As you read this, if you read this, you will see that it not really a report of a crossing.
It is a STORY of the crossing.
And thus is came to pass, that it was time to go North (again).
I picked up my trusty HEAVY rucksack,
So much for 26lb.
By the time I packed the extra stuff (based on weather forecast )
and the extra bit of silNylon floor,
it was coming in at 31lbs (again)
said goodbye to Olly and Harriet,
and the lovely Lucy gave me a lift to the station.
Due to the ridiculous and insane 7 minutes they keep the crossing at Cherry Hinton closed, to allow a safety margin? for the 2 carriage train that passes, we arrived a bit later than hoped.
I now had 4 minutes to get my ticket, and get on the train.
(OK, I could get a later train, but that is NOT the point ).
So of course there is an eeeennnoooorrrrmmmmoooouuuusss queue waiting to buy tickets, get advice and I have NOT got the time.
I decide I will go through the machine, and get my ticket.
2 minutes to go now, as I rush onto the platform, and run down to the train waiting on Platform 1.
Gasp, wheeze, “Is this the Kings Cross Train?“
“No, that goes from platform 7 now, over the foot bridge.“
Cambridge has recently had a new platform built.
It is at the OTHER end of this platform, over the New footbridge.
I have about 30secs to get to it.
Expected time to get there 2 minutes
I ran as fast as I could down and over the bridge.
If I can do this, then the pack is NOT too heavy, even if it is heavy.
At the top of the bridge a railway chappy with walkie talkie was speaking to the guard on the train.
“Hang on, one more coming”.
What a lovely man.
I burst onto the train, sweating and breathing rather heavily.
And collapsed into a chair.
I was hoping that there would be no more incidents on the crossing.
I was hoping, but …….
I texted AL on route.
It was about 7.50, and Al had been in the Bree Louise Pub since about 5.00.
I was not sure what state he would be in when I arrived.
I was not sure when I would arrive.
The remainder of the journey was uneventful. and about 8.35, we pulled into KX.
I rushed down to the underground, a train had just arrived and I leaped on it to Euston.
To be honest you walk most of it on the way to the bloody train.
It is about a 3 minute journey.
However, IF you get on the train going in wrong bloody direction, you go to
Highbury and Islington
Remember, I am walking across Scotland.
If I go the wrong way from Morar, it is going to get damned wet.
At Highbury I got on the train back to Euston.
And so 12 minutes later I finally got out at Euston.
Walked completely round 3 sides of Euston Square (having come out the wrong side of the station ) This is not looking good for future navigation
And, finally, I arrived at the Bree Louise, where Al was sitting with a couple of folk, one of whom was William Burton from Barbados.
|William and Al at the Bree Louise|
A very nice chap was William, BUT I was not expecting that accent.
Well, we managed to Eeek out the time here until it was time to walk round to the Sleeper.
We were on the 23.50 to Glasgow.
After getting to the train, and getting stuff into our berths, it was a bit late to go to the bar.
BUT we did!
There we met Freddy, and a few others.
You may at this point have to cross reference with Al’s Blog, to pick up on all the names that I have missed.
I should really have taken a photo or 3.
I have no idea, what time we eventually went to sleep.
I do remember trying Freddy’s Pemmican.
It was interesting, but tasted like shit. (just my opinion ).
My Father in Law used to eat it in the Antarctic when he was there.
Best place for it if you ask me.
|All in his bunk with his pill collection.|
Eventually, it was time for sleep.
Well, as much as you can when trying to sleep in a rocking carriage travelling North at 80+ mph.
However, there was sleep. Well, a bit of sleep I think, apart from the incident with the toilet trip.
Al was on the bottom bunk, and I took the top.
I had moved the ladder to the door end, because it was easier to get up and down via the sink.
However, I had not allowed for the fact that the ladder now prevented the door from opening, so after abseiling down as quietly as possible some time close to 4.00am, I then crashed the door open into the ladder, and of course woke Al up.
He said nothing, but I am sure that is NOT what he was thinking.
Probably more like “Oh God, I’ve got another 2 whole weeks of this“
Then all too soon, we were woken at 6.30 for delivery of our luke warm tea.
Then it was time for part 2 of the journey, to breakfast, and the Queen Street station to get the train to Morar.
Crikey, all that, and we haven’t even started yet.
Oooohhh, it’s going to run and run is this!
Thu 10th May 2012
This is a short post, since the memories are vague, and the number of people far too many to remember.
Might be some photo’s though, but not many.
So eventually, we got off the train, after multiple visited to toilet and kit packing, we had to walk the huge distance to Glasgow Queen street station.
On arrival at Queen street, there were not many people there.
In fact, it may have just been Alan and myself.
I needed more sleep, but we decided after a shuffle about, that we would go into the bar (because it was under cover), and have a breakfast served by the very nice and may I add pretty waitress.
Al had some sort of full English thingy, and I had scrambled Egg on toast and a huge cup of hot coffee. Cappuccino I believe. Much nicer than the flaccid lukewarm nonentity we got on the sleeper.
As time moved on, and we sat in the rather comfortable sofa chairs, people began to drift in.
Lovely chairs they were, most comfortable, and far too low to be able to eat off.
From time to time Al and I drifted out to see who was about.
The morning passed like this, and eventually Dave arrived from the airport with all his stuff.
Dave and stuff will feature on several occasions during this trip.
We had more coffee, and I contemplated the use of the toilet to no avail.
Must be the altitude, I was feeling quite tired.
Time to acclimatise was needed.
I think the air may have been too thin for a Fen boy.
It was getting later.
Our train was 11.30 something.
The big clue will be when everyone rushes to get on…
Must be time for some pictures
Much conversation ensued.
Indeed conversations continued from last year as if they had been yesterday.
Hands were shaken, and hugs and kisses.
The Challenge is as much about people and friendship, as it is about the hardship and fun of the walk itself.
It is a physical Challenge
But also a Social Challenge.
At some point before this, we had been for a wander around Glasgow, to buy some bread and cheese and stuff for lunches.
Al had got some money out, and Dave possibly ought to have bought some Whiskey, although on the other hand, maybe not.
Soon, it was time to board the train to the West Coast.
Many more conversations with people whose name I ought to bloody well remember later, we arrived at Morar.
This may NOT have been the case altogether, because Al, had wandered off on the train to chat and stuff.
By Crainlarich he was in one of the front four coaches.
The ones that were NOT going to Morar and Mallaig.
I went to make sure he knew, but I could not get on the train because they were separating the two parts.
That job done, still no sign of Al.
Al appears with moments to spare
And then we were in Morar.
It is a wonderful scenic journey this train ride, but it does drag on a bit.
Just off the train, we met John Hesp.
He was going down to camp on the beach.
We turned left, and walked down the road a bit to the B&B.
We went a bit further
And a bit further still.
“We’ll just look down here and see if that is it” (See map in a moment)
I rang the B&B just to check.
“Just to the right of the railway station behind the Hotel, You cannot miss it!”
Want a bloody bet.
10 minutes (ish) later back at the railway station, you could just see the sign.
Oh to have eyes in the back of my head (like wot me Mum does init! )
At last we arrived at the B&B, and very very nice it was too.
BUT…. White Carpets?
I had to share a bed with Al.
Dave had the spare single.
It was a huge bed, and Al was gentle 🙂
So, after that we went up to the Hotel for a beer and a meal.
Here we met a few other Challengers, whose names I ought to have written down.
I will get the names from Al at some point, and fill in the blanks.
At the hotel we also met Andy, the Maitre D’.
First impressions, was a helpful chap, and friendly.
Later his overbearing smarminess (is that a word), began to really grate on the nerves.
Al wanted to hit him.
Mind you, Al does have anger management issues,
he should apply for grumpy old men on BBC.
I cannot fully describe Hotel Andy, a cross between Basil Fawlty and Hanibal Lecter, (although Lecter was quite intelligent).
We had a rather nice meal, and some bevvies, and Dave and Bob, rattled on and on about Volvo’s, and Engines, and reliability, and fuel economy,
and modifications, and models and mileage
and sixteen year running costs per second and some such.
What can I say.
I could see Al’s eyes glazing over, as he slowly lost the will to live.
I supped my ale.
Eventually it was time to sneak out past Andy Press play for effect => And we wandered back round to our room, for last minute pack checking faff and also to get some sleep. I made some late night tea It would soon be time to start for real ………………………………………………………….
Fri 11th May 2012 – Day 1 (Morar to Dubh Loch -North Morar Ridge)
AND IT WAS TIME! We got up, got ready, and had a very nice breakfast. The weather was looking good, and the forecast even better. We needed 2 days ok weather for the ridge, and for the first time since 2008 (I wasn’t on that year), it appeared as if we might get it. We paid for the B&B, and at about 8.15 (ish) headed round to the hotel to be greeted by a few folk and ANDY! Who was asking if we might add something to trip adviser for him. I think there is little doubt that Al will add something. We chatted with a few folk we met, and signed the book. I popped a parcel of the stuff I had worn up into the post box (I remembered last years fiasco, and had it already post paid ). No more waiting at a post office for me. Just as well, I am not sure that there is one in Morar. So I got the poles out ready to go. Pole Interlude …………………… Remember the pole lubrication issue from an earlier blog?I will expand.At a point in my innocent but stupid past, I had liberally lubricated my locked Pacer Poles with……….WD 40………… DON’T I had since then had them apart, degreased them, cleaned them left them apart, used water and, left them apart some more, and they had been fine at last.Until NOW Would they lock?Would they £uck!More cleaning, more faffing more cleaning.Bollocks, Bollocks, Bollocks and Treble Bollocks.I can of course walk without polesI cannot hold my tent/tarp up without them.SHIT!Eventually Micropore on the inside mechanism works.They are up, and the bloody things are staying up.Back to the story. We head off to the beach to dip our toes in the water. As we passed the station I turned to the boys. “OK Chaps. Last chance to get the train away from here!” There were no takers and we turn down to the beach. I lose my footing one of the wet slippery steps down to the beach, and crash to the ground. Accident prone? MOI? We make it, we take photo’s we head back up.
|Al and Dave on the Beach (almost)|
We turn right down the road, but the footpath is not were it ought to be so we go the Looooonnnngggg way back round to the main track to Loch Morar.
|Intended route is in purple.
Actual route from beach is in green
On route back we met John Hesp by the small bridge. He had finally got his tent up a long long way along the beach. He was going to sign out, so we headed off. Soon we would be on our way. Honest. There was a vague rumour of a coffee shop at Bracara, but when we got there it was now a holiday let cottage, so a small disappointment but there you go. We continued along the North side of the lock The weather was reasonable until we reached a small stop point near Brinacory island, where the rain came upon us, and water proofs were needed. We took shelter and had a snack in the ruin there.
|Shelter near Brinacory|
|Wonderful views back along the loch looking West|
The rain soon passed over and we were on our way to Tarbet. Just before Tarbet there is a rather splendid cottage with magnificent views across the loch and to the East.
|Al and Dave on the way to Tarbet|
|Slightly enhanced view back along the loch looking West|
|View from the Cottage near Swordland Lodge looking East|
|Al and Dave at Tarbet.
Lovely weather, but bloody cold and blowing a gale
We stopped for a proper lunch at Tarbet. It was sunny, but cold and windy. The wind whistles along Loch Nevis and through the gap to Loch Morar, like a funnel. Warm clothing was needed. We watched a small sheep looking for it’s mother. I was thinking lamb cutlets. Dave disappeared and then re-appeared saying he was just popping off for a cup of tea with a couple of chaps. We did not believe him, but when he did not appear for 5 minutes I went to look in the other end of the Chapel, which doubles as a hostel for £2 a night (yep, really). Dave was indeed there with two chaps, one being Frank who was 87 and lived there, and also looked after the hostel. Shortly after this, Al joined as well. Frank made us all a cup of tea and regaled us with tale after tale. Frank is an amazing chap, and spins a veritable and wondrous yarn or three, and swears like a trooper. All very believable, and all in the main complete lies. We stopped in for tea, and stayed the best part of 1½ hours. A bit of a long lunch stop to be honest, and a damned steep climb to come. There were stories of his life, and also ghosts and other things. You really ought to go there before the memories are no longer available. It was a pleasure and an honour to spend time with the man. Al has a nice picture of Frank in his Blog. Here is Frank in the Chapel playing the Organ. I have changed it to sepia, I think he would appreciate that little touch. I might send him a copy.
|Frank playing the organ at Tarbet|
As with all things, they must end, and we had a bloody great hill to get up, so off we set.
|The Chapel Hostel at Tarbet.
Frank lives at the left end looking from here.
|View from the Hostel|
|View from the start of the climb out of Tarbet, across Loch Nevis|
The start was ok, but the climb up the fence line was pretty tough. Near the top of the not that steep bit was a metal ladder over a deer fence. I really wish I had taken a picture of it now, because it was not vertical. How it stayed up I am not sure, since it was at an angle of about 80 deg, jammed into the ground. There was a single piece of wire attached to the fence, attempting to stopp it toppling over. It was interesting, especially with a full pack. As I clambered over the top and down the other side, I was thinking. “How the Fuck I am going to persuade Al to climb over this”. He did it, but I am still not sure how. I am sure he had his eyes closed on the descent. After this bit, we went over another hill and it just went UP. Dave was off on one of his charges, and Al’s 50cc moped engine was working at the back.
|Al on the way up.
It was hard going, and relentless
It is a very tough and rapid ascent (height, not time), but when you get to the top. Such joySuch views Once we had arrived at the ridge, we met up with John Hesp, who had ascended from further round the bay. Not via the fence line. With hindsight, that may well have been an easier way up. As we walked along the ridge, I was beginning to get pain in the outside of my left foot. This is the one that I had hurt on the multiple injury day about 5 days before the challenge. My paranoid mind was saying stress fracture, but my positive self just said ligaments, put the superfeet in the shoes. I hobbled along to the night one camp, favouring my right foot. It was ok. It had to be, the descent was going to be far far more strain than the ascent. Eventually we arrived at what was to be an ideal camp spot high on the ridge in a small wind sheltered basin neat Loch Dubh. It looked like there might be a bit of rain overnight, so shelters were quickly put up, after I finished being a bit of a tart finding a suitable spot. This was to be Treeza’s (the Trailstar’s) first Scottish pitch. I was about to find out if I had made the correct decision on shelters.
|Night one camp.
She’s the little golden girl in the middle
Camp ready, we popped up onto the higher ground above the basin to look at the views, and just stare at the wonder of it all. Bloody Marvellous With views of Egg, Rum and the Black Cullins all in the distance, as well as Loch’s Morar and the other side Loch Nevis. In fact ALL the surrounding hills were clear. I could take a hundred pictures, but it would not do it justice. You just had to be up there
|Al at Camp 1 with back to Loch Nevis|
|View from the hill above the camp, looking to Dubh Loch|
|Looking down on the camp as the sun began to go down|
At one point while we were up on the top looking, a huge cloud appeared and began to move towards us. You could see the rain coming, and looked like Sourlies was getting an almighty soaking. There were a few spots, but as fate would have it, it completely passed us by.
|View of Dubh Loch from my tent.|
|View towards Loch Nevis and beyond.
Night 1 campsite
|Clouds forming in the distance.
Night 1 campsite
North Morar Ridge
We went back down to our tents, and a dram or 2 was passed around. It was getting colder, and time for some hot food, and some sleep. It had been a pretty tough finish to the day, and tomorrow was going to be tougher than this for sure. Could it get much better than this? Maybe, but in a days time, it was going to get a darn sight worse first. You’ll have to wait for that one ………………………………………………………..
Sat 12th May 2012 – Dubh Loch to A Chuil We were up reasonably early on day 2. The forecast was good until late in the day, and we planned to make sure we were off the ridge before then, because no matter which way you go down it was going to be S T e e p
Not a long day in distance, there were going to be much longer days than this later on. But a tiring day, with the descents. It had rained a bit in the night, and there was some water on the tents. But it was drying out ok, and the Trailstar had been superb. We headed off from camp along this rather fine ridge. I had forgotten to fit the damned Superfeet, and was still getting the odd twinge from my left foot. I decided that when we had our first rest stop, I would swap them over. We had a brief stop at Sgurr Mor, and I swapped the Innov8 inners for Superfeet Blue. This certainly helped, although I was still getting twinges, but they were a lot more stable. Later I should have swapped them back, because I almost ended up with a blister on my heel by about day 6.
|John as we approach the small lochens near Sgurr Mor|
|Another view down by the lochens|
|View along the ridge looking West.
Oban bothy and Meoble are somewhere down there on the right
|Same view with more of Loch Morar.
You can see the clouds beginning to form.
The weather was good, but there was definitely a chill in the air
We had another stop near Sgurr Breac. This is a truly magnificent ridge, with wondrous views in all directions, but quite up and down.
|Al on route.
You can see how the ridge rises and drops as you go along.
But just look at those views
|John at a brief rest stop|
In all directions, there were fantastic views of the surrounding hills. You could still see as far back as Rum and Skye, but also way out towards the Glen Affric hills and Glen Pean. Looking towards Oban Bothy, was An Stac Tarmachain and Beinn Gharbh. To our left and North West in the far far distance you could just catch a glimpse of the Affric hills, and behind us still faint in haze, were Rum and the Cullins. What can I say. All the bigger Munro’s had crisp coatings of Snow.
|A small stone wall on route and another rise in the ridge heading towards the Sgurr Nam Meirleach|
We carried on along this wondrous ridge to the Lochens at Sgurr Nam Meirleach, where we decided it was time for a longer rest stop. The weather was still good, but not going to stay that way. The Corbett’s at the end looked imposing and dark More like the hills of Mordor.
|The Corbett’s at the end of the ridge.
Still a long way to go.
After a rest at the lochens, Al decided that rather then do the ridge, and then drop down off the end (the original plan) we would descend down from the Lochens. He was suffering a bit from Fen Legs, and there was still a long way to go. John went on to do the ridge. Later as we were to find out, the descent was tough, and at times a scramble. He fell a couple of times, and hurt his leg along with tearing of trousers. Considering what happened to Dave’s knee, we may well have made the right decision. Even so, this descent was steep, especially at the start. Thankfully the ground was reasonably dry, and so footing pretty good. I cannot imagine how hard this would be in the wet with poor visibility. If the ground had also been icy, it would have needed a lot more gear than we were carrying. I had meant to take some photo’s of this, but a couple at the top did not come out, and I was concentrating quite hard on the descent.
|The start of the descent. (picture courtesy Al)
It was even steeper than it looks
After a bit of a sack and shoe faff, (you need your shoes on tight on descents like this), I eventually caught up with Al and Dave. When going down terrain like this, it is best not to follow in convoy. You just need to pick your own route down as you see it, trying to make sure you do not end up at a rocky crag and need to re-route. It took the best part of an hour to get all the way down. Al is pretty good on descents, and I am normally not so good, due to lack of cartilage in my knees, but today I was on fire and well ahead by the time I started to get to the lower ground. Had I bothered to take my camera out, there were some beautiful flowers on the way down hiding in the rocky crags. I stopped about 3/4 of the way down for a bit of a rest and a drink. It had been hot hard work, and very very tiring on lower limbs. Knees in particular. This was not the place to take a tumble and get an injury.
|Wee yellow flowers on the way down.
Where is John Keohane when you need him?
OK, primroses (thanks Louise)
Eventually, we arrived at the bottom, crossing and then following the stream down to our right to the river at the bottom.
|Two Geezers on an ‘ill mate.
OK, Dave and I near the bottom (courtesy Al’s Blog)
This is quite a deep ravine, and the path runs higher up the side. I tried a short cut over the top, but it ended on a steepish drop, so I went back round to catch up Al and Dave. We stopped for a rest and some food a bit short of the water falls. There was still a jolly long way to go to get to the bothy, along a windy and at times narrow track. The distance on the ground not really showing how much hard work this is. 11 miles is not a long way, on the flat. But when you add this terrain into it, it is a different ball game altogether. Especially with large rucksacks on your back.
|The falls along the river Abhainn Ceann Loch Morair|
The walk along the river is up and down and varied degrees of wet and width, finishing at Loch Eanaich, where there is a small beach. From here, there is no path on the map, but there is for the most part a clear path on the ground following the river all the way into the forest. At the end, the track becomes quite indistinct, and curves round to the right, following the stream. This is crossed easily, and there is a small broken down fence as well as a crossing ladder to get over into the forest. It is not obvious where this is, but crossing back to the left of the river and through a bit of undergrowth, and very wet ground shows an overgrown and wet track heading to the right. After a while, this opens out and keeping the river to thew right, eventually becomes a Landrover track, that winds through the forest. Forest Tracks are well. Forest Tracks We followed this for some time until after fording the river as it widened (we crossed on stones) we had a bit of a rest. Al had a lie down, and Dave I think had a sleep. The weather was still fine, and we stayed here for about 40 minutes. It was not far to A Chuil now anyway. We headed off on the last bit to A Chuil. The track was wider and much easier now, with some new bridges rather than needing to ford the river. Just as we left the forest to cross to the bothy, it poured with rain. To late now to muck about with waterproofs. (if we had not stopped, we would have made it in the dry). I was in a bit of a rush and hurried on getting wetter by the second. Undeterred (‘Ard Me), I made my way across. As I got to the other side, the rain stopped, and the last bit of the descent down the slippery track to the bothy was completed. There were about 8 or 9 in the bothy. I need to get a list of names. One of the rooms was full, but luckily the other sleeping area just off the main room, was empty and we quickly unpacked our gear here before making a brew. As the night went on, and the weather began to change, we lit a fire as best we could. This was controlled after it was lit by Freddy, (he of the pemmican), who became fire monitor for the night. More arrivals as the evening wore on, and the weather outside worsened. It looked like tomorrows weather was well and truely on it’s way. It was going to be the FWA along loch Arkaig rather than any tops. The trip to Glensulaig bothy was going to be a non starter.
|Candlelight in A Chuil|
More arrivals at the bothy as the fire gave out what heat it could. It was not much, but it was better than none. The rooms seemed to remain quite segregated apart from the newer arrivals. Some rather wet German lads arrived late aon, along with a chap who had walked there from Fort William, and was heading back there the following day. Apparantely, he had to walk at least 20 miles to make it worthwhile???? We had done about 11 and it had all been worthwhile. To each his own. There was a another chap also called I think FRED, who was doing Le Jog. A nice guy, he stayed an talked for a while although he was in the other room. He would annoy Al in about 36 hours time by attempting to get him soaked in Gairlochy. (we’ll come to that in time ) That could well be a new verb to annoyal I annoyalYou annoyalHe/She annoysal We annoyalThey annoyal A few drams were drunk and near the end of the evening the fine chap in the picture below, who knew us, and whose name will come to me at some point came in with a box he had stashed up there a few weeks before. It contained cans of beer, and we had one each.
|Bloody fantastic sir, Bloody fantastic|
All good things must come to an end however. As the rain and wind increased outside, it was time for sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a slog It was going to be a cold and wet slog It was going to almost end in tears And for one or more reasons It was going to be quite memorable. Oh Yes! 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. EVER. 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. Because that AIN’T GOING TO HAPPEN MATE! 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. NO DAVE! “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 NO DAVE!NO SIGN OF DAVE! “SHIT!” 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. NO DAVE! 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. 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.Outside!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.