a quite large stream. This isn’t a problem under most conditions but with all the rain and snow over the last few weeks I imagined it might prove problematic. Well, Guy is not one to easily be beaten back by stream crossings and he did get across this one …but it wasn’t easy with fast flowing water up to his knees by all accounts. I have to admit that I’d have turned back at this point but then I’ve never been very good with ‘whooshing’ water! Guy sent me some photos so here is one …..I think he probably deserved a large malt whisky after crossing this! Oh well, it’s certainly a different way of seeing out the old year. Hopefully we’ll get to see him on the hills a little more often during 2013. Plans are afoot to join him in a couple of week’s time for a walk on Rannoch Moor ….so watch this space!