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The Honest One, Stob Dearg and Buachaille Etive Mor

PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2017 4:17 pm
by Joehill

The sun was about to set in the west, as I inhaled the warm summer air filled with smells of the highlands. The cold pint of beer in my hand was a reward for another week of work well done, and I felt at peace with myself as I was drinking equally thirsty of the day’s last sunshine, as of the day’s last beer. The swallows flew relentlessly in the blue skies above the Kingshouse, and what work can be more honest than theirs, to build a nest and to feed a family? I guess it is easy to fly relentlessly and tireless while living by the great purpose of preserving the chain of life. I guess it is one way of living freely – to create and maintain something that is greater than one self.

Instead of going directly to my tent, I decide to take a last stroll along the mellow River Etive before bed. Many campers had found their way out there, and I couldn’t figure out if it was from exhaustion walking the west highland way, or if people were stunned by the sudden heat wave, but I could clearly recognise the tranquillity among the tents that evening. No raised voices, only whispers, and no rushing feet, only rest.

No noise, only my quiet steps along the river, that was laid out like a slivery road towards the horizon. I followed that road for a while and I saw a herd of deer passing the river not far in front of me. Two hinds stopped in the stream as they saw me, and so did I. They told me that the hind is believed to tempt us to leave the material world of our civilisation, and to go deep into the realm of magic and explore our spiritual nature. They’ve said so, and I know it is tempting, but when is the right time, if we have time?


The following day I woke up early and packed my gear for the day’s challenge to climb up Stob Dearg, and walk the Buachaille Etive Mor ridge. I had seen the mountain earlier this year on my way to Skye with my brother, and I knew already then that I would have to get up there. I walked along the already busy road and the morning sun was warming my back. I was getting closer to the mountain’s foot, and Stob Dearg appeared almost shinning. So many mountain tops are hidden, either in clouds or by other peaks, but Stob Dearg is the honest one. The mountain doesn’t hide the fact that the slopes are steep and that the peek is high up in the sky. Stob Dearg doesn’t pretend and it is no use in pretending yourself.

I reached the coirre on the north side of Stob Dearg, it was scorching hot, and it was an effort to reach higher. Close to the ridge and on the last bit up the slope, I followed what appeared to be the track towards the left, and ended up on a very step section with no obvious path upwards. I had observed some of the fellow mountaineers from below, and I could see that it was difficult to get up this last bit, but this was a bit more than I had expected. I made a decision to climb upwards, and managed to get about teen meters higher. But then I had to stop, because it was almost vertical and it didn’t feel safe. I held on to pointy rocks as I slowly ascended partially by sliding down. I investigated my hand at one point, and I could see marks of blood mixed with dirt. Back down, I started to walk back towards the right side of the corrie again, and in this moment of defeat I could see the actual path upwards. It was still challenging to get up that last bit but nothing like what I had attempted earlier.


Well up on the Buachaille Etive Mor ridge there is nothing more to fear, and what I had to do after the corrie was only to walk. And I was happy to walk towards the summit of Stob Dearg, and to follow the sandstone path. As I was getting close to the summit I closed my eyes and with the warm breeze around me it felt like I could have been anywhere but in Scotland. I could have been walking on a stony beach in southern France for all I knew. I opened my eyes, and to the north I could see the massive Nevis Range, and far down below the two rivers of Coupall and Etive meet. I could see that I had once again made it up a mountain, and I could see that I relentlessly was working towards doing it again and again.

But was it an honest work?


Was walking all the way to Stob na Broige a way to create and maintain something that is greater than one self, and in that case what? I looked back towards Stob Dearg, and all covered by clouds and other mountains, the mountain didn’t look honest anymore. But then again, is honesty lost just because one cannot see it clearly? How many times will honesty and truth be perceived as lies just because we fail to see? I was as free as the swallow‘s flight, and I was tireless in my peruse of learning from nature and the great mountains, so how could my work be other than honest?