A view from Ben Wyvis… at last

I’d never climbed Ben Wyvis on a clear day. A vast tract of the wild north that I knew must be visible from the summit plateau had been elusive during my previous four forays, hidden from view by obstinate walls of mist. Furthermore, life on the plateau had a habit of being wind-blasted and breathtakingly cold, even in summer.

Ben Wyvis was a different beast last night. It was benign: calm and clear, with a panorama from the top that was worth the wait of several years. Four of us headed up the tourist track from the west  – a pair of Highland Hill Runners, a junior British orienteering champion, who climbed peerlessly, and I.

As we gained height, escaping the midges, the realisation that Wyvis would be mist-free grew. And so it was. Nor were we greeted by a previously inevitable battering ram of wind that strikes when An Cabar is reached.

What a pleasure it was to bound across the carpet of soft grass that layers this summit, to gaze over that vast tract of Scotland unfurled in all directions: the distinctive bump of Fyrish; the firths of Dornoch, Cromarty and Moray; Ben Rinnes rising above Dufftown; the distant, grey outlines of the Cairngorms; a jumble of unknown mountains to the south-west;  the soaring Fannichs; the glinting waters of Loch Glascarnoch; shafts of sunlight on Little Wyvis; the red sky of the western horizon; the marvellously-sculpted peaks of Sutherland.

It was mesmerising; our eyes stunned by innumerable wonders that are so often hidden treasures.

Little Wyvis

 Warning - watch your emotions

I like signs. Not mundane “passing place” or “give way” signs. I like the ones that tell you where you going, the ones that tell you where you are, the ones that dispense apparently vital information and – best of all – the ones that have no point or use.

From personal experience, two favourites that instantly spring to mind are the signpost at Land’s End, which was particularly welcoming after cycling 2,000 miles to get there, and the sign marking the Tropico de Capricornio in Argentina.

I have a new favourite, albeit a rather long-winded one, courtesy of Little Wyvis, Ben Wyvis’s wee brother. Pinned to a fence was the following gem: “DANGER. Please be aware of farmed red deer stags and tame red deer stags. They are very dangerous and could cause serious harm. You enter this area completely at your own risk. We do not accept any responsibility for any physical and or mental injury to your pets or you.”

Yes, in a fight between a stag and I, the stag would probably win. Then again, how many stags pick fights with humans? But mental injury? How is a stag going to mentally injure me? By giving me a dirty look? Telling me I look fat? I ran on, up the 4×4 track that winds a way up Little Wyvis, not with trepediation, but expectation. What have the stags got in store for me?

The answer, not surprisingly, was nothing. At one point, there were a dozen proud beasts standing around 50 metres from the track. Only one of them bothered to look up. He didn’t give me a dirty look, not that I’d know what a dirty look from a stag was. I trotted on  unscathed, waiting for a stag to call me a rude name. Needless to say, I escaped the stag enclosure and clambered to the top of mist-shrouded Little Wyvis with emotions intact. Maybe I won’t be so lucky next time?