It was cooler out of the sun on the slope down to the ridge. It was banked out with snow, deep enough for me to dig my heels in and make easy progress, easier than it is without the snow for sure, it’s a loose, rocky ramp here most of the time.
There’s no path here, there’s no single obvious point to leave the summit so there’s nothing ever been formed to channel the occasional wayward soul who goes down this way, it’s very a blank sheet to scrawl your own zigzag onto. In fact, in the 30 odd years I’ve been climbing Beinn Narnain I’ve never seen a single soul anywhere on the ground north of the summit unless they were with me already.
I have mixed emotions about that, the walk along Creag Tharsuinn is a delight, it’s an ever changing meander with views to all sides that grab they eye long enough to have your toes over the edge of crag if you’re not careful. It’s up and down, left and right with lochans and sudden drops that have you wondering where to go.
But everyone is climbing the hill I have the best view of, Beinn Ime. Are they happy just bagging that summit, would they be happier here looking at its dark precipitous crags? I’ve long left behind notion of a summit being the goal on a day out, I’ll take the view today thanks.
I have seen footprints over the years, the long scratches of crampons through the snow on the slope, but never the wearer. Good on you though, maybe we’ll meet one day.
As the slope eased onto the ridge there were indeed other fresh footprints today, small and clawed, canine. No human boots had come down that snow before me so it must be a local on its own. Where are you Foxy?
Beinn Ime gets bigger and darker. The sun is low and washes over the high edges casting deep and long shadows. It’s glorious light today, the colours burst out of the ground where the sunlight finds them, dead browns become filled with orange and yellow, the dark rock warms from its grey and even sparkles with silver here and there.
Ben Vane looms, well not large, but it’s always impressively rough and tumble looking from any angle so I suppose it looms up at you maybe. I have never camped on it. Hmm.
The lochans are still frozen this late in the day despite a few hours in the sun and the frost lingers on most of the ground along Creag Tharsuinn, its craggy nature keeping a lot of it in shadow through the day. It did mean that I caught more foxy footprints a few times in the bluey white icy splashes in the grass, the wee bugger had the same eye for a good line as me and we were obviously heading the same way.
Ben Lomond had a full head of steam, I think the safety valves had lifted under the added pressure of so many feet. I bet that looked wonderful standing on the summit. But where wasn’t going to be wonderful right now?
The sun was now very low and I was about to lose it behind the flat top of Beinn Narnain, the sky was clear but for some scattered wisps, the wind was growing colder but I was layered up for that and I was feeling warm, able and completely content, if just a wee bit hungry.
That’s a very important word in there and something that’s really came to me many times recently, especially since lockdown: Content; in a state of peaceful happiness.
In times past I was all about the adventure, maybe I was even ticking a list or two, but now it’s different. And, I think I enjoy it more.
We do a lot of local exploring, lower level paths all over, even wee touristy things now and all of it has deepened my affinity for and appreciation of well, everything beyond the roadside.
I remember reading about someone talking to Tom Weir about big adventures and expeditions and Tom’s reply which you can easily hear and see him cheekily deliver was “Aye, but have you climbed the Campsies?”
Now, I have painted this place as deserted, and so it is. But this here is an enigma, a path (?) that comes from nowhere and goes to where no one would dare to go, the deathslide slopes of A’Chrois into Coiregrogain.
Maybe it’s a join that’s unjoining, maybe an overlap that’s unlapping, maybe everyone uses this path to do something awesome and I’ve been going the wrong way all this time?
I’ll be back to check.
On the last crag before I shinned up A’Chrois I saw some movement ahead. I stopped and watched, a white twitch against the fading green and brown. There he was, wee foxy.
The white ears and face looked at me with emotions that can’t be deciphered with my low res equipment. A wee run, a quick stop and a look back. I stayed still and waved. Dammit said foxy (I swear I could hear it) and ran again before turning back to see if I was still being a pain in the arse. Yes, yes I was. Sorry foxy, I’m coming your way. The bushy tail bounced into the shadow as I clambered down the side of the crag to head up onto the grassy top of A’Chrois for lunch #3.
I was in no hurry to leave, the descent from here is a knee breaker whatever line I took and I just wandered around the top watching the light go and enjoying the change of colour and mood.
It’s a very peaceful time in the hills, very quiet and it focuses the feeling of solitude if you’re on your own. That’s okay though, how often are we really alone these days, not still connected to the world? I still remember the shock of being able to watch a movie on Netflix from a summit camp in Glen Affric a few years back. I never did that again, I still like my music at camp, but I carry it in with me.
Ah Beinn Narnain, what joy that jaggy outline brings to me. I watched the sun dim as the cold watered my eyes and nipped at my cheeks. The breeze had some weight to it and casually pulled the warmth from me as it passed. I pulled my hood up and cinched my drawcords in. I wasn’t ready to go quite yet, a rake in my pack lid pocket found snacks to help delay the decision to leave.
Another wander too, lets go and see what the view north is doing… Oh, beautiful.
The wind changed direction and Ben Lomond was venting straight towards me now. The scenery took on a dull warm glow and the sky a cold, pale emptiness to the north, waiting to be cloaked by the ribbons of cloud rolling slowly from the south.
I left before it was dark so I could route-find beyond my headtorch range, it really is a tricky one this, big crags and big drops all smothered in thick grass with steep slopes inbetween.
The views keep me smiling, Creag Tharsuinn looks darkly wicked and Narnain is a black, jagged wedge. The sky is soon drained of colour and then light and I cross the Allt Sugach by torch beam.
I think I saw a headtorch disappear into the trees on the old route down to the car park following the concrete blocks. Someone just off the straight route to Beinn Narnain no doubt. I subconsciously just followed them, it’s steep and rough but it’s straight down and quick.
My breath billowed in the torchlight and obscured my vision, I slipped in mud and caught myself on branches, I looked for the best way on the now almost unusably eroded path and sometimes missed it, but I saw dew soaked leaves glow like Christmas tree decorations as I illuminated them in my passing and heard birdsong from the trees as my shambolic passing didn’t disturb them from their agendas one wee bit.
I let out an audible laugh as I bounced from the trees onto the path by the gate from the roadside. Ha, that was fun.
I’d left early and I got home late, 12 hours on the hill and it had flashed by. I couldn’t really tell you where the time went, I was exploring, I had walked sideways as much as I’d walked forward and yes, there may have been a nap in the sun on a rock.
I felt great though, maybe surprisingly physically but especially and happily, mentally.
My take on this is don’t save your favourites, enjoy them, listen to that song again, wash and wear that t shirt again and absolutely climb that hill. Again.
Ten years apart.