I HAD almost forgotten about the satisfaction of the one-day walk through.
It’s the classic way of walking mountains - start at one point, travel cross country and finish at a different point a long way from your start - and there are so many great routes in Scotland if you can overcome the logistical problems.
The way most people travel to the hills necessitates doing their mountains as a circuit or sometimes just going straight up and back down the same way. Solo walkers are often stuck with the latter or, if they are lucky, the former.
I sometimes try to team up with someone else for a two-car arrangement, but the double cost of two individuals making a 500-mile round trip in these days of high fuel prices seems a little wasteful not to mention environmentally unfriendly.
A few weeks ago I had the chance to travel by bus with a mountaineering club for a day out in Glen Etive. This is an option that seems a rarity these days. Many clubs have stopped running buses due to high costs and lower take-up but this one was full.
There was a wide variety of options and parties for the day walks but I had my sights fixed on a traverse from Victoria Bridge near Bridge of Orchy, over the Munro Beinn nan Aighenan, and then down to meet the bus in Glen Etive.
I had been up this mountain on three previous occasions so this was a great opportunity to see another side to it. And it meant I wouldn’t have to retrace my steps.
There was only one other taker for this 20-kilometre trek so at 9am, Dave and myself were dropped at Victoria Bridge.
The weather forecast had been somewhat confused. Lunchtime Friday saw predictions of good conditions, but later that night it had got gloomier. There would be rain at some point but how much? The BBC had suggested showers which could merge into ‘one or two’ hours of solid rain. In reality we got a soaking for six hours.
We set off in dry conditions, the mountains in full sight and an optimism that maybe it would turn out fine after all. By the time we had a break for an early bite at Loch Dochard, the high parts of the Etive hills were shrouded in grey rolling cloud, and as we started the steep ascent of Beinn nan Aighenan, the rain came on. It wouldn’t go off again for nearly six hours.
We met one or two other intrepid explorers during the walk in by the Abhainn Shirra, less as we ventured further into the interior. There’s a great feeling of emptiness here amplified by the thick weather. It’s a bit off the trade routes, after all.
We took to the slopes just after the path swung round into lonely Glen Kinglass and after the initial slog on very steep grass and rock, reached the ridge with its friendlier angle.
The normal route to this summit from Glen Etive is a bit of a dash out, dash back, but this less trodden ridge was a delight. I could only imagine how much better it would be if we could have had perfect visibility.
A wide snowfield provided a surprise near the top and then, after a quick stop at the cairn, we were heading down, a compass line needed all the way to locate the col. We found it despite not being able to ever see more than a few feet ahead and then headed down for our rendezvous.
The first part of this descent is rock chaos, a quarry operated by angry giants, and then the gorge loomed out of the mist, water trickling over a sheer drop between two cavernous walls, even more beautiful because of the limited vision, a dreamlike quality to its wildness.
We were first back at the bus, soaked but happy. A traverse can have that effect.