RAIN drumming on a flysheet. Condensation dripping on damp clothes. Another day begins in the Highlands – a day with clouds hugging the treetops and few prospects of fine mountain scenery . . .
This is a retro post for Because They’re There. It’s a letter from the past featuring a memorable walk and the contemporary events surrounding it . . .
So I go for a drive. I head over the Cluanie Pass from Glen Shiel and take the narrow road to Kinloch Hourn. I tell myself this is a fitting alternative to a walk on the hills because it can be regarded as a reconnaissance trip for an expedition into the wilderness of the Knoydart peninsula.
At Kinloch Hourn I sit in the car while rain falls steadily and windows steam up. Then, on the slow and winding drive back, the rain begins to ease. When I reach the Cluanie Inn, at about 2pm, I see white cloud through cracks in grey cloud and the occasional shaft of sunlight. So I lace up my boots, sling my sack on my back, and head off along the valley of An Caorann Beag in the hope of salvaging a few remnants of the day.
And as I climb the slopes of Ciste Dhubh (979m or 3,211ft) the clouds roll back and sunlight streams across the world. The day is reborn in a matter of moments. Grass has never been greener, air fresher, clouds whiter, sky bluer.
A terrific wind roars out of Glen Affric. Small birds dance above the stony summit. I sit there with the sun on my face and wind snatching at my clothes, gazing out across a vast wilderness that stretches to every horizon.
Ciste Dhubh is a small mountain tucked away behind spectacular peaks. But this afternoon it is the centre of the universe. It is the most perfect mountain in a perfect world. Ciste Dhubh and days like this are what living is about.
Ciste Dhubh, almost an afterthought but a jewel of a mountain, September 2002