I’ve been thinking a lot about Mull recently, both her place in our future and what a life lived there could be like. Distant dreams for now of course but with another trip planned in the very near future it’s hard not to start day dreaming. Now for some a trip to the Scottish Isles this late in the year might seem like madness, foolhardy even, but let me assure you that it’s anything but. Yes the weather may be a little more temperamental than during summer but as a consolation prize you get landscapes swathed in bronze, bellowing stags and migrating wildfowl. On top of that when the sun does shine the air is crystal clear allowing for some fantastic views, particularly if you enjoy nothing more than tramping up the nearest hill.
Recent years have seen us making autumn trips to Mull more and more often with last year being a prime example. For some reason I didn’t blog anything from that fortnight though which is a shame as we enjoyed some brilliant walks, flocks of Redwing and Fieldfare not to mention our most memorable ascent of Ben More to date. It’s the latter which I want to focus on here, a shore to summit climb made just that little bit longer thanks to starting at low tide. As ever I walked down to the gently lapping waters before setting off in order that I could claim the maximum height gained. After all, there’s not many mountains in this country where similar opportunities exist. Out on the loch were numerous Slavonian Grebes but for me my attention was drawn much higher, up to the cloud brushed peak of Mull’s only Munro. Conditions on the whole looked favourable with the forecast promising plenty of sunshine and on that score it delivered in spades. Each metre climbed revealed more and more of this stunning island landscape, one such view even making it on to the banner of this very blog.
What neither of us had prepared for though was the heat. Being the beginning of November we were wrapped up warm but in minutes were sweltering and peeling off layers as fast as we could. Even more remarkably these balmy conditions continued up to the summit itself where along with another couple we sat back and basked, memories of our hail induced descent a couple of years ago seemingly belonging to a different world.
There were still banks of cloud passing through, several of which created a phenomenon which I’ve always wanted to experience. Called a Brocken spectre it occurs when low sun casts your shadow onto the clouds below where it appears magnified and surrounded by a circular rainbow. Up until now it was something I’d only ever read about but seeing it in the flesh was simply spectacular and for me at least was probably the highlight of our trip. Capturing the full effect on camera however proved much trickier but hopefully you get a sense of quite how special this was.
When the time came to tear ourselves away we decided to forgo the typical descent back the way we’d come and instead headed off across broken ground towards An Gearna. This proved a wise move as it gave us an alternative angle onto the surrounding scenery providing yet more photographic opportunities. There was also the unexpected sight of a female Wheatear, our only individual of the trip and almost certainly the latest individual I’ve ever seen anywhere in the UK.
I felt a genuine pang of disappointment when it was all over but with daylight hours short we really couldn’t afford to hang around. What is now clear in my mind however is that Ben More has moved into second position in my all-time list of favourite climbs, only beaten to top spot by Cadair Idris. Whether or not we’ll get to squeeze in another ascent on our forthcoming trip is weather dependent but I’ll certainly be glancing longingly in her direction.