Midnight travels on Ben Rinnes after a long day with the Midnight Mountaineer.As part of the Moray Walking Festival

Early Morning light on Ben Rinnes from a magic moon.

Early Morning light on Ben Rinnes from a magic moon.


Last night I joined Alan Rowan the Midnight Mountaineer for a midsummer trip to the summit of Ben Rinnes where we were hopeful of  a sunrise  in with a drop of Ben Rinnes whisky. This was part of the Moray Mountain Festival and I was helping leading the group with Alan Rowan, the Moonwalker – the Midnight Mountaineer.

Great read.

Great read.

It is part of the Moray Walking Festival and this is from the brochure.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to walk & talk with two very experienced walkers to have many tales to amuse you to the top and safely back down too! On a good day eight counties can be seen, ranging from the Moray Firth to the hills of Sutherland, the Cairngorms and Monadhliaths. A welcoming tea & coffee and breakfast rolls will be served at the bottom.”

I had already been on the hill and managed three Munros that day and only got home at 2200 from Lochnagar near Ballater and had and an hour to change, shower and eat. It was then fill up with petrol and drive over to Ben Rinnes my local hill. The hour was at home was a busy one and the weather seemed to be improving from the constant rain and we had decided in a later start for the hill, now meeting at 0100. I still went over hoping for a power nap in the car park below our hill.

On the drive over the weather cleared and the sky opened up, it was an easy drive as I pulled into the car park and was soon in the company of Alan Rowan, we had a bleather and planned the walk. It is a short one to the summit about an hour and a half and as sunrise was at 0421 we would have plenty of time to stop and watch the ever-changing light on the journey up. The forecast was spot on and it was a warm clear night with the tops in view and strong winds on the summits about 25 – 35 mph.

The pulsating moon at the summit when the mist and clouds cleared, spell binding.

The pulsating moon at the summit when the mist and clouds cleared, spell binding.

By 0100 we had 10 hardy souls and after a chat we wandered off a few had torches on and the path is easy walking and the frogs were out in force as we slowly but steadily wandered on. Alan was in full flow explaining the bonus of night walking and the light was amazing we had a full moon and a great walking. It was easy going I thought I would be sore after my three Munros and no sleep but the old body was going well, years of call – outs after a day on the hill kicked in and the pace was enjoyable as were the views all helped by clear skies and a full moon. The lights of the distillery were visible as we climbed up and the eyes took a bit of getting used to the scale of things at night. We kept an eye on the group fairly large with the 10 walkers. Alan and eye taking turns at the back but everyone went well.  I explained to take care and watch the feet and never needed my torch as my night vision was okay and it was light.

The wind was picking up and the last half hour is a steep walk, gone are the peat hags and heather but a good path takes you through the rough ground. We could see the coast and the town lights and the light from them and it was getting lighter by the minute.  We all put on more clothes gloves and hats and then about 15 minutes from the summit the cloud, wind increased and rain came in. It was very windy on the summit tor about 40 mph and we had to take care, the rain was driving now and we retreated to some shelter in the lee of the summit tor. Walking would have been pretty hard any higher up and though at 840 meters it was wild and hard fight at the trig point taking care on the wet granite. It was a wee summit well won and we stopped for some food and drink and prayed for the weather to lift.

Rinnes June map

Everyone had extra kit on and a dram was passed around and then it cleared, the Moon was pulsating as the clouds covered it and what a place to be. How did it get that name Scurran of Lochterlandoch? I felt a bit tired but the others were all in another world and Alan was in his element. Many photos were taken all the way up but my camera battery failed I never charged it after Saturdays walk. I only got a few on my phone! The clouds came and went and the mist was staying sunrise was out if we stayed at the summit,  about 0330 we started down stopping out of the clouds and wind. The light was incredible as was the clouds a vivid array of shapes and colour it is some time to be out on the hill and a real experience for all.

The weather clears as we walk of the hill end of an incredible night.

The weather clears as we walk of the hill end of an incredible night. 

We managed to get a sunrise at 0421 and the whole area was bathed in a light and again we all stopped and took it in. Soon it was time to go and we were met with bacon rolls, tea and coffee in the car park what and effort at just after 0500 by Dianne and Tanya. It was lovely in the car park a few midges but the sun was out and hard to believe that the summit was a wild place only a few miles away and we needed all our kit to stay warm. I was tired by now, said goodbye and headed home by now feeling the effects of 24 hours on the go. I took it easy and with careful driving on a lovely morning I was home within an hour and in the bath. Clothes were in the washing machine and bag emptied and gear dried and checked and then a few hours’ sleep.

A real hill character Alan Rowan.

A real hill character Alan Rowan.

What a 24 hours, hard going but getting a bit fitter at last, thanks to Alan Rowan for all his drive and enthusiasm and all who came on our midnight adventure on the lovely Ben Rinnes.

Another way to get some adventure from our mountains and if you read Alan’s book you will get so many pictures of another world in the early mornings on our great hills.

Thanks to Dianne and Tanya for the all night cover and the bacon rolls, tea and coffee what support and all for the Moray Mountain Festival,  at 0530! True grand people.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Books, Corbetts, Enviroment, Friends, Local area and events to see, mountain safety, Recomended books and Guides, Views Mountaineering, Weather. Bookmark the permalink.

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