Durness: Bens, Beaches and Bobby Dazzlers
by old danensian » Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:00 pm
Munros included on this walk: Ben Hope, Ben Klibreck
Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn Spionnaidh, Cranstackie
Date walked: 10/04/20155 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
Ben Klibreck / Ben Hope
24.5km; 2060m; 9h
On Friday an icon died.
As some of us were driving, others were walking and the rest itching to get away from work, it was announced that a sporting legend had experienced his final dismissal. A journalist and broadcaster would never again entertain and inform us with his dry laconic wit and perceptive analysis. The nasal Aussie drawl of Richie Benaud would be heard no more.
To those for whom the name means nothing, and those for whom the donning of whites, the thwack of willow on leather, and a glass of Pimms on the boundary mean absolutely nothing, this may appear an incongruous opening to observations on the latest Walkhighlands get-together in Durness. In fact, those for whom sport, and cricket in particular, is anathema, then you may already have stopped reading. If not, bear with me ... please.
Howling gales, driving hail, and clag rarely feature in reports of balmy bucolic afternoons spent pondering the intricacies of leg-spin and the sight of four glorious runs being stroked through the covers. In a similar vein, boulder fields, peat hags and stalkers’ paths would appear to have little in common with long leg, second slip or silly mid on. The only common ground would appear to be “gully.”
If you are wondering where on earth this is going, think: Test Match Special.
John Arlott, Jim Laker, Peter West, and Brian Johnston: masters of not only writing but also talking. From the first ball of the day, as the morning dew is drying from the outfield, to stumps as evening light fades, their conversations entertained. Henry Blofeld (no, not the James Bond one) and Freddie Trueman joined Richie Benaud to spend the day talking to one another while we simply listened. Pigeons at The Oval, red buses driving down the Radcliffe Road by Trent Bridge and trains disgorging spectators on to the station adjacent to Old Trafford: oh, and they mentioned cricket sometimes too. Observations on hotels, taxis and the lightness of chocolate cake would be sandwiched between comments on the latest maiden over or an inglorious golden duck.
And as I drove south on Sunday, listening to tributes from Ian Chappell and Michael Parkinson, the parallels began to emerge. A trip report began to take shape. Well, not exactly a report ‘cos there’ll no doubt be plenty of proper ones to follow.
In many ways the weekend was like one long broadcast of Test Match Special. Mountains, like the cricket, were in the background, ever-present. Everyone there, an eloquent expert ready and willing to share their experiences, not simply about Corbetts climbed and Munros mastered, but life the world and everything.
My Friday loosener in the nets was an early morning solitary venture up Ben Klibreck, from the Vagastie Bridge and over Cnoc Sgriodain. I traversed below Creag an Lochan as if avoiding a bouncer, saving energy for a longer innings: Ben Hope was coming on to bowl as the next change. However, on top of Meall nan Con, I looked back at the ridge curving round to Carn an Fheidh and succumbed to the tempting short ball. The cost was maybe another half an hour or more added to the walk, but the view back round the corrie of Creag an Lochan was worth it.
Limbered up, I headed for Strath More and an afternoon spell on Ben Hope. On the narrow road, with clumps of grass growing down the middle like a tarmac Mohican, I chatted to a cyclist on his way to Ben Loyal. In amiable conversation neither of us noticed a car pulling up behind. The mood must have been contagious as there was no frustratingly sounded horn or impatient revving. We politely acknowledged one another and simply drove on. Only when parking a few miles later did I realise that Sunny Speyside had formed the queue. The WH meet-up had begun; the conversationalists had started to gather.
Ben Hope was accompanied by apostrophes and peanut allergies, Boxing Day Tests and circuits of Montrose beach, e-books and proper books, writers from Peter May to Harper Lee, 150mm pipes and the Glasgow underworld.
We also passed some nice waterfalls, had some stunning views and climbed the most northerly Munro.
As Benaud frequently exclaimed, “a beauty; a right bobby-dazzler.”
Cranstackie / Beinn Spionnaidh
16km; 980m; 6h
Saturday saw the second innings engaged. PeteR, Sunny Speyside and I took on the bowling attack of Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnaidh. Having mastered the two most northerly Munros, it was time to take on the Corbett equivalents.
The TMS team would have had a field day describing the advancing weather. Wintry squalls, scudding shadows racing across the hillsides and the sun illuminating distant peaks, turquoise and aquamarine seas, and remote beach-side white-painted cottages. As players on the field, the commentators would have had fun describing our predicament. We were alternately exfoliated by horizontal hail driven on by the fast bowling wind, and then we would be scorched by the sun. Sir Geoffrey would have made some disparaging comment about it being “nowt like a proper wind in Yorkshire tha knows.” Benaud would have responded with an understated one-liner then observed how easily the deer were coping with the state of the pitch.
Conversation was only slightly less eclectic than the previous day, but conditions occasionally focussed attention on the somewhat more immediate like, “is this really the right way down?” or “this isn’t clearing, shall we get moving?” But of course it did, five minutes after we’d left the top of Cranstackie, so we did go down the right way.
With the shelter and proper top at the far north-eastern end, Beinn Spionnaidh draws it out. Halfway along you look back and start to wonder, “is it really higher?” But you’re so far along it seems pointless not to carry on. Then you discover that even the triangulation point, hidden below the line of sight, needs a shelter.
More wind, more hail, and a touch of rain at the very end accompanied the game to a conclusion.
Then, the test was over. The players began their journeys homeward and reporters drafted their dispatches. A solitary soul in the commentary box was left to broadcast the final summary.
Along with Benaud’s “beauties” and his “bobby-dazzlers,” I’d echo his own final TMS summary from 2005, “it’s time to say goodbye ... it’s been a privilege ... what’s even better it’s been a great deal of fun.”
Walkhighlands meets are like that: one long conversation with some hills thrown in.
by PeteR » Tue Apr 14, 2015 12:26 pm
I was in sombre mood as I set off on Friday morning to the sad news of the passing of another childhood hero, remembering the good old days of black and white TV, only three channels to choose from and having to put the box on at least 5 minutes before the test match coverage started so that it had time to warm up (assuming a valve didn't blow)
But good hills and a walkhighlands meet soon had my mood improved
by The Rodmiester » Tue Apr 14, 2015 2:18 pm
by kmai1961 » Tue Apr 14, 2015 2:55 pm
I especially like this sentence, which eloquently sums up the afternoon's conversations:
old danensian wrote:Ben Hope was accompanied by apostrophes and peanut allergies, Boxing Day Tests and circuits of Montrose beach, e-books and proper books, writers from Peter May to Harper Lee, 150mm pipes and the Glasgow underworld.
Lovely to meet you,
by Sunny Speyside » Tue Apr 14, 2015 7:51 pm
by tina bonar » Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:44 pm
Enjoyed our walk on Friday, stunning views and super company
Sunny Speyside wrote:Nice report Nigel, disappointed I missed the conversation about the 150mm pipes though...I can only wonder!
Never talked so much effluent Evie, although others might argue!
by Fife Flyer » Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:53 pm
Like you I was shocked to read in the paper (when I got home) of the passing of Richie Benaud, amazing how you can incorporate cricket terms into a Walk Report - well done you
by Aqyzx » Tue May 05, 2015 1:39 pm
Sad to see confirmation that the pillar on Ben Klibreck has been toppled. I'm hoping to make a pilgrimage up over the summer months and fully assess the damage for T:UK.