Thursday, 29 September 2011

Shooting stars, roaring stags and a midnight crossing of the Aonach Eagach (posted by James)

A down-climb into the dark

One of the things that has always made me the happiest, wherever am I, is developing an intimate relationship with a place. Whether it be a small patch of woodland or a range of hills.

The thing I like about it is knowing exactly where and when to go to somewhere specific - a nook and cranny for every mood and any type of weather. And last night when I finished work at midnight, I just knew the Aonach Eagach was the place to be.

The best starlit sky I've seen since the end of the winter…the long arm of the Milky Way clearly visible stretching across the sky. The constellation Orion standing proud and firm, appearing to peer down on Rannoch Moor and the central Highlands. The Ridge was going to be a truly special place to be last night.

As I topped out on Am Bodach, the wind hit me. I hadn't realised how strong it would be…gale force gusts regularly battering the Ridge and buffeting me from side to side. But I didn't mind…I've done the Aonach Eagach many times and it has been totally different on each occasion, and a mid-night crossing in a gale definitely appealed.

The narrowest section of the ridge

Pitch black. No moon at all, leaving me to weave my way through the ups and downs of the Ridge by torchlight, regularly stopping to turn my torch off and just look up at the breathtaking star-scape above me.

It seemed an odd thing, seeing so many shooting stars on a night like last night when the wind was howling so loudly. I think of shooting stars on still, frosty nights on Ben Nevis when there is no sound at all.

The Pinnacles

A slight lull in the wind, and a hint of strange noises echoing in the corries on the North flank of the ridge. I brushed it off, thinking I was imagining things….but there it was again. Roaring stags.

The first I've heard this autumn, and what a way to hear them for the first time. Peering down into the black depths of the corries I couldn't see a thing, but there the stags were…roaring in gale at 2 in the morning.

On the way down, the clouds started to roll in and a few drops of rain started. The end of a few brief magical hours, when I was in exactly the right place at the right time.


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