Wednesday, 21 March 2018
Drifting along on Pressendye
The easterly wind was roaring across the upper ridge of Pressendye, louring clouds alternating with shafts of sunlight in a stroboscopic effect.
A deer fence is a useful guide towards the summit in poor visibility. Today it was decorated with frost feathers and buried to half its height in wind-packed snow.
There was real exhilaration in being up here in such wild weather; the wind was absolutely freezing and driving along spicules of snow in whirling drifts. Underfoot there was no more of the deep powder of lower down the hill - here the ground was either packed snow or iron-hard ice, grey with a dull sheen and requiring crampons for safe movement. Full winter conditions and I wasn't yet above 2000ft!
At the corner of the deer fence a large drift had enveloped the 2 meter fence completely. Packed hard by the wind, it offered no obstacle to deer or anything else. Conditions like this are just one small example of why Paul Lister's plan to fence 50,000 acres of the highlands to create a "game reserve" in order to make money is so robustly opposed. Anything inside a fence would, eventually, simply walk over the top in a bad winter.
Where the snow had been scoured away the heather was encased in ice; each clump resembling a coral reef or a glass sculpture. This winter has, after a run of mild years, brought "proper" conditions and a reminder of the capability of the weather to create beauty from savagery.
The 619m/2031ft summit was touched with weak sunshine, the light all the more remarkable against a graphite grey sky - I was so glad that I'd pressed on through the heavy snow to reach the top. I was absolutely the only person on Pressendye on this day, and it was no worse for that.
To the west the broad ridge undulates across Broom Hill, Green Hill and (appropriately) Frosty Hill and White Hill. It would have been good to follow the ridge, but it would have made for a long day in these conditions.
Heading back to the angle of the fence, the view over Cromar was very wintry and it looked that there was more snow inbound.
A change in the light brought out the striations on the top of a frozen wave of snow - it looked delicate but was really unyielding
Descent to the top of the forest was quick, and in comparison to the climb, effortless. Crampons bit into the surface and provided all the traction required until the snow became a little deeper.
A very grand sky overhead, a snow covered landscape all around; it was a really fine afternoon to be out and about on the hill.
I took a different line down through the forest than the one I'd used on the climb - partly to make a bit of a circular route and partly because it just seemed better to walk through undisturbed snow. Across the Dee valley Mount Keen was prominent in sunlight; a useful headmark on the drop to the B9119 road a kilometer or so from the car, ending a great short walk. The contrast between conditions on this wee hill in late Spring and in "early Spring" just a couple of days short of the vernal equinox had been very marked!