Slackdhu - 496m
Monday 21st December 2009

Weather/Conditions: Lots of snow (rare on the Campsie Fells) with some low cloud and a little bit of sun
Distance/Ascent/Time: 4.9km / 450m / 2h 10m
Accompanying: Alone

Snow has come to Glasgow! I could have gone for higher, further away mountains than the Campsie Fells, but with snow so rare here, what would be cooler than spending time on the Campsies? During the spring and summer, I had worked out some steeper routes on Slackdhu's SE face and reckoned I could try some of them in the snow.

Eager to be on these hills in conditions that are all too rare, I set off from Blanefield and headed out onto Slackdhu's slopes. The cows and highland cattle, all 20 or 30 of them were my first problem. I never know what to make of these creatures, having had a couple of close encounters with them. I never know when or why they get aggressive, but it would help for me to learn. Once past them, I could focus on the task of finding a route up Slackdhu. The cloud was low and it could be hard to find the break in the cliffs in the bad visibility. The great thing though was being able to walk in full-on winter conditions from the outset.

Then the mists that had concealed Slackdhu thinned then lifted completely. On the higher slopes, the sun even peaked around the edge of the clouds. Only this pocket of hillside seemed to exist in sunlight while the rest of the hills were shrouded in mist. I seemed unusually lucky to have found such conditions.

On the steeper slopes near the summit, I'd brought out the axes and crampons and got into that motion of punching my way up the hillside, digging in with each axe or kicking in with crampons. It was great fun - there's nothing else like being on remarkably steep ground but feeling completely attached to the mountain. This route become remarkably steep, but I felt like I could have tripped and not gone cart wheeling down the hillside.

I arrived at the summit a happy person, although the summit felt like the least significant part of this walk. Then I realised if I really rushed down to Blanefield, I could catch the bus. The buses pass through at the disappointing rate of one an hour, so it's always good fun to run down the hillsides in the nick of time to arrive at the bus stop covered in mud, sweat (sometimes snow), feeling inordinately pleased with myself, probably being the dirtiest person on the bus. An afternoon on the Campsie Fells is always rewarding.

Since I needed to make a speedy descent to Strathblane, the logical option would be to follow my tracks down the way I came. I'd tried descending by that route a couple of weeks previously and couldn't make myself do it. It had just been too dangerous. But again, there was no snow then and I didn't have the luxury of axes and crampons to increase purchase on the slope.

But I managed the down climb. I climbed over the edge of the escarpment then began working my way down, move a foot, move axe, move foot, move axe, and so on. There's nothing else like it. It's a great feeling to move across three dimensions in space, securely able to work across rock bands and snow fields feeling completely confident and free to move in whichever way I please.

What's more is that I wouldn't have touched this face one year previously and now I was gallivanting up and down it, having a great time all the way. And this day had been such a success that I came back the next day and did it all again.

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 12.40pm Blanefield
(1.20) 2.00pm Slackdhu
(2.10) 2.50pm Blanefield

Written: 2009-12-26