In January 2014 I developed a problem in my left knee which was originally diagnosed as Patello-Femoral Disorder which was so severe I could only walk a few hundred metres before the pain became too intense.. With exercise I was able to recover slightly and get back on the hills, but that was short lived and in August 2014 after a painful descent from the Pap of Glencoe I retired from attending walks with Glasgow HF Outdoor Club, as I simply wasn’t up to walking with a group.
After struggling for almost two years doing the odd wee walk or cycle when I felt able, I was put on the list for an MRI scan which identified that the cartilage was torn, and that surgery may help, although the surgeon stressed that it may not.
July of 2016 saw me finally receive surgery, an arthroscopy on my knee, which left me laid up for around 6 weeks. I was on crutches initially, before starting physio and am pleased to say things are somewhat improved, and I cannot thankthe surgeon, Mr Agarwal enough. Two and half years has taken its toll though. Muscle mass has degenerated to such an extent that there is an inch difference in the circumference of my calf muscles, and two inches difference around the thigh! I’m not as fit as I was and am having to break things in gently. My knee is still tender and has to be taken care of, and it’s a learning process to find out just what I can reasonably achieve.
In September I was getting cabin fever and had a look at the maps to plan a wee overnighter, and I recalled a hill I’d seen on a walk I had done from Rannoch to Glencoe, Stob na Cruaiche, and made plans to climb that.
Setting off from Rannoch and climbing uphill through the thick, clammy pine trees I quickly realised that perhaps I had overestimated my abilities and my progress was not glacial, but I was well below where I used to be. My confidence was returning though, having viewed camping as off-limits for so long it was incredibly enjoyable just to be out on the hills.
The wide track gave out to be replaced by a stalkers track, probably quad bikes, and this led me upwards through some wet and muddy ground to the summit of Meall Liath na Doire. At just under 600m this is no giant, but the views were outstanding. Struggling with my ‘lightweight’ load I decided to camp here instead and make an attempt on Stob na Cruaiche without the heavy gear.
I set off for Stob na Cruaiche but it quickly became apparent that with the terrain being so difficult, riddled with peat hags and troughs, that I could easily be wandering around in the darkness trying to get back over some uncomfortable and difficult terrain.
Instead, I had a wee wander across the hillside, taking in the views and just enjoying being out. Back at the tent I got the stove on and prepared dinner. Sitting eating I was able to gaze on a panorama of which I could regard as an old friend, Lubnachlach on the Road to the Isles, which I visited with my daughter. Corrour Station, the starting point for so many of my walks, to Leum Ullium in the midst of winter with snowshoes, Beinn na Lap, which I climbed with my daughter, and a few times on my own.
I watched as a freight train bound for Fort William dragged itself north, ever so slowly. The sun dragged itself down and I dragged myself off to bed.
I was up just before sunrise and was rewarded with a fantastic sight, a stunning sunrise over Loch Rannoch, the sky glowing red and volcanic.
Watched by a couple of deer I packed up my gear and headed off, retracing my steps back to Rannoch Station. As a reintroduction to camping this was ideal. Sometimes it’s not the miles that you put in that matter, simply getting out there can be enough.