I stood at the lay-by near Balloch hoping to catch a lift on a Saturday evening. A man stopped. "Where are you going?" he asked. "Fort William." I replied. "Aye OK," he said, I'll go there!"
I got in. His wife was abroad with the kids for three weeks at her mothers and he had taken to going for long drives at the weekend, no particular plan in mind. He talked away, glad of the company. He loved cars, the BMW M5 being the greatest car ever made. He had had the priviledge of driving one. He also loved motorbikes and was in a bike club. He was easy to chat to, open and engaging and without side. When he offered dinner at the little thief in tyndrum I happily accepted. A hillwalking friend had been similarly well treated whilst hitch hiking, except his encounter had ended with a proposition. I had no apprehensions on that score tonight. He dropped me off in Glen Nevis with a cheery wave and a mind to drive over to Aviemore or maybe Inverness. It was midnight and not quite dark yet. I decided to climb Ben Nevis.
Halfway Lochan, 1am:
An hour later I was halfway up the Ben, but the last of the light was fading. There would be a couple hours of darkness. I settled down in my bag on the zig-zags, woken an hour later by boots going past, the shine of head torches and German voices. I did not see them again.
It was already light when I awoke. An hour later, around 5am, I was on the summit, alone on the roof of Britain early on a glorious summer day. The bright clean air filled me with hope, happiness and freedom.
I lingered at the top, wandered over the rocky Carn Mor Dearg arête above patches of snow, and toiled up the Aonachs with the heat of the day already on me. I decided that the Grey Corries, basking in haze, would have to wait another day. It was too warm. I bathed in pools in the mountain stream on the way down, drying my body on warm naked rock, and walked down to Polldubh where I boldly asked a woman if she would give me a lift down the Glen. She said yes, and I talked to her son. He told me he had been up Aonach Mor and Cairngorm. I was impressed. But then he told me he had taken the chairlift. I refrained from telling him that was cheating - he was only seven.
I don't remember the other lifts that got me to Crianlarich, but I do remember the ladies who took me onward. They were retired, sprightly, full of life and heading for a bowls tournament they were competing in. As luck would have it their tournament was in Helensburgh, my hometown. I went home to mum for a slap-up dinner before getting the train back to Glasgow. A walk in the hills in good weather had set me up for the grinding dullness of the working week ahead.
A four pointed cross on a two pointed island.
5 hours ago