At last I am back on the Munros, it has been a long time for me seven months off the mountains has been life changing after 40 years plus on the hill. The three operations and one more due next week made this a tricky time not just health wise but mentally. I have really struggled with it and have been so looking forward to getting out in the mountains. I have done a few hills my local Corbett Ben Rinnes a couple of times and a walk in the Cairngorms only short at the most four hours out but it exhausted me. I feel a lot better just now at long last but I get still get tired and I have been on penicillin for months. Maybe now I am Just fit enough now to try to meet the Graeme the “Munro man and Penny the Wonder Dog”. He was on the West Coast at Kintail into Day 66 of his huge walk. I would go out and meet them this week if that fitted in with his plans.
It rained most of the way to the West Coast, how I missed my Munros and hills, I picked my friend Gail up from Forres and it was an easy drive even a wet misty, day. It was to the West we were going and to the hills of Kintail that beckoned. We pass the wind farm banners along the roadside all protesting about the use /misuse of the land (what are we doing to this land) It seems that there are new roads are blasted through the moors and hills more power for us to use/waste? The view are changing throughout Scotland yet the hills are so green and the burns are crashing down the mountainsides we see them and chat, the rain has been heavy!
The “Kintail Curtain” was down mist and cloud down to Loch Clunnie, we look for the camper van that Greame and Penny are using. There are so many in every layby, I have left my phone and have never seen the van before? The idea of a camper van is magic and a dream for me I always wanted one. Graeme says he could not have managed without it the midges would have drove him daft. (Note to self – Maybe one day – get that book finished)
We find them and meet the Munro man, I get my feet wet at the puddles in the layby and meet the midgies,we have brew a great cup of tea and a cake its 0915 . The rain still teems down. Graeme looks great lean, wind burned and so fit, Penny the wonder dog is chilling but gives us a welcome. I wonder what she thinks? We get a resume of the trip so far there is no moaning about the weather just a joy of being in the mountains and the sights they have seen, the wildlife, the weather and the beauty of it all. These great days in the hills I listen with envy. After a “bleather” we have a plan to meet him on Munro 5!
This is his route to where he will meet us:
1 .Aonach Meadhoin (1001m, Munro 137) ‘middle ridge
2. Sgurr a’Bhealaich Dheirg (1036m, Munro 96) ’peak of the red pass’
3. Saileag (956m, Munro 207) little heal’
4. Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe (1027m, Munro 105) peak of the black chest’
We leave him some cakes and hill treats dates and sweets; he hides them away along with a few more cakes and fruit!
Munro 5 – Sgurr na Carnach (1002m, Munro 133)’rocky peak’
The name should give a clue to me but memory fades?
I am usually fairly wise about the hills and Graeme shows me the hidden farm on the map Achnagart Farm it has a bridge to cross the river and onto the middle of the Famous Five Sisters of Kintail. It is still raining and sticky; I miss the lay by as the rain hammers down. Why do we do this? I have forgotten my waterproof trousers, so decide on shorts it is close and clammy and we are at 50 meters the hill is at 1002 meters. It will be hot hard work.
Off we go and I wonder why have I never used this bridge before so many daft river crossings on call outs in the past in this area. (The Kintail Rescue Team always laughed at us missing this bridge but these were /are huge hills and time in the winter on a search was precious. These are steep hills similar to Glencoe in places with wet crags and gullies to catch the unwary. It seems hard going as we leave the fields it’s been so long.
Poor Gail as always she laughs at my route finding? It is the usual adventure, ferns give way to broken ground steep grass and we see a few deer. They wander across the steep ground I watch enviously.
They move so effortlessly yet the hill so steep and rough. I follow their line, steep heather and no paths. It was natures garden of wild flowers Orchids, Torementill, Sundew, so many I am so ignorant of and still try to take in and enjoy their beauty of nature’s rock garden. We stop often and we have limited views all day it is still misty wet I am soaked. We walk in a sea of mist I am soaked in shorts but the correct choice as movement is easy and I am warm.
When walking I have memories of the “Motorway Munros” the ridges where on the paths we walk with heads down and see little these are changed days now! We are now on the steep ground. This is steep and unforgiving and is hard going 3 and half hours for one hill these are changed days.
The last 300 metres on the ridge is a steep slippy scramble. I am rusty and not hill wise. Take care, rock wet and there are big drops in the mist. In and out of crags this is interesting ground few come here. Gail laughs and I moan, I used to move fast on this ground, not now.
I am still here though and the ridge goes on and on, then the top, a small cairn there is no rubbish. This is our Munro Sgurr na Carnach The “rocky peak” lives up to its name. The months of pain and waiting are banished. That was hard going, I am sore and yet it was worth all the effort!
At the top I am soaked, I change top, still in shorts though not cold. We have a few minutes and I go down the ridge then meet Penny and Graeme. There are at one with the hill 60 plus hill days. They are so powerful, effortless and humbling. 201 Munros done 4 before we met! They are in full flow Penny meets me first full of enthusiasm and fun, what a guy and with the incredible Penny the “Wonder Dog” they are a strong team. To her it is just another big walk! Graeme has a small bag on his waist at most 5 lbs all he needs for his day on the hills. His life is in that bag and with Penny so tuned in to the weather and mountains. He unlike me has strong walking boots on today not running shoes these are steep, grassy,slippy rocky hills in the wet he has the correct choice unlike me. The so called “Mountain Rescue Expert” is in lightweight summer boots that need care on this ground. We have a short break and then ready to go on. I am now feeling sore and a bit tired and only one Munro done. We will do the other Munro Sgurr Fhuaran with Graeme as long as he accepts we are slow. Gail laughs!
No views still, I chatter to hide the tiredness poor Graeme, has to listen Gail has heard it all before but I feel happy. We get out of the mist and cloud, I grab the odd photo and see new flowers to me. Normally I would explore more but my brain not taking it all in.
The ridge down is tricky in winter a scramble but slippy today and care is needed. I am slow Graeme and Penny move so well “at one with the mountains” Munro two is a pull Sgurr Fhuran “Peak of the fox!” It is hard going, I miss the path but no problem for the Munro King and Dog. We have a short break on the summit then feeling it we begin the long descent 1000 meters all downhill.
“Knees and body ache – slippy views and pain
Why do I do this? – My mistress the mountains?
She can be unforgiving with me?
A view and then down, down down.
The never ending ridge?
Knees and body aches – so rough, wrong boots
Slipping – moaning, laughing – why do we do this?
Back in the land of flowers, smell the myrtle.
Graeme says there is little wild life now
After the early summer where have they gone.
We again see the Orchids, Tormentil and others so many.
On the flat at last, pain eases – Easy walk among the meadow.
Skylarks are about and the river nearby.
Wander to the hidden farm -The car it’s over – cup of tea.
So stiff and tired – dry clothes – Leave the Munro King contented.
In his world of maps, hills and adventure.”
Penny the wonder dog looks one like she has never been out on the hills. I envy their fitness and at one with the wild. They move on the hill as if at one!
Take a painkiller then drive home – feeling better – A warm feeling comes. Soon home – roads quiet and rain most of the way.
Stiffness, bath: soak , food, sleep. – bliss.
Great to be out again – Great company many thanks Graeme, Penny and Gail.
Now for the next operation?
Uncertainty – I miss these hills!
Grab every day, even the wet, misty,midged hard ones!