(Written by Stuart)
Our trip to Scotland wasn't going well. We'd travelled the length of the country looking for decent weather, but it was only ever cold and windy. So when two days of warm, still weather was forecast we were eager to go on a long wild camp.
Unfortunately, it wasn't to be. My gluten allergy caught up with me when I ate something containing wheat (I'm still not sure what it was) and I was left with bad stomach pains and diarrhoea, not the best to be feeling if you're going to be climbing a mountain. After several hours our frustration reached a peak and I thought, sod it, lets go to Beinn Ghlas and see how I feel when we get there.
I felt terrible when we got there, but Karla was so desperate to climb something that we decided to go up slowly, with the camping gear and try spending the night on the summit. I've lost count of the number of time I've climbed Beinn Ghlas. I knew exactly how much effort's needed so I was confident we'd make it. I also hoped to be feeling better in the morning and be able to bag Ben Lawers, but that was not to be.
We set off about 5pm and it was lovely. I was in a lot of pain, but I felt that I'd be able to make it as we left from the Ben Lawers visitor centre. Beinn Ghlas is a short climb, and we gained height quickly, passing the occasional climber coming down.
We were hoping to have the summit to ourselves when we saw a group coming up the hill below us. They were gaining steadily on us and we had no chance of making the summit before them. This was frustrating. We had perfect weather for a gorgeous sunset, and there was a chance we wouldn't have the summit to ourselves. We both got a bit stressed about this, and when they overtook us just below the summit, we felt it was all going wrong.
We reached the summit just after them. Four young lads were sitting on the summit with their camping gear left behind on a plateau just below the summit. We were devasted. All this effort and it could be for nothing.
The light was perfect. They had taken their photos and were putting their cameras away. It was now or never.
"Guys, can I ask a strange request...." I began, before explaining what we did. At first they laughed, then they (very nicely) offered to leave the summit and let us do our thing. We told them they'd be able to see the pics on the page and one of the said he'd heard of us. We were elated! People knew who we were! He then added that someone earlier had said that the weather was so good today that it was a "naked munros day"!
Guys if you're reading this, a million thank-yous!
With our moods lightened I stripped off for photos. It wasn't cold and despite the pain I was in I felt great. I was naked on top of a mountain during a beautiful sunset - if there's a better place to be in life, I haven't found it
Then it was Karla's turn. I experimented with using the flash, it was partly successful and I'll no doubt be investing in some better flash gear for next year.
Photographically it was quite intense, the light was changing every few seconds as the sun went down and I had to think about every shot as the light conditions changed rapidly.
Then, with the moon rising to the south, I posed Karla on a spot I'd photographed her three years before on her first trip here. Naked in the last dying rays of the sun, she looked like a mountain goddess standing strongly and proudly above her realm. As she turned to look at me, I snapped the shot below, probably the best photo I've taken of her yet.
We made our camp just beyond the summit and settled down for the night. Given the pain I was still in I had quite a good night's sleep, but I knew in the morning I would need to get down quickly as not only would I be tired, but my stomach was not really getting any better.
When morning came I was feeling really quite rough. I was dreading the descent and for a moment I regretted coming up. The feelings of regret died the moment I stepped out of the tent and witnessed the most beautiful sunrise I've ever seen. The glens below us had filled with fog and we were 2000 feet above the top of the clouds and the golden rays of the sun created one of the most amazing mountain sights I've ever seen. Karla quickly stripped off and I got to work with the camera.
I decided not to strip off. I felt quite bad and I was concerned about what might happen if I stripped off and got really cold and so the only pictures we got that morning were of Karla. But as a photographer I wasn't complaining. Karla ran around the campsite providing shot after shot as the sun slowly rose from behind Ben Lawers.
Heading down we expected the mist to quickly burn off, but instead it lingered, and when we started to see people in the distance below us heading up we decided to do one last shoot with Karla. I was amazed that it had been over an hour since we'd got up, but the mist was still there. We were closer now to the top of the cloud, and it seemed huge, it extended in every direction, with summmits and ridges such as Ben More and Ben Vorlich poking their heads out above the cloud.
We were both exhausted when we got back to the car park. We were disappointed not to get Ben Lawers or the rest of the ridge, but we knew we'd taken some amazing photos. We'd had a great wild camp and I'd scratched the itch that had been Beinn Ghlas!
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