Winter is fast approaching, the nights are fair drawing in and here in the highlands the trees are just beginning to turn. I’ve had to start using bike lights in the mornings and it won’t be long before lights are required in both directions. For at least four dark months. It’s a peculiar feeling when the darkness returns after a long summer of perpetual daylight (perpetual at least for those of us who retire early in the evening). Yet it’s all relative; a level of light intensity that feels like complete darkness in September will feel encouragingly bright come February.
I always have mixed feelings at this time of year, on the one hand lamenting the passage of summer, on the other hand feeling excitement at the prospect of winter with all its sporting opportunities. I feel a primeval pull, perhaps similar to that felt by animals as they prepare to migrate or feed themselves up in preparation for hibernation. I have washed and proofed my winter gear and started thinking about the adventures that lie in store: the bothies that must be visited this winter; the classic skitours that will be seized when the conditions allow; the invigorating mountaintop bivvies. And the finest prize of all – one that was conspicuously absent from last year’s activities – the winter climb.
Round about this time last year I predicted that the North Atlantic Oscillation would serve up the first of a long run of bumper winters. It didn’t disappoint last year – let’s hope it comes up with the goods again!