TGOC 2012 Day 3 (A Chuil to Invermallie Bothy)

Sun 12th May 2012 – A Chuil Bothy to Invermallie Bothy

A couple of the early pictures in this have been cribbed via Google.
They show a bit of what the route was like, but they were not taken on the day.
The bothy stuff at the end though.
They are all horribly real.

And so………………………………………………..

We did not do the intended route today.
Indeed, we did not do the FWA.
We did the FFWA via the North shore of Loch Arkaig heading towards Spean Bridge.

What can I say, it was raining.

It was still raining.
Indeed, it never £ucking stopped raining.
It was also blowing a bit
OK, a lot!

It was going to be a trudge,
and it was going to be minus a lot of photo’s,
and it was going to be damned cold,
and it was going to damned wet,
and it was going to happen,
and it was going to happen sometime soon.

As soon as we got out of the door.

It was tempting to stay, but we had to go.

The first bit through the remainder of the forest was not bad.
I am not saying it was good.

We meandered our way to Strathan, where the LRT was blocked by a wire fence.
I assume to keep the 4 x 4’s out.
You could climb over it, or go over the ladder to the side.

Al did the climb over the wire bit.
I did the gate.

I can tell you here and now, that the ‘Health and Safety boys’ had not inspected that slippery ramshackle thing.


The last plank and half the bits just fell off as I climbed down onto them.

So we continued over the hill at Strathan with the wind blustering into us, towards the end of the track, and the long road trudge along the loch.

There was a fantastic little post box at the start of the road.
I meant to take a picture of that as well.
If only I could get some feeling into my fingers.

I didn’t.

We continued buffeted by wind and rain and

Well, Wind and Rain.

Did I mention the temperature.

It was COLD!

Not my picture, but it was a lot like this.
Only, Colder and wetter and just plain NASTY!

The biggest problem with a day like today is that there is no shelter, and you cannot stop.

You should stop, and you should rest, but if you do, you get colder and wetter and even more tired.
I am guessing that it was this and the wet feet that did for most people.

Being from the Fens, I am used to Flat and Wet.
I had spent a long time out with the dog in the Fens, in driving rain, and minimal waterproofing, if any, making sure I was acclimatised.

You don’t need mountains to keep fit.

Mind you, it helps.

So we continued at a very pedestrian pace.

Another danger on a day like today, is to charge along at break neck speed.

But this just batters your feet to bits, and you end up with blisters.

NOPE, in conditions like this, you need to go at a nice easy pace, with soft knees and be gentle on your feet, because they are not going to get as many rest stops as they need, and they are getting pounded in our case by relentless tarmac.

As we went on, we noticed that Dave was starting to lag back a bit.
We thought it might be his knee and maybe his new boots.
We did not allow for the actual cause until we discovered it the following day.
Or at least he revealed it.

You will have to wait like we did.

By half way along the loch, it may well have been less, we knew that we needed a rest.
The wind and rain were relentless, and there was no shelter.

Eventually I spotted a gap in the fence and said to Al.

Let’s go up into the woods.
I can see a tree about 100m in that looks like it might make a seat for a short stop.

So we hopped a stream and bashed our way up through undergrowth to a fallen tree.

It was perfect, and we had a seat with a foot rest.
We managed to consume some food, and get the weight of our legs and backs.
It was NOT going to be a long stop.
It was sheltered from the worst of the wind and rain, but it was still bloody cold, and today was not a day to get cold.

This is not mine either, but it was that dark
A bit like looking out of my window as I write this

 Where was I ?

Oh yes, we were getting a tad cold.
So after easing on the soaking wet gloves (I gave up on them quite soon after) we slithered back down through the woods via twigs and sticks and wetness and slippery stones and crap, and hopped across the widening ditch back to the road.
I say road, but in places it was just a big puddle.
That should have for warned us about later on in the day, but it was wet and miserable and we did NOT want to think about tent pitching.

Soon the odd conversation began to get round to pints and warm food and beds, and this is a bad thing on a day like today.


We walked on.

Dave thought he had seen a man in black passing as we sat up in the woods, but there was no sign as we looked along the road.
Maybe it was just his imagination.

We walked on for a while.

A LOOOOOOOOOOOOONG while and then at some point about 2/3 of the way along, we met

The Man in BLACK.

It was Mr Green.

Mr Green in Black. (Gordon Green to you and me)

And now we were FOUR.

Nobody expects .……………………………………………………………………………………..

There was still a long way to go.

The rain had eased a bit

A BIT, not a LOT OK.

We walked on.

Gordon was making for Invermallie Bothy.

It would involve a 5k walk back along the other shore of the loch,
BUT it had a roof and stuff and did not involve putting up a tent.

It seemed like a plan, and it was a plan that appealed to all.

Although the rain had eased off a bit, the wind as we approached the end of the loch to turn across to the other side, the COLD, BITING, BLUSTERY wind, had not.

We huddled for a brief rest against the wall near Achnasaul.

We could not linger long, and we had to head off to the other side of the loch.

Not mine either, the amount of water swirling around
this bridge when we went across was quite a lot.
A turgid brown and grey mass, where the two flows of water clashed.

The other side of the loch, we turned right and headed back West.
It was still raining, but more sheltered here.
You could hear the water rushing off the hills to meet the loch everywhere.

It should have been an omen, but we were too intent on getting into the dry to even worry.

As we approached nearer to the bothy the streams were running pretty fast

Bloody fast

Luckily there was a bridge over this one.

And a bridge over this one.
We waited here to make sure everyone had caught up.
We could NOT get Al anywhere near the edge of this bridge.
Even for money.

Me on the bridge (courtesy Al’s Blog)

We headed on up the LRT until we got to the small side track that went to the bothy.
At the start it was very wet, but as we got nearer the bothy it looked like this.

That is NOT a river, it is the track.
The river is over by the trees.
It almost looks like it was part of the loch.
Well it was.

There was absolutely NO POINT in removing shoes, we just waded up the track, water half way up to our knees, higher in places where the stream rushed across.
Too wet now to care we just carried on.
The bothy was in site, assuming the water did not get any deeper.

Eventually we hopped over a small wall and through some very very wet and boggy tufty grass to the bothy.

We plunged inside and shut the door.

Opening the door to empty our shoes, we proceeded to remove socks and waterproofs and hang them up and then think about drying other stuff out, and maybe lighting a fire.

The fire was a pointless option, since there was no wood.
We will come back top that later.

It had been about 10 min and stuff was getting sorted when I looked about.

Anyone seen Dave?

Everyone looked about.

I looked at Al who looked at Gordon who looked at me.
I looked at Gordon, who looked at Al, who looked at me.

“FUCK!” it was said in choral harmony.

We looked outside the door and across the diminishing grass and over to the submerging track.


“He must be just coming.”

Al did not look worried.

Gordon and I looked rather more concerned.

We gave it another 5 minutes.
We looked again



Gordon put his waterproofs back on.

I stripped down to pants and waterproofs and crocs (no socks).
The last thing I needed was wetter clothes.
We headed out up the across the grass.
It was under water now.

We headed up the track crashing through the water that was now above our knees.

“Where the Fuck was Wilkinson?”

We expected a floating pack and body drifting to the loch.
We hoped for nothing or maybe a walking Dave .

We got back to the main track which at least was dry.


He was only a minute behind us when we left the footbridge.
He must have missed the turning and gone on.

Gordon headed back, and I headed off to the right on the LRT.
It was not raining as hard, but it was damned cold, and my little leggies were turning an interesting crimson colour.
At least it wasn’t blue.

I walked all the way over the hill.
I could see the bothy across the fields, but NO DAVE.

In the end, I had to go back.
One missing is bad.
Two missing would be worse.

And I was getting cold.

I ran back over the hill to keep warm and met AL.

Still no Dave.

We’ll leave a sign at the start of the track with sticks and head back.
Maybe he will turn up.

We headed back up the path.


Nope, it was no longer a path it was ….

a pond,
a river,
a loch

Water was to the waist, and in places above it.
Worse than that it was now flowing towards us with some pressure.
And it was rising even as we walked.

Had to get back now, no choice.

Water flowed at us.

Eventually we got back to the small wall by the bothy.
It was part submerged.
I climbed over and waded across the next bit and finally to a small patch of grass and into the bothy, just as Dave soaked to the skin arrived from the other direction, without a word.

Not a hello, not a thank you, not a peep.

I put it down to stress.

We all went inside and I took off wet stuff to hang up.

Moved bedding upstairs where it was warmer.

By now, everyone was upstairs.

I went down to get some bits and looked out the back window.

The water was about 1 foot up the bothy wall.

View from the back window

View from the side door

“Better get our stuff upstairs boys”, I shouted.
“Looks like the loch is coming in!”

Everyone rushed down and took all there gear up.

There would be no fire tonight.

Anyway, where would you get dry wood.

Now that brings me back to wood from earlier.
There was a lovely note by the fire saying that the last person had collected scrub and wood all ready for a fire and left it round the corner.
Under water!

Nice thought, but bad execution :(.

View from the door about 10 minutes earlier

View down the stairs as the water started to rise.
It wasn’t coming through the door.
It was coming through the walls.

So, everyone was now upstairs sorting stuff out.
The level was still rising, and there was nothing we could do.
One would hope that the rain would abate and then the water level would drop as it all ran to the loch.

You’d hope wouldn’t you.

We wondered how long we might be there.
Who was the weakest link.
Who had the most useful meat on them.
I mean, we taste of Pork, don’t we.
Have to be raw though.
Not sure how you cook a human over a pocket rocket.
In small strips I guess.

Dave sat on his chair shivering and looking miserable as he painstakingly pulled apart the bedraggled and ruined paper mache model of his passport.

Dave had flown up.
He wasn’t flying back!
And NOW, was not the time to say.

“So you didn’t get the waterproof document case we suggested then?”

In the bothy at last  (picture courtesy Al’s blog as well)

We finally managed to get Dave into his sleeping bag to get warm.
He was still staring vacantly at his passports remnants.

Eventually he came round.

We started to cook up some food, and pass round a dram or three.

I started up the music with the little speaker I had brought.
The part speaker, and gradually a semblance of normality returned.

Outside, the rain had stopped and it looked like the water level was falling.

The bothy and the residents all had a faint smell of wet labrador about them.

Below is a video taken a bit later showing how much.
It also shows the speed of the river rushing past just a short distance behind the bothy.

A shortened video after the main flood had gone

View to the river as the level starts to drop

We stayed inside.
We lit candles and stuff.
We put on as much warm gear as we had
And we had a little party, until it was time to get some sleep.

The next morning we saw this notice that no one had spotted the night before, in the mad panic to find the missing Wilkinson

It’s a bit hazy, but apparently, the bothy is prone to flooding.

Now you tell me!

So, hopefully tomorrow we would be able to get away.
Probably across the field rather than the track.
Assuming the field was back.
A direction away from the loch towards higher ground seemed the sensible option.

Spean bridge and a B&B beckoned.

So near, and yet so far.

Patty Griffin (Rain)
It seemed rather appropriate 🙂

13 thoughts on “TGOC 2012 Day 3 (A Chuil to Invermallie Bothy)

  1. I was waiting for this post, Andrew. I'd heard the story several times and each time it filled me with dread. You were bloody lucky that Inver Mallie bothy HAD an upstairs. This might have been a VERY different post.

    Meanwhile, I had strolled 12 miles from Strathfarrar to Cannich along the road in relatively sedate weather, arrived at the Campsite for Large Breakfast and 2 pots of tea, the rain then started and didn't stop until the winds got up around 8pm. Bloody good decision of mine NOT to go up onto Eskdale Moor for a camp, methinks.

    Look forward to D4.

  2. Wow! Some day you had there! Mind you, I would just take issue with this: “It was tempting to stay, but we had to go.” I spent Sunday trapped in Oban bothy with rivers that high that I couldn't go on and couldn't go back (I thought at the time this was unfortunate: but reading the experiences fo those who COULD and did walk on Sunday, I'm beginning to thinnk it was actually a wonderful stroke of luck …). I came through Glen Pean camped just beyond Strathan on Monday. I walked Loch Arkaig and through Gairlochy to Spean Bridge on Tuesday. And on Wednesday, I took a day off in London. So you were two days ahead of me at this point, AND I still had a day off to come, AND I made it to St Cyrus. Sure you could have spent the day sitting the storm out at A'Chuill if you'd wanted … entertaining account, though!

  3. Bloody hell, very, erm, atmospheric post.
    Its easy for me sat here reading this but, 5k on the other side going in the opposite direction then 5k back to the start point! Nearly lost a team member, nearly got flooded out. Was this really the right decision or did it just sound better?
    Very different post to yesterday which i have to say was stunning.

  4. Definitely the right decision.

    I have of course embelished it a bit, but the essence of the day was there.
    If we had not been in the bothy that night, I am not sure where we would have pitched.
    Maybe round towards the Cameron museum.
    Looking back, the events at the end made the day memorable, otherwise it would have been a wet trudge.

    It's a Challenge 🙂

  5. It was only rain and wind Jeremy, and rather a lot of water.
    And we could leave the following morning, the water level had dropped dramatically as you will see in the next post.

  6. I'm glad to hear invermallie sheltered you on a wet and windy night,the bothy does at times let in some water but honestly its not as bad as you may think we have never had a fire go out.I hope you have a return visit sometime as the area is very pleasant to be out and about.
    Ps the guys who look after it are very friendly and enjoy the company of visitors.

  7. I'm glad to hear invermallie sheltered you on a wet and windy night,the bothy does indeed let in some water but not as much as you might think,we have never had a fire go out.I hope you visit again as it is a nice place to have a wander up the glen or down to the loch,the guys who look after the place (myself and my mate)also enjoy the company of other walkers.

  8. It was a haven to us, apart from the waist deep water on the way in.
    We had a super bothy night upstairs.
    We should have read the sign on the way in.
    I will definitely go back.
    We had planned to go a different route originally, so there is unfinished business in that area.

  9. Call me a sadist but I laughed most of the way through your dialogue Mr Walker. Not at the predicament of course which was pretty horrid as days in the hills go. You sure you're not a stand-up comedian? 🙂 Well told sir. Now on to the serious brevity of Al's account…

  10. Call me a sadist but I laughed most of the way through your dialogue Mr Walker. Not at the predicament of course which was pretty horrid as days in the hills go. You sure you're not a stand-up comedian? 🙂 Well told sir. Now on to the serious brevity of Al's account…

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