WE were sitting in the sunshine of a perfect summer evening drinking in the delights of Schiehallion.
The beer that is, not the mountain. For the record, we were also savouring Ben Nevis, An Teallach, Cairn Gorm, Blaven, and various other brews with evocative mountain names.
And it was during this extended peak crawl that an idea started to brew – what if every Munro were available on a beer bottle?
In the alcoholic haze of a drinking session, this seemed a simple but genius proposition to put to the big beer companies. The sales possibilities would be staggering – in some cases, quite literally – if people could collect all 282 and boast of being a liquid Munroist.
You could have wild nights on the Cuillin, the Mamores or the South Shiel Ridge, or you could have a quiet night in with a Beinn na Lap or a Ben Chonzie. If you were really up for the challenge, you could take on the Broxap Round.
Donnie Campbell's astonishing record of 282 in 31 days would be smashed. I knew a few folk who could have comfortably 'compleated' in about a week. Granted, this was in the good (or more accurately, not so good) old days of two-fisted drinking when six large measures were a mere appetiser during a meal break from work. Not surprisingly, many of those folk are no longer with us.
Like most lightbulb moments that occur during a heavy night on the sauce, in the sober light of day it appeared far more clear cut than half-cut. This was a genie that was definitely better left in the bottle.
The reminder of this fleeting madcap idea came to me last week as I was rummaging in the back of a cupboard and found an intact bottle of An Teallach ale. It has remained unopened for more than three years, well past its 'Best Before' date, and it will likely stay that way.
This was a gift from a mountaineering pal, one of the last bottles from the An Teallach Ale Company before it ceased trading in 2019. The Ullapool shop had been a favourite stocking-up place on our trips to the North-west and it was sad to hear of its demise.
Time moves on without taking prisoners, and over the past 20 years or so the culture around alcohol has changed for the better. It used to be that any day out in the hills would be followed by a few drinks in the nearest pub, but stricter drink-drive limits, the closure of many hostelries, and the generally healthier lifestyle adopted by the majority of outdoors participants has altered dramatically.
In our younger days, we would think nothing of drinking until the small hours then heading into the mountains, severely hung over and, in some cases, probably still well inebriated.
After one particularly lengthy session, we set off into the Mamores, plodding along for two hours with sweat lashing down our faces, completely unaware that it had been raining for almost the entire duration of the ascent.
Some days it worked to your advantage. On a hot midge-fest climb up Creise, we discovered we were immune to their blood-sucking due to the amount of Guinness sweating out through every pore. At least the little beasties had been happy as they drowned in their thousands on our faces.
Having sensibly dodged a bullet on the beers idea, however, I did encounter one marketing drinks enterprise that I simply couldn't swallow. In an attempt to compete with the big boys, the owner of a local outdoors shop started offering regular customers an enterprising try-before-you-buy scheme.
This worked well at first, when he gave me a Keela jacket which I wore on Ben Nevis. Although it wasn't the most lightweight, it did everything he said and more and he got his sale. In fact, that jacket lasted for more than 20 years before it disintegrated.
Our arrangement came to a rather bizarre end when he tried to convince me to try out a new water filtration system. After I agreed to take a look, he appeared from the back shop with the bottle filled with water. There was also something nasty floating in it.
“Is that ..” I started only for him to quickly finish the sentence, “yep, sheep droppings. But don't worry, the filter takes care of that. It's perfectly safe to drink.”
I'm game for most things; I've had a pint of Sheepshaggers on occasion and I have drunk some s*** beer concoctions in my time, but a wee chaser of sheep turd was just an excrement, sorry, experiment, too far. I declined the offer. He seemed upset, and the relationship was never the same after that.
Later, it occurred to me that it was a bit weird that someone would have a supply of fresh sheep poo to hand in an outdoors shop. It also made me wonder what he would be prepared to serve up to his guests as an aperitif at a dinner party.