Roll the bones

Conic Hill is always a safe bet for getting a bit of height before it’s dark and I’ve always got enough kit in the motor for wee jaunts like that.
Balmaha feels more like a tourist spot than ever, it’s getting ever shinier and flashier, but Tom Weir’s there keeping his eye on it. I just hope he doesn’t see the same horrors unfolding as his friend and contemporary Bob Grieve does in the national park board room in Balloch as his portrait gazes down on the madness those folk in there put together.
The whole east side of the loch is seeing changes, Sallochy, Milarrochy and elsewhere have been developed and the hit and at the miss destination of Rowardennan I could see lots of folk eating and drinking through the lounge windows which was rather nice to see.

Not too far away Glen Finglas is now very visitor friendly, the Woodland Trust who I volunteer with at the Lang Craigs has put their corporate stamp there and made it accessible and pleasant.
I’m always going to have an inner battle with any of this stuff. I miss finding all these places I’ve mentioned unkempt and forgotten when I first got my driving license 30 years ago. Its selfish though, people bring money and possibilities for the future with them when places can be visited and enjoyed.

But as age grips me I am see things differently, I’m not going to be bitter and resentful as change chases me up the A82. I’ll just remember a comment from Tom Weir when he felt the changes that my generation brought to the hills when we mobilised in our cars back in the 70’s and 80’s. He said that he used his knowledge of the hills to find them as he used to know them. I’ve realised that I’ve been doing that with route choice and even my time of day. You can put as many tourist information signs up as you like, charge for parking, restrict this or that, but you can still slip past it all and the hills are waiting, same as always.

Held in time

When I’m away from the hills this is what comes to mind first, a path leading on to “something”. I can think back 20 years and remember seeing myself put one foot in front of another as the sun shines on me or the rain falls on me and I have no idea where the path is.
It must be something about just getting there, the chase is better than the catch? Unlikely, given some of the places I’ve caught over the years. Maybe it’s just the forward movement that us humans embrace as an evolving species, the looking and hoping, secretly desiring but not wanting to demand in fear of somehow jinxing ourselves. Maybe that’s just mountain folk looking for a blue sky?
Hell no that’s all pretentious bollocks, it’s just me looking for an excuse to be glaikit.

Ben Lomond has seen my feet one in front of the other more times than I can remember but I always look forward to repeating the process. It’s a hill that is aging with me, Ptarmigan has a track nearly as ground-in as the tourist path and I can remember when it was just a ribbon of light wear winding up the ridge. Or is that old guy memory tricks? Revisionist memory is probably unavoidable as you grow older but with every breath we take these days being digitised the truth will be hard to hide from in the future.

It was a good way to end a week where I’d got stuff done. Plus Friday is the weekend apparently, I heard someone say it in the queue in the local shop, so it must be true. By the time I’m 60 I’ll remember it as an EU directive. See, memory revisionism.
Mind you, I’m fairly certain stuff I learned in the 70’s is a lot of rubbish, but for the sake of continuity in arguments I stick with it. Another old guy memory trick, things were better in my day regardless of any evidence presented to the contrary.

Not warm, not cool, not clear but not cloudy, bright and breezy too. I think the word would be pleasant. Setting off was a joy.

But here today there were more important things unfolding than I’d had in mind. A poor soul was on the summit and had apparently lost their life the previous day or during the night.
As hill goers tragedy is something we have at the back of our minds or sometimes at our fingertips, but here, so close to help on the busiest of hills and on such a beautiful day, it just didn’t seem possible.

As the sun sank it pulled a blanket of clouds over itself. It was saying good night, a clear message to anyone still out there.

I’ll be back to the Ben sometime soon.

It was such a beautiful day.

 

99%

I’ve had a lot of luck chasing blue sky over the years, to the point where getting stuck in pishy wet rainy days at the bottom of a slope looking up without any drive to carry on can feel like a personal attack. But it’s never dented my optimism, a look out of the window in the morning still has me changing plans and hitting the road.

The road is often the problem though, especially on short winter days. A couple of weeks back it was perfect, blue above and white underneath and my first thought was Ben Lomond as I hadn’t been up this winter yet.
All the way to Drymen was at 25mph behind a cavalcade of stoopids as the sun seemed to be setting faster than usual and when I misread the first signs by the road as I was finally moving faster I had no idea until I got there that the road was completely shut at Balmaha. My bubble was burst, I could climb Conic Hill, I could maybe make the Luss Hills, but my heart wasn’t in it. Home, tea and biscuits.
I did get to Ben Lomond in the end, last Friday, but that was another unusual day which I’ll come back to.

A couple of days later it was blue skies again, it looked clear up the loch and although time was getting on I wasn’t wasting it again. The road was fine, the Greggs latte only spilled a wee bit on the centre console as we drove and I was in the hills fast. The wispy clouds looked nice, the blue sky sucked me out of my seat, into my boots and I was off.

It was hard going as it was steep from the roadside, damn that heavy milky coffee (a convenient scapegoat). The weather also hadn’t seen that lassie with the dark hair and glasses on the Reporting Scotland forecast who’d said it would be clear until late on when a front would slowly move in. Maybe this was the prefront, the forefront? Whatever, it was misting up. And snowing, now it was snowing. I climbed on but now the wind was coating me on one side with crust of white so I stopped to pull on my shell.
It was lovely though. The cloud was just prowling the tops and rolling through the glens and I know that it was clear above. I was just not high enough here to see it.

It was dark at the top, cold and windy too. I was surrounded by indistinct shapes, above, below and to every side. I didn’t feel overly welcomed. something I’m not used to, I like to dig in, get the stove on and take in the atmosphere but for now I was just thinking about descent. Nothing fancy either, a straight line out of the cloud and back to the motor.
I made an arse of that of course and in the pitch black I found the road a good k and a half from where I’d planned to. I finally got the stove on in the layby and it was okay even if there were no stars above, I still had the gurgle and slapping of the loch next to me.
I had a camera full of photies too, and now that I see them, I should remember the less than perfect days.

Return to the scene of the crime

It was all fine, I’d climbed out of the shadows and the broken sunlight had just enough heat in it to keep the chill off but not enough to make me sweat. Well, sweat hard anyway. The light was already golden in the later afternoon, it was gearing up for sunset although it was still a couple hours away. I wasn’t complaining, the colours were rich and dark with the snow stark against it and the sky was too blue for this late in the day.

The spring in my step gave me enough energy to fanny around with the camera and timer. I’ve gotten out of the habit of doing that, but today it didn’t feel like an effort to run back and forwards, in fact there was a real joy in it. I was grinning at every trip and slip that saw me fall on my arse while trying to look windswept and interesting.
It was all fine.

But with my eye off the ball and on the scenery I was suddenly on a long steep slope where my next footswing bounced off the snow rather than go into it.
“Oh” I said.
It was steep enough to look down between my legs and see the rocks waving back at me from the bottom of the slope.
“Bugger” I said.
Poles and good intentions were all I had so I sawed away at the solid snow with the side of my boots, sometimes stiff boots are indeed okay, until both feet were more secure and I could swing my rucksack off and get to my ice axe. The forgotten art of step cutting was paid some hasty and sloppy tribute until I got to broken patch of ground where I could get my crampons on and be a bit more suave in my approach to the rest of the slope.

I should know better, and I do know better which is why I wasn’t stuck. But it was a wee reminder of how easy it is to go from happy stroll to be being out of your depth.
My spikes bit deep and securely and the ground was now more broken and less steep anyway, the last part of the ascent was a joy. Patches of sunlight drifted across the hills and the clouds were now growing a fringe of colour as the sun slipped through their layers far out to sea.

I like coming here, it’s an unpopular hill which suits me fine. I also take a route that I’ve never seen another soul on and every step I took was in virgin snow until I was 20 feet from the summit. The summit is rocky and broken, it fits perfectly with it’s neighbours and the views are both awesome and odd, with familiar faces smiling at you from another angle.
It was getting dark and it was cold but I couldn’t feel it. I was skipping around as the light changed from blue to flashes of pink on the snow slopes around me. I laughed out loud. More than once.

The sun lit a gentle fire on the horizon. It burned slowly, catching the edges of the ribbons of cloud and then the flame passed lazily along this wispy chain until it reached the ridgeline to my west where it took hold and found fuel to burn brighter. I pulled on my down jacket and took it all in. If I’d been needing a reminder, I’d found it.

The descent was on more untrodden snow on an unloved ridge, not unloved by me, even though it’s a ridge which has turned me back before. Tonight its craggy tumble and steep snow made me welcome, even if it made me think hard and question my route choice a couple of times.
Two ravens circled and croaked, the only hello I had all day.

Further down a bowl ringed by large boulders cut the wind dead so I set up the stove and let darkness find it’s proper depth. I could see headlights on the road but they were silent, I was still in the hills for a little while yet.
My fingers were finally thawing after I took too long to put on my big gloves and my hot cuppa steamed my glasses as I watched the stars peep through one at a time.

Crampons and axes stowed, I set off on rubber soles and torchlight into the black.

I think I’d been a little lost. But to know where you should be, maybe you have to get a little lost sometimes. It’s good to be home.

 

Night Light

The best snow for me this winter so far wasn’t on a big hill, it was in the Kilpatricks. As a Woodland Trust Lang Craigs ranger it’s not all about walking the deer fence, there’s the wacky and fun stuff too and the Torchlit event was probably the best do we’ve had on the site.


Cancelled a couple of months ago because of high winds, the fresh snow and travel problems didn’t stop it from going ahead this time and it was magical. Children and grown ups were wide eyed together as they walked the snowy paths to find a minstrel in the trees who led them through a candle lit forest to find two pixies swinging from a tree. These two brave wee souls took them all further uphill to the fire wielder in the meadow who led the kids a merry dance around the sculpture.
Holly was wearing her wolf hat and was named “Wolfchild” by the swinging pixies, this of course went down very well. There was a frozen harpist in a tent, hot chocolate for all and it was very well attended despite the falling snow and temperature drop.

Never seen the like. Pure magic.

Cold warning comes, for me.

When the day long darkness lifted its weight a few times I was delighted to see the hills splashed with some white, even down to 100m or so.
Snow brings a mix of joy and terror, It’s been interesting seeing the different reactions from my mountain buddies and my musician friends. I like this extra perspective, I also like being the most weather ready guitarist out there.

Here’s a smile inducing memory from earlier in the year. I could barely stand up. Awesome.

Wilde in the country

It’s been foggy of late, and we all know fog is only skin deep. I’ve been in the Kilpatricks at night most of the time which I enjoy but when I can’t see a thing out the window and time is short, there really is only one thing to do.

6

 

15 minutes and I’m in a different world. The Kilpatricks are seeing a lot of change, ravaged by forestry commission’s vandalism with machinery on one side and on my side where the Woodland Trust are we have a mix of new wild growth and a softening  of the edges with new access paths.
There’s more people up here which is as it should be, but I can still find peace so it’s still a place I go by choice as well as to look at the deer fence.

 

 

Is it time?

I’ve had a few little flutters, I’ve had to catch my breath and let it out slowly so I didn’t blurt out the wrong words, but today the flow of thoughts and emotions finally ran through all their little gullies and into a river flowing the same way.
My last spark of inspiration came from the original source, voices and images from nearly 25 years ago and I was suddenly both then and now. It’s a rare thing to catch once again the feelings of your first step and I think I’ve been very lucky, I think I got away with it.
Better do some house keeping.

oot 1

Rewind to the beginning

It’s with mixed emotions I’ve just submitted my last route to Trail, for the time being at least.
I’ve always run close to the deadlines for submitting these, there’s no other way to do it than with the most recent information possible or you’re as well just having a page saying “Buy the SMC books”. This has worked for me, with forestry operation changing long established route, new deer fences etc, but also against me as I have spent far too many days sitting in laybys in the pissing rain waiting for a clear hour to run up a hill I know well to get new photies.
Doing the routes has seen me visit or revisit many wonderful places and try to spread the joy of what I see there but I think it’s time for me to chase the patches of blue sky wherever they are, camp on a hill I hadn’t thought of until that day and look at the calendar to see how far away Christmas is, not how close a felt tipped pen cross through a day is.

It’s been an absolute joy the past few years, and the fact that everyone hates Trail amuses me no end as despite it being the most popular mag, as a hate figure it’s made me feel a little bit counter culture having been involved in it.
It’s product, like every other magazine or website out there despite any pretensions of being an authority on its subject, it’s made to sell, but that doesn’t mean there’s not good folk in there. Matt Swaine who brought me in originally was a good lad, Phoebe Smith, now editor of Wanderlust, who I did two of the hardest days on the trail I’ve ever done is passionate about wild places and instantly made my wants list as a post apocalypse team member. More recently Dan Aspel is who has suffered from my oblique approach to scheduling and deadlines, he’s man who loves the mountains and who I’ve enjoyed bantering with but unfortunately never managed out on the hill with. Yet.

“Tell Petesy to stop writing about music and go back to the mountains”. Someone said that to Joycee a few weeks back, someone she didn’t know either, I guess that’s the power and reach of the internet.
It won’t happen overnight, but now I wouldn’t be writing about every trip twice it might encourage me to write my trips up on the blog again. For the blog it has to be done right away, I have to get my thoughts down when I come back, if I leave it too late it’s just a description of where I’ve been and I don’t want to read that kind of shite on here when I’m 70. I want to read about the mistakes, the swearing, the donuts, the song in my head and just how awesome that sunrise is.
Aye. We’ll see.

EPSON MFP image

Got it covered

I really have to remember to bookmark some of the more interesting things I do on here in posts so I don’t forget them.

I’ve done a couple of covers recently, one each for the areas I love the most: music and mountains.
The first is the cover of Moonwalker, the book by Alan Rowan. It’s a fine account of night time ascents, something that I can very readily relate to.
I took the shot on the cover, indeed that’s also me in it the shot and it was cleverly adapted to perfectly fit the title by not me.
That’s a black Diamond Raven Ultra in my hand. How sad is it that I remember that.

moonwalker

Next up was something I hadn’t done for a long time, then I got all excited and properly into it. I did the cover for The Red Eyes EP, out now and very good indeed – old school punk with better musicianship, songwriting and production.
Main man (and old school pal) Alan described what he wanted and I did my best to make it. I did it from scratch too, I made the old-looking paper by crushing and dying white paper and everything else there is either hand drawn or placed onto the paper as it’s a single photie.
It was fun and I was so pleased when the band liked it and used it.

Making stuff is fun.

theredeyes

Silent Running

I was meant to be somewhere else but the retro truck couldn’t hack the road and the day was bleeding away into the fresh snow.

Ooh, what a horrible analogy.

Anyway, the Arrochar Alps saved the day once again. The car parks were full, the tops teeming with life, but a few folks always head for the “other” places and I joined them.

Awesome.

Continental

3wee

Joycee’s motor, which was my motor and now subtly but firmly adopted by the wife, needed new tyres, four of them. Through my watering eyes I took my plastic card back and was glad at least that the girls would now be safer on the road.

The gravelly throat and wheezing had kept me on the couch for a couple of days but the paracetamol loosened off the vocal chords  enough for me to agree to giving the motor a wee run to see how it felt. Holly was at Granny’s and not shifting, or indeed even contemplating putting on anything but her pyjamas’s on during this frosty day.
A quick spin up to Luss and grabbing a cuppa was the plan. The motor was running smooth, the old tyres apart from having a couple of slow punctures really had made for a rough ride. The road was good, we’ll keep on for a bit.
The sun was getting low, the snow was glowing pink and orange, the music was good and the miles just disappeared. It got dark as we ate in the Glen Coe cafe, sat by the window grinning back at each other.

A new day but like the old days.

4wee

 

 

Monday Morning Meeting

I’ve got Lennart Eckberg, Haglöfs Director of Sustainability coming over to do some talks and I thought it might be good to get some folks together for a camp or a bothy night and talk about that sustainability stuff. Maybe a couple of hours trekking from somewhere on our road south from Lochinver, dinner, banter, maybe some hills next day and time enough to get to Fort William for the next lecture on Monday night?
Gus had a good plan and I thought Camban bothy would be perfect. It was big enough to get us all in and had several access routes as well as being right in the middle of mountain heaven between Kintail and Glen Affric.
Easy? Don’t be daft.

I was running a wee bit late, but I had plenty of time to catch Morrisons in Ft Bill before it shut at 6 to pick up some supplies and it’s less than an hour to Morvich to meet Gus, Lennart and MT. I’d be there by half six at the latest.
The sideways bent car by the loch was a message from the oracle, “Ha” she said “It’s all about to go on its tits…”. I was a little delayed, the traffic was heavier in front because of the delay and my retro pickup doesn’t do fast overtaking.
I counted down the minutes as I ticked off the miles. Morrisons was still far way, I’d get there after five, then it looked like half five, then it was looking like I’d be pounding on locked doors demanding red wine and pastries.

It was dark, cold and foggy. Perfect for the moonlit tops, not so great for progress. I texted Gus – Leave without me, I’ll catch you at the bothy.
They were in Ullapool, running just as late and the Co-op at Ballachulish was open. Things were looking up, we’d still meet at Morvich.

That co-op is open til 10 every night by the way, everything just got easier for west coast trips.

I still pulled in at Ft Bill for diesel and a coffee at the BP garage on the way out of town, and a £2.99 pair of gloves with the electric finger tips. I had thin liners and big mitts, these woolly cheapos seemed to fill a gap of my own making. Ooh look, I can work my phone too…

The phone rang as I plunged through the fog on my way to Glen Garry. I pulled over and phoned Gus back. The Stromeferry bypass was closed and they’d just missed it, the railways guys were polite but firm in their refusal to let them through.
MT had also reported in, he’d arrived at Morvich and while dressed and ready to rock was now sitting in a powerless car, the battery having died and he was getting ever chillier as the frost spread across the windscreen.
Even if I had jumpleads, the bunnet catch on the truck had seized as I’d discovered at the BP garage when I went to top up the washer bottle.

So we had four folk already safely at Camban we hoped, one getting hypothermic at Morvich, two in car not so far away but with no hope of getting there and me laughing helplessly in my truck in a foggy layby as we tried to pull something out of the whirlpool of despair over the phone.

Whatever happened, I had to get to the bothy and tell the folks there what the score was so  I was set. MT would be fine for that too I rightly assumed but what of Gus and Lennart?
I’d trekked the south side of Loch Affric a few months back, it’s a straightforward way into the bothy, a lot of miles late at night, but… ?
It was between that and a night in the hotel at Loch Carron where there was a visible “Seafood” sign apparently. They chose the pain, a fast drive east, cut as much corner as the roads allow to get to Cannich and onto the road end at Glen Affric.

Someone from our side would meet them at the youth hostel, where Gus’s map stopped and the trail splits in a misleading way if you don’t know it.
It’ll be fine. Aye.

MT was cold but cheery and the banter flowed as I packed and the frost crept up on us.

So many memories of this place, youthful nights at the campsite ticking off Munros, bringing Joycee here on out first trip north 14 years ago and so many visits in recent years. I just love it here and as long as I can walk I’ll come back.

We headed down Gleann Lichd. Tall dark and handsome shapes bordered a clear star spattered sky as the moon circled on the fringed of our high horizon. It was a fine trek on the farm road, easy going so plenty of time to banter as the kliks were racked up.
There was enough light to cast a pale glow on the hills ahead and the whole time you feel drawn into the sharp V at the end of the glen. The cottages are passed, we skated over the icy bridges and were on the path upwards to the bealach where waterfalls rumbled worryingly in the darkness.

The trail is a joy, but bloody hell the night stretches it out. There was a bunch of ice as well and progress was haphazard and tiring.
It was late, coming up for midnight, the last couple of k’s took forever. How were the other two? I wasn’t hungry anymore, I was just tired, tired and thirsty.

The gable end of Camban was as sudden as it was welcome and the glow from inside was the warm orange colour of relief.

They were all there, Angus and Ian from Gear Pest and Bobinson and Viks were already in their sleeping bags. It was after all past midnight.
Cheery hello’s were said and a mug of single malt was thrust into my hand. There was much joy in being here but we still two men down and I needed a wee rest, as did MT’s still recovering knee.
Angus and Ian stepped up and headed off to the youth hostel while stoves were lit and down jackets were pulled on. The fire crackled, the tiredness softened and everything felt a little bit better.

Two bikes outside meant something else had gone amiss. Bobinson sleepily recounted the tale of the bog on the way over from Cluanie, it is indeed mighty, the track just stops at it and you’re all on your own. Their bikes were still there.

MT and I stepped outside, gloves, hats, cameras and tripods. MT took some proper photies while I plodded around not noticing the big smudge on my lens (it was there until the next day, sigh…).
Feeling much better we set off to see if there was any sign of the rest of the team. A beautiful night, clear, cold with a big moon lighting it as much as it could. Brighter though were the four headtorches that bobbed towards us.

It was all okay, Gus and Lennart were tired but they’d made it and at quarter past two we all walked into the bothy together for banter, laughter, food and drink.

We filled one half of the bothy, there was a fella in the other half who didn’t seem keen on being engaged so we left him in peace. I do hope he got some, but we did wind down quite quickly and by four it was just me, MT and Gus sitting by the dying fire drinking a chilled bottle of red from our mugs as we stifled the constant laughter trying not to wake the others.

It was a fine end to the day and my sleeping bag was welcome and warm.

Lennart was in good form in the morning and even a hard frost couldn’t dampen his need for throwing disco poses to loosen off. Phil and Viks had sneaked out ninja style to get back to Glasgow and the rest had slept on while MT and I enjoyed porridge in the early light.

Hut boots were a perfect choice for this trip, warm and comfy, all in all it’s a very different world from life in a tent.

MT, Angus, Ian, me, Lennart, Gus. Finally over a cuppa outside we got to the whole reason this trip came about – Haglöfs continuing movement into sustainability.

In a relaxed situation like this it’s easy to talk over something as big as this. Resources, costs and ethics are things that involve everything we do and everything we purchase and some folk just don’t get it.
“Oh, it’s too expensive”
I’ve never heard anyone complain “Oh, there’s too much money in my wages” but it’s something they’re happy to apply to someone else if it means cheaper prices for them. Everyone deserves a good standard of living, a clean and safe workplace and a future. Why should we deny people across the other side of the world that which we see as a right for ourselves?
Folk piss and moan about a £400 jacket but fawn over a £150,000 Aston Martin, I just don’t get that, it’s like they see the jacket as mocking their income and the car isn’t.

Anyway, the bottom line for me is that cheap kit should not come by exploiting people or the planet and that goes from confectionery to air craft carriers.

I’ve covered a lot of this stuff over the years, especially with my trips to the innov_ex conferences and the Bluesign branding that is applied to any product that meats the criteria for sustainability is now more familiar on the hangtags of outdoor kit.
Haglöfs are still using this and 80% of their clothing in 2015 will be Bluesigned, 50% will be made from recycled material, 50% of hardware will be Bluesigned and 40% of footwear will be made from recycled materials. Good figures I think.
They’re labeling all the applicable products with a green coloured Take Care hangtag with isn’t shouting, just informing which is the way to go. As much as every product made by everyone needs to be more ethically sourced and produced, folk are tired of the message, especially when money is tight.

Down production was another big topic, but one which I don’t think has grabbed the public as much as the misinformed hysteria bout the muelsing of sheep did a few years ago. Maybe folk think pixies are gathering feathers from the nests of geese while they have a little paddle on the river? Well no, the down is either plucked by force from a live, thrashing animal or removed from a bird slaughtered for the food chain. Do you know where your down fill came from?

The chat wasn’t doom and gloom though, there was a lot of realism and a lot of good points from what was a bunch of knowledgeable folks. I’d say there was optimism too and when you have a meeting in a place like this you can’t help but feel the truth of it: are we contributing to the destruction of the environment we struggled happily to get to last night with our lifestyle and purchasing choices?

Time to go our separate ways. Me and MT west, the rest east. I think we had it better, we#d missed the views in the dark so we retraced our steps through one of the finest stretches of trail I have known.

It took a long time to get there, it’s only around 12km, but it feels so much more. It’s no hardship, the Five Sisters grow taller ahead with every step and the secret back end of the other hills above Glen Shiel pulled at us with every sun dazzled view into a coire where there might be a perfect camp site.
I wanted to come back already and I wasn’t back at the truck.

MT phoned the AA who would be an hour and a half. We unpacked the cooking kit onto the tailgate of the truck and there was soon clouds of spicy steam and bubbling sounds as a soundtrack to the debrief of the trip over as we waited.
There was no hurry and that was why the tow truck was an hour early. Karma at its best.

MT’s motor started easy and we were on the road in the dark once again. I stopped at the BP garage in Ft Bill again, they do the best coffee and to my disappointment there were no £2.99 gloves left, Damn, I should have stocked up, they wicked and breathed better than my techy liners.

Gus and Lennart had battled fatigue all the way out and had just made their five o’clock lecture. Another win.

A text said Phil and Viks were good too. I got home through the dark and fog without issue or a cross word said.

It was fantastic. Thank you all.

A year and a day.

It’s been a year and a day since I last climbed Ben Lomond. Bloody hell, a year and a day. I see it every day, it’s near enough just around the corner from me, it’s not a good record to be creating.
It was flashing its white dusted summit ridge at me yesterday and nothing was stopping getting there today.

Of course the snow had gone, but it was still glorious. I love this hill and when I got onto Sron Aonach and saw the tower rising ahead of me I got a little flutter inside. A flutter of excitement, maybe the break had done us good. It look dramatic, it looked different, had it aged so much in a year, have I?

There were a lot of smiling faces coming down and two mountain bikers with plans for a quick descent. I saw one go but he had to keep stopping to let his dog catch up, that’s what I call planning “Yeah, couldn’t do justice to the descent with the dog in tow you know. Next time though…” Aye, right.

The cloud came in quick and the life got sucked out of the scenery, a grey ooze flowed through everything as I sat on my favourite perch and lit the stove.
50 feet from the runway cutting its way below me to the trig point and no one comes up here. 50 feet for the single best viewpoint on the summit ridge and not even the echo of a path to it.
Magic.

The moon rose and the temperature dropped. I didn’t feel like hanging around for once, I’d said hello and that seemed enough. Besides I’d been far too slow putting my mitts on and my hands were burning. Time to get the heart pumping hotter sauce back round the system.

I walked as far as I could without a torch, the nearly-full moon was a fine if slightly diffused searchlight. The hills of home need visited more often.