(Written by Stuart)
We drove down to Glencoe with a mass of songs by the Corries blasting out of the car stereo. We were both excited to be heading down to the Buachaille, and we couldnít wait. "Buachaille!" we yelled with enthusiasm when we saw it emerge from behind its little brother. "Buachaille!" we screamed with excitement when we saw it before us in all its pointy glory.
Then we got to the car park. "Oh", we said, "itís a bit busy, isnít it" was our reaction to the mass of vehicles, including several minibuses. "Hmmmm ..." I said when I noticed the big chunk of snow on the scrambly bit right at the top of the climb. There was only one thing for it, we abandoned the Buachaille. But it has an understudy when it comes to the whole iconic mountain thing, and that was sitting just down the road.
"Beinn Dorain!" we cried as we left the Buachaille behind. "Beinn Dorain!" we yelled as Rannoch Moor disappeared behind us and we saw the Orchy hills before us. "Thank god for that!" we said with relief when we saw a quiet car park at its base.
Starting time was 1.13pm, or 1313 in 24 hour time. It was Friday 13th. And we were now climbing our 13th munro together. The phrase "Houston, weíve had a problem" was ringing in my ears as we began the ascent, given that this was also the anniversary of the day Apollo 13 blew up! I was hoping this abundance of omens wouldnít show up later in the day.
We set off up the standard route from the west, to reach the col to the north of the mountain. We trod along a well worn path, and there were a handful of other climbers, including a family with a small child. We intended to climb a second munro that day, Beinn a Dothaidh, but before long it was obvious weíd left too late to do both, and I was too unfit to do it in the time we had.
I huffed and puffed my way up to the col behind a very energetic Karla as the wind varied between howling gale and flat calm every few minutes. The wind didnít drop any when we reached the very busy col, but as we started up the south ridge the sun began to dominate over the wind, although the cloud cover was increasing.
I ached and puffed all the way up the ridge, vowing with every step to spend more time in the gym when I returned home. Karla again continued to outpace me, much to my shame as we approached the false summit of Carn Sasunnaich, a small top with a large cairn a few hundred metres short of the summit. It has a reputation for making people think itís the real summit in thick mist, but on a beautifully clear day like today the real summit is obvious, and we continued towards it across a short dip on the ridge before reaching the summit.
It was about 5pm, and the summit was deserted. The mountains around the small summit were beginning to glow in the evening light. We couldnít wait to get naked, and it would be over an hour before we got dressed again.
Then it was my turn for the photos, and like Karla I felt fantastic. I often find that for the first ten minutes or so of being nude on a mountain, I behave in a very silly way, leaping about throwing my arms around and running about with a silly look on my face, and this was no exception. I ran, I jumped, I pulled silly faces and felt the life that town living had sucked out of me flow back into my veins. The evening breeze tickled my skin leaving me shivering, not with cold, but with a zest for life I hadnít felt in a long time.
It wasnít long before we passed a small lochan, and it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Karla stripped off and we got a few good shots. The light was getting especially good, with sunbeams breaking through the clouds that were glowing with a delicate pink hue.
By the time I got dressed almost another hour had passed, we were losing light quickly. We almost ran down the last 1800ft of the mountain in 45 minutes, getting back to the car as darkness descended. We have to extend our heartfelt thanks to the lovely couple in a camper van who were parked near our car. They made us a cup of tea and chatted with us as we relaxed before heading down to Tyndrum to grab some dinner.
Driving back to Fort William in the dark, we stopped briefly at a lay-by in Glencoe. In utter darkness the silhouette of Buachaille Etive Mor imprinted itself upon the starry sky before us. Staring at this pyramidal hole in the stars I knew she was now very high on my list of mountains to climb. My eye is fixed on her for our next trip north.
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