Friday 31 December 2021

Longest Day, Shortest Day

The weekend before Christmas 2021 a temperature inversion blanketed the Highlands. I was careful to avoid Instagram, so that I couldn't be jealous of people's amazing pictures when I wasn't there. But a friend had plan: he wanted to climb a Munro on 21 December, the shortest day of the year. It would complement the walk we did on 21 June, the longest day of the year. Then, we set off from work after 4pm and drove a couple hours north to Loch Earn, to climb Ben Vorlich in lovely evening light.

We had talked to a man at the top who planned to bivvy out. He would get an amazing sunset! It seemed that he would be alone after we left him, but on our way down we met two women with a dog, a couple with backpacking rucksacks, a garishly-trousered group planning to paraglide off the summit, and a puffing group of mountain bikers. He would not be alone after all!

That had been a great day out on the hills, the nearest accesible Munro to Edinburgh. But now, six months later, we set off again from Loch Earn for Ben Vorlich's neighbour, Stuc a'Chroin. It wasn't nearly as nice a day. Cloudbase around 200m and gloomy with it. We resigned ourselves to a difficult walk.

Ben Vorlich, 21 June 2021:

But as we climbed higher, something magical happened.

The temperature inversion had stuck around!

Up here was a completely different day to the dreich weather we'd been experiencing recenly, when it seemed the clouds would never end. They still hadn't: but today we were able to climb above them.

Ben Vorlich from Stuc a'Chroin, 21 December 2021:

The day before, my dad got out of hospital, having had a life-threatening scare. This may be the shortest day of the year, but it felt like a moment of renewal, of hope for the future.

Ben More and Stob Binnein from Stuc a'Chroin:

I'll be honest, it has been a tough year. In retrospect, midsummer 2021 seems like the last carefree moment for a long time. Perhaps now, after the shortest day of the year, things will start looking up?