The Brack (787m)

Saturday 17th February 2018

Distance: 5.5kms - Duration: 4hrs 15mins - Group Size: 11

Walk Leader - Ian

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One year ago this very weekend we bemoaned the lack of snow which had made The Brack such a memorable winters walk in previous years; today, well, dare I say it, there was just too much snow, so much in fact that we did not even reach the lochan which lies at the 650m height, never mind the 787m summit.

A heavy rain shower awaited us as we arrived at Ardgartan, consistent with the weather forecast which was for rain at low levels, turning to snow at higher levels; visibility was forecast as Poor to Very Poor. Nevertheless, Ian gathered his 10 followers and off we set, up through the forest on the main track towards the cut-off point where, on leaving the main track, a short, but steep scramble leads up through the trees on a narrow, rough, and much steeper path to the boundary fence at the 250m height. The rain had ceased as we started to climb through the trees, and by the time we emerged onto the open hillside we were pleasantly surprised to see that the dull, grey clouds of earlier had been replaced with a lighter covering of cloud and patches of blue sky.

The open hillside also marked the start of the snow line, an initial scattering of snow quickly merged into a full covering, and by the time we had crossed the stream and were climbing up the steep slopes towards the crags and rocky gully en-route to the lochan we soon found our pace slowing as the depth of snow increased with each step. In the main it was about half a metre deep, but at times it was nearer to a metre, our trekking poles occasionally disappearing up to our hand as we searched for solid ground on which we could progress. I have to say that Idris and Mike, who had been up front for most of the way were doing a sterling job in keeping us on track and forging a way through the deeper snow, making life a little easier for those of us that followed.

We eventually reached a point where we had to negotiate a short, but quite steep section and found our way barred by rocks and deep snow. A few exploratory steps and probes were made but there was still no guarantee that we would find it any easier once up this section, and there still remained the uncertainty of what lay ahead, as all indications were that the depth of snow was sure to increase as we approached the lochan, and beyond that we would still face the steep climb to the summit.

And, so, as in all such circumstance, we called a halt, perched ourselves on a snow bank and had a hot drink and snack while we appraised our situation. Considering that, since leaving the forest boundary an hour ago we had covered a ground distance of slightly less that 500m, and ascended a mere 225m , and, given that we were still less than half way between the forest boundary and the lochan, never mind the summit it was fairly obvious that time and conditions were against us completing our planned route. Therefore, Ian made the decision that we would just have to accept that on this occasion The Brack had won the day, and that the best, and sensible option was to retrace our hard won steps back through the snow and make our return to the forest track from this point as there was not much likelihood of us gaining much more ground by continuing upwards.

That is not to say we had an easy descent, the snow was still deep, the hillside still steep and awkward underfoot, but descend we did and regained the main forest track where we regrouped for the walk back to Ardgartan.

Yet another interesting and varied day on the hills - Thanks Ian, already looking forward to next year and maybe just a little less snow.

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