WE set off at 3.30am in a darkness made even more impenetrable by low-lying mist, impossible to see more a couple of feet ahead.
It was fitting that we were heading for Beinn a’Ghlo, the mountain of mist, a beautiful triple-Munro mountain north-east of Blair Atholl.
I was being accompanied by Ryan and Craig to film a night ascent and sunrise as part of the promotional build-up to my book, Moonwalker.
We had originally planned to film in Glen Coe but the forecast was for rain. A mountain in the eastern half of the country was therefore a better bet, but as we headed up the track by the light of our head torches it wasn’t looking too promising.
A left turn on to a grassy track led us through some boggy ground before the path firmed up and began the climb up to the first peak, Carn Liath. A few barks from deer somewhere off in the mist, surprised by this early morning intrusion, were the only sounds cutting through the night.
Halfway up the boys went on ahead to film my ascent from above. Fifteen minutes later they moved off to the side where the path splits into a curious diamond shape to capture my upward progress up the increasingly steep ground.
We were still in darkness but there were signs the light wasn’t far away as we started making out the shapes of the slopes of the hill on either side.
By the time we hit a more level section just below the summit, there was a battle going on in the skies above. So far Carn Liath, the grey hill, was living up to its name but the boys set up their cameras and we sat down by the huge cairn to wait.
First a faint light appeared from the north-east. Then it picked up momentum and the mist blew over on two sides to reveal the black shadows of the next two peaks on the ridge, Braigh Coire Chruinn-bhalgain and Carn nan Gabhar.
Above them, the sky was light blue with streaks of gold and pink. Below, a sea of cloud. The mist and cloud blew in and out over the next few minutes, teasingly revealing and then hiding the landscape in turns.
And then over to the east it looked like the clouds were being lit from below by a massive fire. They glowed golden and the sun edged its way upwards above them highlighting rainbow skies all around.
We now had a full inversion, a sea of cloud all around, and we were sitting above it on a rocky island, one of many peaking up as far as the eye could see. We could the roof of Scotland but below the cloud was still winning the battle of the elements.
The idea had been that I would head over the “bridge” to the next peaks with the guys still filming from Carn Liath. The waterfall of cloud rolling over from that direction rendered that a fool’s errand.
Anyway, from our stance the conditions were perfect for the time lapse film the boys were shooting and the silhouette figure standing staring into the rising sun. There was no need to travel further.
By the time the mist and cloud staged a recovery to sweep over everything again we had spent more than two hours on the summit and had what we needed. It was a good night’s work.
(First published Daily Record, September 19, 2013)