BUACHAILLE ETIVE MOR is the pin-up boy of the Scottish mountains.
Its image is on calendars sold all over the globe, instantly recognisable even to those who have never been near a hill.
Standing majestically at the entrance to Glen Coe, it’s a mountain that looks like everyone’s image of a mountain and it inspires passion among all those who know it.
The Buachaille has played an important role in my mountain years. Like so many other walkers and climbers of every level, I was driven to take up this hobby after my first sight of this imposing lump of rock.
Since then I have climbed it at all times of day or night and in all kinds of conditions.
Over the years it has provided joy and sadness, laughter and tears, excitement and tragedy.
But it’s the ideal mountain for a first-timer. It gives a sense of real mountaineering amongst amazing terrain and scenery.
We used to suggest that anyone who wanted to join our club had first to come with us up the Buachaille to prove themselves. If you didn’t love that hill then there was no hope for you.
I even took an American friend to the summit at 3am for a Scottish night out that didn’t involve tartan, shortbread or heather. He was blown away by the experience.
But that shouldn’t come as a surprise - even the finest of mountaineers find their first experience of the Buachaille mind-blowing.
In the mid-1990s a group of us began an annual pilgrimage in July, ostensibly to celebrate my birthday but mainly just as an excuse to scale this wonderful mountain once again.
This outing grew and grew and soon began one of the year’s must-do events involving birthday cakes, wine and an apres-hill party at the Kingshouse.
Then it all changed. One of the gang, our good friend Trevor, died after a fall on the mountain.
He had been planning to put a bottle of Champagne on the main summit Stob Dearg as a birthday surprise for me so that it was waiting there when we reached the cairn next day.
He went up on his own in the middle of the night but instead of heading up the usual walkers’ way via Coire na Tulaich, he decided to climb Curved Ridge, one of the climbers’ routes on the front of the mountain. Whether by accident or design he ended up on Crowberry Ridge, a far more serious proposition. He slipped and fell a long way.
The first sign that something was wrong was when he failed to appear for work. After that the day unfolded like a nightmare as our worst fears were realised.
After a lot of soul-searching, we decided to go ahead with the climb the next day anyway. It may be an over-used phrase, but we felt it was what he would have wanted.
Since then, the annual pilgrimage has been in memory of Trevor rather than a birthday celebration.
Every year at this time, there are flowers placed on the bridge below the mountain by his family. His ashes were scattered at the foot of the mountain and we always toast his memory.
So think of us this weekend and feel free to raise a glass to Trevor.
(First published Daily Record, July 4, 2013)