Was it purely a matter of perception? We didn't think so - the complaints of heavy rain and strong headwinds were too consistent, including amongst seasoned Challengers.
Could it really be that we had exhausted our bad luck with the weather on the Wales trip? We did wonder if it was just a comparative thing; whether the weather just didn't seem that bad to us because we were comparing it to what we had for the two weeks we were in Wales.
But, except for the temperature comparison (Scotland felt warm compared to the weather we'd had in Wales), on more detailed thought we had to conclude that we had enjoyed far better weather than most people we talked to. How can that be when we were so close to each other?
I think much of it was to do with altitude and timing.
On Day 1 we did wear our rain pants (sorry, but I'm going to come over all American and call them rain pants in this post because it's a lot easier than repeatedly typing "waterproof overtrousers" on a small keyboard!), but only because it was raining when we left Shiel Bridge. By 500m we were being snowed on and thus were no longer getting wet. As for temperature (and bear in mind that I really feel the cold) even being up high for a good chunk of the day, I was wearing just a baselayer and my lightweight Paramo.
Most people had good weather on day 2, as did we, although there was a shower which had us reach for our rain pants. They didn't stay on long. Perhaps it was the effort of the climb, but until just before the summit of Mam Sodhail I was wearing just a baselayer and thin windshirt. I did then add my shell, until we got back down to the Glen.
Everyone had a wet Day 3, and our rainpants stayed on the whole time we were walking - but whereas those further south of us apparently had heavy rain all day, for us the morning rain was light. It definitely would have been miserable if we'd been walking in the afternoon (as well as the rain, the wind absolutely howled between about 2pm until 7pm, when it suddenly died completely), so I'm glad we weren't!
Day 4 was one of those faffy days when the showers are heavy enough to need rain pants and jacket, but the dry spells warm enough to need to take them off - but as there were only a couple of showers (plus one that we sat out in a conveniently located shelter in the forest), it could have been a whole lot more faffy!
Incredibly, on Days 5, 6 and 7 we only had our rain pants on twice - once for 20 minutes on the approach to the Red Shed and for the final 2 hours on Day 7. At all other times the showers were of the type of snow that doesn't get you wet (the pre-Red Shed shower was heavy, wet snow). Thanks to the lack of wind, I didn't need my fleece on even at the top of the Lairig Ghru.
Day 8 - it rained. The rain pants stayed on all day, which for us was under 2 hours. The weather deteriorated as the day went on, and we sat by the fire watching it do so!
Day 9 - didn't get rained on once!
And then the final four days were hot and dry without any hint of a threatening cloud.
So, it is neither poetic licence nor exaggeration to say that we didn't have bad weather on the Challenge this year, but equally easy to understand that others walking lower down were being rained on when we were dry in the snow, or that those walking in the afternoons when we were sitting around drinking tea got rain that we missed.
I'd happily take the same weather experience again next year!
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