Every footfall takes me further from the girl in the car park, up in the mountains I am changed. Conflicts, stresses, worries that have been rolling in my head can be sweated out, sorted, and resolved.
As I head up into the hills this time though, its to remember and rejoice in a life that was. My dad showed me the mountains, first in south Africa and then in Scotland. Not always willing, too proud to admit I might enjoy the days out, I complained and grumbled. But ultimately those days have formed some of my strongest memories.
Finally a week of summer arrived and it was in short shorts and a T that I headed up into the Arrocher alps, with the incredible skyline of the cobbler looming above. Its been a year already. Its come around too fast, this anniversary. It seems unfair, I haven’t had a chance to fully accept, understand or grieve. I want to force the date back, not ready to believe its been so long. Not ready for so little to have changed.
My feet wind me up the path, past the Narnain boulders and up the the coll. Its late evening and the dusty sunlight casts beautiful shadows. For now I have the hills to myself and all of the freedom that comes with it.
A splash through the boggy shoulder before heading upwards to the biggest of the alps, Ben Ime. High above I can see its rocky knolled summit. A pause to splash water over my face and arms before carrying on up, past the mountain sheep. Their life looks so simple, so easy in the golden light. Finally the summit appears, and the view opens up all the way to the Ben, still heaped in snow.
I remember doing the CMD with my dad, when i was twelve. In sharp contrast with the sunshine it was a claggy, windy day. We got lost and I remember scrambling, holding his feet onto small ledges, terrified of a fall. Unable to see anything, the relief at stumbling onto the ruin and being able to follow the huge cairns down. A proper experience, 12 hours on the hill,and at the time, a huge achievement.
Watching the sun lazy sink into the horizon, i lay my bivi kit out and prepare to snuggle up for the night. A cold breeze chills my skin and i huddle into the sleeping bag. As im about to drift of, noises. Im joined for the night by three men, also taking advantage of the great weather. We joke, what are the chances. I guess so close to Glasgow it was wishful thinking for some solitude up here.
The night passes slowly, cold and breezy. Stars far above cast down memories of being shown the signs and looking through the telescope to the full moon, tonight its a thin sliver. The wild, strange dreams that come with bivvying plague me in the night and im grateful when the sky finally lightens. Pinks and blues grow stronger before finally the sun rays hit me and start to warm me though. Shivering its time to get up and head down.
Ankles crunching, stiff shouldered I run back down. Joyous in the morning sun I meet a french runner at the coll and send him up Ben Narnain while I make tracks up the cobbler. Then its a fast wheeling descent to the carpark, meeting a few confused early morning walkers.
I reach the van calmer and more balanced than when i left it twelve hours earlier. The sadness remains, but I am thankful for what was, and the memories I still have.