I STARTED climbing a hill 23 years ago and last week I finally reached the top.
It may sound more like the timescale mountaineers have taken to summit one of the world's highest peaks but this was no Everest or K2. Beinn Chaorach barely brushes past the 2,000-foot mark.
This Loch Lomondside hill has nice views but it's not on most people's to-do list. In fact, if you aren't into ticking off the Grahams you would hardly give it a passing thought.
But in March 1992, I set off with my friend Fergus for a day's walk which would take in Beinn Chaorach and its neighbour Beinn a' Mhanaich.
In those early days, we would do hills that were within an hour or so of Glasgow. We were due to start work at 4pm, so the peaks of Loch Lomond, Arrochar and the Trossachs were ideal for a few hours' leg stretch.
But we were mere beginners. The gear was rudimentary, the timings were taken from books rather than worked out on maps, and we hadn't yet factored in all the things that can throw the day off course.
For instance, instead of starting the walk from Glen Fruin, we parked at Ballevoulin Farm just off the unclassified road further down. This meant an unnecessary climb through a grassy field and over a couple of fences to reach the better start point.
It was cold and overcast, the route ahead hidden by a grey blanket. We took to the open slopes of Auchengaich Hill then curved round to Beinn Tharsuinn where we started to encounter patches of snow and ice.
Snow. Our novice minds weren't prepared for this. Beinn Chaorach was just a short distance ahead but our naivety had us conjuring up all sorts of horrors that could be waiting in the mist. We decided to call it a day. Beinn Chaorach would remain unseen.
Now, more than 1,000 Munros and many, many other peaks later, I was back at the foot of that elusive hill. This time the sun was shining, the sky was clear and I would get the view I missed all these years ago.
I hadn't been walking on Lomondside for around eight or nine years. This arena was handy when I was working in Glasgow, my default hills when the weather was too unpredictable to venture too far, but having clocked up multiple ascents of Ben Lomond and the Arrochar peaks over the years the need to revisit them was way down my list of priorities.
Now I was ready to bag the one that got away, and this time I was taking the correct approach. No trudging uphill through grassy farm fields, just cutting straight to the chase. I was on the summit in just over an hour. I gazed over to where we had abandoned the walk. It seemed like nothing now.
It's a steep drop down to the bealach and a steeper climb to Beinn a' Mhanaich, up the side of a deep gorge which rises in an inverted S-shape. I suspect that in snow and poor visibility we would have struggled, mentally as well as physically, with this section.
So many things have changed during that 23 years. The hair is whiter, the pace more measured and the gear much improved, and Fergus is sadly no longer with us but the hill remains the same. I finally saw Beinn Chaorach and its views; they wouldn’t have been any different had we had reached the top in similar weather all these years ago.