Beinn Eighe (western summits)

The weather forecast left me thinking hard whether to travel all the way to the West Coast or not. It was predicted to remain dry for most of the day, but overcast. The latter meant a fair chance for the tops to be shrouded in clouds and thus obscuring the views. The only way to find out was to travel there and see. The skies looked discouraging along the way: black low clouds tempted me to switch to plan B well before arriving at the destination. I resisted and drove on towards Kinlochewe. The sunlit view of the village and Loch Maree (photo 1) filled me with hope. It soon diminished substantially, when I arrived at the car park and saw the tops in clouds. I hoped they would vanish eventually.

My planned route was circular and included a mile-long walk along the road on one end and a much longer walk through the glens on the other. I decided to go anticlockwise. In that way I’d had the road out of my way and start climbing while still fresh and full-ish of vigour, leaving the long walk for the return leg. I hit the road about 9:30 and it took me longer than expected to cover the distance. It was down to the road traffic, unusually busy for such a narrow road in the middle of nowhere. Now it’s part of the North Coast 500 and heaving with vehicles of all kind. Every couple of minutes I had to go aside and stand in the grass to let the traffic go past, while keeping my eye on Pole the Dog, excited with all the new smells around. Surprisingly, I managed to have a wee chat with a driver, who purposely stopped by. It was very nice. When I turned off the road I was really happy to leave it behind.

The path leading up the hill was narrow but well maintained; in places it resembled pavements with its neatly laid stones. The path was winding its way up at a rather comfortable angle, neither too flat or too steep, so I was making a good progress. The final part was harder as the path steepened and became much rougher. However, the views were a great reward for all the effort. Eventually I reached the ridge and the great view westwards opened before my eyes; spectacular and scary at the same time as I realised I had a lot of ground to cover yet… Thankfully, the first Munro of the day was at my fingertips. Or so I thought. The top was close, but to get there I had to scramble up the rocky outcrops and to cross scree, highly unstable underfoot. It was a bit tense, but I managed to get to the top and back safely.

Walking along the ridge was kind of uneventful, firstly going down, then climbing up. Nothing more strenuous than usually. At one point the path climbed steeply up only to lead down on the other side of the hill – that’s what I saw. I decided to give that hill a miss and traversed its slope. That spared me some completely unnecessary climbing up and down. That shortcut led me to the spot I’d use later on to go down and back to my car. But first I had walk towards the second Munro of the day. It was significantly longer than the previous one, but much less dramatic or tense. In fact, it was pretty relaxing. It wasn’t too steep, while the views in every direction were stunning. Midway to the top I met a group of walkers willing to help with taking a photo of me and Pole the Dog, with the dramatic backdrop of Beinn Eighe. Then I continued towards the summit and came across a few deer. They weren’t particularly alarmed. Pole the Dog showed off his restrain: he didn’t chase any of the deer (as he had been trained), only his nose was catching the scent. We returned to the crossing with Pole holding his head up, as was his master.

This particular part of the range seemed to be rather popular with tourists. Unlike in most of my walks I came across a good number of people. I had a lovely chat with a couple at the crossing. They were making their mind up where to go. Then Pole and I headed down the corrie and that was really scary. It was very steep, filled with rock rubble and gravel. I decided to stick to one of the walls. The central part, pummelled with falling rocks and worn by elements looked far too unstable underfoot. I had to do some scrambling down, Pole the Dog had to find his own way (he’s rather good at it). After a while we reached the lower part of the corrie unscathed, though with my legs trembling a bit. The path led down along a couple of bodies of water and eventually became much gentler and flatter. Its surface was rather pleasant, so despite the length of that final leg it was very relaxing. It was that massive open space around me, with quiet hills, pools of water, gently flowing burns and widely spread carpets of heather. Pole the Dog, by now too tired to get excited, quietly followed me along my tranquil walk. It was semi-mystical experience, something I find very refreshing spiritually. When we got back to my car I felt elated and hyper despite being completely knackered. While driving back home I stopped in the middle of the road to have a wee chat with the couple I’d met up the hill. They were walking along the same stretch of the road as I’d done several ours earlier, but in the opposite direction. That’s how I knew what they had decided. It was a cracking day out, and I had a proof that a good number of people thought the same.