The Mountain's Silhouette

Hiking and backpacking in the mountains of Scotland

An Arctic Day on Peter Hill

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Date: 13th January 2013
Distance: 15.39km
Ascent: 632m
Time: 5 hrs
Hills: Peter Hill
Weather: High winds, snow, incredible windchill.
Route: Click to view on Social Hiking

Breathing deeply into my pile and pertex collar tightly wrapped around my mouth and nose I trudged up the track, following a single pair of footprints up the snowy hillside. The sky was a deep, unblemished grey, like that in a black and white photograph. I paused a minute and looked back. There was no-one.

Descent from Peter Hill

Spindrift was being torn off the hillside and flung angrily across the path behind me. Footprints were being quickly covered. Still no-one. I half turned but then, shadowy figures, first one, then two, then a line of folk, emerged from the tumult. It was like a scene out of a polar expedition. Their clothing streaked with white, hoods pulled tight down to shield the eyes. We were at 300m asl on the side of a gentle hill in Aberdeenshire, just a few miles from Banchory.

After two long hours of toil we reached the 617m high summit of Peter Hill. A trig point coated in rime ice and a forlorn trailer hitched to nothing but the sky. In the teeth of the gale we tried to formulate a plan. People were hungry and, once stopped, found themselves cooling down rapidly. We sought shelter on the leeside of the slope where food and hot drinks were consumed with stiff fingers.

A summit meeting. A decision, to head back down. Discretion the better part of valour. The next part of our planned route would be nearly 5 miles of trackless peat bog and undistinguished summits to get us to Mount Battock. It would have taken hours and with January daylight already at a premium it was sensible not to even try.

Descent from Peter Hill

Following the worn groove of our upward march we made a rapid descent, glad of the wind which was now at our backs. Without stinging spindrift forcing our gaze down we could look out over the stormy hills of lower Deeside, dark rolling shapes with white caps. Within an hour we were back at the roadside where we had started. Now, with the coach a few miles away we had to start our tarmac walk. Some brave souls dragged their feet all the way round to Banchory, some 8 miles from the bottom of Peter Hill whilst others stopped at the (closed) Feughside Inn to wait for the coach.

It was a cold, long afternoon but eventually we were whisked away to a more welcoming establishment and were defrosting over a pint or two in Banchory. It wasn’t the day we had planned but was nevertheless an interesting (and at times invigorating) experience. Just another facet of this long winter and one that will hopefully at least pay for one good day of shimmering, crystalline snow under polarised blue skies.

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