Just 15 minutes drive from home Sgorr na Ciche, or the Pap of Glencoe, is a seemingly innocuous hill from down in the village of Glencoe. It reveals its full demands however when you finally get up to the col and realise there’s still 40 minutes of slogging, pretty much straight up, before you can stand on the top and admire the view. Respect!
The rains have been heavy these last few weeks, and the steep trail upwards follows a gravel mud slide of a streamlet that just doesn’t give up until you are pretty near to the col and you thankfully feel firm perma-frozen turf underneath your boots. Very quickly however this turns into a scramble up thick chunky shards of rock; cleaved flaggy terraces of metamorphosed quartzite. When you’ve got heavy camera gear on your back these are the times to think about the good fitness work out you are getting and that your lungs will thank you later, honest! We say hi to a couple already on their way down after a fantastic day, and then we are on the top.
The views are quiet simply breathtaking. Don’t rule out this little summit. If you want to keep hill fit and get a good cardio vascular work out this will do it for you, no question. And then there’s 360 degree landscape to admire and take in. Loch Leven; a mirror, reflecting The Mamores whilst a perfect pyramid shadow juts out from The Pap.
The shapes of the mountains, heavily dusted above 400m with snow, pick out the most elegant lines and shapes in the flanks and crags that make up Glencoe and the Mamores. It’s a sight that takes your breath away and makes you glad to be alive; experiencing such amazing scenery.
We’re fully aware of the light and have kept moving without stopping up to the summit. Get up there in good time to maximise the opportunity for shots, and also to have time to enjoy that last quiet hour; when the long low rays suddenly take on that evocative quality all of their own. From a bright, light November afternoon, when the snows are crisp and the sun keeps shining, suddenly everything slows down and becomes quiet.
It’s pretty special to be on the mountain tops at this time of day. You realise the wind has calmed and everything goes still. The ambient coppery gold rays of winter sun begin to take on their own power . In a few minutes more this beautiful light and atmosphere will have gone. We know it’s time to pack up and move on again. Getting up to the top is one thing, getting down safely is a must. But just for one minute more we stand and take it all in. The alpenglow, the Scottish peaks around us gradually fading to silhouettes. It’s perfect.
This is what it’s about; the feeling of being totally connected to the outdoors. That for a day, or an hour or maybe several minutes there’s this satisfying joy of experience – being out in the landscape.
We pack up ready to go; one last look round at the view; do the paranoia check for lens caps, the loupe, anything left behind and then we head back down to the track off the hill just as the moon is rising in a pink and blue sky.
I took this quick snap of David when we were safely on to the track once more and had stopped for a cup of tea. I know he’s looking out of shot, but for me it’s a memory of that crazy happy feeling of being amongst the mountains. David’s lost in thought, looking out to the mountains opposite; I’m equally in awe of the absolute last light on Bidean when you know it’s brutally cold up there, but that there is also a beautiful stillness held in place until the morning sunlight comes again and wakes the world up once more.