These few days camped in Coire a Bhric Beag grew into something special. Like a ball of summery string I couldn’t find the start of the long June days and their end was so long a wait I never got there either. Their slow tide like rhythm was easy to live with and happy to hang on for me. A waltz of days passing with out reference to a watch or a to do list. Warm sun on fly sheet a gentle waker each morning. Sun burnt tiredness and midges my que for sleep later . In between the two, walks up to rocky ridges, thundery rain, swims, naps on cool mountain tops , coffee and malt loaf.
Summer is a brief and often muddled affair in the hills. It was a joy to reaquaint myself slowly with the real thing here. Wild tyme scent soaked the thundery breathless air on every hill. Taking me back to long forgotton folk song school days. Butter cups lined the Allt Coire a Bhric Beags’ sparkling silver waters. Orchids speared blank bogs where cuckoos had been sptting. On high ridges bright purple saxifrage popped blooms from rocky hiding places. Stags balanced thick velvet antlers . A few times ptarmigan hissed and crackled out of rocks, wings spread, heads low to the ground in their loud distraction dance. At my feet I walked through their tiny tweeting snacks of chicks. Only the mosses were struggling. Edges toasting brown in the sun.
Leum Uilleim or Liam as I call it is the sweeping twin topped and ridged hill opposite Corrour station. From my camp I ploughed through leggy heather to climb onto the toe end of Sron an Lagain Ghairbh the steepest of Liam’s ridges. Dry rock steps and mossy ledges with views of Loch Ossian and Ben Alder led upwards toward a ragged tablecloth of snow drifts along the corrie edge. Up here my foot steps seemed louder as the scree and rock underfoot moved like a pocket full of lose change. There’s a tangible character to every hill and corrie which, like most of us, changes through the day, seasons,weather and to my mind shifts subtly with what you bring to the palce too.
My first hills were the North York Moors some 40 odd years ago and I recall being almost overwhelmed by the sense of space and peace on a still moorland day. For a kid brought up surrounded by thick woods and hedge rowed fields a view of 25 miles or more all around was a revelation. And here was the same feeling looking out over the peaty wet void of Rannoch Moor to a line of hazy hills from Schiehallion, Ben Lawyers, Orchy, Black Mount,Glencoe, Ardgour and on and on until back at Schiehallion.
Despite thundery rumbles, flashes of lightening and near misses with showers Beinn Bhric seemed welcoming and both me and the dog snoozed comforably amongst the lichen covered scree for what felt like just the right amount of time.
On a to hot afternoon a few days later I followed the Allt Coire a Bhric Beag from my tent door upwards through bog and buttercup meadow to an elephants grave yard of Caledonian forest half swallowed by dusty peat at the corries high point. One tree had fish like bark still covering it’s bleached tusks. A fine web of roots moved in the breeze where deer had rubbed on peat banks exposing them.
Despite it’s beauty there’s an emptiness to these Highlands. First the trees were taken and not so long ago the human population too. You can feel it in these places. The scale of what has gone slaps you in the face.
I climbed steeply upwards out of the corrie. Burning sun easing on the breezy ridge above. There was another summit snooze and a slow appreciative walk down that lovely rocky ridge.