36 hours in Scotland
Here I am at the start of my latest “Mini Adventure”.
Months back plans were laid for the ascent of Britain’s biggest mountain, Ben Nevis.
After weeks of glorious weather we found ourselves on track for a good soaking.
I drove through Glasgow just as the light was fading, and ended up sleeping in the car at the top of Glen Etive.
All through the night the rain lashed down, and the wind howled.
I nodded off wondering if we’d have to abandon our plans, and give the expedition a miss.
At 5:20am I rubbed my tired eyes in disbelief.
The grey light of dawn was accompanied by the merest hint of drizzle, and I decided to explore the single track road leading down the glen.
After half an hour the mizzle stopped, and pretty soon dapples of sunshine picked out distant hills.
I ended up hopping in and out of my Volvo V40 umpteen times as I took the 10 mile route to the edge of Loch Etive, and then retraced my tracks back up to Glencoe.
I’m not sure why, but the Red Deer and Common Sandpipers were (in the main) incredibly accommodating.
I’m use to the Fallow Deer of Devon, but our largest native game weren’t the least bit bothered whether I was in or out of the car with my Canon 7D in hand.
Here’s a Doe Red Deer. As seen just 8 feet away from the driver’s seat of my fabulous rental car.
Just a a few miles further down the lane I came across the Bucks, all at different stages of maturity.
This photo is deceptive, as the light levels were still rather low. in my haste I missed the chance to get any really good shots, but one Buck stood out from the others whilst his compatriots carried on grazing.
Every so often I heard Goldfinch, Linnets, and the odd Swallow.
As the rain stopped a few friendly midges joined me (looking for an early breakfast).
The River Etive isn’t the world’s widest water course, but even so the waters tumble down through the Glen with majesty and grandeur.
At one point a Dexion framed wooden box nestled on taut wires, presumably there to offer ramblers a route across what would be an impassable winter torrent.
I didn’t haul myself across (there wasn’t time).
My little expedition had been sparked by a logging lorry, and at various points the Forestry work added a rich texture to the landscape.
Surprisingly this little used track was being used by perhaps a dozen other like minded people, some sleeping inside cars misted up with condensation, other (braver souls) under canvas.
At the head of the Glen a text announced the imminent arrival of Honda Civic. Five blokes looking to conquer “The Ben” had already coursed through Glen Coe, and were looking to set up camp in Glen Nevis. All five had taken a turn at the wheel and driven through the night in readiness for our epic adventure.
I set off in hot pursuit, but found myself easily distracted by stunning views over the last 30 miles.
Here’s our base for 24 hours. The sunshine hadn’t been expected. Pretty soon we ready for the off.
A fry up for five was enough to re-energise the lads from Kent, and pretty soon we were striding off in our quest Highland glory.
A few moments later we turned through 180 degrees, and were forced back into our cars.
We’d selected the wrong route, and roared with laughter at our simple mistake.
Pretty soon we were setting out on our own less travelled route, and making steady progress up beyond the treeline.
A little path seemed to be heading the right direction, but this was simply the conduit to what was a cross between a boggy climb interspersed with an (at times) barely discernible track.
That man made sprawl is Fort William, and no it isn’t any more pleasant than on my last visit 30 odd years ago.
Before we’d climbed this high I’d spotted a few butterflies, an extraordinary beetle and a whole rake of “Rabbit’s Foot” plants.
I’m making that name up, but wouldn’t be surprised if it is the common name for a fluffy grass.
Having climbed steadily for over 2 hours we’d gained enough height to enjoy spectacular views, whilst gazing in wonder at the snow and ice clinging to the North Face of “The Ben”.
We halted for a short while, adding our over trousers and selecting warm clothing for the last push just as the rain started to lash down, and the wind began to make our hands incredibly cold.
Almost as soon as we’d set out to traverse the sharp ridge behind the summit our leader asked us to consider our options.
It wasn’t the rain that was the concern, but the ferocious gusting wind that had been causing havoc at Open Golf championship in St.Andrews.
I was all for pushing on, but the group decision was that we should turn back.
Once the decision had been reached I found myself being hurled sideways back towards Fort William. A furious squall had shoved back towards our starting point.
We lived to tell the tale, but not climb the mountain.
Was it worth all that effort?
Five hours walking, scrambling, and in my case huffing and puffing.
Of course, but for me the highlight was that magical trip down Glen Etive, and a mammoth 850 mile drive home (via Devon).
We’ll be back!