A tundresque plateau sprawls into and beyond the flites that flee the motionlessness of our crusted prints. Punctuating the snow, the frequent commas of winter light scour the sweeping fell, scurry in packs, illuminate figures then flee the pursuing darkness, the spindrift, the human presence.
Location: Cairngorm Plateau, between Tom Buidhe and Cairn of Claise.
The mountain shears a veil from the early sun, cuts a dark valley to place before it, the 4x4 tracks lighting, fleetingly, a glassy way to morning. Where light strikes contrast, it hews texture, a hillside of relief for the eyes to touch.
Location: Path west from Loch Lyon towards Bridge of Orchy.
Crib Goch to Crib-y-Ddysgl, scalpel-sharp through the skyline, nicked and chinked, badly sharpened through petric time. The Pyg Track reflects on Snowdon’s flank the jags, the twists of erosion, scored each year by the cutting boots of half a million summiteers.
Location: South of Bwlch Glas, beneath Snowdon summit.
A snow flite scuttles southwards, trailing chill across Nethermost, St Sunday... Graupel and hail sidle closer, cornices cling to winter’s final days, the upper coombs a hostile, springward refuge. Crystals whisper the felltop from the seasonal precipice; squalls sing through the drystone shelters. Across the whalebacks lopes a solitary hillwalker, in tune with the forms and structures.
Location: Helvellyn summit
Morning enlivens the veins that flood glen rivers and streams, the tracks that traffic stalkers and climbers, hikers and hunters, these mountain arterials glinting, screaming their presence, their living. For a spell, the fellside exposes its flaws, its gleaming, unexpected forms luring us down and calling out to return. We cross the burn.
Location: Descending south from Beinn Mhanach.
In the gully bides a lulling still. It slackens the knot in the leader’s chest, loosens the threads and tunes them for ascent: chords of creaking névé and feathering rime, lost arrows singing. There’s a longing for that spindrift rasp on exposed skin, a good northerly scouring. Eddying in the creases of runnels and ribs, gusts hurl from the plateau a slow swirling of crystalline winter. The authentic elemental embrace, a distillation of joy in the torment waiting.
Location: Central Left Hand Gully, Coire an t-Sneachda, Cairngorms.