The Monadh Liath: A first glance at a map of Scotland suggests there's not much here; It's an empty place. There are few Munros, fewer Corbetts, not many soaring crags; Most guidebooks give this place a miss. I have walked the length of Scotland just once, and the breadth of Scotland twenty two times, and I know of very few places more precious to me than these fabulous hills.
We rejoin our walk on the afternoon of the fifth day. We're the Tail End Charlies of the Challenge today, and having taken the second boat across Loch Ness we now trundle along minor roads, with hail and showers rattling through on strong westerlies. Occasional sunlight blasts through tears in ragged clouds which for brief moments warms our chilled hands. We climb steadily, up a long Rover Road to a very new Estate shooters cabin, and fall inside to be out of the wind.
|PHIL'S PIC OF A RATHER POSH SHOOTING CABIN. CLICK TO ENLARGE|
|RATHER SPLENDID MONADH LIATH SCENERY. CLICK TO ENLARGE|
|SMART SHOOTING CABIN ROGUES GALLERY. CLOCKWISE AROUND TABLE, FROM LEFT: PHIL, JAYME, [AND NO. I DON'T KNOW WHY HIS KNICKERS ARE ON DISPLAY] PETER, LINDY, BARRY, BROTHERS PETER & ROGER, AND GORDIE. CLICK FOR THE FULL HORROR.|
It's great to be out of the hard, cold wind and soon stoves are hissing, brews brewing and snacks are snacked. Lindy has decided to stay, and there are a few waverers being won over to keep her company by the stove-side. One by one, our company dwindles, disappearing forever once the door closes behind them.
The last time I was at this place I had a particularly nasty bout of food poisoning that was rife on the Challenge that year and Phil had to almost drag me through the bogs to Glen Mazeran. This year, however I am in rude health and up for it. Barry decides to join us, persuaded I think, that we had been this way before and know a route avoiding the worst of the gloopy bogs. And indeed, we miss the devils, and take a route up the side of a burn to the hilltop.
|LOOKING BACK - WE AVOIDED THAT GLOOPY BOG, BY DINT OF GHASTLY PAST EXPERIENCE AND ACE NAVIGATION (AHEM)|
At the top the going is wonderful and there is a fabulous view of the Monadh Liath stretching away to forever ahead of us: For me, this next picture encapsulates the Monadh Liath.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: THE WAY AHEAD ~ THE MAGNIFICENT MONADH LIADH|
This is the weather; This is backpacking at its best. Ragged wet clouds ripping overhead, the wind rattling your overtrousers, the cold pinching at your fingers. The exhilaration.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: PHIL, ON TOP OF THE WORLD|
|THIS PICTURE DOESN'T DO JUSTICE TO THE INCREDIBLE WIND & COLD. CLICK TO ENLARGE|
|EASY GOING ON MONADH LIATH TOPS. CLICK TO ENLARGE|
|BARRY, HEADING DOWN TO GLEN MAZERAN|
|EVERY NOW AND THEN NATURE PRODUCES A BIT OF MAGIC. CLICK TO ENLARGE|
Nature puts on a light show to complete our joy. It's fabulous walking, down and down, and down, seemingly forever, until we hit an extended estate track which makes for easy, if somewhat more mundane progress.
|PHIL'S PICTURE WITH CLUTTER IN THE FOREGROUND|
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: FABULOUS WALKING WEATHER. NO ONE CLUTTERING UP THE VIEW|
Our shadows are lengthening as we find a perfect camp-spot, tucked secretly in the bend of the caochan, beneath a heavy snowbank and wonderful flaring sunlight.
|CLICK TO ENLARGE: A MAGNIFICENT WILD CAMP HIGH UP IN GLEN MAZERAN. WITH BARRY CENTRE SHOT|
This, really, is as good as it gets. Seemingly miles from anywhere, high up in the hills, sunshine blasting between torn black clouds, the wind whistling overhead as flasks are passed between us, warming our lungs.
Try the Monadh Liath. There's nothing there, but happiness.