Open Country with Erica Hume Niven

I had my fire on in my wee house for the first time the other night; made possible because John, Mick and Jim relined the lum and then my friend Euan brought a wee pail of coal because I had not ordered any yet.

So I am indebted to them for my peaceful night in front of those warm orange flames. The paper burned, it lit the kindle and soon the coals were like a cairn alight.

I could sit back and reflect on the hills I had been up recently. The forecast said there would be showers in the morning and it would be clearer and drier in the afternoon. The route up to Mullach nan Coirean starts at Achriabhach in Glen Nevis. A sizeable car park can be found just before a hairpin bend on the road.

The start is confusing because the route through the woodland seems to have changed because of improvement of the track for felling at the south side of the forest here. You must follow the zig-zag of the forestry track heading west, then south-east, then north-west. There is a strong upland path made of granite steps where you leave the track to head south to the edge of the birch woodland.

The view north and north-east towards Ben Nevis and its neighbouring mountains that comprise the northern wall of Glen Nevis is worth taking in before leaving the track.

Above the sultry green chasm of the glen, the rocky tops of the Grey Corries hills sat quietly, occasionally touched by moving clouds that seemed to be slowly awakening, trying to rise but resisting the morning sun.

A ladder stile took us over the deer fence. A steep pull up from here on a crumbly peat and stone path takes you on to the north shoulder. We were teased up towards the north face of the mountain as clouds lifted and sank. We watched the mountain appear and disappear intermittently.

Just before the ridge began to narrow and show the true topography of the hill, the clouds sank lower. In the shower we put on our jackets, but not our waterproof trousers. Engulfed in the murky grey we continued upwards, arriving at the summit soaking wet. David had already talked about summiting and turning back.

For reasons I do not know, he sat down on the cold, wet summit to eat. We had enjoyed a full breakfast at our B&B. I paced around the summit eager to follow the eastern ridge to Stob Ban. Although wet and miserable, there was something beautiful about the red granite up there shattered over the flat top. Mullach nan Coirean (summit of the corries) was formed during the Caledonian orogeny 425million years ago when the ancient continents of Laurentia, Baltica and Avalonia collided. This collision saw the closure of the Iapetus Ocean in the southern hemisphere.

David continued with his decision to leave the hill, he wanted to go back down because there he would get dry. Without the confidence of your walking partner you will generally acquiesce with their hesitancy.

However, when we reached the edge of the granite field, emotional games about whose decision it was to descend played on my mind. A discussion ensued about whether we should go back up.

I was in a turmoil and my usual forceful nature left me. Every few steps I looked back at the summit, temporarily in the safe keeping of the low sky, and I ached for the high route I had read about the night before. There would be no problem navigating round the narrow ridge up to Stob Ban. The psychological game grappled at my peace until I started to cry with frustration and tears joined the rain water running off my hair.

Just at that moment my phone buzzed in my pocket; a text message from a friend increased my incongruous heartache on the hill.

I knew for me, at least, the day on the hill was over. Back in the car I dropped David off further west along Glen Nevis so that he could bag Carn Mor Dearg on Ben Nevis’ north ridge.

He did not return until 9.15pm.