I HAD arrived at the foot of Moruisg on an icy spring morning, weary from a long day's work and the four-hour drive north.
The curtain of darkness hadn't yet started to lift, the light still a couple of hours away. For once, I decided to delay my walk start and put my head down but the chill was constantly prodding me, refusing to let me sleep.
I was tossing and turning, trying to find the most comfortable position. Eventually I managed to drop off, but I wasn’t fully asleep, merely dozing. At one point, I heard the quiet pinging sound of light rain on the car roof.
Maybe it was the rising of the light or the gentle moaning of the wind. Maybe it was just my head dropping off the side of the head rest, but suddenly I shot bolt upright. Something didn’t feel quite right.
I shivered. It felt I wasn’t alone in the car. I checked the back seat, half expecting to see a shadowy figure sitting there. With a slight sense of relief, I then took a look around outside. The windscreen had a thin cover of frozen moisture, the road sparkled under a damp sheen. Sgurr nan Ceannaichean had a fresh dusting of snow and the sky behind it was black, throwing threatening shadows over the slopes. It looked like a massive storm was rolling in.
Logic, common sense, told me this was unlikely but I still had the feeling it would be a bad idea to go up these hills. Had I had a nightmare? Or was I just exhausted and my mind playing tricks? I was certainly spooked but considering the times I had been out in inclement conditions or in the middle of the night this just seemed silly.
I decided to sit it out for a while. Nothing happened. The storm didn’t materialise, the snow didn’t start piling out of the sky, but that strange, disquieting feeling wouldn’t go away. I just couldn’t settle. I had a horrible feeling I had been given a warning and that it would be foolish to ignore it. Something was offering me the chance to back away. I decided to trust my instincts. They hadn’t been wrong before and now I had to believe in them. I switched on the ignition and headed off on the long run back to Glasgow.
An eight-hour round trip to sleep in a freezing car at the side of the road, and all for nothing. But sometimes you just have to go with your gut feelings. Knowing when to turn around is a major attribute for walkers and climbers. Pushing on when your instincts tell you something isn't quite right is often a precursor to disaster.
I had never experienced that feeling of absolute, creeping dread before in the hills and it has never happened again. I have climbed Moruisg and Sgurr nan Ceannaichean a few times since and never found out why I was so spooked on that night. But I have never regretted the decision to abandon the walk.
Now here I was again in the same place, at the same hour, some 25 years later. The only 'ghosts' now were the faint outlines of grazing deer in the early mists burning off the ground.
It's fair to say that Moruisg is not one of the better-loved Munros, despite the romantic connotations of its name, Big Water, which is supposed to conjure images of a huge breaking wave.
There's certainly plenty water around, but I was surprised to find a fairly dry channel on a more substantial path to the start of the climb than I had encountered on previous occasions, mainly due to reforestation work. What the mountain lacks in frontal appeal however, it makes up in its higher reaches. There are grand views all round, and adding its natural neighbour to the walk improves the circuit immensely.
Sgurr nan Ceannaichean has only enjoyed Munro status for a short spell. It was added to the list in 1981 then removed again in 2009 when improved heighting techniques saw it re-classified as a Corbett. Despite being the finer hill of the two, I suspect it sees less visitors these days with many making an up-and-down dash to Moruisg simply for the Munro tick.
It's slightly curious that both hills have almost identical beautifully constructed beehive cairns that play second fiddle to scruffier, smaller piles nearby marking the exact summit.
The descent from Ceannaichean needs a little care around the midway point – one of our party had a worrying near-miss here after what started as an innocuous slip – and the path out through mixed woodland was longer and more boggy and overgrown than I had remembered. No clue, however, as to what made me flee those invisible demons all those years ago.