When I blinked through the wind blown snow into the coire to finally pull the Wheelie across the flat, even if that flat was soft snow, I’ve rarely felt so misplaced in Scotland.
Loch Etchachan sits over 3000ft, but the peaks all around rise a 1000ft more, the high dark cliffs plunged from the seething cloud deep into the dark and frozen waters. I felt quite alone, not something I often feel when I’m in the Highlands, however high or dark it is.
An obvious camp site lay over to the southwest, there, the fresh fall was starting to lie on the bare grass beyond the remaining snow cover, but it was melting into the neck of too-wet grass where the loch is cut in two, my original planned spot. I pitched quick, I was tired and hungry. By the time I was ready to cook, my hands were freezing and throbbing. Damned doughnuts clogging up my pipework.
Stove on, I padded over to the water in unlaced shoes to pick up more water and I met the couple who would spend the night with me. They both wore their summer kit, which I reckon was a bit premature, but their voices were unmistakable as they trotted around the rocks trying to lead me away from their nest. I filled the bottle and beat it back to the tent, and for the rest of the the night I would either listen to, or dreamily absorb the ptarmigan’s banter. A cheery wee burd wi’ gallus patter.
The moon was bright, but it was lighting only the tops of the clouds, which rarely parted for more than a glimpse of a single star at a time.
I crept outside in boxers and duvet jacket to take some night shots and tried to place that little red glow on the screen. I ran around playing air guitar to the fast bit at the end of Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell (iPod was on) to keep warm, and it occurred to me that the feeling of isolation had gone. But what had changed? The tent was up, was that it?
I thought about it when I was back inside, snug inside merino and down, that little red glow to me means comfort, familiarity, trust, memories and endless potential.
Bloody hell, I’ve bonded with a tent. It’s all over.
Macfarlane’s Lantern is the moon. The full moon is when my relatives steal cattle and hide it in the Arrochar Alps.
In some small way wild camping is not carrying on the family tradition.