EVERYTHING about yesterday spelled “terrible for climbing”. One of those mornings when you can feel the sky’s brows furrowing above you.

A mercurial day, with shifting clouds closing out what little light squeezes through.

The wind bellowed through the glen, snatching breath from our lips and flipping through pine trees like a thumb on brush bristles.

And then there was the rain – the sideways type – the kind that figures you out and works its way around your layers.

But in Scotland, these days bewitch. The frowning suits her. Sgurrs and sròns haloed in swirling, spectral mists. Still – a bad day to test the land’s souring mood. Any rational person would turn around and go home, but as my partner says, “out is out”. We’d packed the car and kit, and I’d driven for hours. I’d inched us along the skinny, loch-looping wynds from Balquhidder.

Roads that require perfect attention, as they’re barely big enough for itinerant sheep sent to catch you out.

This was my friend’s last munro – number 282. We were here to share in one tiny part of that enormous accomplishment.

A group climb, then a ceilidh to test freshly jellied legs. Social pressure and a fine supper to earn. We’d committed, so the climb was on.

We stood in the deserted Inverlochlarig car park, wondering where our party was. No cars. No people. We eyed old map panels, trying to orient ourselves on the sunbleached topography.

All the while Stob Binnein considered us. All 1165 metres of her, shoulder to shoulder with her brother, Ben More, imposing herself on Loch Voil, the glen, and the people who come to bag her.

A serious peak that says “try me”. We were itchy for the hill, and neither being novices, we accepted the challenge.

As we crossed the stile to the looming south face, a grey slab caught my eye, weather-worn and lichen-dappled. It was a memorial.

The elements had claimed most of the name and date, but what it chose to leave was still was crisp, white and all in capitals. “PLEASE TAKE CARE ON STOB BINNEIN.” Don’t we always? I paused, reflecting on the stone’s warning, and packed the words away for the climb.

The ascent was brutal from the off. Almost alpine in incline. No meandering to tame the slope, but a no-nonsense straight-up route scarring the mountainside. It took us up through boggy ground that sucked at our boots. Through thick carpets of ferns, and onto an old stalkers' track, brindled with old stone.

The morning’s rain trickled down, glossing the rocks, making them slick underfoot.

It tested legs, balance and stamina. Our hearts thrummed from the effort as we made height quickly, grabbing handfuls of wet earth to leverage ourselves and ease our calves. Good footwork wasn’t enough. We should have had poles.

The rain persisted, and the hill lost its patience. The wind tried to peel us off. Pausing atop a glacial erratic, we looked down her face, and watched as the tiny dots of the party behind us turned heel and descended. They were not for the hill today. Another warning.

But up we went, vertically into a gale that robbed us of each other’s voices. It whipped us harder with each foot gained. I could barely stay upright. The sky was bruising above us.

Twenty metres from the crest, there was a decision to be made. I wound my hands into the tussocks, like a rider in a mare’s mane. I thought of the stone, and the warning that this hill had claimed lives. That someone had used their loved one’s memorial to speak to the foolhardy, the risk-takers and the proud about what was at stake – everything.

And in that warning, there was permission to quit. I took it.

“I don’t think we should do anymore.”

On the way down I thought about quitting. How we’re conditioned to always perceive it as weakness. How come it took a mountainside to make me think differently? What was it about that place that made falling short okay?

We spend so much of our time locked in the geometric boxes we build for ourselves.

Moving from one cube to rest, sleep and eat, to another for work, through more boxes to shop and to travel.

Everything designed by human mind, hand and eye. We create rationalised spaces for rationalised lives, living inch by inch, rarely zooming out to see what we’re making progress on. The whole-of- life project. Our mountain.

And in these spaces we create, we don’t give ourselves permission to fail. We forget to see the mountain, so we don’t call it quits when we really should.

We soldier on, we save face by keeping our emotions under lock.

We stay in jobs we hate, relationships that punish us, only moving forward because we can’t imagine giving up or starting over.

Imagine if we could embrace failure like our lives depended on it. Where might we end up if we weren’t afraid of calling time on the things that we really should?

Like a day on the mountain, our lives are unpredictable, and sometimes we lose our way.

Our lives will always be full of bad weather. We all need to learn when taking shelter or turning back is the right call.