I’d packed for the cold. I had insulation in abundance and so I was more than a little dispirited when it started chucking down rain as I was gearing up. I pulled a hardshell out of the boot, yanked the hangtags off it and stuck it on. The postie had handed it to me 20 minutes before I left and I just threw the package straight into my ‘this is going with me’ box, there’s no better gear test than the real world I say. I shouldered a fully loaded pack, jammed some jaffa cakes into my pockets and splashed off up the road. The last time I was here it was clear starry skies and frost. Ach.

The warm welcoming living room lights of the last two houses quickly disappeared around the corner as I squelched along through the wood, with only a small disc of landscape visible directly in front of me. I passed through the gate to keep the cows in, then the one to keep the deer out and then a third, presumably for the monsters. I switched the torch off to see what ambient light there was. A very faint skyline to the north, in other directions there was a whole lot of bugger all. Proper dark. Moonrise wasn’t for another three hours and it would be on the wrong side of the mountain from me. I switched the torch into wide-beam mode and it showed me the snow on either side of the trail that was currently masquerading as a river.

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The waterfall had signposted it’s arrival by roaring at me for some time before I reached the ford. The noise was now amplified by the surrounding rocks and by the darkness, everything always seems a little bit wilder and scarier when you can hear more than you see. What is a straightforward approach by day becomes a daring adventure at night or at least that’s my justification for messing about in the dark.

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The rain stopped as I picked my way over the stepping stones and onto the snowy bank. Definitely getting colder. It started snowing as I plodded up the zig-zags and by the time I hit the traverse it was lobbing down big floaty flakes. The trail disappeared under a white blanket, my pace slowed by navigating. I started to watch for camp spots as I went, not a lot to choose from. I knew where I was planning to go would be suitable, but it’s always nice to have a fallback plan.

As I stumbled into the coire, the snow was being whipped into my face by a breeze and it was no time for fannying about. I stamped out a platform and got the tent up and the stove on. Everything is cheerier with a cuppa. As I waited for the water to boil, the snow hissed at me as it hit and then slid down the flysheet. It would be one of those nights where it could bank up quickly, so I’d have to check the snow coverage every couple of hours to avoid waking up in a snowhole with a nylon inner. I had the feeling it was going to be a long night.

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