thoughts on a climb

Andy Borrows has been doing some fine writing about mountains and climbing recently.

A reference in his comments to the Aonach Eagach took me back to my fortieth birthday, three years ago, when my wife arranged for us to spend a week in the western highlands based in a chalet next to the very fine Clachaig Inn in Glencoe.

We climbed many great hills in that week but the climb that Andy's post reminded me of was going up Bidean nam Bian.

I had tried to climb it the day before with my friend Richard. There was quite a lot of snow around and although despite this we had reached a small corrie just below the summit, the snow covered slope leading up to the summit ridge proved too much for my friend, who had little or no experience on the hill, and we turned back.

The next day I woke early and arranged with my wife that I would go up and down Biddean before the others were up and about.

I got up to the corrie where we had turned back the day before pretty quickly and scrambled up the scree slope, by now covered in a fresh fall of snow, to a col between the satellite peak of Stob Coire Nan Lochan and the main summit of Bidean nam Bian. From the col at the top I turned right up the rocky ridge to the top of Biddean. There was little or no visibility, around ten feet at most, from the top and, despite waiting, I was left taking a photo of my rucksack on the summit from the furthest I could - literally ten feet.

A bit disappointed I started edging my way back down the snow covered and icy ridge.

I had only gone about twenty yards when I felt the warmth of sunshine on my neck. I looked round and saw that the clouds had miraculously parted leaving the snow covered summit backed by clear blue sky.

I literally ran back up to the top to see the most awesome view stretching miles in every direction. The cloud had thinned and separated and I could see scores of mountains in every direction.

I sat down on the summit and phoned my wife to share my experience. The phone call started off with me just being excited about what was appearing in front of me but after a time I could barely speak and started sobbing with joy as I described the view before me.

A prescious moment indded and thanks to Andy for bringing it back.