Two girls on a mountain top

November 2nd 2017

Monday 30th October 2017 and I had the morning to myself after a busy weekend of visitors and family chaos. Desperate to stretch my legs and shake off cabin fever I parked at Loch Assynt layby and, knowing my time constraints, I decided to head straight up Quinag from the south side.

I could see the line to take which would avoid scree and boulders. Halfway I disturbed a group of stags but was careful not to panic them into hurting themselves; they weren’t used to seeing people up here. An hour and a half later I was just under the top of Spidean Coinich where I sat on some massive boulders for a rest and to enjoy the view. I was just thinking that I might be lucky enough to see a ptarmigan as I’d noticed droppings nearby. They look similar to grouse droppings but it would be unlikely to see grouse this high.

While just sitting I looked over to my right and there, quite nearby, sat a lone female ptarmigan. She saw me but didn’t move. Beautiful in autumn plumage the under half was white and the top half still mottled grey. I sat very still breathing quietly enjoying the moment. Her feathered feet and round body looked hen-like and contrasted with the stark boulder field we were on. After sitting together quietly for what seemed like ages I slowly reached inside my pocket for my phone so that I could take her picture. She twitched a bit. I stopped my arm moving. Is it worth it I thought? But then knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try.

So here is the picture of this lovely bird, I felt lucky that somehow we had connected on the top of this mountain and she didn’t seem afraid. Eventually she flew off and I thanked her for her company before I scrambled back down Quinag’s steep slope towards my car.

Romany Garnett

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