Crossing Paths

Many weeks ago, during our own separate preparations, Pete and I had arranged to meet up on the section of path between Dalavil and Ord. it would be his first day walking north from Armadale and my last, heading south to the same place; a bizarre coincidence that neither of us could actually believe, but one that we’d not planned at all.

As it turned out, I took advantage of my brother and bagged an extra day’s walking while he was here to chauffeur me around. This shuffled my schedule forward a day and although I could have delayed a day to meet Pete I decided that the weather window was closing rapidly and the forecast pretty much decided things for me – I wanted to do my last day in the sun instead of the rain that was predicted.

I still wanted to meet Pete though, and without the communications to tell him of my change in plans I didn’t want him looking out for me all day in vain.

I had a lie in, the first proper one of the holiday, and a leisurely breakfast, followed by a little blog writing and finally set out from the croft about 10:30. It was a 90 minute drive to Gilean, the place I was most likely to be able to guarantee Pete would walk through on the path to Ord.

Pete had said he was getting the 10am ferry across from Malaig, so he would be walking from about 10:30. Given it was 7.5 miles to Gilean from Armadale, I estimated he would arrive here about 13:30.

At 13:00 I put my boots on and set out along the beach to try and find the path I should have taken yesterday. Despite my initial reservations, the path became obvious fairly quickly and I followed it close to the shore for a few hundred yards before I was forced to climb away from the shore by a jutting outcrop of rock. The higher ground was better I figured, it would give me more chance of spotting Pete coming, as it wasn’t clear whether he’d be on the shoreline or on the higher ground.

The path hugged the cliff as I climbed and it’s very, very narrow in places. I was a bit nervous at one point, the path no wider than my boot and the drop to my right was quite severe. I decided sheep are so stupid they have no fear of heights whatsoever – it was clearly a sheep track – no walker would have chosen such a path!

Once on the top there is no path, but I had a great view ahead and I stopped at several high points in an attempt to see as far ahead as I could. I cursed myself for forgetting my binoculars today – the main reason for bringing them and I’d left them in the croft.

I walked for about 1.5 miles or so with no sign of Pete. I had almost decided to give up. Standing on a grassy knoll I could see for perhaps 1/2 a mile ahead. I saw a pair of sheep bolt out from behind a hillock on the horizon and thought they must have been startled by someone or something. No-one appeared for a minute of two though and so I turned and walked down off my knoll.

I kicked myself and convinced myself that sheep don’t bolt off across the hills for no reason, so I walked back up to the knoll and scanned the area they’d come from. Sure enough I saw a distant black figure coming down the hillock.

I walked out to meet him, it was almost certainly Pete, I couldn’t imagine it being anyone else. We met at a burn and shook hands as he jumped across. I think he was a bit pissed that the joke parking ticket he’d created for my car hadn’t found its mark in the Armadale car park. It was very authentic looking and I was quite pleased I’d dodged that practical joke, I’m not sure what my initial reaction would have been!

We walked back along the path, discussing the route ahead of him and his concerns for a wet week ahead. The weather today had, so far, turned out fine, a lot better than the forecast had been. In fact all week the weather had been significantly different (in almost all cases, better) than the forecasts. I don’t know why we bother predicting the weather when we are so bloody poor at it. Even 24 hours ahead the BBC forecast has been poor.

At my car Pete had a short rest and a drink I’d brought with me and then I waved him off as he headed out along the lovely minor road to Ord. I sat and had some lunch, watching the beach and the mountains beyond, wreathed in cloud. A few minutes later it started raining, hard enough to “join the dots”, so I think that counts as rain Pete!

I looked up the road and saw a lone walker at the summit, putting on waterproofs and taking a few photos of the magnificent mountains. I silently wished him well, good luck, fair weather and no ticks.

The Skye Trail is a wonderful walk and I was only sorry I wasn’t going with him.


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