• Graham

We had driven the seemingly endless miles alongside Loch Arkaig to be in pole position for the morning. It was going to be a long day and an early (ish) start was in order. At seven I opened the sliding door of the van to be confronted by a very large bird sitting on top of a wooden post. Yet another golden eagle; the place seems to be over-run with them. Ron and I were part way through training for a crack at the Bob Graham Round and had decided that a trot round the hills that lie on the north side of Glen Dessary would give us some idea of our current state of fitness.

We parked the van at Strathan and continued at a gentle canter up the glen heading for the bealach that leads to Loch Nevis, all the while keeping our eyes peeled for a suitable line to reach our first objective, Sgurr na Ciche. Once the ridge had been attained, we stopped. Below us lay that combination of rock, moor and water that never fails to impress. This is why you come to the Highlands. Then onwards and upwards along the rough ridge until the summit was reached. This shapely cone dominates the view from the west and for many its ascent would signal the end of a day’s work. But for us it was just the beginning.

The plan was to do a traverse of the Munros, Chioch Mhor and Sgurr nan Coireachen then follow the ridge over An Eag and Sgurr Beag to the higher Sgurr Mor. The going was continuously rough for this was Knoydart and by the time the final peak was ascended our thoughts quickly turned to home. Nevertheless, I looked longingly towards Gairich lying not that far away to the east and north. To not do it meant adding another outlier to an already growing list, the completion of which would involve a series of round trips of anywhere between six and eight hundred miles. I looked at Ron. Ron looked at his watch and shook his head. We were still a long way from the pub.

Of course, he was right. The direct descent from Sgurr Mor was steep and painful on already tired knees and it was with some relief that we reached the bank of the incipient River Kingie. Once across we were forced to climb out of its valley before we could descend once more to Glen Dessary and the van at Strathan. It was beginning to turn into one of those ‘never-again’ days. But once back in the bright lights of the Fort, matters swiftly improved. Pencil and paper revealed we had averaged nearly four miles an hour. Nothing to write home about on the well-trodden hill paths of England, but not to be sneezed at over the Rough Bounds of Knoydart. In fact, when you took into account miles travelled and added several thousands of feet of up and down, not to mention a fairly tricky river crossing, there was an unanimous decision we deserved another dram of Jura before calling it a day.

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