It just sort of happened. I emailed the editor of The Scottish Mountaineer, the magazine of the MCofS, asking if he’d like an article on wild sleeps and pointed him to my flickr stuff as examples of pictures. The reply was along the lines of ‘yes but how about a photo feature first?’. And so, in the February 2015 edition, it duly appeared.
Quite often, reading someone’s autobiography, especially if it has an outdoors theme, it makes you think back to your own beginnings. Where you started and where you’ve ended up, so far. So it was with me as I sampled Ray Mear’s tales of early wanderings and thought back to a particular day, thirty years ago this year.
Continuing with the very mild weather, I fell out of bed, had a nice coffee and a read through the outdoors mag then out the door and round towards Torrin for a day scrambling. And what a morning it was. Blaven was stupendous.
What a strange autumn it’s been so far. Temperatures in the mid teens, not a sign of snow after the first dusting at the start of October and quite a lot of warm sunshine. Sums up today’s wander across the wild moors of south Skye.
It seems summer has fled for another year up here. The rowans are heavy with berry and the bracken is brown and wilting. The meadowsweet has turned the colour of rusted iron and there’s an ochre tint to the landscape, blotched with the purple of heather. So before the snow comes I thought I’d scratch a long held itch to camp on the summit of Blaven. Before, in the words of that worthy, self styled average mountaineer, Quintin Hogg, my wine would run to ruin.
I kept the best wine till the last, only to find that I had lost my capacity for enjoyment
So yesterday afternoon I headed up that oh so familiar path and into blasted rain and lowering black clouds. Damn the forecast! Up into the coire, load up with water and make my way to the south summit, as intermittent heavy rain and low cloud drifted round the crags. Nothing to see, so keep moving.
It’s been a quiet old time lately, hillwise but today I went out for a walk. Nothing much in mind, just a wander, to see where I ended up. On days like these I like to head up into the coire on Blaven and explore. There’s anticipation in the air as a storm is forecast to trundle in around three o’clock and ghostly wraiths wrap the summit now and then and my imagination takes me into another world.
I’ve managed to get a GoPro the other month and been playing around with it. It’s on a vented helmet strap and to make sure it’s angled properly I connect over wifi and preview it on the phone as it has no viewfinder. I’ve also got a headstrap and a great wee doofer that slots onto your rucsack strap. Looking forward to making mountain films next.
With the continuing sweltering weather I thought I’d jump on the bike and go for a spin round south Skye. A nice 50 miler from Broadford down to Armadale via the western loop road. What a day! First stop was at Ord with its unbelievable view of Blaven and the Cuillin.
The great north run with Penguin had seen us climb Ben Klibreck, Ben Hope, overnight at the fantastic Sango Sands campsite at Durness (a personal favourite), make an abortive attempt on Conival and Ben More Assynt (horrendous rain and thick cloud) and finally stagger back to Skye for a breather. Breather over, we headed down the road to the north Glen Shiel ridge to climb Carn Ghluasaid, Sgurr nan Conbhairean and Sail Chaoruinn.
Hot foot from Ben Klibreck on the Monday night, we searched in vain for spot I’d camped at by the loch shore nine years ago. In the end we plumped for a nice spot just off the road under the trees but eventually had to abandon the attempt to put up the tents due to the midges. I’ve never seem that many before. I could barely breathe at times they were so thick and I stumbled around choking and coughing, watching Penguin get madder and madder as he couldn’t get his tent up and get out of the swarm.
In the end we had to camp in the Ben Hope car park which had the only breeze around and even then, not that much. But at least we could get the tents up largely unmolested. In the morning we were woken by the rumble of cattle running along the road a couple of feet from the tents!