Wild moment: Robert Peers

Published: 15th February 2016

A few words about a solo ramble to Meall a’Choire Leith (north of the Ben Lawers range) from the top of the Lochan na Lairig pass

‘Nothing special’ said the map.
To a walker, its gently curving lines and absent crags meant dull forms;
A place a passage to hurry through;
An open valley which, in all but the best weather, swiftly released the eye to more favoured glens;
A rounded mountain whose convexity hid its summit cairn, embarrassed at its evenly graded slopes.

But on a day when a clear arctic breeze met a Mediterranean sun,
I went alone to that place, lending full attention to every step and glance –
Time’s servant now his partner.

A small terminal moraine was my first pearl.
Walking along its steep front became an alpine trek
Watching boulders roll out of dirty glacier ice.
Yet on its crest were remains more temporary – the low walls of dairymaids’ huts.
Standing in their doorways, I imagined the cattle munching the lime-rich pasture
And the weary milking routine of their minders,
Perversely drear in a land now enjoyed for leisure.
A lamb bleated from the waterlogged slope bounded by blocked and overgrown drainage ditches.
I followed its mother across the bog, contouring the hill past more sheilings perched on moraines.
Here, cloudberry was the largest of the flowers in bloom, its strong white flowers a hint of fruits to come.

Rounding the corner into Coire Gorm, the sheep – as much usurpers up here as their owners – grazed the sweet turf in number,
A reminder of the productivity of these high places.
The stream was a delight.
Filled to bankfull with snow melt, it made light of obstructions, carelessly chattering its way through hanging gardens of golden saxifrage and alpine lady’s mantle,
Whilst above the cascades, a startled ring ouzel flew down their silver reach.

Quickly gaining the nearby ridge, I faced more shapely peaks and crags but
On reaching the broad summit plateau, I found that this northern outpost held its secret well.
Without impediment, the view was limited only by the natural horizon;
No haze spoiled the cut glass lines.
And, as I left directly for the col rather than taking the path,
I stood amazed at the abundance of trailing azalea;
Mats of miniature profusion, declaring a stand against this barren tundra.

As, reluctantly, I left that very, very special place and time,
It was the quality of the light that penetrated most deeply into my office-weary mind.
After turning for my last look back, walking into the sunlight,
Myriads of gossamer threads strung between shoots of heather
Became illuminated lines of life, confirming the richness of this special day.


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