I spent the working day window gazing as the February sun made a short arc across a sky of clean, inviting spring blue. On such a day the only answer to the tedium of work is to plan your escape and shortly after 4pm I was in my running gear and in the car.
I pulled up at the Clansman with a full 60 minutes of daylight for an 80 minute run but with the insurance of a really, really bright headtorch. The path climbs up steep and straight through beautiful winter woods of oak, pine and birch in a diagonal rake for just over half a mile before it opens out on the right to views of the loch below. Beyond the loch a creamy three quarter moon had risen over the Monadliath and was starting to cast light and shade through the trees. Not a breath of wind stirred the woods as I jogged up the green path.
A rougher section followed, snaking a steep but simple path through the low crags at the top of the wood ending at a grassed over track where the climbing stopped for a while. I could run for a few minutes until a right turn onto a footpath pointed me upwards again, climbing with hands on thighs and burning lungs. The path was wetter now and ice cold melt water seeped into my shoes. Then across the fire track and onto a rough path across the open hillside where views of the deepening shadows down to the loch and out towards Dores opened up, The blue above deepened as first Venus and then Jupiter winked into view. Head down and feeling good I battered on for the top of Carn na Leitre ignoring the broadening views to secure the big reveal at the summit. I made an effort up the last slope and then stopped the watch, got jacket, hat and gloves on before I looked around.
Half the Highlands were laid out around me – Wyvis floated in the north, a white whale in the ink blue shadow ocean of the Aird. To the west the usual jumble of peaks were silhouetted against a thin strand of yellow horizon beyond the cloudy edge of the warm front forecast for the weekend. To the south Orion had risen with Sirius snapping at his heel. Silence thickened around me with the gathering dark. I tore myself away form it all and ran down towards the Great Glen Way where a thin layer of hard snow still lay across the trail. Ten minutes on I had to accept that night had fallen and turned on the torch where the path left the fire road and dived down into the wood of Corryfoyness.
Five minutes running under full beam brought me out at a small bench seat poised on the edge of the crags above Loch Ness. I sat down and took the night in. The moonlight fell unimpeded on the rumpled blanket of black water. It was 6 o'clock on a Friday night in February and absolutely no one else was out here. Inverness showed orange beyond the northern arm of the loch where people were making meals, gathering in pubs, driving home. I had this glorious place completely to myself with the likely exception of whatever was causing that wake across the water 1000 feet below. But night running makes any such view a cold comfort so I shivered off down the rocks into the trees where the mineshaft steep path led me down into the dark woods to the lochside.