There’s a baker’s dozen of great walks still on offer in the summer programme of the Nevis Hillwalkers. This is my local hillwalking club and although I am unable to go out with them every weekend, whenever I am free I  try and spend a day on the hills with them .

My highlights during the summer programme are:

  • Through route from Glen Nevis over the two Aonach summits and down to the Nevis Ski Centre (not using the gondola!)
  • The Five Sisters of Kintail – one of the classic ridge walks in Scotland.
  • Ben Nevis – no tourist track for us, up the Ledge route and descend via the CMD arete.
  • A full traverse of Buachaille Etive Beag from Glen Etive through to Glencoe.
  • Sgurr nan Gillean, Skye – let’s hope the great weather we are having now stretches all the way through to September.

I know that walking with a group of people is not to everyone’s taste but this club is a bit different. Even when there is a largish group (say 12) of us out on the hills, you can still get a feeling of solitude. If you want to walk slowly or fast you can do, no one is going to make you walk with the herd. Collectively we will all keep an eye out for each other but we all take individual responsibility.

This last weekend whilst out on Gulvain I opted out of joining the rest of the group for the “interesting” steep descent from the summit in to Gleann Fionnlighe and the cleg and midge delights that would greet them there. Instead, wanting to stay high, I walked back in the sunshine along the main ridge. That’s the ethos of the club, the programme is there as a guide but with enough flexibility for us to try different routes if we chose.

If you are visiting the Lochaber area over the summer and fancy walking with some local people take a look at our programme. Visitors can join us on three club walks a year before having to join. You’ll be assured of a warm welcome. .

You can download our programme here. Or find out more about the club here.

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This was an anniversary walk for a friend of mine, Arthur Custance, who completed his round of Munros on Stuchd an Lochain twenty years ago. I always take a camera with me when walking but to my dismay at the summit discovered I had not put my memory card back into the camera. So unfortunately for this report there will be no photographs.

 

Our starting place was at the dam at the end of Loch Lyon rather than at Loch an Daimh which is the route in the Scottish Mountaineering Council guide. The weather did not look optimistic having driven through driving rain across Rannoch Moor on our way. However, the mountain forecast suggested that rain would soon pass with a good chance of cloud free summits by lunchtime. So through showery drizzle we set off with optimism that the weather would improve during our ascent.

 

Following an estate Land Rover track soon got us to the 500m mark before we set out across open hillside. Pausing in the drizzle whilst some of my fellow walkers donned overtrousers, I noticed some large rocks in the middle distance. Then I thought they were two cows but decided it was too high up. I was wrong. Two mottled grey cows stood still warily watching us a few hundred metres away. As we climbed further we came across the rest of the herd in a sheltered hollow on the hill side. It is unusual to see cows in the hill, certainly at this height. Plovers circled around us their distinctive calls determined to divert attention from their ground nests.

 

We located the fence that would act as a handrail direct to the summit. By this stage the weather had closed in with visibility decreasing significantly. It looked as though a long, boring slog with no views to the summit would be the result. As our route steepened we caught snatches of crags that only hinted at sheer drop to the north of our walk. Having set a steady pace, I slowed towards the summit as the after effects of a heavy cold I had earlier in the week kicked in.

 

Driving rain and a sharp wind greeted us at the summit cairn curtailing any celebration that Arthur had planned. A quick cup of tea and a banana was the extent of my celebration followed by a hasty descent. No thoughts of lingering at the summit.

 

I have always struggled descending the hills, a combination of weak knees and lack of confidence hindering my progress. Every trip on the mountainside sees that confidence grow and leg muscles adapting and protecting my knees. I set a quick pace down the hill even though the slopes were wet. Now striding downwards the weather began to clear affording views down the steep crags to Loch an Daimh and the summits beyond. Sometimes mountain days are like that you catch glimpses of what may have been at the summit if only it was clear.