Let it Snow / by Joe McCarthy

As the colder months start to set in most suburbanites are falling into the hibernation routine; wishing bitterly for warmer days than winter. Not me. I'm pouring over various maps of the Scotland wilderness, tea in hand. With winter comes snow, and that is what I'm looking for! I want to immersify myself in winter, to understand the change in landscape, to feel the bitter cold, to see the bizarre sculptures that form when wind and water combine. With these desires in mind in early 2017 me and my fellow wild-place enthusiast Matt will be taking the long drive north to Aviemore: the door to the Northern Cairngorms. From there we plan on taking a multi-day snowshoeing trip, using the local bothy infrastructure to explore the huge U-shaped valleys of the Lairig Ghru and Glen Derry, with a detour planned to the summit of Ben Macdui.

So why snowshoeing? Two and a half years ago we both embarked on a road trip of Vancouver Island, and the Canadian Rockies. In between long days of driving we would undertake some short day walks to satisfy our newly-found lust for pure, untouched scenery. For one particular day walk we drove up to the Mount Washington Alpine Resort on the recommendation of an extremely enthusiastic New Yorker turned Vancouver Islander. The resort was deserted. The season was over, yet the snow remained. From the car park we wandered towards the fringe of a nearby pine forest, soon experiencing the struggles of walking through powder snow. After milling around for a couple of hundred metres it was obvious we were going nowhere and so we resorted to diving and swimming around in the snow.

Matt enjoying a bit of snow wading.

Matt enjoying a bit of snow wading.

A deserted Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Suits us!

A deserted Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Suits us!

The sure sign of an inexperienced traveller. The snowshoes are somewhere in that pile...

The sure sign of an inexperienced traveller. The snowshoes are somewhere in that pile...

As we stood back at the car contemplating our miraculously short walk we saw them for the first time. A mother and son levitated past us, effortlessly disappearing into the snow dusted pines that we had just spent near on an hour trying to reach. In a snow shoe induced panic we left Mount Washington and gunned it along Highway 19 to Nanaimo, catching the night ferry back to Vancouver. And so back in Vancouver we began our sporadic search, the snow season was finished and this made our search all the more difficult. After picking up a pair in Valhalla Sports (and Matt a used pair in a climbing shop) we began our journey towards the Rockies. We would make good use of our new purchases there! We didn't. The Rockies are no place for 2 inexperienced city boys with little knowledge in map reading, wild camping, and survival skills to go galavanting off in snowshoes. 

This was the nature of our trip. Our minds, dominated by a lifetime of tarmac, concrete, and farmed field were constantly being blown by the raw nature of Canada and the ways in which it could be explored. In the two and a half years since we have constantly been pushing our comfort zones in the search and exploration of mountain, moor and forest. You learn through experience. And so now seems to be a good time to blow the dust from my snowshoes and finally put them to proper use!

Merry Christmas and happy planning for future adventures in 2017! What have you got up your sleeve for the year ahead?