I SEEM to have attended a lot of final Munro parties recently, but the one held on Ben Vorlich last weekend was a bit special.
This was the 'compleation' of a round of Munros and Tops in honour of David Batty, the former president of the Munro Society who died suddenly last year.
David had been working his way through a third round, and had planned to finish on Ben Vorlich above Loch Lomond on his 75thbirthday, the same mountain which hosted his second finish.
He had 100 summits remaining – 44 Munros and 56 Tops – when he collapsed shortly after completing a walk in the Southern Uplands last November. Friends and members of the society felt it would be a fitting tribute to the man who gave so much to the mountains if they could complete his final round in memorium.
His meticulous record-keeping meant it was a relatively simple task to find out which summits still had to be done, and the list was shared. The culmination of this group effort was a celebration on the North Top of Ben Vorlich last Saturday, the day David had pencilled in for his big finish. It was a mark of the esteem in which he was held that 35 people made it to the top to raise a glass to his memory. With a group average age of 73, that was no mean feat.
David was responsible for my joining the Munro Society. He managed to persuade, or rather cajole, in the way that only he could, overcoming my initial misgivings by extolling the ethics of the society and their mission statement of giving something back to the mountains. His enthusiasm and eye for detail made him an ideal figurehead, but sadly he served less than a year of his presidency.
After my third Munros 'compleation' he asked what I was going to do going forward, and when I told him I thought three rounds were enough, he just laughed and told me there was no way I would ever stop. He was right, as usual.
My contribution to his memorial round was Beinn a' Bhuird, the sixth time I had climbed this wonderful sprawling Cairngorms hill. The original intention had been to do the walk in the first week of May when I was ensconced in Braemar with friends for a week's walking. Unfortunately, that was the week winter bit back, a late reprise of deep snow and high winds which made such a long hill day near impossible. Plan B went into operation.
I waited a fortnight, then chose the best day of the week. It seemed fitting to see the mountain at its finest rather than fighting wind and rain and with no visibility. I wanted to be able to 'feel' the silence, to enjoy the long views. If this was to be a kind of pilgrimage it had to be perfect.
I came in through the confines of Gleann an t-Slugain, the sky a dazzling blue perforated by cotton wool clouds. The waters were livelier than I had expected, the result of a few days' rain, and it needed some imaginative boulder hopping to cross the Glas Allt Mor with dry feet.
Cnap a' Chleirich was the first top on the list, then Stob an t-Sluichd. This always feels a distant place, but there's a touch of the imposter about it and I was there in around an hour.
The skies grew more threatening, and a few spots of hail suggested heavy showers on the way but it never came to anything. I touched the main cairn, then made it over to the untidy rocks of the South Top, the end of the mission.
It's always a long way back to Keiloch but I made it without encountering a single drop of moisture. Ten minutes later, as I turned into Glenshee, the heavens opened and they stayed open for the rest of the night. It felt as though the weather had been paying its respects as well, and now it could let loose.
Now here we were on Ben Vorlich, all outstanding Munros and Tops swept up, the list of 509 summits completed. We retired for a dinner and some grand memories of a grand man. I hope we did you proud, David.