Cruel and Nasty

The Buachaille Etive Mor

Image: The Buachaille from Beinn a’ Chrulaiste

‘Cruel & Nasty’, Brian, Alastair and others liked to call Beinn a’ Chrulaiste, but I never worked out why, unless they just liked the alliteration. It had always been a fine hill from my point of view.

And what a point of view!

My first ascent was up a pink granite rib halfway between the summit and Lagangarbh, easy rock, hardly a scramble at all. I deliberately kept my head down, to be all the more impressed by the summit view. It is probably the finest viewpoint for the Buachaille Etive Mòr – especially pointy from here – contrasting with the expansive wastes of Rannoch Moor, the lone sail of Schiehallion rising in the distance. Blackwater Dam forlorn and mighty to the north.

Such an unassuming looking hill on first impression, Beinn a’ Chrulaiste, but such a mighty view. Boswell to the Buachaille’s Johnson. Enthused for all time about this hill, I didn’t hesitate to recommend it to Billy on a Sunday of unexpectedly heavy snows. We walked up the West Highland Way in good spirits, me looking for the pink rib of easy scrambling granite. Then a snow storm clamped in, reducing visibility dramatically. Oh well, so much for the view! Up we climbed, ever steeper, on slippy wet snow, unstable heather and iced-over rock. It was getting a bit serious. I looked down. It wouldn’t do to fall! A woman had been found dead the previous day on the hills… Billy didn’t look happy, and I started to wonder what we were doing in this unexpectedly serious situation … ‘Keep the heid’ I kept repeating to myself. Maybe this was ‘cruel & nasty’ after all …

At the top of the line of broken cliffs we had been ascending, I refused to go any further, some moves on uncertain holds requiring to be made. Billy traversed and yelled a ‘hallelujah!’ from round the corner. I followed his footprints to find us on easy ground, Billy grinning.

‘I’m happy now!’ he said. The sun had just come back out. We had been so engrossed in the difficult terrain, we hadn’t noticed the snow had stopped falling.

‘Look – look behind you!’ I said.

The Buachaille was shrugging off the mists, its majestic peak thrusting above the clouds, spindrift trailing off its pointed summit. We sat in astonishment as the weather cleared, the Buachailles and Glencoe peaks appearing pristinely beautiful, mountain butterflies shedding their cloud chrysalises. We laughed and grinned. What a contrast to the scares of just a few minutes ago. What a hill! What a day!

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