Macfarlane’s Lantern

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.

20 thoughts on “Macfarlane’s Lantern

  1. Last time I was up there, I camped higher up, over by the inlet to the loch. It’s strange, it doesn’t feel like you’re at 3000ft, the walk in from Linn of Dee gains height so gradually that, you pretty much climb the second highest mountain in the UK almost without realising it. Although the climb from the HMH to Etchachan is a bit steeper.

    Stood on the top of Macdui, I distinctly remember thinking it didn’t seem higher that those surrounding it. I was looking at some of the surrounding peaks thinking,’that one looks higher, that one looks higher’…

  2. Aye, from the hut to the loch with the Wheelie was a bitch…
    All the shots I took from the summit are rubbish, it all looks flat. It must be that that makes any bump on the horizon look bigger.
    It’s bugging me a little that I didn’t have more time up there, taking so many photies of using Wheelie on my own really slowed me down and I missed out on Beinn Mheadhoin and Derry Cairngorm.
    Want to go back…

  3. i was going to go today/tomorrow but the 4cast for the morrow was very wet.

    having said that the f.cast for wed/thurs is starting to turn to shite so i may as well have gone!

    all part of the joy of the highlands….

  4. slippery slope1, the last few trips I’ve “just gone anyway” and it’s worked out. That won’t last though.

    Vorlich, there was no sense to found on that wee trip :o)

  5. Looking back how did we cope without an ipod. My number one hill companion as i am always out on my own and its the first thing i pick up.

  6. Didn’t we have Walkmen? I got my first in 1984 when I went to college. It wasn’t a Sony, it was a cheapo knock-off but I was so proud of it. Listened to it on the 77A up and down Kingsway in central London.

  7. I have both cassette and CD “personal stereo’s” in my emergency backup box :o)
    Music at camp is great, I must say my book reading has suffered for it though. I may fix that next trip later in the week.
    Not Hamish’s Mountain Walk, my relationship with that book has been very on/off. Nearly done now.

    Kev, there’s a cracking thing on the “Blighty” channel today, all clan history stuff, half hour shows for each clan. I saw a couple before I went out to work, but I’ve taped the rest.
    The clan system is responsible for much of what’s wrong in the Scottish psyche, but it’s still dead interesting :o)

  8. “The clan system is responsible for much of what’s wrong in the Scottish psyche,”

    There is certainly a hint of ‘those lowland bu***rs have got it in for us again’ in the Highland psyche, which can be traced back to the aftermath of Culloden.

    And I wouldn’t write off the Cairngorm midge.

  9. ‘those lowland bu***rs have got it in for us again’, it’s an understandable notion, how often when politicians talk about Scotland are they actually thinking Central Belt?

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