Tuesday, July 24

SCOTLAND TRIP: DAY 4 Sun 15/7 (Pap of Glen Coe)

Pap of Glen Coe (Sgorr na ciche)
Grid ref: 125 594
Top 742m;
Distance: 3.25 mile
Time: 4 hours

Now who has ever been served a crusty white bread roll as part of a continental breakfast? And a very basic breakfast at that. Well not me. Tomorrow’s decision about hostel or self catering was already made. And not even out of the door yet.

But what a day to greet. Sunny, dry and warming up already as I joined the other social pariahs sucking deep on the first roll-up of the day. Of such times are friendships made and memories made. Possibly.

(Glen Coe SYHA)

Meanwhile a sore right quad muscle still nagging after the previous day’s exercise so another decision easily made. That of not going for the planned trip along the Aonach Eagach ridge. For that little challenge I wanted to be certain that when my foot was placed firmly down, or up for that matter, it stayed supporting my body in its upright position. One I prefer to adopt when walking. And even more so when there’s a scramble involved.

The Pap had looked interesting on the approach to Glen Coe. Guardian of the range, and more importantly standing proud at the end of the long ridge with panoramic views around most points of the compass. And then there is the name – Pap. If ever a hill was more aptly named by its shape or function then this would be it (Unless there’s a hill out there called "a steep and sweaty climb", or the Gaelic equivalent)

For the first half hour or so I was accompanied by a couple of the group that I'd travelled north with, but who also wished to find their own particular enjoyment in the hills today.

Then striking out by myself I had a cunning plan. Take a diagonal across the hillside, aiming off for the edge of a pine woodland enclosure, and then a gentle ridge ascent to the foot of the peak before making the unavoidable scramble up the last 100 m or so.

But as with all best laid plans, they are subject to change, and in this particular case I discovered firstly a small dam, a haven of peace on the hillside with cool clear water. And behind a small barely hidden track through the heather. Part watercourse possibly, but definitely a path upward. Beckoning to me it seemed. Me, the master explorer of so many similar deer tracks on my New Forest walks. Aha an easy route away from the broken paths I’d been using so far on this trip.

Well that was what I thought at the time. Instead of my diagonal and gentle ridge route, an hour later found me sweating, boots bog black having more or less walked straight up to the foot of the final scramble.

An interesting introduction to walking amongst heather and peat on the Scottish hills. A place where tracks disappear into hidden gullies, and black well defined peat tracks, become a boulder field, cunningly hidden amongst moss and heather. But on the positive side definitely softer on the feet than the last couple of days.

Meanwhile a chance to catch up with the BBC Radio 4 Archers Omnibus edition. A slice of English tradition whilst experiencing a Scottish alternative. Peat bog bashing.

Luckily the rain of the previous days had met good drainage on the steepish slope, leaving the ground relatively firm. That is bogland not too interested in exploring its ability to suck off my boot as I passed by. Well not yet at least.

(Pap summit)
The final ascent of the Pap was unavoidable. There seemed no way to avoid a careful scramble up, with no plainly discernible track to follow. I found that on the descent. Naturally.

And the view was worth the final haul up. East down the loch back to Kinlochleven, north to Fort William, and south and west to the peaks along the valley of Glen Coe.

(to Fort William)

And in the distance, wherever I raised my eyes to the near, middle or far distance. Hills. All free of cloud. The observatory on Ben Nevis, a couple of ranges back, clearly visible and now just one peak out of maybe forty or perhaps fifty summits that I could see from the superb vantage point.

(BenNevis sunning itself)

I sat on that summit for a couple of hours. Enjoying the sun, not feeling the light wind. Just drinking in the panorama. Occasionally changing my viewing position to look at a different range. More hills and ridges.

On other peaks I may have stayed an hour at most, finally chasing myself off as other walkers arrived. Leaving them to their own enjoyment. Some in peace. Some in less gentle ways. But here on a hot and sunny Sunday afternoon I had three fellow summiteers in two hours. On a Lakeland peak I would have expected ten plus guests in half the time. Here some quiet folk moved in, and moved on. One kindly pointing out the far distant hill range, his usual walking ground, near the east coast of Scotland. That gave some idea of the distances that could be seen in the clear air of the Scottish West Highlands.

But Scotland is indeed a place so lonely for a people at times.

Photos? Of course I tried to take some, littered through this article. But nothing mechanical could ever report back the views I was drinking in, or the experience of contentment that I was enjoying at that moment.

Finally a descent. Heading for the OS map marked track, meeting up with my early morning walking partners at the foot of the scramble down from Pap. They enjoying more limiting views, but happy in their own sunlit world. My gentle persuasion for them to travel the extra distance to the top declined, I headed down, the views to Fort William and the loch laid out before me, but largely avoided as once more I took to watching my feet on rock strewn path.

Oh and that damned big black boot sucking peat bog near the bottom. Well I had been lucky to date on the trip, so I guess one leg in up to the knee wasn’t a bad record.

Finally following the tarmac back to the hostel, a shower, and onto the Clachaig Inn to await the return of the conquering heroes. Down this final cruel descent from that ridge.

.........and looking up from the bottom.

And from the physical state of the returnees one route that I did well not to take, as in my particular and mostly solitary way I soaked up the atmosphere of the hills.

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Sounds a good day... Specially liked yr long stay at the summit. So many just bag and bugger off.
Never could see the point of walking all that way just to turn around and go back so quickly
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