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The Day Time Stood Still on Buachaille Etive Mor
by Stretch » Mon Jul 26, 2010 6:51 pm
Route description: Buachaille Etive Mor
Munros included on this walk: Stob Dearg (Buachaille Etive Mor), Stob na Broige (Buachaille Etive Mor)
Date walked: 23/07/2010
Time taken: 6 hours
Distance: 13 km
Ascent: 1110m20 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).
When I made it onto the ridge to Stob Dearg I reached into my pocket to check my phone for the time - the phone was not there. Oops. Big mistake right? No phone on a hill in case of emergencies and no way to tell time. Oh well, I had done the hard part and it was time to get to the summit. I calculated that it must have been nearly 4pm when I reached the cairn. As I walked to the edge and peered across the Rannoch Moor something magical happened. Time stood still - at least that is what it seemed to do in my mind.
You see, the past few months have been particularly difficult for me. Before I left for home in June I had become pretty homesick. I had grown to despise my PhD thesis and the academic world I've been submerged in for the past three years. My thoughts had been with my family as my grandparents are not doing well at all and I really wanted to get home and help out however I could. Together, those two situations combined to make Stretch one unhappy individual. Five weeks at home was what I needed, but once I was soaking up the sunshine in Tennessee, I started to doubt whether I even wanted to continue my PhD. Would there really be a payoff for my hardwork in the future? Did I really want to take out more student loans to cover my costs in St Andrews? Do I even want a career in academia? I'm 34, what the hell am I doing?
As I stood perched over the magnificent Rannoch Moor to my right and the Glencoe valley to my left, none of these thoughts entered my head. It was as if time had stood still. There was nothing but the wonderful Scottish landscape. There was only Ben Nevis, the Grey Corries, Schiehallion, Creise, and the tiny ants marching along the A82 miles below me.
I must have stood there for what seemed to be hours, but no negative thoughts ran through my overworked brain. This must be why I climb, why I drive three hours across Scotland, why I labor up a steep slope, why I frequently daydream about the Glencoe area. Maybe the sun was cooking my head, maybe I'm on the verge of a breakdown, or just maybe, the peaks around Glencoe and Glen Etive actually have a healing quality to them. On Bidean last year in May I first experienced this as I was overwhelmed by the amazing views from the top of only my 4th munro. Later that year I stood on Ben Starav and admired my first cloud inversion, and on this day I found peace of mind on top of one of the most recognizable peaks in Scotland.
I had to pull myself away from the summit of Stob Dearg, knowing that the ridge of the mighty Buachaille still lay ahead. As I made my way over to Stob na Doire I still had no sense of time. It seemed as if the position of the bright sun had hardly changed. I didn't feel tired anymore. The scenery capitivated my eyes and I repeatedly scanned the horizon, naming peaks as I walked along. I was no longer a troubled postgrad student dealing with a fair bit of homesickness.
A pool of water on Stob na Doire caught my eye. There was no movement from the clouds reflecting in the pool - time stood still.
Then there was the view back toward Stob Dearg . . .
My next target was Stob na Brioge, the second munro on the ridge. There was mighty Loch Etive and Ben Starav. The horns of the Cruachan horseshoe were clearly visible. Bidean to my right was a bold, dark shadow against the blazing sun. I began to wonder what time it was, but did it really matter? Nothing had changed from peak to peak. I was in a semi-state of bliss. The time of day was irrelavent.
I should mention that I had the entire ridge to myself. I envisioned several walkers paused in complete stillness along the route. Since time had stopped they couldn't progress and I was holding the hourglass. I didn't want to leave the ridge, but even though I felt like I was having an out of body experience I could hear my stomach grumbling, the big man needed food. On my way down the steep path off the ridge that descends into the Lairig Gartain I stopped to admire the Foxgloves scattered along the path.
The walk out was enjoyable, no bog in sight, and the rumble of the Allt Coire Altruim kept my mind at ease. When I reached the car the first thing I did was check the time. 8:20. How did this happen? Surely it was only 4. That is the magic of Glencoe I thought. With each trip to the area I become captivated by my surroundings, I forget my problems and the stress of daily life, I lose all sense of time.
A week ago I decided to stick it out here in St Andrews and complete my PhD, knowing that somewhere down the road it will pay off. The homesickness will return from time to time, and my thoughts will be with my family on a daily basis. But I know that when I lace up my boots, head up a path, reach a ridgeline, and peer out across the vast Scottish landscape with one leg upon a summit cairn that my worries will vanish. Time will stand still again.
I pulled out of the car park and drove a short distance back to Glen Etive to check on my tent. On my previous camping trip here a band of merry-making pirates invaded my private island and I packed up and left my once cozy spot before the night's carnage began. This time my tent was fine, all alone on a quite piece of land where I had left it. Time for food.
I've wanted to get to the Clachaig Inn for a while now, but it was jam packed and I wasn't sure they'd still be serving food at 9pm. I kept driving. Everything in Glencoe was practically closed as well. I could eat the soggy sandwich that was in my cooler, or, I could do what any honorable American would do . . . drive to Fort Williams for McDonalds. Ten minutes later I passed under the golden arches and ordered my not-so-traditional camping meal.
I parked along the waterfront in Fort William and sat on a park bench overlooking Loch Linnhe. As I bit into my tasty Big Mac I reflected upon what a great day I had had. Now I know what you're thinking, he's going to tell us time stood still. But I can promise you, that I ate that glorious burger so fast that time didn't stand a chance
Very moving with your inner troubles and long range family in conjunction with student worries. A report straight from the heart. Well written. Superb pictures as usual. I enjoyed that. In fact whilst I was reading it I think time stood still.
by Jock McJock » Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:45 pm
by jdmoore » Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:52 pm
Good luck with the remainder of your work, and I'm looking forward to your next walk report.
by HighlandSC » Mon Jul 26, 2010 7:56 pm
Good to see you're back in the country...but sorry to hear how difficult that can be for you at the moment. I'm limited in getting out for the next while - but by winter at latest we'll get out together - get some proper time in the crampons!
by Stretch » Mon Jul 26, 2010 8:14 pm
Monty, with your insane pace I'm pretty sure that if you started walking anti-clockwise around the world time would indeed stop
Jock, I agree, say what you want about McD's, but there are times when it is a must have!
Jd, you probably know how soul-destroying a PhD is, congrats on completion! I'm looking at submitting by next Sept, just need to work really hard and stay focused. The weekend trips to the hills keeps me sane.
Highland, I never got to use my crampons earlier this year so I'll definetely be up for that. Looking into a 1 day winter course so I'll be ready.
by skuk007 » Mon Jul 26, 2010 9:04 pm
I know what you mean about not wanting to come down off the ridge. I did quite a bit of walking in Glencoe this year and didn't want to leave. I was lucky enough to get great weather and could easily have stayed on the summits for a long time trying to name all the peaks.
Being from north of the border originally, reading your report has made me a little bit homesick myself.
by ceebeeby » Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:20 pm
It's wonderful how all troubles seem to be left at the base of the mountain.
Thanks for sharing
by Penguin » Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:36 pm
Thanks for sharing it.
by Stretch » Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:41 pm
by HighlandSC » Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:45 pm
by Stretch » Mon Jul 26, 2010 10:54 pm
by FloozySuzie » Mon Jul 26, 2010 11:44 pm
- Posts: 137
- Joined: Mar 30, 2010
- Location: Ardersier, Inverness-shire
Very many people take to the hills to calm their stress or expel their depression - including the great A Wainwright (writer of English Lake District mountain guidebooks). I have to say I've never had homesickness as such (not even when I joined the Army at 17) as I'm not very emotional family-wise but I have had a type of 'homesickness' for various beautiful areas of Britain (normally hilly but not always). My mother gets those too - it's like we'll be sat there doing something and suddenly we 'swap out' and mentally disappear off to wherever it is we're missing - and it's like we're really there! Always makes me feel better that, even if I can't be there
- mountain coward
by happyhiker » Tue Jul 27, 2010 10:24 am
Good luck with getting it finished.