It was a bit like the old days. I looked at my watch, I looked at the patchy cloud and the spots of rain landing on the windscreen. There was nothing to be done ’til tomorrow, so I headed home, grabbed some kit, packed a rucksack and picked up a pair of still unworn test boots in the porch as I set off to try and beat dusk to the summit.
I’m spoiled for choice for quickies here, but I had been wanting to visit a familiar and now neglected wee cracker. Before I rediscovered my love for the Kilpatricks I was out here all the time and it wasn’t long before I was crossing the Duke’s Pass and peering through the rain over Loch Achray at pointy wee Ben A’an.
It was pissing down so I got my waterproofs in in the motor and was relieved to find that the boots were a decent fit. Hood up, I crossed the road from the little muddy car park and plodded up the leaf-cover path path as it led me into country that is busting with memories going back more years than I have fingers and toes.
Ben A’an is a tourist spot, and after the Foot and Mouth crisis it was one of the first hills to re-open and it suffered horrendous erosion on its thin soil cover almost immediately. It’s got no worse, and no better and you can still feel its true nature as an outpost of the Highlands if you pick your time of day and your season with a little thought.
I was alone as I wandered through the trees with silent footsteps on soft ground, the light now weak as the sun sank behind Ben Venue. The clouds started to break up and the rain diminished to lone pulses, wandering around looking for an unsuspecting target.
Breaking from the treeline there’s a sudden feeling of space, the view behind you includes the flames of the Grangemouth refinery far distant, the Campsies and even a glimpse of Glasgow who’s water supply runs from Loch Katrine right below you.
The top is a modest 454m, it’s pointy, rocky and feels mountainous. The fact that it’s not even as high as the heathery bank just to its NE doesn’t worry it, or the happy soul standing on its summit rocks.
I wandered about the top with a flask of coffee and my insulated jacket zipped up tight. Some of the clouds glowed pink with last of the sun, Ben Ledi struggled to throw off it’s wispy shroud of pure white, the sky was a cold grey-blue where the brightest of stars fought to see who would sparkle first.
I lingered, almost until it was completely dark. It had been too long, in more ways than one.
I descended in the creeping darkness, waiting as long as I could to use my headtorch. For no other reason that it meant having to turn my hat round back to front and I didn’t want the wet skip on the back of my neck.
The moon broke through in the car park and I drove to Aberfoyle before I saw another car. I had a lot of thoughts, how many days in the hills I’d missed in the past few weeks, how boots affect your movement, how eVent still gets condensation, how the colours of autumn are fading so quickly and how as I get closer to home I was feeling ill-er and ill-er.
That last point became the focus as I launched into the most horrendous 24 hours of physical horror later in the evening (the raven on the summit a few photies above was an omen right enough).
I’m sitting here sipping tea and looking forward to some food tonight, maybe, and I’ll be at home for a week or so. I’m left with one thought.
Thank Jimmy I got off my arse when I did, in the nick of time is plenty of time.