Published 4th October 2023, 18:33

    THE Glen of Weeping was in full flow, rivers of silver tears pouring from every face as the rain thundered down and the wind battered the slopes.

    Seconds later, the taps were turned off, blue sky, sunshine and untidy pillars of white cloud usurping the gloom. It was a typical mercurial outing in Glen Coe. Everything everywhere all at once.

    This constant flip-flopping often serves up the best mountain days, when the light is ever evolving, the rocks and slabs invisible one minute, then sparkling with the brilliance of a thousand suns the next.

    We were based at Corran for three days and knew we would get wet. But we also knew we would once again discover why Scotland is the undisputed land of light.

    Even the journey up through the rainstorms was sensational. On the way to Crianlarich, I was treated to a spectacular monochrome landscape ahead in the distance, layer after layer of pyramid silhouettes being breached by laser shafts of sunlight. 

    Next morning I set off from the soaking grey of Ballachulish with the promise of an ever-enlightening experience. Everyone else seemed to have plumped for the Munros of Beinn a' Bheithir and the crowd thinned on the initial walk up the glen until I was the lone figure heading up for the long haul to Fraochaidh.

    It had been 19 years since my last ascent of this lonely Corbett, and memories of the route were familiar yet lacking detail. It had been relatively dry last time, so the fullness of the number of lively streams to negotiate did come as a surprise, as did the three-point crossing of the rather full River Laroch.

    The marked path on the opposite side was a running river rather than simply boggy but progress uphill through the trees was fast, although once I reached the first high col I had to empty my boots and change my socks. 

    I had remembered the many undulations of the long, long ridge ahead and the accumulated height gain that snubs its nose at the summit number. I also remembered this all had to be reversed on the way back, but that just adds to the magnificence of this mighty mountain, a peak for the connoisseur.

    The rain arrived bang on schedule shortly after I had finished and it continued in various stages of ferocity through the night, but the forecast for the following day now offered signs of optimism, a gradually improving picture from late morning. The short journey along the glen to Buachaille Etive Beag began dry, changed to something resembling a typhoon, then quickly switched again as we prepared to set off.

    The heat on the early climb meant the waterproofs were ditched within five minutes. They were back on after a few more. The clouds were racing across the sky, and if the wind bulldozing its way down the Lairig Eilde was anything to go by, it would be a struggle up on the ridge.

    As is often the case, it was calmer at the col than it had been at lower level. That changed as we made our way towards Stob Dubh, the higher of the two Munros, and got caught by violent gusts coming in from the side. We took a few knocks but again this eased as we gained height on the final push and although it was blowy and wet at the summit there was no comparison to what we had come through a few minutes earlier.

    We braced for the re-crossing of the wind tunnel and were rewarded with a welcome interval of calm, blue sky and warm sun at the col. This stayed with us on the climb up Stob Coire Raineach, but the clearing of the skies simply seemed to be a signal to the wind to increase in strength. It was hard to stay on our feet at times during the ascent, and we agreed that we were right on the edge of the wind scale: any stronger and we would have pulled the plug.

    It shouldn't have come as a surprise, but as we descended we met dozens of people heading up, mostly day walkers and tourists and mostly with little or no adequate equipment for the conditions up top. We had needed our poles to stay on our feet – we saw only one or two similarly prepared.

    With relatively settled conditions now in situ, I decided to head out again in the evening in search of a sunset along the shores of Loch Etive with a wander up to Cadderlie bothy.

    The inward leg provided some lovely light on the water and grand views over to the Cruachan peaks, but the sky failed to properly ignite and the return was towards an insipid horizon which gradually faded to black. For once, the light had failed to shine.