Naked Munros
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Ben Mhanach

(Written by Stuart)

Although we knew it would be a long day, we were in no rush to start, it was the height of summer, the days were long, and we knew an early start would just increase the chances of meeting someone on the hill. As a result, when we got there, all the parking spaces by the main path from the road were taken, and we had to park several kilometres up the road and walk even further back to join the West Highland Way, adding about three kilometres to the walk in.

The walk in though is a pleasant one. After several kilometres, you leave the West Highland Way and pass under a viaduct and below the cliffs of Beinn Dorain before you see the two peaks that form Ben Mhanach in the distance. The walk in is on a bulldozed track used by farmers, so progress is speedy, even though there are several river crossing to make - this is not a route to take after or during heavy rain.

We walked up this track for about two hours, with the massive cliffs of Beinn Dorain above us providing a magnificent amphitheatre for our day. After bypassing a sheep pen, we turned a corner in the track to the right and approached a stream that came down from the mountain. We were finally at the base of the mountain and ready to begin the ascent.

We had passed a few people on the walk in, and as we saw another few people come down the hill, we realised that all the cars back at the car park were now accounted for and that we probably had the mountain to ourselves. It was a hot day, so this seemed the perfect time to strip off and continue the ascent in just our boots.

Being naked in the hot sun was a very refreshing feeling and invigorated us after the long walk. We made very good time on the ascent, and the col seemed to come out of nowhere, the climb seeming over almost as soon as it had begun. Nude hiking never felt quite so natural, with the gentle breeze and the warm sun on us.

The col seemed the perfect place to stop for some photos, not only was it a beautiful spot, but a great big cloud was threatening to cover the sun and we wanted to get what we could. We decided to try some shots of the two of us, so we set up the tripod and took a few shots of ourselves with the Hasselblad. The surroundings were magnificent, with the northern mountains of the Bridge of Orchy range framed in the col. By the time we set off for the summit, the sun had gone behind thickening clouds and a distinct chill hung in the air. A short climb brought us to the summit and we took a few more photos of us both using the tripod.

After walking more than twenty kilometres and climbing a mountain, walking three kilometres uphill in the dark is painful. This was no longer a hike, it was becoming a death march. With the traffic mocking us from a few hundred metres across the river we continued to walk in the dark, exhausted from our day and stumbling on every rock and pothole in the path. Our energy was rapidly leaving us and on more than one occasion I fell down exhausted, barely able to continue without a long rest. Even our water had run out on this last stretch of the track.

It took us more than an hour to reach the road and by this point we were in total darkness. Leaving Karla to curl up amongst the stones in the path I set off down the road, keeping to the verge to avoid being run over. In between cars I could only tell where I was by the feel of the ground underneath me, I tried to keep one foot on the road and one on the grass verge. Unfortunately, there were a series of snow poles in the ground right beside the road and I walked into more than one of them.

Eventually I reached the car. I found it by walking into it. I only knew it was mine when the key fit the lock and I jumped in and headed straight off to get Karla. Arriving at the side of the path I jumped out and shouted "huneeeebuneee!" at the top of my voice. A weak and quiet "huneeebunnn" came in response and Karla emerged from behind a gate. We threw our rucksacks in the car and quickly set off. As we drove off I said I was going to watch my mileage indicator and tell Karla when we had driven as far as we had walked. A while later Karla mentioned that I had forgotten I was going to do that. She was shocked to learn we were barely half way there …

Photographic details