THE midge clouds have reached biblical proportions this year but so far I had managed to outflank the little blighters. I should have known it couldn't last.
There I was, feeling pleased as I neared the end of a tough 20-mile circuit of four Munros in the Alders range yesterday in just over ten hours.
I sauntered up to the car, ready to throw my pack into the front seat and take off before the mini-vampire hordes even noticed I was there. It was an ambush. The locking system remained locked. And when I opened the door with the key, I discovered the car was completely dead. Apart from the hazard warning light, that is, which was blinking away as it had obviously been for more than ten hours, draining the battery.
I was already overheating; now I was stuck inside a four-wheeled oven, slowly cooking. The windows were steaming up but I could still make out clouds of the little beasties swarming around. I suppose I could liken it to me watching a pie rotating in a microwave.
You see, in my haste to make a quick getaway at the start of the day I had hauled my rucksack across the front seats rather than exit by the door beside the trees, and it had set off the hazards, which went unnoticed as I celebrated a swift and triumphant escape. There's no doubt it was the midges' fault. Now all they to do was wait.
The day had started well, albeit in blissful ignorance. The drive along Loch Laggan to Luiblea had a lazy vibe. Creag Meagaidh and its acolytes were taking a while to rise from their slumber, heads still tucked beneath the white covers.
The same dreamy atmosphere continued round to lovely Lochan na h-Earba, and all the way up to the bealach between Beinn a' Chlachair and Geal Charn. It was the perfect beginning for a different approach to the chain of remote Munros, which runs from Carn Dearg to Beinn Eibhinn.
Previous ascents had been done from Dalwhinnie via Culra bothy and from Corrour, but I had been looking at this northern option for some time. There are good paths down either side of Loch a' Bhealaich Leamhain, and then a short spell across pathless terrain leads down to the waters of the Allt Cam. This can be a difficult crossing in spate but a dry boulder hop brought me to the start of the heathery 600-metre push up to Carn Dearg. There was little wind and the stifling heat made it seem harder than it was, but once on the ridge, the walking became easier.
There were glorious views of Geal-Charn all the way forward, a large snow patch defiantly holding its ground and the magnificent Lancet Edge soaring skywards. It feels a long way between the two hills but it's not too taxing and by the time the summit cairn is reached in the middle of the wide, featureless plateau, the back of the day is broken.
Every direction you looked, there were big mountains. You are surrounded by peaks that are brawny and bonnie. The feeling of being among giants is palpable. It took just 20 minutes to reach Aonach Beag, and another 30 to hit the top of Beinn Eibhinn. In all that time I had met only five other people. So much for overcrowded hills.
There was still the small matter of the seven-mile walk out, but even on the pathless section of the terrain it was a just a case of putting one foot in front of the other until the end. I could already taste the cold beer waiting at home. I swear I could even smell the meal that awaited. Two minutes later all I could smell was myself slowly roasting.
There was a touch of deja vu about the frantic call for assistance, the difficulty in relaying my position which I had experienced before. The young lady who answered my cry for help from a call centre in deepest England was polite and helpful, but there was a lack of understanding of the country's geography.
I thought I had described my location in Glen Spean quite well, but the unanswerable questions kept coming: “What's a lock? Where's High Land?” And the best one: “Are you near any landmarks or big supermarkets?”
I'm guessing, but it didn't feel like she had spent her staycation in Scotland. Luckily, the local garage had no such problems, and within 40 minutes help had arrived and I was back on the road. The windows remained open for the next half hour to evict all the little stowaways that had sneaked on board.
The delay had taken some of the shine off a great day. It seemed ironic that on a walk which had confirmed my batteries to be fully recharged, it was the one in the car that turned out to be flat.