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June 26, 2009



My husband and I had a similar experience near Skye, about 15 years ago, when mobiles were far less common. The Five Sisters of Kintail are a formidable clan--some of the steepest grass-clad mountains in Scotland. We followed a couple of red deer up the spine, alone and in airy silence, and bivouacked on the ridge about midway. It had been an occasionally heartstopping business treading a narrow track along the equivalent of a pitched roof, but the views were stupendous. Next day, we had just reached the tallest peak when the mist came down with lidlike finality and we decided to take what my husband (normally a demon mapreader) took to be a path. It turned out to be a burn like a giants' staircase, and in the course of descending we both fell off a 'step' some 20 feet--luckily both on our backpacks. My husband had some nasty deep cuts which (adrenalin pumping) I instantly cleaned and bandaged up; we then abandoned most of the cooking gear in our packs, as it was swiftly evident we had to climb 30 feet up out of the burn onto the flank of the mountain. It took an hour or more, and I will never forget the intermittent horror of grabbing rock, only to have it come away in my hand. We were so shaken, scraped, rattled and rolled and the terrain was so tough that it took another bivouac and half a day of slog to get back to a B&B we'd stayed in a couple of nights before. We arrived with ripped clothes full of gravel, completely soaked.

The owner said a number of people had died on the Five Sisters. Unlike you, we had in fact filled out a form at the Rangers' office in the carpark, before we set off. When we returned to get our car, the box had never been opened and our form was still sitting within! Almost a bigger shock than the fall itself...

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