Three generations were booted and suited near Achlean in Glen Feshie, all ready for a memorable day.
As part of a summer family gathering near Aviemore, the "fit old bugger" had been asked by the son-in-law to select an appropriate Munro on which to blood the grandchildren: a mountain equivalent of the initiation at the "gralloch" for the two youngest.
Sgor Gaoith was chosen for its ease of approach, gently rising path and, by coincidence, it could be seen from where we were staying. We could all point to it at breakfast before setting off and then, later in the week, they could point to it with a sense of self-satisfied pride when other family members arrived.
However, the weather gods were not promising any support for the outing. The top drifted in and out of cloud while the cornflakes were being devoured and rain was forecast at some stage during the day. The only positive thing to be said was that the strengthening breeze would keep the midges at bay.
An enthusiastic departure from the car park wasn't quite marked by skipping along the tarmac to the strains of "Whistle while you work" but it wasn't far off. The easy gradient of the path rising through the trees did nothing to slow the youngsters' momentum. It bode well for when they would see the path stretching ahead as we emerged from the woods. Exploring streams, and spotting mushrooms, slugs and increasingly isolated saplings helped pass the time, as did picking cotton grass and gazing across the glen fruitlessly looking for deer.
By the time we reached the edge of the Moine Mhor and the cairn marking the crossing of ways, a handful of squalls had passed us by, the wind had picked up and the cloud had come down. But none of this dampened their energy or enthusiasm, instead they seemed intrigued by the fact that they had walked into the clouds.
"No, this isn't the top," was received with remarkable calm as we reached the shelter and cairn on Carn Ban Mor.
"It's over there," I pointed into the clag.
"It's alright, he's been here before," said Dad to reassure their scepticism. We pressed on.
Suddenly, for a brief moment, the pyramid silhouette of the top appeared through the mist, then dissolved away as a thicker patch of cloud blew through. Having looked deceptively close, it spurred them on ... and on ... and on. That intervening kilometre never seemed to end.
I feared the inevitable: are we there yet?
As we became aware of the plunging crags to our right into Loch Einich we were greeted with the occasional glimpse downward. After the long, slow and gradual ascent, it came as something of a shock to the children to realise how far up they actually were: and usefully instilled a degree of care as we finally reached the top.
Where, of course, we saw nothing, it started to rain, and the wind increased its bite. There were no arguments when it was suggested we didn't hang around to enjoy a sandwich and some chocolate.
Of course Dad and I knew what would happen next; and it did. Less than ten minutes from leaving the top, the clouds lifted and the rain stopped. But by now, a flat stone and improvised table had been booked for lunch in the shelter on Carn Ban Mor.
"No, we don't need to go back up."
Fortified and rested, we left the embrace of the shelter and began to retrace our steps: homeward bound. Gravity aided dwindling levels of enthusiasm and energy, yet their pride in now being young Munroists was pricked when we meet a couple following in the wake of even younger children climbing upward.
The final stretch of tarmac had its predictable effect on the adults: sore feet and the pressure to carry jackets and fleeces that the children jettisoned as the temperature rose. There was no point in making them suffer so close to the end of what had been a grand day.
The last bit of kit to be shed was a walking pole. Both children had taken one in hand and used them throughout the walk: something to rest on, an aid to upward progress, balance for the odd athletic leap downward, and the obligatory scythe when passing long grass. I also suspect they masqueraded as a light sabre or lance when drifting off into their own worlds on occasion. So, when one was reminded of his comment at the beginning of the day, it was handed over for Dad to carry.
"I don't want one of those," he had declared before starting. "Walking sticks are for old people." Neither Dad nor I wanted to ask which one of us he meant, though at ten years old I suspect he included both of us in his observation.
So, they've started: will they finish?
That'll be up to them. Their first foray proved a success and they met the challenge with a relish. We won't be forcing another but I'm sure it won't have been their last.
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