Monday 22 June 2020

What Hill Will You Climb After Lockdown?

It won't be long now until the coronavirus lockdown is over. We will still have to socially distance, but we will be permitted to climb hills, which will be lovely. It has been the longest period since foot & mouth disease that the hills have been closed to visitors, and it has been difficult to stick to the rules. One or two (or a dozen) visitors won't have any negative effect on the nation's health, but we stay away because we know that otherwise, there will be massive crowds and unsustainable parking in Glencoe, Coire Cas, Linn of Dee, Rowardennan, Glen Nevis, and anywhere else that immediately comes to mind when people think of going up a hill.

My friends want to climb Suilven. Like the lead character from the film Edie, Suilven has become a totem of freedom, of escape from a life poorly lived.


For me, I prefer the idea of going where nobody else is. This requires a cunning reversal of the normal question, "where do you fancy going this weekend?"

Where, instead, is the last place you would expect to encounter people?

I've already written about what may be the most boring hills in Scotland, the conveniently nearby Moorfoots. But when we get the chance to drive further afield, it will be hard to resist doing so. And with the net cast further, what really, echoingly empty places can we go? To be truly off-putting for enough people, the approaches have to be laboriously long, the payoff on reaching the top a massive sense of anti-climax.

Could that be a reasonable description of the Monadhliath? These hills are brimming with wildlife and views over to the Cairngorms and North-west Highlands, but to most people they are a purgatorial high moor devoid of interest.

The Monadhliath - MAMBA country:

And while the Monadhliath may be prime MAMBA (Miles And Miles of Bugger All) country, I think the real prize goes to Caithness. In the Caithness backcountry there's nothing but bogs and water, a place you can guarantee you'll meet nobody. So for me, it's Ben Armine or Ben Alisky, a long drive and then a depressing trudge from the nearest road-end.

Can't wait.

But we'll probably have a crack at Suilven.