Murray Wilkie, the photographer behind our stunning October cover shot, tells us in his own words the poignant story behind the image
Before my mum, Elizabeth Wilkie, passed in April of this year, she wrote me a letter.
I said that I wanted to keep it, and read it when I was as close to the heavens as I could get.
I’m an avid walker, and Mum always took an interest, taking time to listen to my tales of adventure in the hills.
As Mums tend to do though she was a little worried every time I mentioned I was going on more technical outings!
She’d always worry when ropes and harnesses were required, but she was usually keen to hear which part of Scotland we had been exploring. I’ve got much to thank her for. She encouraged me, and without her I’d be a very different person today.
My energy for life was definitely passed down the maternal side. She was active throughout her working life, and when she retired, her and my Dad didn’t slow down at all – opening a B’n’B in the coastal village of Elie. I am many walkers enjoyed the B’n’B’s hearty breakfast as a pitstop on the Fife Coastal Path!
Visits to Elie with my kids always included a walk with Mum – whether it was a ramble to the lighthouse or a longer hike to the cliffs above Kincraig point. Fun was always had – as was a filling meal on return – followed by ice cream and sweets for the grandkids!
I wanted to keep her letter and read it on top of a mountain, whilst watching a stunning sunset across the Highlands. I’m not a spiritual person usually, but this trip was an exception and the location had to be perfect. I set my heart on the summit of Stob Coire nan Lochan in Glencoe.
An Emotional Climb
I was soon heading up the familiar path, passing the day adventurers on their way down. I was carrying my filming equipment with me, and I often get asked about the weight in my pack. The only time I have weighed it, the weight of the camera and filming equipment actually equalled the weight of all the camping gear combined!
Although not a light weight traveller (impossible to do with all the equipment!) I do try and carry as little water as possible due to the weight it adds. I take a Sawyer filter, and today it came in handy as I reached the corrie and filled up for the night ahead.
If I thought the trek up to this point was tough going, I was about to really feel the weight as I carried on to the corrie rim and make my way round the famous cliffs. There was no rush so I slowly trekked on upwards and took frequent stops. Its amazing how the troubles of normal life leave you in these conditions.
A little more than an hour after setting off from SCNL , I returned and set about replenishing the lost calories, the light was absolutely magical and I had a glorious vista to enjoy whilst scoffing my evening dinner.
The Perfect Setting
Being high on the mountains did feel like I was closer to the heavens. The conditions and location were perfect. The cover photo was taken shortly before I opened and read the letter.
The next few hours were some of the best – and most emotional – ones I have enjoyed on the mountain. I hope the video and photos do the time justice. It was the perfect way and place to read my letter and say goodbye in my own way.
A few tears shed and night was soon gathering around me. I got my head down and woke a few hours later at 3.30am.
The dawn light lit the sky and a huge heart-shaped cloud glowed pink above me. I’d like to think that if Mum was looking down from the Heavens then she was maybe sending a message.
I took a few more photos, but I mainly spent the time just enjoying my surroundings. I counted my lucky stars that I was privileged enough to be in this spot in these conditions.
The adventure wasn’t over yet, however! I decided to head back down the other side of the corrie. This proved tricky with my cumbersome rucksack, but soon enough I was back in the corrie heading for the car. In the early morning whilst most of the world slept and I had enjoyed yet another fabulous adventure.
How lucky are we who stay so close to these sacred mountains.
You can see more of Murray Wilkie’s incredible photography on his Flickr page here and in the stunning video below.
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