The best thing about walking alone is that, however restrained you may be in public life, you can throw off these shackles on the hill and, for want of a better expression, act a little odd.
For some, this may manifest itself in contented humming as they trudge across moorland in horizontal rain, for others it may be a comforting commentary as they talk themselves through a scramble to negotiate a tricky rock step.
Me, I sometime think of a piece of music to sing in its entirety – anything from Sonny Rollins to Girls’ Aloud – and it stays with me for the remainder of the day. And on those really exceptional days, I might do something really daft… perhaps cry out into the wind, marvelling in the downright bloody brilliant-ness of where I am and the fact that my creaky limbs carried me there.
I was having one of these slightly ‘tapped’ moments while striding from the Mullach nan Coirean along rocky edges to the grey elephant’s back of Stob Ban, south of Glen Nevis.
It was the last day of a wonderful fortnight in the Highlands, the weather was relatively calm and the views of Scotland’s endless, enduring mountain ranges made the travails of going back at work seem insignificant.
All I could think about was getting to know these hills so I could name them by sight and gain the intimacy I enjoy with their slightly softer, southern cousins in Cumbria.
Revelling in the majesty of moment, I stretched my arms out to my sides and began to tell no-one in particular just how wonderful the day was.
This would have been fine had a Geordie chap not been munching a sandwich the other side of a boulder.
He smiled and looked for my companion. I put my arms back down by my side and made small talk… ‘great weather‘, ‘wonderful day’, ‘where have you come from?’.
Moving on quickly, I kept an eye out for other walkers who might have felt the need to ring the men in white coats.
It wasn’t long before I had another ‘King of the World’ moment as I sat on the shattered quartz hummock of the Pale Peak, watching walkers on the final leg of the West Highland Way 600 metres below to the south.
To the northeast, the formidable slopes of Sgurr a Mhaim joined the Devil’s Ridge and both instilled feelings of dread and delight in equal measure. I felt like striding on, but the receding light suggested otherwise.
I made my way off the hill, along forest tracks and back to the tent. The sanity returned, sadly.