I SHOULD have been polishing off the few remaining Munros of my fourth round this weekend to celebrate my birthday.
Instead, a series of dastardly twists that would not have seemed out of place in a Bond film put paid to my grand plans.
Ladies and gentlemen, without any need for a heroic reprise from Daniel Craig or, thank God, any more warbling from Adele, I give you … Skyefail.
Forget 007, I was heading to the Cuillin as 004. Or so I thought. It turned out my numeracy skills weren't so hot. A quick check of the logs revealed that it was actually: Oh, oh – 5.
Somewhere in the brain fog of the past couple of years I had miscalculated. Not a major problem – the four, or five, required were in a cluster – but it seemed I had somehow managed to miss Sgurr Alasdair from the count. A Thunderballs-up, you might say.
A recurring dream of struggling up the Great Stone Chute may have been an influence, the regularity possibly convincing me that I had already been there, done it. I have only ever tackled this giant sheet of scree on descent having come over Sgurr Alasdair from the connection with Sgurr Dubh Mor, but it has been in my mind for a long time that I should pay my dues simply in the interest of variety.
I had originally planned a spectacular finish on Sgurr Dubh Mor via the Dubhs Ridge, but a few hitches and crossed wires in arrangements meant a switch to the more conventional approach. And with Sgurr Alasdair now back in the mix, the schedule changed again.
Three days out of four would do it: Sgurr a' Mhadaidh and Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh one day, Sgurr Dubh Mor and Sgurr Alasdair another, and Bruach na Frithe either first or last, but the running order was of no importance. Flexibility was the key. And if I didn't get them done, no big deal. The mountains aren't going anywhere.
As it turned out, neither was I. With Covid doing the rounds again, the family very kindly clubbed together to make sure I didn't miss out. It's always disappointing to open a birthday present and discover it's something you've had before but this really took it to a new level.
Just like the first time, it was barely more than a sniffle or two which seemed to pass through quickly, but it would still have been wrong to travel to shared accommodation in Skye and risk putting anyone else in the group at risk. It's probably also wise not to push it too hard, too soon with big mountain days.
At least I didn't have the problem of having to call off a 'compleation' party. As you can probably guess, I'm not a fan of big hill celebrations – a personal thing: I am perfectly happy attending and applauding other people's finishes, it's just not for me – and anyway, fourth time round seems like just another summit before it all begins again.
The Dubhs Ridge would undoubtedly have been a classic way to complete another round, but the number of attendees would have been limited to a maximum of two. And the airy little perch is probably not a good place to start swigging alcohol.
Some scurrilous suggestions that I chose this route rather than the relatively simpler Bruach na Frithe for that very reason are way off the mark (possibly). I was not being a party pooper: there was simply no party to poop. There was also the potential embarrassment factor in that we could have been celebrating a finish that wasn't really a finish and then not realising the shortfall until a few days' later.
The further consolation is that it is unlikely I would have committed to all three days with the forecast for low cloud, winds and rain anyway. I wasn't going be plodding up with nothing to see. I left that behind a few years ago.
Patience has been a virtue on this latest round, and I'm not going to spoil it now. It's been slower going over these last, strange three years but I have picked my days carefully and the rewards have been commensurate.
I do wonder, though, if this is one of the more bizarre Munro firsts. There can't be many people who have been heading into a weekend needing four ticks to complete yet come out the other side needing five.