Rachel Mimiec, our National Scenic Areas Artist in Residence, reports from the dramatic landscape of Glencoe and Ben Nevis.
As well as walking with groups over the past few weeks I have also been out for walks with individuals who enjoy very specific relationships with the area. I have been lucky with weather, but increasingly my outings are now taking place in the rain!
Simon Brooks from Scottish Natural Heritage is in effect my line manager for the artist residency and he came to visit me to see if I was settling in. Instead of meeting round a table indoors we went on a walk to Coire Gabhail, the hidden valley where legend has it the MacDonalds of Glen Coe hid their rustled cattle.
Ruari Watt, a Recreation Ranger from the Forestry Commission, was also kind enough to spend some time with me, showing me an area where trees were being felled and talking about some of the community work he does with the Forestry Commission in the area.
We also talked about his passion for being in the outdoors as a hill runner and a mountain biker. On our journey to the Vitrified Fort in Glen Nevis, the Dun Deardrial Walk, and then up through the Leanachan Forest, we came across a few local people (in their daily ritual I suspect) running up and down the hills.
Ruari had a particular view looking out over Fort William that he wanted me to see, encompassing the smelter, the timber yard and the marine plant. He spoke philosophically of how, for him, the industry and the community, along with the wider environment is what makes the area special.
There seems to be a great modesty with regards people and their sporting achievements in the region. Many champions choose to live and work in the Lochaber area, to be part of the outdoor activities community, quietly embracing their passion for being challenged by elements, mountains and forest tracks.
One event, The Nevis Race, is an annual date in the Lochaber calendar, with the history of hill running on Ben Nevis dating way back to 1895.
The most extreme wet weather I have walked in was with Mike Pescod, a local mountain guide. We walked up to the CIC hut (officially the Charles Inglis Clark (C.I.C.) Memorial Hut) on the North Face of Ben Nevis and then on to the Lochan Coire na Ciste. It was fascinating to talk about the landscape around us as challenges and climbing routes; about the qualities if ice and snow when climbing; and the Mountain Film Festival that comes to Fort William every year. We were both rather wet by the end of the day but I am hoping to return next year on a good clear day.
The weather does affect a walk – it can make it more challenging and dangerous and can even mean postponement; but when it comes to how we see the landscape the weather can bring new visual drama! With weather and light no view ever remains the same, it is a constantly changing backdrop; and with this in mind I suspect repeating walks will demonstrate this changing landscape.
All images courtesy of Rachel Mimiec.