It was warm and bright, but it was an odd time of day so I flew up the road unhindered with air flowing in through open windows and my blaring metal bothering no one.
I had been appeasing customers with a boot full of outdoor gear, conversations that couldn’t be hurried and mind wandering to just how warm my water bottles were going to be by the time I got to Arrochar.
Not too warm I was pleased to discover as I changed out of jeans and t-shirt in the layby, my coronation chicken bloomer from Greggs was still cool as well, dinner was safe.
Beinn an Lochain loomed darkly at my left shoulder, it always looks helluva steep and a bit unapproachable. I hadn’t climbed it for ages which is all wrong as it’s a fine hill and just up the road from me and it’s got a special memory for me up on its northeast ridge, it’s where I saw my first brocken spectre. I didn’t have a camera in those days. Bugger.
My feet got wet almost as soon as I jumped the barrier and waded into the long grass. Nice it was too, elsewhere my sunblock was being melted and washed away as the sun beat down on my wide brimmed hat and I sucked in mouthfuls of hot air. My feet had it easy.
The ridge isn’t too far away from the road and you suddenly feel high up as the start point is quite high and the glens fall away all round as the peaks stretch the other way. The ridge doesn’t let up much, lots of steepness, lots of nice scrambly clambering and just a couple of flat bits to put hands on hips and wheeze. Which I did.
Damn this hill looks good when you get higher up. It’s all rock and pointy summit, it just doesn’t look like this from anywhere else. I stopped and had a drink and a sit down. Then the clegs moved in. Bastards.
I skipped on and clocked the hook shape on the northwest ridge. It looks bit like the north peak of the Cobbler but hidden out the way rather than sitting all impressive on the skyline. I’d never been down that ridge. I suppose subconsciously I’d already plotted a detour at this point.
The summit is sudden and oddly designed, two little grassy humps linked by a grassy hammock hanging between them. I hung about the edge of the cliffs, they held an allure unexpectedly greater than the food in my pack. I took a wander down towards that hook of rock that lay just out of sight. The cliff edge is broken by long crevices where new cliff faces are hiding, waiting to go public when the old one peels off and falls into the coire. Its both fascinating to see geology at work and an unnerving walk over it all in case it moves.
It’s was interesting, the coire looked like fun, a big bowl of debris from an ancient rockfall. I sweated slowly back up the the summit to sit in the sun and see what was for eatin’.
After a few minutes I had to pull on a jacket, a breeze had whistled itself up. Out to sea a line of grey stretched from north to south and was creeping towards me, but it was hours away and the sun shone down on me in a more bearable golden hue as time shuffled its lazy ass into evening.
I ate, I drank, I looked around at the peaks of home and felt a perfect moment of peace. I lay back on the sunwarmed short grass, shoved my cooling hands into my jacket pockets and revelled in the sensasations that changed from one second to the next as the sun and the breeze traded blows, ever so gently, over my face and closed eyes.
I fell asleep.
I hadn’t moved when I woke up, I wouldn’t have rolled far anyway, it’s a good spot for a kip. I had another drink and decided what I knew all along, I’d go down that ridge and see what the hook thing was.
It was pretty steep, but the hook was found and it’ was a joy indeed. It’s the remains of a shattered piece of cliff, a big jagged block sitting on some small rocks balanced on a flake easing out of the hillside. There’s light visible through gaps all around it and it has some awsome bivvy spots around its base. I’d shite it all night camped there though.
I headed down and into the coire where I tripped and stumbled across the bottom of the rock slope failure debris(oh yes, some of that Hostile Habitats book has been retained) that filled the coire, I missed all the big man-swallowing crevasses as well which was nice, but more by luck than design.
I had no real plan of how I was getting back to the motor though. I could contour around the hillside above the tree plantation, but the small amount of contouring I had done had already melted my head as the fat shiny grass (yes, so not all of Hostile Habitats has been retained) was all the slippiness of the world and I was mostly on my arse.
I headed into the forest. Ha, the very defintion of fun that was. The fringes of the plantation are dense, but inside there’s room to move if you take your time to navigate, or you can just hurtle downhill through the dry twigs screaming like a child like I did until you go knee deep in a bog and have to stop for a rest.
I came out by the river next to the road, soaked with sweat and covered with twigs, pine needles and insects. But grinning, always grinning.
I took the original road back to the motor, finding patches of ancient tarmac, crossing the old Butterbridge, discovering some nice deep bog and seeing some little corners of a familiar place thad I’ve never seen before.
There were these tiny white flowers in the long grass, as it was getting dark they looked like stars scattered all along my route, wish I knew what they were, I never finished that Hostile Habitats book.