It’s been a long time since Linda and I climbed Beinn Dubhchraig. Just another couple of Munros bagged. Not a very memorable day of drizzle and nay views, leaving a lingering impression of a long trot through a bog punctuated by spindly pine trees, and no urge to return. One that persisted for a couple of decades. But today couldn’t be more different: the sky is blue, the air is crisp, the ground is frozen. And those spindly trees? They are no more.
Instead I find myself at an edge of a delightful Caledonian pine forest inviting me to step in. And so I do, walking along the east bank of Allt Gleann Auchreoch to the dilapidated bridge higher up the glen, then wandering about the woodland south of Allt Coire Dubhchraig, before following it up the hill. There are some magnificent pine specimen here, framing the views over to Ben Challuim and Beinn Dorrain. And higher up the pines are replaced by young birches, that are rapidly continuing to self-seed, the purple hue of their twigs striking against the snow-covered ground.
Beinn Dubhchraig is in a magnificent winter condition, there is much more snow than I expected, and all perfect firm neve. I enjoy the views: Beinn Dorrain, Ben Challuim, the Crianlarich hills, Ben Oss, Ben Lui. As I nip up the rather windy Ben Oss, Ben Lui looks particularly majestic — I imagine it will be very busy on a day like this.
On the way down I sit under a large pine for a bite to eat, enjoying the afternoon sunshine. A perfect day. It is rare for my days out to bring together the two places where I feel most at home, the hills and the woods. I usually have to choose the one over the other. It needn’t be this way, nor should it. Here in the midst of Coille Coire Chuilc I am reminded that, given will, a real change is possible in less than a lifetime. And just now I can smell it coming on the breeze.