Sunrise from Stac Pollaidh.
I learnt recently that the Gaelic word for October means "the roaring time". The crisp early morning air, filled with the sound of bellowing stags, is always a welcome sign that my favourite time of year is beginning.
Every October when I lived in Glencoe, there didn't seem to be any escape from the sound of the deer rut. I would be woken during the night by the ground just outside my window being trampled, and more than once I walked out of the front door almost straight into the antlers of an over-confident stag.
I love the contrasts that exist between my new home in the Cairngorms and the Western Highlands. The autumn over here is a quite different experience and wonderful in many ways, but I have missed the feeling of energy in the air that you get in the October days in the West….the constant humdrum of the rut bringing life to a landscape which is shutting down for the season.
The incredible area of wild land of Inverpollaidh.
Friday was a "kill two birds with one stone" day. I wanted to climb, but I also longed for one of those perfect autumn sunrises from a mountain that I have so many vivid memories of. The drive to Assynt at 4:30am after only 2 hours sleep was a small price to pay for the treat I was in for.
The skies over Stac Pollaidh were dark and cloud-filled as I parked and rubbed my weary eyes. This wasn't what I'd been hoping for…but I resisted the temptation to sleep in my car and set off up the hill with my camera and tripod. It so often seems that you are rewarded for making the effort, as the sky started to clear of cloud remarkably quickly and gave way for a glorious autumn sunrise.
The Fiddler's Nose
I knew I couldn't be there long, my 5pm shift at work back in the Cairngorms was beckoning. But I was there long enough to solo Midreiff (Severe*), Velvet Scooter (Severe) and the superb Moonjelly (V.Diff***) - all of which I'd never done before and gave me a short but much-needed fix.
Soloing "Midreiff" (Severe*) onsight. Unbroken sunshine at Reiff.
Soloing "Moonjelly" (V.Diff***). Probably the best short V.Diff I've done.
Twenty-four hours later and I was stood on the summit of Cairngorm with Nicole, shivering in a freezing wind and smiling at the snow and rime-ice covering the plateau. Not a single stag to be heard in a world of white and blue and grey, very different from the golden glens of Assynt but just as exciting. That time of year again...
24 hours later on Cairngorm, a taste of winter.