Posted on 07/12/2010 by


Edinburgh at the moment reminds of the feeling I got when I first read the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Out the back of the flat I can see trees and earth blanketed by snow. Out the front, the sun is setting on Edinburgh Castle (surely full of hot chocolate and turkish delight.)

But, as with that most vivid of children’s stories, what starts as a fun adventure can easily become dangerous and threatening. Last week I managed to make it up Arthur’s Seat and Blackford hill, before setting off to the Pentlands on Thursday – (before, I should point out, the council issued its avalanche warning.)

I was well prepared for the hike, with walking poles, thermals, waterproofs, food, warm drinks, and even a tent and sleeping bag in case I got stuck somewhere. Even so, it was amazing how such a familiar route (I must have walked from Fairmilehead to Bonaly dozens of times before) could become totally wild and alien.

The snow was up to my hips in many places, and the wind and ice had carved strange shapes on the wire fences.

It was the last two hours that was the hardest of the trek, and which gave me a real feel of how disorientating even familiar mountains can be if the weather conditions change.

The snow had reduced visibility to to perhaps forty feet, and although I knew which direction to head back to the city, the pathless route was through such deep snow that it took longer to descend the hills than it had taken to climb them.

After an exhausting couple of hours, I found a path through the snow, well trodden by cattle. The difference was enormous – one minute I was walking through treacle, the next I was pounding down the hillside, in site of the city bypass.

Eventually, after six hours, I reach Colinton. Even though the suburbs are only a few miles from where I live, it was amazing to see how much deeper and more dramatic the snow was up there. People were tramping through the snow to get home, clearly having given up on trying to dig out their cars, which looked like giant snowy mushrooms.

Personally I love both the challenge and the beauty of being in a landscape like this. But, as someone who is always very careful about respecting the mountains, it was a good warning as to just how much harder even relatively small hills can be in really deep snow.

Posted in: Environment