Getting here before was a real pavlova, now its just 2.5hrs up the road. That means a lie in and still there for a stroll in the woods.
For the good ladies birthday, a treat was requested in the form of a spa hotel and skiing,
and the Hilton Coylumbridge was forthcoming with a 3 nights for 2 offer, good food, pool, sauna and massage facilities. It was surprisingly fine, even for someone who'd rather be outdoors freezing his apex off than inside in an air conditioned nightmare, and great value. Excuses made, then.
So, skiing. Sometimes I think this blog is a literal catalogue of errors and nothing else. Charlie don't surf, and south London oiks certainly don't ski. I've always had a bit of an issue with skiing, and definitely with its alpine form - that was for the rich kids at school, a well groomed and heeled party to which I was not invited. If the pose in the funicular on the way up Cairn Gorm was self conscious, what must Chamonix be like? Despite that, the morning tuition was more fun than I've ever had with that many clothes on, and the afternoon brought to mind the phrase 'old dog, new tricks'. Hurtling down the Ciste fairway out of control at ?muchtoofast? m.p.h. didn't help, and neither did coming off the T bar and being dragged along on my face with my fair lady trapped and tangled and our ski's crossed. I ended up with a bruised kidney and she with a twisted ankle. Both of us are still black and blue in several other less serious places. Yea bro', like, todally rad. Otherwise, T is a complete natural at this new game and I am a terrified and wobbly geriatric simpleton. I did get it together - briefly, a few times, honest. Next time we will not use the slightly rubbish ski school at the hotel but will be getting telemark instruction from these guys, as recommended by the super friendly and skillful Mountain Spirit. One really shouldn't be older than one's teacher, especially when they seem to care more about their own 360's than their student's safety. Kids huh.
The next day saw us out for a 7 mile bimble, starting at Loch Insh and following the river Feshie upstream for a while, then around to gain Farleiter hill, which is a grand position to admire the sprawl of the birch and pine forest below. Its a nice place to take family, quite accessible and a very different side to the national park than we'd seen before. We loitered for a while noting the rapid changes of light bringing the different layers of trees into and out of relief, sitting on the Feshie bankside at lunch drinking ginger tea. It took us two hours longer than Turnball's book suggests, as we loosened up the previous days wounds. The last hour of light as we met the Badenoch Way was really perfect, pinks and golds and finally an icy turquoise. I really enjoy days like these, not everything has to be mammoth.
Out early for the final day, we attempted, and failed to attain, Bynack More. The wind even at 800ms was absolutely furious and biting cold, and the mountain ahead swept upward in a quite intimidating manner. But then, you should be just a little scared, I think, in the mid winter on an Arctic plateau. It was breathtaking to get up high in that cold clear weather but T's still swollen ankle just wasn't strong enough for the final push, if it was to be done safely. Long limping walk out chewing thoughts for a while until the light in the Ryvoan pass softened things and we discussed a hesitation over the decision to turn back, which cost a little time (but much more valuable warmth). The necessity of committing to a decision and the courage to own it, even when it involves irritation and disappointment. Much better to know our match and come back prepared to meet it next time around. Good judgment, decisiveness and the appropriate level of psych to begin with - these are questions for hillwalkers too, especially in winter. How to expect success, be ready for failure and hold both lightly in the palm of one's hand. That's what we talked about.