So, 28 days in and I finally finished my first big section of the walk.
I had the company of Andy Brown for the past few days, over the four Tyndrum Munros, then over the two Blackmount Munros on subsequent days. To finish off the first month of my walk, I needed to get the Arrochar Munros done, of which there are four. I'd already had two big days behind me, and the Arrochar Munros aren't a pushover: they're steep, craggy and demand a lot of effort.
The night before the Arrochar's, I'd planned on camping at Tyndrum. My usual tent space at the Dalrigh car park was waterlogged, so I drove in the direction of Loch Lomond in search of a space. Time was ticking, and I needed to get the tent up, a meal down me, and get enough sleep to see me right through the next day.
I tried the Falls of Falloch car park: no luck. And so my next call was Inveruglas itself, where my next days walk would begin. There was no room here for a campsite, either. It was all forests and water down Loch Lomond side, and almost no patches of grass suitable for camping on with a big tent. I was back to sleeping in the car, even though I'd previously promised myself that I wouldn't make that mistake again.
I was sitting on the benches at Inveruglas after 10pm in calm dusk, cooking up an enormous curry and feeling at peace. All was green and grey, the water almost completely still and the silence cutting. A midge bit me in the left knee; first of the season. I only saw one, but it broke my hope I wouldn't see a midge for the first section of the walk (just a silly game I was playing). I slept in the car and it turned out to be pretty good.
The 29th dawned bright. Outside, there was a huge blue sky and a morning sun which turned the trees bright green. Today was the big Arrochar day. An inner focus cut through the outer serenity. My only worry was (as ever) that I was getting run down, but in general I felt quite good. My body felt a bit wasted, and I guzzled back the muesli, fruit, milk and anything else I could find.
At last, I started off for Ben Vorlich. I felt pretty beat, climbing in the heat of the sun with legs that wouldn't go very fast. I was drained. I needed a rest day, and it crossed my mind I might not finish all the Munros today.
But for now I headed upwards into sunny skies, the heat was a bit much. The summit arrived in patient time, but generally I was frustrated at my poor physical form. The answer as ever was to pace myself, keep eating, and eating, and eating...
With the summit (and north top!) claimed, I was heading down the long slopes from Ben Vorlich when a fell runner passed me. I watched him cross the Loch Sloy dam and then he disappeared up the slopes of Ben Vane. Something kicked into action in my head. I thought, "stop being so melodramatic".
Ben Vorlich and Ben Vane are both above 3000 feet, but the gap between them drops to about 1000 feet. Still, I just flew up Ben Vane, over the top, and then across Beinn Ime. It was as if in that moment, the thrusters fired up and I went full steam ahead. I felt so good climbing Ben Vane and knew with some degree of certainty that the Arrochar round would go today. It was like the Orchy 5 all over again: after an initial weariness, the focus cut through and sent me off in the direction of the summits.
I often find, that in between feeling tired in the morning and tired in the evening, is a period where I feel like I'm just moving without effort. I forget I'm going so far and mountains pass beneath my feet hardly noticed. The Arrochar Alps were like this today, and I'm very grateful for that because they otherwise would have been an complete drag.
I also checked out crags en route, since the slopes of Ben Vane and Beinn Ime can be very rough. There is a lot of undeveloped climbing on the north flank of Ben Vane, with some huge boulders littering the landscape. Perhaps something for a return visit.
Beinn Narnain was left for last, and again I made it's summit in good time. I was beginning to feel tired, it would be good to get down. Narnain is a real craggy hill on it's eastern aspects. It's like an entire slope has been cleaved away and filled with enormous boulders. If you fell between some of them, you may go some distance! I found a tiny pine tree sheltering among the rocks, looking thin and scraggly. I should mention that this is at 3000 feet - I'd be hard-pressed to think of a living, growing tree as high up anywhere else in Scotland.
But Arrochar was waiting. Dad was at the bottom and had spent his day filming and doing photography. I descended back to the Arrochar car park, which was tiring and tedious. But it was good to walk in an area so familiar. I started my mountain climbing on these hills six years ago, and I haven't really been back on them since. It's also interesting to see how my attitude to these peaks have changed: once they were huge, wild and rugged peaks. Now they seem somehow diminished, maybe I've since seen wilds greater than this.
I got down to Arrochar just as a rain shower came on. Dad and I headed home after picking the other car up from Inveruglas.
Finally, after 28 days work, I've finished the 73 Munros of Mull and the Southern Highlands. In terms of time, this means I've finished a third of the entire Munro Round. I feel like I've really settled down within the last week. Perhaps it's just the euphoria of completion (of the Southern Highlands) but I've found a tranquility and I don't have the questioning nerves as I did for the first few weeks of the Round.
On 31 May, I'm off to Blair Atholl to start the next section of the walk: very different in character to what I've experienced so far. I hope the contentedness continues! Give it a couple of weeks on the eastern hills and then I'll be heading west toward Lochaber and the big ridges of the west. Finally, I feel like I'm progressing on this journey.