Friday 26 August 2022

Ben Wyvis: Return to my Last Munro

May 1997. My hillwalking friends were doing their final exams. I was at the Aultguish Inn with three who weren't. It was a day of stair-rod rain and a cloud base two feet above sea level; but we were there, so might as well climb the thing.  

A boggy path led to an eroded zig-zig up a steep shoulder and the summit plateau, a revelation of beautifully soft moss. 

Ben Wyvis, 1997:

A quick-as-possible stop at the summit to sip celebratory whisky it was my last Munro, after all and we retraced our steps without lingering. We'd treated ourselves to indoor accomodation, and the Aultguish Inn bunkhouse had huge, steaming baths of peaty whisky-coloured water and a well-stocked bar. “What are you going to do now you’ve finished the Munros?” my friends asked. “Get a woman and a decent job!” I half-joked.
Twenty-five years, several jobs, a dog and a decent woman (who I married) later, I was back. This time we chose a nice day!
Ben Wyvis, 2022:

We foraged blaeberries in the forest and played in the burn before the steep climb up the shoulder of the hill.

The entire hill is free of sheep (it is a nature reserve) but the dog was on the lead again on the summit plateau in case she chased birds. 

 Unlike last time, we weren't the only people on the hill. There were several others with dogs, a couple of women together who our dog was very interested in, a couple eating sandwiches I had to distract our dog from bothering, a lovely local pair ("we're dog friendly" the man said as we approached) at the summit who climbed this hill all the time, or at least the woman did. I was unable to stop myself telling her this had been my last Munro many years ago. I recognised a politician coming up the hill, Kenny Macaskill, who released the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing, Abdelbaset al-Megrahi. He also had a dog.

 The views from the top are vast, as you might expect from an isolated massif. An Teallach and Torridon, the hills of Sutherland and Caithness, oil rigs in Nigg bay, the Moray coast and Cairngorms. The two tops of Suilven just poked up above an intervening hill. Ben Wyvis makes a particularly good viewpoint as it stands right on the boundary between two very different landscapes, the arable fields and firths of Easter Ross and the jagged desolation of Wester Ross.

We put our blaeberries in a crumble that night. This time round, nobody asked me what I might do next. We were already doing it.