A re-write of an earlier post that was spoiled when my fumbling fingers dumped some photos by mistake.
I had just about given up waiting for that Indian Summer the media forecaster’s promised us. Now the ‘dog days’ of autumn were here I had started to look forward to the cold but crisp winter mornings.
I didn’t have long to wait. In the first week of November there was such a start to the day. I wakened to sunlight streaming in through my bedroom window holding the promise of the first snow of the year. By the time I had breakfast and chucked a few sandwiches together with my flasks and other essentials for a day on the hills into the rucksack time was getting on. Not the best preparation with a fifty mile drive ahead of me before starting to climb the highest hill in south-west Scotland but just about what to expect from a spur of the moment need to touch the first snows of winter.
I took time out for a photo on the way to my parking spot by Bruce’s Stone —
It was after eleven o’clock before I had togged up and stepped out on the well marked trail for the hill. It’s a few miles walk into the Merrick from the car park and a diet of easy coastal trails had ensured that I wasn’t fit for anything remotely serious. The beauty of the initial route over a rough stone trail winding between the woods and river was reward enough and I kidded myself I wasn’t too bothered if I didn’t reach the top.
After emerging from the trees a fairly level half mile led me to an old stone bothy. It looked to be in good repair – just minus it’s window’s and doors. Sited in a sheltered south facing sun-trap a corner of the building can be seen behind my left shoulder.
The relatively easy start had been the lull before the storm and the path became steeper up through the pine wood behind the bothy. Soon I was above the tree-line and finding the steep gradient hard going but the promise of getting amongst the first snows of the winter was enough to drive me on.
I reached the snow at about two thousand feet and by two o’clock in the afternoon and I was having my very welcome late lunch by the cairn on top of Benyellany at 719 metres – about 2400ft in old money —
Taking a look full circle just before the weather closed in I spotted the Isle of Arran – Ailsa Craig – Northern Ireland and I’m sure the Isle of Man and the Lakeland hills were there to the south. Wonderfull!
With the cloud cover coming ever lower and the promise of more snow on the way the prospect of early darkness let discretion take the win over valour and I reluctantly retraced my footsteps back down the hill. The summit of the Merrick hadn’t been too far away. At only four hundred feet higher and even though lost in cloud it wasn’t a daunting prospect but when my knees turned to jelly with fatigue on the descent I knew I had taken the right option.
It’s just as well I had taken advantage of the sunshine earlier for this photo on the way in —
Snow on the Merrick