Beinn Eighe, Liathach’s next door neighbour, boasts seven summits above 3000ft. I had no intention of visiting them all, not today at least. The two Munros – Ruadh-stac Mor and Spidean Coire nan Clach – would suffice.
I ran, which was fine, if not wearisome, until I reached Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair. A trot became a trundle, giving way to a fast, then a slow, then a very slow, walk, as I laboured up to the narrow bealach between Coinneach Mhor and Ruadh-stac Mor.
What a vision awaits the mountain climber as they crest this col. The amesome mass of Beinn Eighe stares back: steep grey scree slopes, airy ridges and soaring summits. My last hill prior to Beinn Eighe had been the grassy hump of Fionn Bhein above Achnasheen. The contrast could not have been greater.
My legs were already shot to pieces, making me curse the decision to run. Nor was this friendly running terrain, with uneven gound and rolling rocks underfoot. I reached Munro number one, Ruadh-stac Mor, without incident, then proceeded to fall as I circled the summit cairn, bruising and gashing my wrist.
Alone in this vast mountain amphitheatre, for the first time in many months, I felt vulnerable. I had no phone, no water and little food. The tumble seemingly dislodged all coordination, because for the next 30 minutes or so – in fact, all the way to Spidean Coire nan Clach – progress was hobbling, slow and unsteady.
My legs won’t thank me for the descent from Spidean Coire nan Clach. It was ridiculously steep and a little precarious. No fun at all. On a zigzagging path that swoops down to the Kinlochleven-Torridon road, I could at last run again and it was a relief to feel level ground under my feet as I reached concrete.
From here, it was another mile to the car park, but as I picked up the pace, I felt like a returning hero with every motorist saluting the sweat-soaked runner. I immersed my throbbing legs in Allt Coire an Anmoich, thinking about what’s next…