"It looks like the set of a 1970s horror film," said my companion. "Screw this, I'm going to the pub."
We were at the Kingshouse for a reunion and it seemed that only I wanted a walk. Just as well I like my own company.
On Rannoch Moor:
The walk I had planned would take me a long way along estate tracks towards the heart of the moor, up to the superlative viewpoint of Stob na Cruaiche, down towards Tigh na Cruaiche, and back across a track marked on the map. The first stage was a quick march along the Black Corries Lodge's well-made estate road, the Etive brawling alongside. I know from experience that this is a fine spot for sunbathing or swimming on rare days of midge-free warmth. The lochans in the wedge of moor between the A82 and the lodge are full of sporting brown trout.
The infant Etive:
Rannoch Moor: bleak as fuck
Peat-preserved pine roots:
So far, so enjoyable. But after leaving the track I was on my own. My target was Stob na Cruaiche, the top of the Black Corries, but the angle of the moor makes for hard going - neither steep enough to gain altitude quickly, nor flat enough for rapid progress. Soon I was in the cloud, views gone, legs aching with the effort of lifting them over tussocky peat hags as I slowly soaked in the increasing wind and rain. "This is shite," I said to myself.
But then something magical happened. On descent I found myself in a small fold in the hill, a secret flat area halfway down a steep hillside. A river I could not cross forced me to pause and take stock. I was still soaking and cold, but a single moment of beauty was taking my breath away. We are sensitive to our environment after sustained periods of grind and misery and a different perspective had suddenly opened up. The river running through tunnels of snow, twisting where it will. A place so utterly without human value that the land does nothing except be itself. Just be itself. I stood and absorbed this place, as indifferent to me as only a truly wild place can be. Standing here in the mist and rain, this seemed profound.
The Rannoch Amazon:
I followed the smoothly flowing river, impassable, as deep as it is broad, a collection of elements, of earth, water, wind, gravity and light. The land steepened, and the river roared downhill as I finally broke out of the cloud.
Loch Laidon at the heart of the moor:
I had a rude shock on arriving at Tigh na Cruaiche. There was still a long way back, I'd forgotten that the path marked on the map didn't exist, and it would soon be dark. I was glad I hadn't done the full 'Ring of Rannoch' all the way to Rannoch Station. It was a hard forced march back to the lights of the Kingshouse, where my friends had been wondering where I had gone.