By Hamish Brown
Corrour Bothy and The Devil's Point, Cairngorms, Scotland by Bruce_McAdam via Wikimedia Commons.
This is one of a large number of Scottish related articles by Guest Writers which have been added to Rampant Scotland. The pages were previously part of the "Scottish Radiance" Web site and there are many more articles in this series being added over a period of months. Here Hamish Brown, a renowned author on Scottish hill walking, relates short stories that would be told in temporary shelters called bothies.
John, a few months later, had his long-promised first winter trip (a long weekend) and we went in to Culra Bothy with the idea of attempting the four Munros that sweep along north of Ben Mder and the Bealach Dubh. The weather turned foul so we retreated alter battling up Cam Dearg. The blizzard blew itself out overnight but there was a glowing fog at first light. This usually indicated an improvement so we set off hopefully for the other three Munros. There was lots of ice on the path but the real solid snowline was at the level of the Bealach Dubh.
Corrie Part 2
We flanked (a real flounder) then had a steep, toilsome climb directly up to the final undulating ridge to Beinn Eibliinn. The mist just refused to clear and on the 3,000 foot level it was glaring and difficult to see and I was quite concerned at the risk of walking right over the cornice. I made John walk behind me carefully and we progressed slowly, often looking at map, compass and altimeter while trying to explain what I was doing, both for teaching the boy and to keep his mind off the high risk factor. Beinn Eibhinn was the furthest away of our trio of hills so we could work 'homewards' or, if time ran short, we could tailor the day to suit. John was quite aware of this as his next comment indicated.
"If others came along, there'd be footprints maybe?"
"Well look! There are."
I screwed up my eyes and, where he pointed, saw a line of tracks, not of vibrams or crampons, but of an animal, a fox perhaps.
"He wouldn't go over a cornice would he?" John asked.
"No," I knew that from Corrie.
So, easier in mind I began to follow the spoor in the snow. The angle eased. An instant of clearance showed the lethal curl of snow off to the right (north). The track kept well back from the possible line where the snow might break off if walked on. Not surprisingly my mind was on Corrie for, in mist, I'd often happily followed him to find an invisible cairn.
"He only does it for the grub." Isobel laughed when I'd described this aid to navigation.
God! How I missed Corrie.
Suddenly John's mitted hand was pulling at my sleeve but I'd already stopped. We stood staring into the glare. The track spotted on ahead until it vanished into the mist. The mark of the animal's left back leg was slewed off to one side
"It's Corrie's track" John whispered.
I couldn't find my voice, or any refutation of the idea. I'd followed Corrie's inimitable track on scores of occasions. It was Corrie's track.
We went on in sobered silence.
Near the summit the wind had scoured the dome so it was very icy. Should we put on our crampons? We decided against for the brief time they'd be useful. The track we'd followed disappeared on the hard bare surface but we both let out a laugh when the cairn loomed in sight. Against it was a patch of yellow snow.
We ate our pieces by the cairn and I actually tore off a chunk of the cheese sandwich for Corrie before I stopped myself I don't think John saw but it was a rather strained and silent pause. However the cloud tore aside properly before we'd finished and what a fantastic scene met our eyes. John had never been so high in such a white world and we turned and turned about to look and name half the hills of Scotland it felt. We forgot our preoccupation and went rushing off down the slope, quite safe to do so with our footprints and the cornice clear. The slope dropped to a high col and then rose to the fine summit of Aonach Beag. It was great to be alive.
Aonach Beag was followed by Geal-Charn, the day's highest, though not named on the 0.S. map, a huge plateau. We just wished we had skis with us. What a run wetd have had!
We blessed Geordie Oswald, the Ben Alder keeper, who'd dropped off firewood in the autumn for the night was wolf-cold under a big moon that had tile snow-washed bulk of Ben Alder and the jag of Lancet edge almost as clear as in daylight. We sat by the fire with our last brew, in that sleepy content that follows a successful day on the hill. Something however seemed to be on John's mind for lie was unusually silent. Eventually he turned to me.
"Those footprints." He paused. "Corrie's footprints."
"How could they be Corrie's footprints?" I shouted, to myself however. He saw my lips tighten though and hesitated. I smiled, "Go on."
"We did see them, didn't we?"
I nodded. We had!. Unless a fox with an identical broken leg was roaming the hills. My snort at that likelihood had John raise his eyebrows.
"It was exactly Corrie's" I stated as flatly as I could.
He stopped. There were no words for the questioning.
"Just when we needed help, they were there," lie said determinedly.
I said nothing but I jerked up and spilt tea on my drying boots at his next words.
"And on the way back down, when we could see easily, there were no tracks except our own.
He was right too. When I thought back to our descent of the crest there had only been our booted tracks visible. The animal tracks had only been in existence for that brief helpful,span of time. If you can come up with a rational explanation John and I would dearly like to have it.<
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