A bridge with a signpost appeared in the headlights: “Cars only- Weight limit 3 tons. All other traffic use alternative route”. I slammed on the anchors. I was unsure of Argie’s gross weight, but he is definitely not a car. I reversed blindly in the blackness, getting Mhairi to lean out the passenger window looking for clues as to where we were. We got turned and safely crossed the alternative bridge, pulled into the car park and parked in front of a notice:” NO OVERNIGHT PARKING. Occupants of vehicles remaining in this car park after 8pm will be reported to the police as missing.” The pedant in me was fretting over whether a car’s occupant could be missing; while the cynic was wondering to what extent the sign was bluff. Mhairi’s reaction was more decisive. “We can’t say here,” she sobbed with trembling lip. So we left.
About half an hour or so later, we were a few miles further south bumping up an even narrower and rougher lane, looking again for a parking area marked on the map. Eventually we arrived. It was on a bit of a slope, but at this time of night it would do. We prepared to settle in. Then the silver 4 x 4 pickup with the searchlight on its roof pulled up next to us. The driver made great show of not making eye contact with us while the dazzling beam swept over the surrounding slopes. Then he drove off, gunning the engine. A couple of hundred yards down the glen the beams again swept the hillsides. “We can’t stay here. What if this goes on all night?”
Half an hour later, and a few miles north we were turning off the main road and rolling down one last lane, over a narrow concrete bridge and parking in our last alternative marked on the map. No signs. No grim-faced gamekeepers. Just darkness, silent except for the hiss of rain. We tumbled into bed unfed, stressed and exhausted...
When we awoke the rain had stopped and sunshine was streaming through the skylight. We ate a hearty breakfast and headed back to our first parking spot from the night before. We were soon on foot heading towards the Corbett, Corserine, on the skyline beyond the extensive area of felled forest. As we approached the summit ridge there was a crack and a rumble of stonefall as a small avalanche released on the coire headwall. The ascent was otherwise without incident, and on the way back down Mhairi rather coyly suggested we walk up Cairnsmore of Carsphairn in the afternoon. To her surprise, I agreed.