FOR BETTER OR WORSE, there’s no doubt that this Atlantic archipelago we call home is indelibly defined by its weather. Some Eskimo languages are said to have 50 words for snow, but ours is 50 shades of grey, full of expressions to describe the atmospheric conditions that define our volatile climate. Is the damp outside dreichness or drizzle, mist or mizzle? It is it raining stair rods, pissing it down, raining cats and dogs, or simply spitting? Is the morning haze a fog, a fret or a haar? Is the wind blustery, gusty, squally, stormy, or just plain ol’ blowing a hooley?
Having your perfect hiking, hillwalking or wild camping plans frustrated by foul weather is something that can happen at any time of year in this part of the world, but we get an annual reminder of the grim possibilities of our climate as the summer slides into the blustery mushiness of autumn and the hill tops turn into much less hospitable-feeling places. If we’re very lucky, the coming winter may be a glorious affair of Alpine-style blue skies and snow-covered mountains; but the chances are it will be that classic British thing – an unpredictable hotch-potch.
Let’s face it: if you want to enjoy our hills, you have to be prepared to cope with some iffy weather. But, even under grey skies, the hills and mountains can still provide joy, fun, challenge and beauty; bad weather doesn’t mean you have to have a bad time. So here are a few tips and tricks to weather our weather, make the most of whatever it throws at you – and maybe, just maybe, start to enjoy it.
FORGET THE PURSUIT OF PERFECTION In an era where everyone is chasing idealised Instagram-filtered imagery, it’s easy to forget that the sky is not always an unblemished tint of cobalt blue, or that not every sunrise is beautiful enough to be a background to a yoga advert. The pursuit of perfection can sometimes make us too quick to write off the sub-optimal; but we should appreciate the warts-and-all beauty of our climate as it really is, in all its mercurial glory.
The volatility of our weather makes for ever-changing light and conditions; we get cloud inversions, Brocken spectres, sun dogs, snow dumps, rainbows, towering cumulonimbus, sudden shafts of light breaking through the sky, morning mists steaming in the sun, wind-carved ice formations, and all the many fascinating things the weather does to the land and the life of the land, like sculpting fascinating rock formations, or stunting high-altitude trees into incredible bonsai-style shapes. Who needs boring blue skies?
DRESS FOR THE WEATHER
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.” This hoary old refrain has its limits – not even the fanciest waterproofs will keep truly horrible weather at bay forever – but it has a lot of truth to it.
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