Scotland in a Heatwave Happens

Scotland in a heat wave happens. In July 2007 after visiting my brother in Forres, Morayshire, I went north in a rental car under blue skies. I stayed in John o’Groats, nipped across to Orkney, then drove along the north coast. I have always loved mountains, had climbed in the Alps, on Réunion and even in Glen Coe with Simon Yates, but up in Sutherland a change came over me. I discovered Munros.

The heat had warmed the peat, filling the air with the richness of a whisky soaked Dundee cake. To the south unknown mountains stretched away and all around pipits and wheatears sang to me. I stopped the car so often the day drifted by without much progress, and any thought of a quick tour vanished when Ben Hope started to dominate the skyline. There it was, on my map. Then a memory: Griff Rhys Jones had been on TV in the series Mountain and had climbed this in winter. ‘The most northerly Munro…’ On a whim I thought I’d climb it. I had drifted into unfitness, so the effort to get to the top was a shock. Yet in Ron Hill Tracksters, a vest, a small bum bag with a bottle of water and basic boots, I stood in beautiful weather looking at all the world. Something inside lifted my heart and I was lost – how could I let this go? I stayed too long, so had to scamper down, eventually finding a B&B just before 21:00.

Since then I have become what people call a Munro Bagger, but with me it is a means to many ends. I’ll do all 282, if I can, but the peaks will not be rushed, nor lesser mountains ignored. This perceived obsession is an excuse to immerse myself in all things natural: botany, birds, beasts and geology; also to set challenges of fast ascents, slow wild camps and a run or two. In fact any excuse to keep my heart full as on that first ascent of Ben Hope – hope really does spring eternal.

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