Weather (TGOC 1)

When I started going to the hills in the late 1960s, May was a month where settled weather was the norm. I remember days spent in the University Library preparing for June exams and looking at the sunshine, hoping the weather would hold for our post-exam climbing trip. Now, May seems to be a more unsettled month than it used to although I guess it could be that I'm selectively remembering the sunshine.

I believe there have been Challenges where it has never rained and, conversely, Challenges when it seems never to have stopped raining. But I haven't experienced them and normally you can expect winter weather, summer weather and everything in between. As Billy Connelly, the comedian said, 'there is no such thing as bad weather - only the wrong clothes'. There is no doubt that sunshine lifts the spirits after rain. These are the Mamores from just north of Spean Bridge as the weather cleared after a day and a half of heavy rain. The beige landscape of winter was turning green with new growth everywhere - the vivid colours here haven't been enhanced in Lightroom.  On the Challenge, you hope for good weather but plan for rain. And, especially in the West, rain is what you are likely to get. After a couple of days of sunshine, I left Glen Pean bothy as the bad weather rolled in and it got gloomier and gloomier as I walked along the track to the head of Loch Arkaig. I have tried to emphasise this gloom with the black and white treatment of this image. The rain started as I reached the head of Loch Arkaig and, abandoning ideas of taking a high route along the hills, I put my head down for the 5 hour trudge along the loch road. It never stopped and was even too wet to stop for lunch. The weather in Scotland usually comes from the west and walking through Glen Roy on my first Challenge, it was a day of sunshine and heavy showers. I could see the rain showers coming before they arrived.  This image of the headwaters of the River Spey was taken on my iPhone and I caught the last brightness before the rain rolled in again.  I've had snow in two out of the three Challenges I've been on and I guess experienced Challengers would tell you that this is pretty normal. I lked this image because I think it conveys the absolute bleakness of the weather and the landscape near the summit of Mount Keen. I tried it in black and white but, although it's almost monochrome, I thought the tiny specks of colour from the lichen in the rocks added something. Most people that day headed over the shoulder of the hill but a few of us made for the summit. It was grim. At the summit, I was wisely advised to descend to the fleshpots of Tarfside for beer and bacon rolls but, unwisely, I decided to trudge east over the Angus hills. Walking for 4 hours in a wet snow blizzard will certainly be a Challenge experience I will remember but not one I wish to repeat. As they say, there is no fool like an old fool. 

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