Sitting under the fog was bound to have some sort of consequences. I returned the most important calls, half heartedly prodded the backlog of paperwork, ignored the mail and got to packing some kit. I was going to camp out, I even looked out the gear, but I really couldn’t be arsed, an evening in with the girls seemed like a better prospect and having the whole of the next day to play, or work, with seemed like a more sensible or possibly less stressful thing to do.
So with winter day kit wrapped in retro Karrimor purple I hit the A82. I could just have hung a right onto the Kilpatricks for an instant inversion wonderland, but in a real stretch of justification to myself the “fuel remaining” meter in the hearse said I had just enough distance in the tank to get to Arrochar and back. Sold.
The inversion started to break up half way up Loch Lomond, the pure white sunlit summit of the Ben was the first thing I saw above the clouds. That broke a mighty grin.
I was there in the car park long before Twelve Gold Bars had reached it’s last track, actually the first track, I deliberately skipped Rocking all over the World when I put the disk in at base. It was clear as a bell all around me, cloudless and bright, windless and cool. Perfect.
I took the old track, it’s been a while. It’s more overgrown than ever, but no less steep. The big concrete blocks are slowly disappearing, sinking or rolling away. I’m not sure I like that, they’ve been such a feature of that ascent over the years.
I was wheezing, it’s a straight line to a thousand feet, sitting with a bottle and my feet swinging off the final huge block where the winding gear sat at the top of the track of blocks let my systems slow back down. My fitness has been from one extreme to the other over the years, but this ascent always kicks my arse.
Frozen turf, patches of snow and soon sheets of ice and crusty, noisy snow followed my feet through the rocky undulations to the top of Cruach nam Miseag. From here the broken rocky face of Beinn Narnain always looks its best, maybe because it suddenly appears as you reach the top, whatever it’s a fine sight with huge split crags plastered with snow under untainted blue.
My pack was off and my down jacket was on, as picnic spots go, this wasn’t a bad one at all.
The light started to warm up even if the temperature didn’t. I traced my route ahead, to the left of those crags, cut right and take the snow slope, over the crest and into the deep gully and out of sight to reappear on the ridge of a’Chrois a wee while later. I did this while eating chicken noodley pasta in a mug and I knew I was window shopping. I’ve scrambled this route in the dark before, several times, in a blizzard, in fog, in rain and in summer sunshine but today I wasn’t going at all. I was quite happy where I was.
The Cobbler’s frozen claw, the inversion on the Clyde, solitary Ben Lomond, the Highlands from the Loch Earn Munro’s to Ben Nevis, it was all there in crystal clear technicolour. It was enough.
Click. A text came through from Bobinson “Seen the blue skies?” A quick photie sent back of me grinning in front of the summit rocks with a “Yes” attached meant another couple of texts and then the phone rang.
“Where are you?”
“Beinn Narnain, where are you?”
“On the top of Meikle Bin”
I turned round to look right at Phil from many miles away on a peak now rapidly turning to pink as the sun sank lower.
“So am I!”
We then started comparing notes on what was happening to the landscape as the sunset lit it up with colour.
“Can you see that?”
“Oh aye, can you see….”
It was just a little surreal and gallus at the same time. We lost the line and I went from hanging out with my pal in the mountains to suddenly being alone again in the gathering darkness and growing cold. There was only one thing to do, I put the stove back on.
It never got completely dark, the very nearly full moon saw to that, and I descended in natural light until I slipped into the trees and they blacked out the moonlight. Even with my shiny LED’s I lost the track in the trees and took a route I never knew existed to emerge onto the forest road where I immediately had flashbacks to sweating onto my handlebars on yet another hard ascent on the Glen Loin trail. A quick backtrack on forest road, the last loose descent and I was back at a frosty hearse. Before I’d left my picnic spot I’d watched ice spread over my rucksack and grow up my poles while I stood cozy and well fed not caring, down here it felt cold. Psychological I dare say, but when I pulled into the garage in Dumbarton where “0” appeared on the fuel-left meter as I was parking up rarely have I felt so cold. Back under the fog was brutal, give me the mountains anyday, it’s a better class of cold.
I got back to girls with McD’s chips and ice creams and I knew I’d made the right choice, home is always where it’s at. The mountains is where it’s at too, it’s probably just that a lot of the stuff inbetween the two that’s rubbish.