It’s decided we’ll skip the zeroing the rifles part of the morning’s plans. That’s worth repeating ‘It’s decided we’ll skip the zeroing the rifles part of the morning’s plans.’ We pile into the estate’s Landrover defender130 and head up the glen. The glen is a picture perfect example of the savage beauty of the highlands, on the lee side of the hill the greens and browns of the heather, are tiger striped by the recent snowfall. We clamber out of the Landy and Big Tim loads up, the Ghillie looking on with a face as stern and unpitying as the hillside itself. He jerks his head up the glen, and puts a step on. We follow. At a more sedate pace. I catch up with him standing in the shelter of a slab of blackened rock. We stand on a slither of flat-ish ground and glass the hillsides with our binoculars, the wind sandblasts our faces, I’m already panting, the Ghillie is barely breathing, We glass the hillside some more . After a few minutes I’ve just about stopped hyperventilating. The view is picture-postcard Scotland, the strange cartoonish sound of the Grouse is heard as the wind blows towards us and is cut short as the wind turns. Far above us a Raven circles some unseen carrion. Or is making a mental post-it note of the last time we were seen alive. The Sun punches an almost perfect circle in the battleship grey cloud and a shaft of sunlight set to stun beams down briefly warming some far away piece of sodden earth. It’s literally gobsmacking.
Yours Truly: I like your office a lot more than mine
The Ghillie: Aye. Is that right?
Pleasantry’s dispensed with we put a step on. This is not woodland stalking. There will be no relaxing ambling along, dozing in highseats, or shooting from the comfort of a covered hide. The hillsides are somehow both steep and boggy simultaneously. Beneath the snow your feet will sink knee-deep into the clinging black mud. The Ghillie will seem to float effortlessly moving across the snow, as though he’s walking across nothing more taxing than a living room carpet. In the south where the nearest house is never more than a few hundred yards away we carry our rifles muzzle-down, north of the wall they carry muzzle-up to keep heather and snow out of the barrel. Within a hundred yards I’ve hung the rifle across my back to have both hands free for balancing and grabbing at the heather to avoid tumbling ass over tit. Again. The ghillie strolls on, hands in pockets, `I keep expecting him to light up a cigarette. I struggle on behind him panting, wheezing and sweating. By the time I’m stable enough to think of anything other than my immediate survival and look back Big Tim is disappearing into the distance behind us. Both Big Tim and myself have dressed for a big adventure on steep snow covered and traitorous terrain. Layer upon layer of fleece, high waking boots, NomadUK smocks, breeks and gaiters. Nomad is a strange little company, they make very simple fleece clothes that enjoy huge popularity amongst game keepers. Cheap they look, cheap they ain’t, there is nothing remotely stylish about them, but they are very very fit for purpose. We both wear Breeks aka plus fours, a kind of short trouser that finishes four inches below the knee. Only a fool mocks them, while they might look like capri-pants for boys they evolved on these very hillsides and are way more comfortable than ‘troosers’ once you’ve forded the first freezing burn. Gaiters make up the gap left by not having bottoms to your trouser legs. Sealing at the boot and just bellow your knee they prevent snow and much getting into your boots. With the terrible thought of waiting on the hillside for an evacuation I’ve dressed for the wait not the walk. Within about twenty minutes I’m soaked in sweat, and lightheaded with exertion. The Ghillie on the other hand is in wellie-boots and is dressed for a short walk in his back garden, which in a way, is just what he’s doing. A lot of the trip is spent gawping at the sheer frozen majesty of the place; if the walk up them doesn’t, the view down the glens will literally take your breath away. Big Tim ambles into view and stumbles up to us, once he gets his breath back. Big Tim: I like your office a lot more than mine The Ghillie: Aye. Is that right? Further conversation is rendered impossible by the wind; the Ghillie takes his hat off. I hook my Buff/tube scarf over the tops of my ears, which feel as though someone is hacking at them with tin-snips. I’ve almost stopped hyperventilating but am now smeared in mud and the stubble of my beard is speckled with drops of rapidly freezing rain. We are less than an hour into it. I'm reliably informed by Big Tim that I look as though a snowman has farted in my face.