What a good day! To the uninitiated, the thought of climbing a 3,000' mountain (actually Beinn an Lochain seems to have slipped from being a Munro these days - has it shrunk?) in thick cloud is little short of madness, but it was so good today. The mist, thick and grey on the lower slopes, became bright and cheerful on the summit, with tantalising glimpses of sun above us. Beinn an Lochain, by the way, rises above the road from Inveraray to the Rest and be Thankful, on the right hand side above the loch.
On the climb, there were two sources of temptation. The first was the presence of blaeberries, purple blobs appearing under my muddy hands as I hauled myself up steps too high for my aging carcass to negotiate elegantly. Always, it seems to me, blaeberries eaten in precarious situations taste the best. I learned that at the age of twelve or so, in Arran.
The second temptation came in the form of this little outcrop of rock, quite near the summit, which sits there crying out to be climbed. I've done it before, on a wonderful sunny, dry day, when I was about 5 years younger and - sadly - several pounds lighter. But it called to me, and we stopped. My nails were full of earth and my toe joints were screaming by the time we continued up the path - but I can still do it: cheers.
What is so special about being up there in the mist, fun and games on rocks apart? I suppose it's the feeling of otherness, of being somewhere hard to reach, whose features are unchanged by human intrusion (ok - path erosion apart), where the bog cotton (pictured) waves in the wind, where a sudden parting of the cloud reveals the huge crags looming above you, or the drop to the distant road, where the scents of heather and wet grass rise all around, where the rocks still held the heat of yesterday's sun - or was it today's? And I supppose there's always the knowledge of danger, of the consequences of a slip in the wrong place, and the awareness that you will only get down again by your own efforts.
And when you do get down, there's the curry - and the gin and tonic ........