OUT­DOORS

The Herald Magazine - - CONTENTS - CAMERON MCNEISH

I’m sit­ting by the win­dow in a bothy in Glen­su­laig, north of Loch Eil in Lochaber, and the peace of the place has set­tled on me like an old quilt.

The two Cor­betts of Meall a’ Phubuill and Beinn Bhan can be com­bined into a long sum­mer out­ing and al­though I’ve never linked them into one walk I am as­sured by no less an au­thor­ity than the Scot­tish Moun­taineer­ing Club guide­book that the ridge be­tween the hills is long and some­what te­dious.

I’ve climbed both hills in­di­vid­u­ally and have happy mem­o­ries of both so, with a dark, grey day dawn­ing, I de­cided to have a wan­der up Meall a’ Phubuill again – from Fass­fern on the A830 Fort Wil­liam to Mal­laig road.

A good track used to run all the way up the east side of Gleann Suileag and even­tu­ally emerge from its cloak of conifers into the open glen with the rounded breasts of Meall Onfhaidh and Meall a’ Phubuill dom­i­nat­ing the north­ern hori­zon. Ahead, slink­ing its way up into the cleav­age formed by the two hills, an­other track now climbs up to meet the wa­ters of the Allt Fionn Doire from where you take to the heather, or in this case the steep, grassy slopes of Meall a’ Phubuill.

Once I left the track it was a sim­ple case of tak­ing a bear­ing on the sum­mit and fol­low­ing the com­pass nee­dle. I reck­oned it would take me about 50 min­utes to reach the 774m/2520ft sum­mit and I was spot-on. How­ever, I have to admit the ac­cu­racy of my nav­i­ga­tion wasn’t as good – I was about 20 me­tres too far east of the sum­mit cairn. For­tu­nately the vis­i­bil­ity was more than that.

It was cold and wet on the sum­mit plateau so I sim­ply turned round, re­versed the com­pass nee­dle and fol­lowed it back down to the track where the cloud had lifted slightly, enough to see the wel­come out­line of the Glen­su­laig bothy across the river, set in its lit­tle stand of pine, birch and holly.

What a marvellous spot this is. De­spite the views of glow­er­ing cloud and driz­zly rain through the bothy win­dow it was good to sit awhile, eat the re­mains of my lunch and read the bothy book. Someone else had ob­vi­ously en­joyed the peace and soli­tude of this place and had waxed lyri­cal about the beauty of the glen and the tan­gi­ble sen­sa­tions of tran­quil­lity. She summed up her thoughts by quot­ing an old prayer from the Carmina Gadel­ica, a bene­dic­tion that stayed with me as I fol­lowed the gleam­ing river back to Fass­fern and the car. Thou chief of chiefs, Child of the needy, Be with us in the jour­ney, And in the gleam of the river. Be with us in the jour­ney, And in the gleam of the river.

Glen­su­laig bothy with Meall a’ Phubuill be­hind

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