THE heavy overnight rain had cleared through but it had left a distinct and beautiful watermark on the Black Cuillin.
The towering dark faces appeared studded with diamonds as the burgeoning overhead light wrestled with the remaining grey while effervescent streams provided a hissing soundtrack that reverberated around the landscape. It looked like a good day was in the making.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be one of those outings where everything went wrong, where one little problem proved the spark for another, then another, adding up to one of the worst days I've had in the mountains in a long while.
The plan had seemed sound. I was heading for Torridon for a friend's weekend celebration of his Corbetts 'compleation' so decided to go early and have two days in Skye where I could whittle down three of my remaining five Munros. It didn't take long for the first hitch to appear. Shortly after leaving home, I noticed I had left my water bottles behind. Annoying, but no biggie; I would re-supply en route.
Some five hours later and I was heading up to Coire a' Bhasteir, splashing through puddles on the lower path while enjoying the sunshine. As I neared the mouth of the corrie, the overhead conditions switched and I was caught in a downpour. I put on lightweight waterproofs, but quickly realised this was a mistake: I should have layered up more fully right away. The sudden temperature drop meant I spent the next half hour chilled, a chill that never left me for the rest of the day.
The next problem was the route ahead. Having been this way several times before I was confident I knew my way. But that was when the rock was dry and the visibility perfect. The Cuillin in wet weather is a different proposition. Now I had to pick my way carefully over the greasy, dripping slabs, constantly doubting that I was taking the right line. There was an element of relief when I reached the corrie floor.
I got about halfway up the zig-zag scree path when the first wave of exhaustion hit me. My legs were working fine but the neck and shoulders were aching and I was struggling to fully lift my head. It's a problem I have encountered a couple of times before. The combination of lack of sleep, a long drive and then a shock to the body's core temperature does not mix well with trying to climb big mountains.
A few short rest stops kept me going, but as I was contouring below Am Basteir, I started feeling dizzy when I looked up, a problem I felt was exacerbated by the restricted peripheral vision caused by wearing a helmet. I decided that a large rock falling on my head from a great height was a better option at that moment than wearing a helmet, so off it came.
Reaching the summit of Bruach na Frithe took almost an hour longer than last time out, but at least it would be a fast run down. Wrong. The exhaustion and shivers meant more than a few stops on the way back.
It was only a short drive to my accommodation, but I felt like I could fall asleep at any moment. It didn't help that I then took the wrong road in the darkness and had to double back.
Then disaster: I discovered my wallet was missing. I realised it had likely been gone for nearly eight hours. It must have fallen out of the car when I had set off walking. I stripped the car out twice. I drove back to Sligachan and searched with a torch. No luck. I cancelled my cards and settled down for the night. Not before I managed to lock myself out of my room, of course.
The crowning glory to the day from hell came when I was about to clean my teeth and noticed that I had white paste instead of the blue I had packed. I had put Savlon on the brush.
The calm of the next morning didn't reflect my mood. I had already decided that I wouldn't climb Sgurr a' Mhadaidh and Sgurr a' Ghreadaidh as planned, but would have a lazy day travelling over to Torridon instead. Besides, I had no cards and no money so I had to reach friendly faces who may be able to spare a few pennies as security.
Psychologically, I just couldn't face another possible traumatic mountain day, so it was somewhat heartening to see that my original target summits were still buried under early cloud.
Then the inevitable happened. As I pulled over for a stop in Lochcarron, I found my wallet lying beside me on the seat. I had searched the car throughly several times by daylight and torchlight, yet it must have become wedged somewhere out of sight. Black wallet, dark seats. The emotion was somewhere between frustration and relief.
I managed to go on and have two trouble-free days, fitness fully restored. I can only attribute Savlon Wallet Day to the fact that I can no longer head straight up a mountain after no sleep and a long drive.
As Murtagh says in the Lethal Weapon films: “I'm getting too old for this s***.”
Savlon Wallet Day will long live in the memory for all the wrong reasons, but at least it may prove to be a catalyst to better days ahead.