A not untypical Scottish winter hillwalking experience.
"Discretion is the better part of valour".
So said Gail when as we turned around after less than four miles and headed back the way we came, rather than pressing on to the summit of Pressendye and completing the ten mile circular walk as originally intended.
We had started in the wee village of Tarland, temperature minus 2ºC, but the sun was shining and I felt only a gentle breeze in my furs.
We passed through farmland, slithering along an icy road, with recent flood water frozen over then covered with a dusting of snow.
Ascending the first hill, the powdery snow deepened, but Gail and I were still going strong, and enjoying the lovely views of Morven and surrounds.
After losing the path up a steep bit, suddenly we found ourselves on a broad ridge.
How is that, so often when walking in the Scottish hills, a gentle breeze can transform in an instant into an Arctic blast?
Gail wrapped her scarf around her face, Taliban style, but my blue coat was flapping in the wind, exposing my snowy rump.
As we climbed above about 500 metres, Gail seemed to be struggling, her boots sinking through the thin crust of ice and into snow, by now several inches deep. She consulted the map and to my great disappointment announced that we had better not continue onwards.
Gosh, humans can use up a lot of words in self justification, can't they? I mean, all she needed to say was, "sorry Bertie, I'm a wimp" but instead variously cited: slow progress through the snow; a steep and slippery descent; no torches and it getting dark by 4pm; us being up here all alone with no other hikers in sight, her feeling a bit of cramp in the hamstring as an after effect of a long cold bicycle ride the day before and not being as young as she used to be; dark clouds gathering on the hills in the distance; no water for me to drink on the frozen hilltop; wind chill factor of several degrees below…
So anyway, I got the point and, to be honest, by the time we were back in Tarland, I was more than happy to curl up in the car and be driven home with the heater on high.