No matter how many winters I spend in Scotland I still find that each year I need to get a feel for the new season. I don’t really mean the mountains – although there’s lot I’ve yet to explore I know the main areas well enough. I don’t mean the people – they are always as welcoming as ever. I don’t even mean the place – I can remember the most important twists and turns of the roads, the opening times of the library (for internet access!), the best time to get reduced price pies in Morrisons and the best place for a single malt!
I really mean that I need to let the new winter season get under my skin again. I need to walk in the winter air on a still night, see the Ptarmigan scuttle around on the snow, watch the sun setting from the top of a mountain, see the stars with no light pollution, throw stones in the loch after a chilly run, ride the Nevis Range gondola (and remind myself to calibrate my altimeter at the top station), see the snow blowing across the summit plateau of Cairngorm and feel the wind at my back as I hunker on a belay ledge and watch my partner climb towards me.
It takes a few days, a few climbs, and a few adventures - but I love the process. I also feel that each year a new layer is added. A layer of understanding. Of belonging. Of calm. Special places these Scottish mountains.