Published 25th September 2014, 11:18

    THIRTEEN years ago to the day I was sitting at the top of a mountain watching the sun rise, unaware that 3,000 miles across the Atlantic the world was about to catch fire. It was September 11, 2001.

    While I was making my way up to Beinn Mhic-Mhonaidh through the silent woods above Glen Orchy, the clock had just ticked past midnight in New York.

    While I sat at the summit cairn having breakfast in the light of the new day, thousands of people were enjoying their last restful night for a long time.

    And as I made my way back to the car after another enjoyable but uneventful early morning walk, the men who would bring horror and fiery death to so many were getting ready to board the planes they would use as missiles to devastating effect.

    The first hint that anything so beyond our comprehension was happening came as I made the leisurely drive back into Glasgow down the side of Loch Lomond. A breaking news report on the radio said a plane had apparently struck one of the towers of the World Trade Centre.

    Even at that point, it was relatively low key, no one quite yet taking in the full extent or possibilities of what was unfolding. Then came a second report that another plane had struck the other tower. Now there was confusion as news sources struggled to put together what had happened.

    There was no mention of an attack or any deliberate act at this point. In fact, it was being suggested that after a passenger jet had hit the building, a press plane, sent up to investigate the incident, had also crashed. Unlikely, but then it seemed nobody could quite believe there could be any other reason.

    Then as reports started coming in of the crash at the Pentagon and the grounding of all flights as a state of emergency was declared, reality dawned around the world at the scale of this carnage.

    By the time I got to work, everyone was glued to the television screens around the office. I had come from a place of peace and serenity to scenes of madness and mayhem in a matter of hours.

    It was one of those moments in time - like the Kennedy assassination, the shooting of John Lennon or the death of Princess Diana - when everyone will always remember where they were.

    Fast forward nine years, and I am up early, getting ready for a walk in the Cairngorms. Days and dates tend to be irrelevant on these occasions, the whole focus being on the joy of getting out on the hills with friends. No radio, no TV, no newspapers, just going through the motions of packing quietly so as not to wake anyone else in the house.

    Hours later we were on the plateau of Ben Avon in brilliant autumnal sunshine, blue skies reaching forever, not a cloud in sight.

    The main top is the wonderfully named Leabaidh an Daimh Bhuidhe (it means the bed of the yellow stag), and the summit is the top of a huge granite pillar. There are a few pillars in fact, and the main two are roughly the same height, so I have always scaled both.

    It was only when we were all on one pillar or the other and I mentioned we were standing on the Twin Tors that it clicked what day it was. The Twin Tors on September 11. There was silence for a few seconds. It seemed a collective shiver ran up our spines, as if everyone had suddenly flashed back to the enormity of that terrible day.

    It seemed a perfect place of peace and a perfect place in time for a moment of reflection.