Standing on the summit of Shill Moor, totally captivated by the sensational panorama, I soon forgot the effort it had taken me to get there. As I stared at the unblemished, snow-swept landscape stretched out beneath an intensely blue sky, I was utterly spellbound.


An hour and a half earlier I had left Hartside Farm along a narrow, partially snow-ploughed track, passing the lonely farmstead of Alnhammoor on my way to the descriptively-named Snout End. In normal circumstances my route to the 528 metre high summit would then have followed a faint green, winding  path most of the way up the grass and bracken covered hillside. But this was no ordinary day and, as I started my climb across deep virgin snow, I quickly realised that some extremely hard work lay ahead of me.


Every upward step was totally unpredictable. The lightly frozen crust of the three day old snow was much too fragile to bear my weight and, as each bootstep sunk down into the snow, I could only guess at how far I would then have to haul it back out again. Sometimes knee-deep other times thigh-high. It was a game of chance.


Seeking out the best line, I zigzagged endlessly across the steep slopes, stopping regularly along the way to `admire the view`. I huffed and puffed upwards. Eventually, I reached the broad summit ridge and the three quarters-buried post and wire fence which pointed, arrow-straight, towards the highest point of the hill a short distance away. The tops of the fence posts peeped through the wind-blown snow like tiny periscopes.


I had seen them many times before but the snow-blasted rambling shelter cairn and triangulation pillar which adorn the top of this fine hill were barely recognisable. I was surrounded by an amazing army of camouflaged hills. To the west, Cushat Law looked like a giant polar bear, slumbering in the late morning sun whilst to the north, Comb Fell, Hedgehope Hill and the mighty Cheviot merged into one huge mass of white. The wild North Sea coast was just visible to the east. I stood on the summit and, with my hands still gloved against the cold January air, I tried as best I could to eat my lunch.


Re-energised after peanut butter sandwiches, a banana and a handful of dried apricots I decided on a less-than-direct return route. As I left the summit behind and waded through wave after wave of wind-drifted snow it rapidly occurred to me that the really serious work might just be starting. And so it was……………..but then again, that is a different story altogether.