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October 2016, vol 12 no 3

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Tim Gardiner


The summit on the far side of the loch has been tempting me all week. With no map to hand or obvious path it’s going to be a tricky climb through Sphagnum mire and purple moor-grass, but a summit with a view of far off Ben Nevis is a fair reward for hours of toil. My wife is not so keen; I know she thinks it’s a ridiculous idea, just one of many in a long list. Not wanting to waste the window of sunny weather, for the climate of the Scottish west coast is notoriously unpredictable in spring, we set off along the stony road beside the loch.

otters play
on the loch edge
mated for life

Following the course of the burn, we pass a long disused mill, and start the arduous ascent. Terraced layers of bog moss and bleached tussock-grass underfoot, we rise higher into the mountain’s unknown wastes. Sheep graze among the rushes, their numbers thinning out with altitude. Keeping the burn on our left side we head towards the promontory.

the eagle soars
no map to guide us
no hope of success

A stag reveals itself on the mountainside. Wary of our presence, he watches for a short while before retreating to a rocky outcrop, finally disappearing from sight. Just this morning we collected a pair of antlers from the cottage lawn, wondering what had happened to the virile owner.

deer antlers
at this point
many possibilities

The hillwalking partnership starts to dissolve swiftly; familiar arguments resurface, gurgling like peat-brown water out of the mire. Clouds curl over the peaks, it’s unlikely we’ll make the high point we’re heading for, the afternoon escaping us. We walk down in silence, more than just failure between us.

cottage fire
the April sunset