I was cursing: I had missed the bright weather of the morning. It was 1pm by the time we pitched up at Bonaly car park, (my fault.) Flotterstone had been really jammed with dog walkers and sledging families last couple of weekends, so Bonaly was deemed likely less busy. We were correct. But what route? Mary had planned a trip over Harbour and Black Hills going round the Drove Road to the S Ridge and along the high tops cutting back to the reservoir and back by way of Phantom's Cleugh.
Its difficult weather to dress for as out the wind things are fine for running in a couple of thin Hellys. Up the hills there was a cruel wind blowing and jackets and hats and gloves were essential, especially when conditions made progress slow.
ministry of silly walks
There was still plenty snow around, despite the thaw in town and sunshine of Saturday morning. The sun continued to shine for about 90minutes while we trudged up Harbour Hill walking in others' footsteps. I caught up with a runner on Bell's Hill but he was nobody we knew so I waited for Mary who was cheering up as the views were becoming better and better. A bit of a slip-and-slide down to the bottom of Black Hill then a long hike up through the deep snow clad heather. You could only just see where the paths were and sometimes it was easier marching on the heather as the snow was less deep. Around halfway up we were the only footprints and the snow had an icy crust on top that your foot went through. If you tried to race you caught your shins painfully on the icy crust. I think by this point we were doing 26minute miles.
After a long, frustrating and painful climb things improved and we were able to run again as the gradient eased off and the snow was less deep except where it had drifted. On the flat top it was like an alien landscape with sculpted drifts and hidden drops. It was quite cold but I shot some video and took loads of photos. Then as we reached the far side and descent, an amazing snowy panorama opened out in front of us, complete with atmospheric lighting. It was like a very well painted backdrop from Star Trek circa 1970s. We were both cold and a bit done-in from the climb but it made us both perk up and pay attention. You can spend a lot of time in the Pentlands without seeing anything this wonderful. I was beginning to feel missing the morning sunshine wasn't totally a bad thing.
We thought the South facing descent off Black Hill, warmed by the sun, would provide easier ground. In parts it did, but there was still quite a bit of shin ice and many's a zig zag to get down the hill and off. We were both getting tired and cold through, and desperately needed to get moving quickly again to warm up. It made me realise that disaster can lurk just around the corner from fun and games out on the Winter hills. I put on all my extra kit. We were both wearing shorts which was earning raised eyebrows and compliments from the overdressed hill walkers but apart from skinned shins the shorts weren't the problem. 10 minutes of running and we were safe from the cold.
But having felt the proximity of danger we opted for a less challenging route, heading down and round Threipmuir and past the Rangers Lodge, climbing up to Maidens Cleugh and then over Harbour Hill and back to the van. After such a moment of outstanding scenery the rest of the run was a bit of a plod. We were both glad to have changed to a shorter route as the sun stayed hidden behind a large grey bank of clouds for the rest of the day and we were both keen to be finished sliding about the uneven ground.
Something like 11miles in 3hrs – a ridiculous tariff by road standards but in the snowy hills, par for the course.