From the despair of the past few days, I finally suspect I might have broken through a barrier. Time will tell whether I really have.
I got up at 4am this morning. I knew I had to, since Beinn Eighe needed done imminently. Thunder was forecast for the afternoon and I was wasn't hanging around just to find myself stuck. I was up sharp, despite finding it hard to sleep last night. Too much thinking.
I didn't have a lot of breakfast, just a bowl of cereal, since the appetite was a bit supressed. I drove up Glen Torridon in the dull light and headed off pretty sharp: I was on the hill by 5:10am.
Negativity accompanied me all the way around to Coire Mhic Fhearchair. This is one of the most mind-bendingly-blowingly magnificent coires in the Highlands - just Google it.
It's a million times better in person.
I'd been to Coire Mhic Fhearchair before, but the head-screw of the Round was preventing me from really seeing the beauty. It's been a common theme the last few days. The land looked desolate without the sun to give warmth, and then shafts broke out here and there, breathing life back.
I didn't have the patience to go up to the back of the coire, so I contoured up the scree direct to the summit of Ruadh-stac Mor. I was heading toward the summit, when a sight to the east caught my eye: an inversion blanketed the glens, backlit by the sunrise. Fionn Bheinn poked out through the cloud, wrapped in haze. It looked incredible.
The most surprising part was that I realised, for the first time in days, that I had relaxed.
The early morning start had removed the fear of the afternoon thunderstorms. The air had been humid and still, but not relentlessly hot. At last, I had settled and for the first time in a few days I saw the mountains for all their intense beauty, colour and texture. I walked off Ruadh-stac Mor and couldn't help but giggle out loud. I'd finally found a tactic, a way through the circumstances. Took a while.
There is a (small) cost: I'll have to get up very early, every morning and get down by lunchtime. All the northwest hills are still to be done, but my attitude to them has turned from "how the hell will I do this?" to "this will be hard but I can see it happening." My mindset has moved back to what it normally would be.
On the way to Spidean Coire nan Clach (#2), I interrupted a herd of deer who were crossing the ridge, from one coire to another. They'd see me, freeze, and tread cautiously along their intended route. They kept coming; it was like a traffic jam of deer on the ridge.
The rest of Spidean Coire nan Clach was uneventful, and I got to the summit with a feeling of lightness brought on by a lack of worry.
I headed back to Glen Torridon and was down spot on 10am. Not bad! I walked back to the car as cloud began to shroud the hills. This afternoon, the region echoed to the rumble of thunder, the first time that's happened in Torridon.
For the rest of the day, I've been snoozing, eating and enjoying the time without any pressure to climb mountains. I'm so grateful to have found a tactic that might unlock the rest of my big days. It's as simple as an early start.