The Aonach Eagach on a dry day:
So doing the Aonach Eagach drunk is not the purpose of the Glencoe Pub to Pub Traverse at all. But there are safety limits. And they have more to do with the weather than the booze. The height of folly is attempting the Aonach Eagach at all - whatever your state of sobriety - with rain and gales forecast.
And that's how we ended up on Beinn a'Ghlo in Perthshire in high winds and pissing rain.
Beinn a'Ghlo is one of the best-known hills in Scotland, familiar to anyone who has driven up the A9. Its rounded bulks dominate the view of Blair Castle and the Pass of Killicrankie. Its access path forms a distinctive white scar from a distance, as thousands of boots over the years have worn the dark peaty moorland away to expose the quartzite bedrock beneath.
Fungal flora of the moor:
The path is so obvious from afar I assumed we would see it from near to hand. However low clouds caused confusion and we marched right past the traditional start of the walk, followed by a couple who had perhaps been fooled by our confident manner. We walked the hill anti-clockwise, the long bash through heather tackled first, rather than last.
But this was no hardship: I am sure the last time I was here (twenty three years ago!) there was no such path as this, and the going was easy, rather than the scratchy heather slog I vaguely remember from my youth. Today the heather was in full bloom.
Fresh waters, source of whisky:
As we started on the climb, the rain stopped. Might we be in luck? Would there be a view from the summit?
Graham contemplates more ascent:
It started to clear. We could nearly see the top!
But no. We were being toyed with. The clouds closed in again and the rain came on, the wind rising.
Beinn a'Ghlo is not just one hill but a small massif, containing three Munros, a number of smaller tops, and a great deal of flowing, rounded ridges. A random fact that has stuck in my head is that Beinn a'Ghlo has nineteen corries, and a gun fired in any cannot be heard in any other. Now there's a sporting fact!
En-route to the second Munro:
The weather had turned foul but there was plenty to see close by as Perthshire is richer in wildlife than Glencoe. Through the mists we saw raven, mountain hare, ptarmigan, deer, wheatears. A grouse in its panic exploded at my feet and flew straight into me, before flapping off in a flurry of squawking and feathers.
Before the steep descent back to the access track we were treated to a final visual treat as a brief break in the clouds brought a rainbow.
It had been a grand day out in good company, a satisfying exertion over three Munros - the first time I'd been over more than one in a single walk since the Crianlarich hills in May 2014. Would the Glencoe Pub to Pub Traverse have been as enjoyable? I would have to try again another time to find out!