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Hillside Companionship

Hillside Companionship


Postby Tom Lane » Thu Oct 11, 2012 3:54 pm

Route description: Stob Ban (Mamores) and Mullach nan Coirean

Munros included on this walk: Mullach nan Coirean, Stob Ban (Mamores)

Date walked: 25/08/2012

Time taken: 7 hours

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I walk alone. Eighty plus Munros either completely solo, or with my dog. There have been a couple of times when I climbed with a friend, but the number of hills I can think of where I stood by a cairn with a companion are few.
This is born out of trips to Scotland with the family, where I was the only one who wanted to explore the world above 3000 feet.
So it was that on a warm Saturday in the recent August, I found myself at Achriabhach preparing for a day out on Mullach nan Coirean and Stob Ban.
Attacked by midges immediately after leaving the car, I geared up quickly and set off up the forest track, following it into a wooded area, moving alongside the lower part of the Allt a Choire Dheirg until I reached a deer fence. Turning west out of the trees to follow the path alongside the fence, I climbed the steep path slowly. The weather was dry, but clouds gathered on the tops, obscuring the view to the top of the first hill, Mullach Nan Coirean
The glen behind me was vibrant, a nearby waterfall noisily producing a flowing torrent into the river, the green on the hills accentuated by birch and heather.
Bees landed busily on the flowers, drinking in the last of the summer offerings. Small birds flicked between the branches of the trees, chasing each other in a forlorn courtship.
After a while I reached a stile over the fence, at a point where it turned north. Stopping to gain sustenance, I picked at peanuts and looked at a new view towards the great Ben. Clouds hovered over the plateau, dumping rain on the hoards.
the ben.jpg
The Ben

My route ahead was similarly covered, a smir smattering me as I ate.
Looking towards my first target, Munro number 91, I saw a figure climbing slowly up the ridge path in the gloom.
After finishing my food, I set off again, travelling the same path as the person ahead. After a while it appeared I was catching them up, the route now taking me up a ridge over a well worn path. At about 100 metres from the cairn, I heard a voice asking me how I was.
Admitting I was tired, hot, fed up with the weather and wondering why I was doing this, I caught up with a lady, who greeted me with a smile. I fell into her step and we started towards the top together.
The walk to the cairn became easier, the path well worn beneath our feet. The last part of the climb went quickly, as often can be the way, unnoticed with the immediate ease in which we became convivial.
Stopping at the top to take on a bit more food, and to review the map, we continued chatting and I found that this new found friend was continuing on towards Stob Ban, then over to Sgurr a Mhaim. Without asking, or being invited, we packed up and set off, just as though we had started the day together.
The ridge became airy, some small scrambles were enjoyed and the clouds slowly cleared.
Far below, The West Highland Way appeared, snaking a way out of Kinlochleven, coaxing the walkers on towards their goal, iridescent in the gloom, the shadow from the cloud above blackening the hills in the glen.
The rain held off all the way to the top of Stob Ban, our second Munro of the day.
Stob Ban_1.jpg
Stob Ban from below

Pausing to eat, having spent an amiable hour and a half or so together, and admiring the clearing views through the Mamores, we chatted some more and were eventually joined by a third walker.
He stopped to talk to us, and was then away. Walkers seem to find this interaction with ease, discussing first routes, weather and timings.
My new friend and I carefully descended the steep ridge path to the col at the head of Allt Coire a Mhusgain, and paused by the wonderful Lochan Coire nam Miseach. At this point we said our goodbyes, and I carried on north back towards the car park at Achriabhach, whilst she wondered the zig zags up towards the fearsome Devil's Ridge, and Sgurr a Mhaim.
sgurr a mhaim_1.jpg
Sgurr a Mhaim

Setting off alone again, I reflected on the days climb and wondered about myself. Am I a better walker on my own? Do I get more out of a day if I can make my own decisions? Still thinking about this and taking in the glorious panorama of the glen, I met a second companion.
A local guy and his daughter were standing at the lower part of the path, having just shown a young German girl the route up to Stob Ban.
Again, the conversation was easy, the humour good natured, the talk moving swiftly into a swapping of life stories. Within what seemed like a few minutes, and after having given directions to a chap we met, we were back at the car park and saying our goodbyes.
The midges were still about, not letting me drink in the vista, hurrying me into changing into shorts and tee shirt for the drive home.
92 Munros climbed, going forward I will continue to plan to walk alone, but if this day taught me anything it is that those of us who do walk the glorious hills of Scotland are usually of the same mindset, out for a good day and amongst the most amiable of folk.
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Tom Lane
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Re: Hillside Companionship

Postby monty » Fri Oct 12, 2012 10:12 am

Loved the story Tom. I have walked most of my Munros on my own but have also had the pleasure of the company of some very good hill walking friends on occasion. Its great to meet other like minded individuals, prepared to struggle up to the summits to be rewarded by glorious views and reap the benefits of the fitness that comes from hillwalking. :D
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Re: Hillside Companionship

Postby Graeme D » Fri Oct 12, 2012 10:56 am

monty wrote:I have walked most of my Munros on my own


That's because few people can keep up with his mad pace setting..... and most who can are not keen on the mad, almost vertical routes that Monty seems to favour! :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:

Seriously though, a great read Tom. Loved the sentiment expressed throughout and can entirely identify with it. :clap:
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Re: Hillside Companionship

Postby Jockstar » Fri Oct 12, 2012 11:21 am

Beautifully told story that stirred the emotions of why we do this thing. For some the loneliness can be a crutch to
help come to terms withourselves but also the company that we meet along the way can illuminate a sometimes
dreary day. :) What suits one doesn't necessarily suit another. But friendships can be made in a relatively short time and last for ever. :)
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Jockstar
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Re: Hillside Companionship

Postby Tom Lane » Fri Oct 12, 2012 11:49 am

Thanks for the nice comments guys, took me a while to come up with the right words, but your encouragement means a lot
Maybe bump into one or two of you in my trails
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Tom Lane
Munro compleatist
 
Posts: 21
Munros:165   Corbetts:2
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Re: Hillside Companionship

Postby Fudgie » Fri Oct 12, 2012 12:04 pm

An excellent read Tom and like others have said, one that perfectly encapsulates the solitude that we can enjoy when out on the hills. Once I did my first solo walk, I got a taste for it and I would estimate I've done half of my 52 Munro's alone.
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