This is one of a series of misadventures in Scotland's mountains - either close calls, accidents or mountain rescues - where the protagonists look back and identify mistakes, they made which could have avoided the trouble. These tales are generally anonymised and are not so that people can point fingers, but so that they can learn from others' mistakes and avoid having to make them for themselves.
The previous day had been a successful day walk from Backwater Reservoir up the lovely Glen Quharity, and over Cairn Gorse and Hill of Adenaich down to Prosen Village, where I'd stayed at Glenprosen Hostel.
The plan for the following day was to get up early, start my walk from Glen Prosen - climbing the Glack of Balquahader and cutting across Broom Hill, Tarmach Cairn and Mid Hill - to come down over Craig Lair to the Glen Isla road to get a lift home.
With temperatures at -4, my first wrong decision was to look at the head of the glen when I was walking up towards the Kilbo Bothy at the foot of the Kilbo Pass and think: “Oh, that's white…but I'll see when I get there.”
When I got there, I didn’t think it was so bad, and found myself trying to find the path in deep snow, rather than turning back. On reflection, I should have looked at the snow, assessed it as a no-go without the correct kit and walked back down the glen to contact my other half. But realising I didn’t have a signal, I decided to keep climbing.
I continued to climb up the Glack through heavy snow and eventually got to the top, a bit tired out but not too bad. I looked at the ridge ahead of me and realised I couldn't manage any more snow, so I decided to come down the back of Craigie Thieves and cut through the woods at Glen Finlet.
That was my second poor decision of the day. I should have just come back down to Kilbo Bothy. I usually avoid forests in the Angus Glens, as most of Storm Arwen's damage hasn’t been cleared and the forests were hit very hard. For whatever reason, I decided this time was different.
I fought my way through to what should have been the forest track but that was also blocked. I hit my head on a tree before fighting my way back out, deciding to climb back up and come down the Glack as the sign at Finlet Forest said it was only a mile. It seemed to be my only option to get out of the situation I’d put myself in.
Climbing back up through deep powder over deep heather was exhausting. By this point, I was losing the light and was dangerously tie. Embarrassed, I realised I would need to call for help. The Angus Glens are known for their lack of signal - I carry a beacon for that reason – but I was high enough to get a patchy signal and send a message through to my other half, who got my coordinates to the rescue team and made my way slowly down the hill, learning that you should follow deer tracks, they know where the shallow snow is.
I got to the Kilbo Bothy just as the Mountain Rescue Land Rover turned up. Thankfully not too cold, they were so kind, and I was fed and watered in no time. I was embarrassed but they were so kind. They said I'd done exactly the right thing calling when I did, that I'd assessed the situation I was in at that point correctly, before light faded and I was too exhausted to function. If I hadn't been able to get down, I had a head torch and whistle, and was carrying a bivvy bag, beacon, tent and stove, so I knew I'd be okay even if I couldn't get right down. Thankfully, I have spent a fair amount of time in the Glens and know rather too well that you need good gear, especially waterproofs, insulation and safety gear, so I was well prepared and didn’t end up too cold.
But I still learned some valuable lessons that day. No snow (unless it's a small shallow amount with the correct footwear and kit), to risk assess better and definitely no forests!
Thanks to Mountain Rescue (that’ll be a donation on the way to them!)