Our columnist Des Oliver says that sometimes the hills are all you need for company
According to the dictionary, the definition of solitude is being alone, or in lonely places. So I suppose mountains are ideal locations for solitude.
I recall one instance travelling through the Scottish Highlands when I was alone for fairly long stretches of time but I didn’t think of it as solitude. I just happened to be on my own and was quite happy doing what I had planned.
Shouldering my pack at Aviemore railway station I made my way along the road in Glen More and the path of the Lairig Ghru to pitch camp beside the Pools of Dee. I was now well and truly alone.
After a quick snack I went up onto the Cairngorm plateau via the March burn and to the summit of Ben Macdhui, returning the same way to camp. I had spent most of the day on my own – no problem.
The month was May, the weather warm and sunny but still with lots of snow high up. I traversed the Braeriach plateau wading through lots of snow melt. Over to Angels Peak and Cairn Toul then Devils Point and down to Corour Bothy, and back up the Lairig path to camp having met no-one. I suppose that was solitude.
Next day a walker came by my camp site and I spoke my first words in 72 hours. Later I broke camp and moved round to camp beside Lurchers Burn. After walking over the three corries I saw ‘Hootsie’ who managed the reindeer he had introduced to the Cairngorms walking his herd near Corrie Cas. I asked if it was alright to take a photo, he said no but when he moved on I took one anyway. I should add that this was before the ski development, so I had the area all to myself. More solitude.
Via train and bus I arrived in Fort William, walking up Glen Nevis and on into Upper Glen Nevis to camp at Steall in the ruins of a shieling. Next day with the weather still warm and sunny I climbed up to the saddle between Aonach Beag and Cairn Mor Dearg and onto the summit to be presented with a superb view of Ben Nevis’ north face streaked with snow. The whole vista seemed to glow in the Spring sunshine. There was absolute silence – just me and the magnificent mountain. Perfect solitude.
My final day was damp and drizzly and I traversed a mist-covered Mamore ridge. Being Saturday there were people about and I met four lads from Edinburgh University on the ridge. Apart from that I was still on my own. The following morning I broke camp, walked around to Kinlochleven to catch the bus to Glasgow and train home. I’m not sure I could find such solitude nowadays in these hills.