Anyone in Scotland will have noticed waking up to torrential rain on the 25th May. I woke up in a tent outside Tyndrum, at Dalrigh, and it pretty much torrential there, non-stop,all night. There wasn't a whole load of hope of escaping the rain, and my day's plan was four big Munros centred around Ben Lui.
Andy Brown was joining me again, allowing us to tackle these hills with two cars. By walking linearly instead of in a loop, we could cut out a lot of distance. But for now, the rain was battering down and I just couldn't be bothered. The one thing working for us was that it appeared that the cloud would break up around about 5pm. If we wanted to take advantage of dry conditions, a late start would be needed!
Originally, we'd talked about meeting at 8:30am, but when the weather's intention became clear, this was pushed back to 1pm. I got a lie-in, listened to the rain from the dry comfort of a tent, and in the end Andy was running late, which worked out perfect for me.
After a stop by the Real Food Cafe in Tyndrum, we got started on the hill somewhere around 3pm. (!) We planned a west-east traverse, with Beinn a' Chleibh first. When you're looking out the car window at rain and mist, Chleibh couldn't seem more depresing.
Things started off shaky to start with: after about 15 hours of endless rain. the River Lochy was dark, deep and wild with running water. There's no bridge at the crossing point: I tried to cross, trousers rolled up and trekking poles at the ready for balance. But I got a couple of steps into the torrent and retreated out of pain. That water was cold!
The only other option? Cross a bridge 1km downstream, which turned into a long road walk with wet feet. All this and we weren't even on the hill yet!
But everything picked up once we got out the glen: the skies cleared while we climbed rough slopes to Beinn a' Chleibh. The mountains were rain-washed and drying in the sun. We went up Beinn a' Chleibh's west ridge and over the summit, then down to Ben Lui.
Finally, conditions had picked up. The air had an amazing clarity. Arrochar and Cowal hills were all in view, eastern peaks still sulked among the dark clouds.
A long plod took us to the summit, but the 350 vertical metres were shorter than I'd remembered. We found another misted summit, but things really were picking up.
Walking in the evening is a totally different vibe to the 9am start. The day is matured and ready to settle down. Normally, there is an urgency in movement, since sticking to the schedule is more important in coming darkness. But on this occasion, Andy and I picked off summit after summit, calm as anything.
I completed these four Munros with hardly an inkling of stress. These hills at the start of the walk would have done me in with stress and tiredness; now I was sailing over them.
Ben Oss (#3) was clear on the summit. I looked down Loch Lomond to Dumbarton Rock, which was tiny and nearly invisible, lost among the giant hills. I've spent a lot of time climbing here; I can't wait to get back to Dumbarton climbing in August.
Sunset exploded over Beinn Dubhchraig, and we picked off the final summit, achieved by a steady plod as was the normal. Hills were cast in intense colour, the sunset painted Southern Highland hills in amber. They were nearly all climbed, at last. We were at Cononish as the sunset colours died, and reached the car at Dalrigh after a mighty push back down the glen.
We drove back to Glen Lochy where we'd left the first car in the morning, and camped right there. Despite the tiredness, I put on a huge curry and turned over to sleep by midnight.
My impression of this day was of two things: of a great day stolen from bad weather, and one where my mood was primarily one of peace. Perhaps I'm beginning to feel the completers euphoria (this time of finishing the Southern Highlands), but I felt little stress or worries. More an appreciation just to be there. I knew with a good degree of certainty these hills would be climbed, so why worry? 4 Munros is a good daily haul, and I had a great time.