Today has been a brilliant day. I can't say the weather has been perfect, but it was one of those days I've been waiting for, linking summits, feeling fast and efficient. The hills felt hard at the time, but the afterglow feels amazing. Feet are gently throbbing, I feel gently tired and I can honestly say that one week into the Round, I feel brilliant.
I was up at 5:30am and away by 6 - straight out of the hostel and onto the slopes of the Aonach Eagach. This ridge is known for being the narrowest on mainland Britain and I wanted it in good weather.
I'd arranged to meet my Uncle Steve at the top Glen Coe car park at 10:30, which meant a west-east traverse of the ridge. The morning was raw; not especially cold, but mountains were gaunt shapes in morning haze. Absolutely lifeless. Looking south from Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, snow covered peaks dominated. The scene was more like February than May. The Aonach Eagach had given me a little stress recently, as I'd wanted to tackle it in good weather. Good weather has been in short supply so it was a massive relief to get a break in the weather that coincided with me being on the ridge.
The first time I did this ridge, in 2010, I was terrified. The second time, last year, I found it much easier. And today I was glad to get it in good visibility and not think once about the exposure. How times change. A much greater base of rock climbing experience must surely contribute to that. Asides occasional gusts of wind, the Aonach Eagach gave me good conditions and the crossing was thrilling and very positive. I got start to end in just over four hours, and sat in morning sun looking up at the Three Sisters, listening to the Glen Coe piper, and contemplating another hillwalk. Uncle Steve picked me up and we headed to Beinn a' Bheithir.
Good conditions saw us through Gleann a' Chaolais, but the weather was turning. By the time we were on the summit ridge, blasts of wind were sending me to my knees. Suddenly things had become wild and it was very hard to push through. How could I do the summits in this?
It was an anxious time, because I desperately didn't want to come back. A head-down-and-plod-on attitude won out, (a good way to control a racing mind) and I stood on both Munros under bleak, shifting skies. The winds were wild, but thankfully it hadn't rained much.
It feels good to be on schedule. I've been a bit behind since Starav, and to claw my summits back is a small victory. This whole game really is a bit of a battle; although I anticipated that. It's also all about pacing, and I'm pleased to have done a hill-day that even a week ago would have done me in.
It's about patience, too: taking my chances when they arrive, knowing when to pull back the throttle for the greater good, even when it seems more desirable to push on. I have to be content with tiny increases in Munro count. That's 15 Munros today. But in truth I find it best not to even think about the count. It's almost overwhelming. For now the game plan is to focus one day at a time, and perhaps in a couple of weeks I can begin to get gratification from taking chunks out of the schedule.
Most of all, if I can keep producing days like today, I'll be quite happy.
I'm again staying the night at the Glen Coe Independent Hostel. Tomorrow I'll climb Bidean nam Bian and I'm hoping for an easy-ish day. At least the weather seems it'll be alright (yes!). After that, I'm on a southward journey towards Ben Lomond and I'm looking forward to it all.
Anyway, must go - I've been on the go all day and more mountain awaits tomorrow!