Linda had threatened me with one for a while, “You’ll love it” and “You’ll suit it” being the most common bait to lure me in. But as much as I have grown to fully love and embrace my culture and heritage, I was kind of ambivalent about wearing a kilt, it was very much in the I’ll get to it one day file.
Linda is tenacious though and also loves a bargain, so here we are, standing in front of the mirror in a black Sabbath t shirt, Converse and a kilt with a nice amount of purple through it.
I’ve never been one to do anything half hearted. I’ll beat the simplest or most minor distraction to death with enthusiasm and this one was easy: it’s going to be nice, I’m wearing this to the hills.
You go honey she said.
That was all the encouragement I needed, in fact that was an endorsement if ever I heard one.
The first task was a kilt pin, need to add a little weight and stability which I was sure would be needed if I ended up in any weather and mother found my Granny’s silver celtic cross after a good bit of rummaging. Strong pin and clasp, good weight to it and it looks magic, a wee bit of family history to help me on the way.
What to wear with it was something that needed a play around with. The longest socks I have are all very old, either Karrimor’s or Terra Firma’s, both from the 90’s but serviceable. I went with the cream Karrimor’s with some Coolmax liners to pack out the worn spots inside. The Terra Firma’s are far better socks but they’re also bright red and I looked like either a childrens’ TV presenter from the 80’s or a stripper, there was absolutely no Tom Weir sartorial flavour coming off them at all. Dammit.
Underwear was next, 3/4’s, shorts or full length longjons were the choices. The going like a “true Scotsman” and being bare arsed under the kilt is both historically inaccurate and would likely see me in hospital given the temperatures. Long legged shorts like I wear most of the time were fine but left a gap of bare skin to the top of the socks, 3/4 filled the gap at my knees well enough but full length gave me a double layer with my socks which seemed like a good idea and that’s what i went with.
I went with an old pair of well shaped Smartwool’s with a fly (so double thickness crotch) that could be folded up above my knees and didn’t fall down again while I was moving.
Everything else was regular kit, easy peasy.
Driving to Rowardennan was a a lovely new experience too, summer driving in a kilt will be a joy. But although the sky was a beautiful, the loch was very dark and choppy and the trees were swaying. I was chilled as I walked to the ticket machine in the carpark. I had my old Kimmlite Kamleika pants packed but it did have a definite Is this really a good idea... moment. It’s me though and any of my successes in life are fueled by bravado and optimism backed by an average amount of ability. So off I went.
Into the the toilet block. My first pee in the mountains in a kilt was in rather unsavoury surrounds at just above seas level, but the technique was straightforward and is yet another joy of kilt wearing.
Straight out and onto the trail I went, warming as I walked on this so very familiar path to the broad shoulders of Ben Lomond. It was quiet on the this wintry Tuesday but as it was late when I left I did start meeting folks coming downhill as I climbed and these interactions are making me chuckle still, a week or so later.
Hi I threw out with a grin “Oh, er…” came the reply as she looked up and saw me and hurried on.
The two football fans (club scarves, no rucksacks) grimaced as they passed me, gazes fixed ahead like I was a beggar and they had spare change.
“A real Scotsman!” smiled the older lady, Thank you misses, safe down.
“I’m from Australia, can I take your picture, they’ll never believe me”. As the snow beat into from the side I did my best Monarch of the Glen pose.
The wind did indeed get up, the blue above was gone and the temperature dropped sharply. I had my shell on and the hood was up, big gloves were on too. The snow began to coat my left side, socks, bare knees, kilt and Gore Tex. Never felt a thing.
Two young fellas were a little ahead of me, one banging his mate’s arm “Look at this idiot coming towards us” as they both subtly readied their phones to get a photie of the coming evenings’ mountain rescue subject as I passed them.
Oh, it wasn’t looking great up there, we turned back said the concerned and very well equipped mountaineer heading downwards. “Aye? Ach, we’ll see how it goes”.
I’ve been turned off Ben Lomond so many times by the conditions, I know this hill very well and I know it’s not really the tourists easy Munro unless it’s a fine, calm day. I was ready for it, equipment wise and mentally, the physical is still catching up again.
So I was thankful for that fact that advice was offered, I would later give out the same sort of thing to a fella just below the summit track in jeans, directing him to a nice view spot and how to get back quick before it got dark. Instructions he followed to the letter.
It’s always worth the risk to help.
The sky cleared in patches although the air was moving no less swiftly past me and I did roll down my longjons which warmed me up instantly. Ventilation, temperature control, it’s so easy, so instant and so much better than zipped thigh vents. I did not expect this, this was all for fun, mischief and photies, something to send to Linda while she was stuck in the office and I was discovering something that had functional elements that were better than the cutting edge of current outdoor design.
I dug in a little for a break. There was maybe forty five minutes of light left and I just wasn’t feeling it for the summit. I could feel the cold creep in when I sat, I was still comfy enough, but the summit was dark under a wreath of icy wind blown cloud and I knew it wouldn’t be as pleasant as I’d want it to be on my first visit in a wee while.
I wandered over to the little crags and out onto the ridge above Coire a Bhathaich. North it was angry looking and the light was fading. I was content and I was going home.
After finding evidence of the path repair team I wrote about a while back my crampons crunched and squeaked me below the snowline where I sat with a cuppa until it got dark enough to need to walk with the headtorch.
A jaunty wander down with a head full of new stuff rattling around it. An empty car park and a slow drive out to Drymen on a very icy road.
It had been business as usual in many ways, me and a favourite local hill in winter. But, the new element made it also something very different.
I will really have to try this again. You can never make your mind up properly the first time about anything.