I left Skye with dreams of a return for a complete Cuillin Ridge Traverse, along with sore cheek muscles from all the smiling at just how amazing the views had been. I finally understood the hype of Skye, although I realise I have probably used my life’s supply of good weather days on the island already. There were many other clear days throughout Project 282 when I would be standing atop a summit looking at the other peaks I had already visited and the others that remained for me to climb. If there was cloud sitting on any Munros I could see, you could guarantee the Skye Cuillins would be covered, making me feel even more appreciative to have had such a spell of good weather when I was there.
Desperate to finish for my friend’s wedding and to get out of the autumnal stormy conditions, the final push to make my finish date on Ben Lomond was really tough. I set the date three weeks out, when I had climbed 216/282 Munros. I spent a long morning poring over maps, route-planning a lot of big hill days to get to the end and then went out to climb four Munros, finishing on what is possibly Scotland’s most iconic mountain: the pyramidal peak of Stob Dearg on Buachaille Etive Mor, which guards Glencoe as you drive along the A82 towards Fort William. However, the “shower” that started when I left my bike was still firmly on downpour mode 7 hours later when I got to the top of the final Munro of the day in the dark. I had intended to cycle into Glen Etive before camping that night, but by the time I got my bike unlocked I had foolishly let my hands get so cold I couldn’t get them back into my gloves: my fingers had seemingly transformed into claws and I struggled to use my brakes. Not an ideal situation when cycling on a busy road in the dark and rain! I called it then and ended up pitching my tent in a layby for a rather restless night’s sleep, frequently disturbed by lorries whooshing past mere metres outside my tent.
Happily, when I unzipped the tent the next morning, I was greeted with clear, blue skies and the famous “Bookle” standing tall and proud. What a change from the night before! I pedalled down Glen Etive feeling buoyed up and positive about the big days that lay between me and the end. The sunshine helped keep my spirits up, even when I found myself backtracking for what felt like the umpteenth time on my way up my second Munro that day, Beinn Fhionnlaidh, trying to find my route up amongst seemingly impassable small cliffs and rock terraces, trying to keep my head when relying on too many tenuous grassy holds and scrambling on wet rock over steep drops. Needless to say, I was relieved to make the top and return to my bike by a less technical route. It was dark and cold as I cycled back up the glen to my tent, but the night skies were so clear and the mountains were silhouetted by the stars shining bright, with the Milky Way streaked across the sky. That was my last full day of good weather.