THE mist was hanging in a gauzy layer just above Loch Rannoch as if frightened to get its feet wet, the sunlight reflecting the snow-capped peaks perfectly in the sheet of glass that passed as water.
A few miles further on, the River Gaur, swollen by the snowmelt, tumbled and boiled over rocks and round tight bends, the noise of its rush a fitting overture for the start a day in the hills.
I was heading for the Munros Carn Dearg and Sgor Gaibhre. Along with Beinn Pharlagain, these hills form a horseshoe circuit around the massive Coire Eigheach, one of the biggest corries in Scotland.
The start of this walk is along the Road to the Isles, a route rich in history and feted in song and legend. The track leaves the Rannoch road at lonely Loch Eigheach and runs north and then west through to Corrour and beyond.
For hundreds of years this route was used by drovers taking cattle to market. Now you are more likely to see herds of bulldozers and earth-moving machines on this ancient thoroughfare. Like so many of the tracks in our glens, they are being widened and churned up by heavy plant working on new hydro-electric schemes.
Meanwhile, just down the road in the Talladh-a-Bheithe Forest, opposing sides wait for a final ruling on plans for massive wind turbines, just one of many similar decisions pending.
Recent promises were made for the protection of our wild land from development and we should expect that pledge to be honoured. But worryingly, when it comes to the out of control march of wind farms, the silence is deafening. Cynics may be forgiven for thinking there is an election to get out of the way before any unpopular decisions are made.
I have walked through from Corrour on this route many times, passing the lonely ruins of the Old Lodge, with never another soul for miles. It seemed bizarre to have to slow my pace this time to walk behind a giant JCB.
Once on the long ridge, the diggers - and the spring weather - were left far behind. The full winter outfit was soon donned for the near three-mile stroll past frozen pools, huge cornices and deep-filled dips in between each rise. It may have been Easter but this was a winter walk.
The normally simple drop from the summit of Carn Dearg, for instance, involved making sure of the correct line through the huge banks of snow that had formed along the ridgeline. A few steps too far in any direction and you could crash through a cornice, while further along there was evidence of a recent avalanche.
The deep snow did make it easier to cross the stretch of boggy ground at the bealach, although the steep ridge which curves to the summit of Sgor Gaibhre from Sgor Choinnich was top-heavy and looked ready to collapse at the slightest touch. Lochan a‘Bhealaich far below had the appearance of a sold block of ice.
Those descending Sgor Gaibhre’s south ridge on a clear day may find it hard to believe but it can throw up navigational problems in zero visibility. The unwary can get pushed left and then find themselves descending eastwards mistaking the waters of Loch Ericht for their destination. I remember being here when rescue teams were searching for a lost walker. Past experience told them where they would find the person and that’s how it turned out, a happy ending for once.
The walk down Corrie Eigheach always seems to take longer than expected. The trick is not to leave it too late to get over to the track on the right side of the water, otherwise the trek out over peat hags and side streams will make it seem like an eternity. Then it’s just a case of dodging the bulldozers on the way out.