The day started very grey and minus 2oC so I did the ball-achingly boring chores which are repetitively necessary in the house – cleaning the loo, clearing the detritus in the kitchen, hoovering the hall …… But not for long. Increasingly the sun popped out from between racing clouds so I popped out to do more work on preparing a corner of the garden for the grandchildren. A couple of hours of that in temperatures hovering around zero, sub zero with the chill factor of a biting-cold north-easterly wind, and then it started to snow.
I couldn’t stick it any longer. It was too enticing. I had to go up the mountain to play. A thousand feet higher and stronger winds on the ridge-top would mean it would be significantly colder. It was. The ground was frozen hard and, except for a small stream, so was the surface water. Unusual but by no means unheard of at the start of spring.
I wore my down-filled ‘Nuptse’ jacket, the sort which used to be called a ‘duvet’ until the term got hijacked by a labour-saving replacement for sheets and blankets on the bed. Today it was barely adequate for the task, the wind finding gaps at neck and waist and even penetrating the fabric. I bought my first duvet when I was doing research field-work in college and standing outside all day every day in similarly bitingly cold winter-winds. Made by Black’s of Greenock it cost me 10% of a terms grant and is so warm that I can only wear it in the most extreme conditions. I still have it, carefully preserving the now fragile outer-shell, and I found myself wishing I had given it an outing.
But no real problem. It was great being up there and I lingered on the top far more than I usually do, watching the snow clouds sweeping in from the northeast, blizzarding, and then racing off over the ridges to the west. It took less than half an hour for the snow to come and go and then the sky opened up again. As so often on this mountain, my ‘backyard’, I was reluctant to leave. I clenched my hands into fists inside my gloves to try to keep them warm for the hour walk home and arrived as it got dark. Fabulous.