I have finished my book. The Last Hillwalker is now looking for a publisher. Now I can blog again! I’ve loads to tell you. Journey’s into the remote Scottish Highlands, bothies blizzards and disasters. Watch this space!
This doesn’t feel right. There is something very surreal about this place. All around me is utter blackness. The beam of my brand new, more powerful than the sun, head torch sweeps across the moorland and finds nothing but empty space.
The temperature is dropping now and I find myself shivering and becoming despondent with the realisation of just how long I’m going to have to stand in this black, cold place. I retreat into my down jacket, grateful for the cocoon like warmth it offers. I try not to look at my watch, reasoning that if I look and less time has passed than I expected, I’ll be even more disappointed.
It’s hard to keep my spirits up because I’ve just had my annual fail. Once every year, sometimes twice if I am unlucky, I head for a bothy and don’t make it. I’ve done well over the last year, getting to every place I wanted to with relative easy. Today, however, the gods looked down on me and decided that this was to be my day of atonement.
Odin, scratches his grizzled beard and pears down through the cloud. ‘Zeus, there he is again. That fat old hill walker heading for a bothy!’
Zeus looks up from the cauldron he’s stirring, ‘Odin I’ve told you before. I’m Greek, I’m not talking to you. Norse scum.’
‘Oh go on, chuck one of those thunderbolts. He’s been all over the bloody place that one. He gets away with murder,’ say’s Odin tugging his beard in frustration.
Zeus turns and storms off.
Odin yells after him, ‘I hope your next kebab chokes you.’
‘Greasy wop,’ Odin glares as Zeus walks away and peers through the cloud again. ‘I know I’ll flood the rivers!’
Things started well enough. It’s early March as I leave the train at Corrour station and head off along the side of Loch Ossian. There is no wind and the sun shines down on me glittering off the mirror like surface of this long Highland Loch. I pass the hunting lodge and head off up the glen. It’s a long way to Ben Alder Bothy, at least it is for an old man carrying coal. I have to walk the length of the loch, then up the glen until I can cross a high pass and finally descend to the lonely cottage beside Loch Ericht.
The only thing that mars the day is the construction traffic working on a small damn in the glen. Once past them I am free in wild country. Then I encounter the first stream. At least it should be a stream, not the wild torrent I see barring the way. At first I wander up and down the water course looking for boulders I can use to cross. I find a likely spot and step out onto a boulder but it’s a trap. The boulder racks wildly and tries to hurl me into the foaming water.
I stand for a few moments, trying to resolve the situation. This, I realise, is only the first of many streams. It is swelled with melt water from the dwindling winter snows high on the hills above me. If I make it across this stream there will be many others to cross and if this is difficult the river in the glen, I also have to cross, will be impossible.
I dump the coal out of my rucksack and turn back down the glen. I go the midday train to Corrour so the next one is not until after nine in the evening. I get back to the station just as the light is fading and soon I’m engulfed in darkness alone on the tiny platform.
This is the station made famous by its role in the film Trainspotting. Alone in the blackness I shine my torch on to the timetable and have to read it several times to make sure that there really is a train coming at 21.20. Around me is open moorland and beyond that the high hills rise to snowy crests.
‘Is this really a station? Will a train actually come?’ I ask myself. This seems such an incongruous place for a station to be. I wait two hours, while the temperature falls below freezing around me, so glad for my duvet jacket. Suddenly there is a rumble and an explosion of light and the train rolls to a halt before me.
Climbing on board I am suddenly in an alien world. Families, on their way home from shopping trips in Glasgow sit playing cards. Businessmen sit drinking wine, unwinding from their meetings. Japanese tourists watch me, fascinated, as I, a creature from another world, enters the train. It’s noisy, crowded but above all warm.
I get a cup of tea from the trolley attendant. Like all railway tea it’s weak, tasteless and scalding hot. I struggle to drink it in the short time I have before I get off the train. I’m in heaven, it’s the best tea I’ve every tasted!