SOMETIMES early mornings can be warm and skies blue. Sometimes the air is so peaceful that mountains reflect in lochs while shadows retreat to cooler places. This morning, in Strath Croe, nothing stirs except bees. Even sheep remain motionless. It’s a perfect day to traverse a high ridge . . .
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 . . .
I leave the car at the head of Glen Shiel and climb along a stream called Allt ?? Coire into a high rocky basin known as Coire na Cadha. Up here is a silent world of empty sky, bright sun and hazy peaks.
But Coire na Cadha does not come without its perils. The grassy ascent up its southern wall to the summit of Sg??rr an Fhuarail (987m or 3,238ft) is a hands-on-turf, sweaty, heartbreaking slog for its entirety. Every heavy step is a bitter-sweet grind through purgatory on a journey to heaven.
Is it worth it? Stumbling onto the airy ridge just below the summit cairn, with sudden views of unknown mountains and deep blue valleys ??? it is worth every single grunt and gasp, every bead of sweat. And there are many.
My ridge shoots off west to the nearby Munro of Aonach Meadhoin (1,001m or 3,284ft). In the distant haze is Sg??rr a??? Bhealaich Dheirg (1,036m or 3,398ft), and, tucked out of sight behind it, S??ileag (956m or 3,136ft), my final peak.
Few things in life are finer than a walk along a mountain ridge with the sun burning your back, a hot breeze in your hair and dark ridges on the horizon. Few things are more uplifting or more satisfying. Up here in Kintail, where the rocks of the earth reach up to scratch the sky, perceptions alter because the world is a different place.
A walk above Glen Shiel, September 2002