IF there’s one certainty about walking the mountains in Scotland it’s that the rain is never far away.
Even in spells of superb weather such as we have been enjoying recently, your average hill punter knows it won’t last. Plan for the worst but hope for the best is the motto.
Our latest outing was due to be a three-hour evening walk into a bothy where we would sleep overnight, then get an early start on a couple of remote hills in the morning.
We had even given ourselves a chance by having one walk in the east and one in the west to hand so that we could go wherever the weather was better.
However the forecast was for heavy rain and the chance of view from the summits was only rated at ten per cent chance, so we decided that a bothy night was not for us.
No, the prospect of sleeping on the floor of a glorified garden shed with damp clothes and the wet underwear and socks of some 30 other inhabitants draped around did not appeal.
Instead, knowing it was likely we were in for a soaking, we chose just to walk on the Saturday at a different venue. At least then it’s only one day squelching around in gear so wet that even sea lions would find offensive.
So we headed for the Fannaichs, a range of hills on the road to Ullapool which one friend described as “a 3,000-foot plus vertical bog” in wet conditions.
As we got nearer our starting point, the sky looked more menacing, odd drops of rain hit the windshield and the higher slopes of the mountains were invisible under a grey duvet.
It was an easy decision - waterproofs on from the start. Always the optimist, I double bagged, a light rain jacket with a heavier one on top.
My new Berghaus trousers are superbly waterproof, but there’s something a bit off about having a one-inch wide scarlet inside seam stretching from thigh to ankle. If Dracula took up hill walking, you suspect these are the trousers he would choose. You zip them up quickly before anyone really notices.
Off we set, the five layers of clothing giving us that boil in the bag feeling.
Only … it never rained. Not a drop.
It looked as if it would all the way to the first summit, Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich, the cloying greyness giving us nothing to look at and a reason just to keep moving fast.
By the time we dropped off the cold summit and made our way up the slopes of Sgurr Mor, the cloud was breaking up. Ten minutes later it blew away completely and we were never saw it again.
The ridge along to Meall Gorm and then An Coileachan was clear, despite a ring of grey cloud shrouding other peaks on all sides. Even the long haul back to the car over the bog-strewn was fairly pleasant.
But like true Scots we never trusted our good fortune. We figured the weather gods had watched us getting all kitted up and then decided to toy with us. We weren’t going to be fooled.
The waterproofs stayed on all day despite the heat. Boil in the bag maybe but warm wet is always preferable to cold wet.
(First published Daily Record, June 27, 2013)