The winter that is now coming to an end has been a very good one for me. But there is no denying….the last few months have been very short on sunshine, to say the least.
Usually I cope fairly well with the lack of sun during the winter months, but in the last couple of weeks I've found myself craving Vitamin D. I needed a sunshine fix - and today I got it….with spectacular results.
Yesterday's weather forecast pointed towards the chance of that most special of things, a cloud inversion. I've seen a fair few since my time in Glencoe and they are always incredible experiences, but they are elusive and some people climb mountains their whole lives and never see one.
But I had a strong gut feeling last night as I packed my rucksack that today would be special. So at 5am I was walking the boggy path up towards the Carn Mor Dearg Arete to see what would happen.
A fine drizzle fell from the sky. A strong gust or two of wind would send a chill through my body, grey fog and low cloud billowed around me. In short it was a pretty grim morning, and I came close to turning around and not bothering. But past experience told me that such moments are exactly when its the most important that you do carry on.
Suddenly a hole appeared in the cloud. I could glimpse something shining in the distance….the cornices above Tower Gully on the Ben. The hole in the cloud closed, but it was coming, I could feel it.
The North East Buttress suddenly appears through a hole in the cloud...
And then, on the summit of Carn Dearg Meadhonach, it happened. I broke through the level of the cloud and Iwalked into heaven on Earth. The dawn sun cast a warm glow through the cloud below me, I looked behind and my "Brocken Spectre " was staring at me through the mist.
On Carn Dearg Meadhonach, realising what was about to happen.
The walk over the Carn Mor Dearg Arete is a very familiar one, but today I shall remember for a long time. My Brocken Spectre followed me the whole length of the Arete as the clouds poured over the ridge like candle smoke.
A "fog-bow" and a Brocken Spectre
Quite suddenly I was in the cloud again, only the occasional magnificent glimpse of the sunlit North face of the Ben to tempt me higher. But as I broke through the cloud a second time I could hardly believe my luck at what I thought was about to happen.
The Carn Mor Dearg Arete and the North face of Ben Nevis
I was correct. The cloud had risen slightly, leaving the summit of Ben Nevis the only peak in the Western Highlands that was still above the inversion.
I stood there in hot sunshine and under the clearest of skies, alone on the highest point in Britain as a sea of cloud billowed beneath me like waves. I was the only person in the West Highlands in the sunshine. Pure and utter magic.