Brilliant low winter sunlight and a cutting northerly breeze wrung tears from the eyes on the summit of Bennachie; I'd wanted to linger and enjoy what would be my last hillwalk before a period of months away at work, but the wind put paid to a leisurely summit experience.....
I've climbed this hill many times but there's always something new and I'd not previously noticed this carving in the granite near the summit trig point. Somebody in the 19th century took a good deal of time and effort to carve out the relief and then the lettering in what I suppose should be considered grafitti, but admittedly stylish grafitti - some sets of initials and the date of the visit. Presumably the north wind wasn't quite so flaying when this was done!
My onward route over to the highest point of Bennachie, Oxen Craig, was an obvious white line where the snow lay on the path but had been blown from the surrounding heather. Away in the distance, another distinctive hill, Tap o' Noth, bore a broad wreath of snow.
From below the west side, the tor of the Mither Tap looks a formidable obstacle but there are routes for the walker even here.
From farther away the view changes to the distinctive shape of the landmark visible from so much of Aberdeenshire
On the broad slab forming the summit of Oxen Craig another grafitti artist had been at work. It's possible that the "T" stands for Tillyfourie, an estate lying on the banks of the River Don below the hill.
I managed to get some shelter from the biting wind at the foot of the highly featured granite outcrop at Oxen Craig, with a good view back over to Millstone Hill, my first hill of the day. Already the sun was getting low in the sky with pronounced rays forming super patterns.
The descent back to the valley was a leisurely stroll, then a walk along snowy forest tracks marked by the traces of Nordic ski - an early first run for folk grabbing the brief early winter conditions. I arrived back at the car as the the light was fading to a clear and starry evening. The last hill before a period away at work is always a bittersweet experience, but it had been a cracking day out.