THE Buachaille. Challenging, mystical, fun, scree, tragedy, friends, injury, mist, Freddo Frog. And of course obligatory bad weather and clear-day heart-swelling vistas. The words and emotions that well up when I conjure memories of this most imposing and beautiful of Scotland’s mountains. And conjure this image and the accompanying feeling of freedom and lightness I feel atop it I do. Regularly.
Introduced to this commanding hunk of Scottish landscape by a man with more than a 1000 notches on his mountaineering bedpost, Munro Moonwalker Alan Rowan, this hill holds a dear place in my heart. From the scramble to find a space for the car at the foot of the hill, to the last trudge to the top after hours of climbing, Stob Dearg – to give the Glen Coe behemoth it’s Sunday name – is special.
It’s not just that it looks most like a mountain drawn by a child with its beautiful pyramidical outline or that is has one of the shortest walk-ins before the climb proper. It’s that it represents a place where I’ve sought solace, lost a friend, gained others and ate sandwiches that by the time we reached the summit weighed a tonne.
Each stage of the climb to the top of the Buachaille holds a dear memory. Of different summits, on different days and with different groups of friends.
The white cottage, close to the wooden bridge which heralds the start of the walk, was once a prop for a photo, where a friend posed to hold it up in his hand, after we’d managed to get the angles just right of course. Not for the first time did we wonder what it might be like to live there. Right there in the shadow of the hill we climbed every year to mark a friend’s birthday. Then, next up, there’s the bridge, another natural photo spot to mark the climb, the line-up changing over the years though the broad smiles remain the same no matter the faces. The well worn path winds and leads on gently pulling us on towards yet another watery stop-off point.
This time though we halt and briefly raise a glass to a dear friend lost to us prematurely on this beautiful brute. Only a decent dram would do this hilarious sprite justice and that’s where we share it with him and with The Buachaille itself.
Over the years I’ve climbed this chunk of rock in varying degrees of fitness. Some years I have languished at the back of the line of wending rucksacks praying to reach the top and for the rain-drenched day to end. On others I have been up front with the serious climbers making light work of the scree slope in the corrie and later its bouldery ridge.
On the downhill, there were years when we would run down the loose scree walls. But that practice stopped for me when I snapped a ligament and hobbled back to the car. Pride dented I vowed to walk off in one piece on all subsequent visits.
Making it to the top and even being able to climb in the late summer sun and have the hill to myself after every other walker has long since left for the pleasures of the Kings House Hotel far below stays long in the memory.
And the view. There’s always that view, burned into my mind to be drawn up when needed, for the moments when you need a slice of calm amidst life’s hurly burly.
But that’s what sport and exercise does. It elevates and lifts the soul. It makes you smile. It offers friendships.
And, just when you get to the top, someone hands you a Freddo Frog. I’m not saying I’d climb any mountain for a chocolate frog, but it tastes quite magical to have earned that little amphibian for a stroll to the top of The Buachaille.
Sportswoman Editor-at-Large Myrid Ramsay is Managing Partner of Cobaltink Communications and a Scottish Women in Sport Trustee