December now and the sun hits the horizon at just after 3 in the afternoon. We have had quite bit of snow and the temperature has hovered around freezing for two weeks now. Time to man up and face the winter.
I headed out to the pass of the fair haired lads late in the day as the sun and the temperature sunk low. The trail up to the pass was just covered by snow and was not disturbed by any trace of a boot or a tyre. Occasional fox prints was the closest I got to company. Once at the pass I dropped down the zig-zags on the other side toward the loch. From somewhere out on the water far below I could hear the commentary from the Jacobite cruise boat drifting up in the gloaming. When I reached the forest track I turned and jogged back up with some short recovery stops. Hill reps is the official title but it does not feel much like training when you are out on a path clinging to the side of the great glen high above the loch. The evening was bone cold but beautiful.
It took me a good 30 minutes to prepare man and bike for a night out on the snowy trails above the town, I stuck to familiar trails as a concession to my wife's concern at the wisdom of heading out alone in sub-zero temperatures on icy roads. The canal path was a ribbon of silver under my bike light with light snow concealing slick black ice but as long as I made no sudden course changes the wheels adhered well enough to keep me upright. Once in the wood the bike light was thrown around by the powdery snow to create a bright black and white movie of a trail. I stopped at the bench overlooking the town and took it all in for a while. The strange thing was how warm I felt despite the epic frost settling all around. Every other Invernessian had thought better of it and stayed in to watch River City. I hit some traffic on the rip roaring descent narrowly avoiding a head-on with a deer caught in the headlights and then having to duck to accommodate a quick strafe from a tawny owl. I got back to the house after an hour scarcely able to stop from giggling out loud. Night biking must soon be either taxed or banned - you just cannot have this much fun for free.
Three of us headed out straight from work to get in a few miles of training for the Monster under the full moon. We headed up the good land rover track from Lynebeg quickly discarding the torches in the bright moonlight. Up on the hill top there was a covering of a couple of inches of crunchy snow giving perfect conditions for night walking. All around snow covered hills glowed in the moonlight as white clouds floating over the jet black valleys.
It was just too good a night to go home so we trailed out along another track southwards guessing correctly that it would turn back to the road at some point. The detour meant a cold fording of a wee stream and a two mile march up the side of the A9 but it was a small price to pay for such a grand night stolen from the early winter.
The exploration of gorgeous Glen Feshie provided another great day out. This one featured 4 sports in one day with cross country and downhill biking, a bit of winter hill walking and the option of a bit of orienteering all provided.
I biked in from the end of the public road along the perfect tarmac of the estate road to Feshie lodge where the track deteriorates as it passes out into the beautiful meadow at the where the glen turns east. From there a decent track ran up the hill to a small pass leading eventually west to the Gaick forest. After a toughish climb of about 300 metres I discarded the bike and headed off along the track towards Leathad an Tobhain - a Corbett sitting out in the wilds between the old counties of Inverness and Perth. As reached the intervening hill I was getting a bit concerned about the depth of snow which was now ankle deep. The decision to wear trainers was looking marginal for frost bite. I rationalised that I would be fine as long as I kept my feet dry and then promptly fell into a patch of unfrozen bog up to my knees. Still a bags a bag and I was too close now to turn back. The summit was frigid with a vicious wind seeking out those wet toes so I lingered only long enough to eat my piece and note that the GPS read an interesting 3005 feet. Not a Munro though. Back to the bike for a descent of only 30 minutes to the car. Phew.
While I saw no wildlife at all I did get passed by two argocats and one landrover on the hill track - an outrageous amount of traffic - they might need to consider dualling it. All three stopped to chat continuing the impression of Feshie as one of the better estates. They are by most accounts trying hard.