Hannah’s first scottish mountain was Bheinn Leith Mhor between Strathcarron and Torridon in the far northwest Highlands. The weather was perfect, clear and sunny with a strong enough breeze to keep the midges away. We started from Achnashellach, following a good stalkers’ path up through the beautiful pine forests and into Coire Lair before heading north east on to steeper ground.
Strangely enough we were on the same path that I walked up to my first scottish mountain, 28 years ago. I remember that day well. I was 19 and had sat up all night on the night train from Crewe to Glasgow before arriving at Achnashellach station later the same day. Toby was waiting at the station and we walked up Fuar Tholl and spent the night at the bothy in Coire Fionarraich. It was a bit of a baptism of fire and I wanted Hannah’s introduction to Scotland to be a bit gentler.
Back to 2020 and it was the same Toby who was with us on Bheinn Liath Mhor today. He is one of my oldest friends having met him at Cambridge when I was 18. Both of us were northerners from state schools struggling to fit into what was still a predominately southern and private school based university and both of us loved mountains. These days he lives in an enviable location in Lochcarron in a house full of caving gear and sea kayaks, but I hadn’t visited for many years, always too busy with Hannah and my business.
We were on the first summit by midday and continued north along the 2km rocky ridge to the highest point. The view opened up and we had our first glimpse of the Torridon giants, Liathach, Beinn Eighe, and Beinn Alligin then Loch Torridon and out to the Western Isles. Further south we could see the mountains of Skye and Rum and to the north east was the jagged ridge of An Teallach. The sky and the sea were a dark blue. This was Scotland at its best.
The rocks on Beinn Liath Mhor swap from Torridonian Sandstone to quartzite and back again a few times along the ridge and Hannah was facinated by the different colours. So fascinated that she asked me to carry down 4 largish rocks as souvenirs and foolishly I agreed.
I had forgotten how big scottish mountains were and how slowly children can walk. The descent was rocky and slow going and the sun was hot. The rocks in my rucksack didn’t exactly help matters either. A refreshing swim in Lochan Coire Lair was just what we needed before finally walking down through the pine forests back to Achnashellach.
In total we had been out for 9 hours, a huge day for a 9 year old, but Hannah continued to amaze me by offering to cook dinner while I had a rest and drank some beer. I’m not quite sure what I have done to deserve a daughter like that.