Monday, 28 December 2009

Beinn a Chreachain wildcamp part 2

By the time I had found a reasonably flat pitch just behind the summit, I was enveloped in a swirling and fast darkening sky as the breeze picked up and the sun disappeared. I was using the SL3 which is fast becoming a favourite but wishing I had brought my trusty Laser Comp instead. Conditions were good but it was cold and I was feeling it. Maybe it's just my familiarity with the Laser Comp and relative newness to the SL3 for me but it seemed to take a while before I got the tent pitched taught. The problem seemed to be getting the base pegged into a uniform hexagon. Using it with the nest this is a doddle but I was solo on this trip so I only had the MLD bivi with me. It was dark O'clock when I finally pulled the door zipper down and sorted out the old sleeping bag and mat etc.

Dinner was a simple Mountain House freeze dried affair cooked using most of my water. I left enough for a cuppa and enough to start to melt snow in the morning for breakfast etc. I was tired and didn't get fully warmed up until after I'd eaten and was half way through my coffee. My breath and steam from cooking were leaving an ever increasing pattern of ice crystals on the inside of the fly. They twinkled and shone in my head torch beam as the fly gently flapped in the breeze but didn't seem to turn out in any photo's. Slowly I drifted off to sleep dreaming of massive cloud inversions across Rannoch Moor.

I awoke gently and as the confusion slowly cleared I realised why. The trip outside to “water the roses” in the bitter cold couldn't be put off any longer. The zipper went up and what I saw had me pulling on boots that had frozen solid, reaching for my down pullover, jamming on my beanie and gloves while scrabbling around for the camera. The mist had gone and the sky was clear with brightly coloured shooting stars trailing across the sky like lone fireworks. I quickly realised that my photies weren't turning out and I abandoned the camera viewfinder in favour of my own peepers. I spent around and hour wandering around on the summit in boots that remained frozen stiff watching the show in the sky. There were shooting stars ranging in colour from brilliant blue/white through green to blood orange. I've never witnessed this before and I always thought they were all the same colour. Eventually as I got colder my interest waned and I slunk off back to the tent and warmth of my sleeping bag.

I drifted in and out of sleep always aware of my cold feet, not to the point of keeping me awake but aware that they weren't getting a decent heat back into them. I think I was pushing my bag to it's limits and my feet had gotten pretty cold due to lack of circulation. I had put on my extra pair of socks in the sleeping bag earlier and then squeezed them into boots that wouldn't bend any more. It seemed funny to think though that less sock's might actually have been warmer.

After a time spent drifting peacefully in and out, not sure when I was awake and when I wasn't I realised that I could see the warm yellow of the tent fly. The sun must be coming up! Pullover and hat back on, camera and tripod at the ready, I went out and tested my sock theory. I tested it for about 2 hours without ever really being interested in the the results. I had my attention focussed elsewhere now!

Everywhere I looked there was another stunning mountain view that tugged at the heart strings. I got to thinking of how I enjoy the solitude that can be found in the hills but sometimes there are moments that should be shared. I discovered later that I was sharing it with pals after all, it's just that they were on their own hills enjoying the display. I like the idea that we were all out to enjoy it but that everyone's perspective was a little different.

Eventually the short winter days and the clock inevitably marching on meant I had to break camp and get moving. It didn't take long to pack the tent away and strap on my crampons onto my noticeably warmer feet (theory must've worked then) and stamp off towards Meall Buidhe and Beinn Achaladair. Every step gave a satisfying crunch as my crampon points broke through the crust into the mixed snow and ice beneath. Every footfall was a pleasure, especially the ones spent on the front four points of each foot whilst I plunged the shaft of my axe deep into the steep icing sugar covered hill beneath me.

With every step I took the views would change as hills would reveal new lines, shades and textures in the monochromatic world spread out before me. I love how being in the mountains offers a new experience every time, even if it's an old familiar peak. The time of day, season, weather, atmospheric conditions, even your own mood can affect how you view the landscape in front of you.

Texts were began to arrive and dinner plans were being made whilst I was on the move. I was looking forward to catching up with a few friendly faces and so I started to realise that I wouldn't have time to bag Beinn an Dothaidh. I wasn't fussed though, it'll be there waiting for me the next time I'm up that way. My descent into Coire Achaladair was slow after the relative ease of walking on the broad ridge of Beinn Achaladair. It's easy to see how most accidents on the hill happen towards the end of the day when people are tired. I could see my car all the way down at the car park surrounded by others which meant there must be a few folk out taking advantage of the clear weather. I was sure I could see some tiny blobs moving on the horizon of Beinn an Dothaid as the sun dropped behind out of view.

When I arrived at the car I left the heater and demister on while I cleaned my teeth and dug out my down pullover again. Shortly I was behind the wheel and on my way to the Real Food Cafe to catch up with Elaina, Steve, Petesy, Iain and Kirsten to hear all about their exploits over the weekend. I arrived at the car park and was greeted by Petesy grinning like a madman exclaiming “Alright!” I barely had the car locked and then Iain and Kirsten arrived followed shortly by Steve and Elaina. There was hot chcolate, food, banter and then more hot chocolate. Stories of the weekends adventures were told and future plans discussed, it was late when we all left.
Alright indeed!


  1. Looks like a good trip, I know what you mean about wanting to share the experience but I think if you're solo the experience is more intense in a way.

    Anyway, thanks for sharing, best for 2010.


  2. I'd say it was my best trip this year. I only hope there plenty more of the same calibre in the coming year.

    I hope next yer is good for you as well.

  3. Seeing as you upload a lot of pics to your blog this might come in handy. It will auto shrink your pics and its free right up your street I would think.


  4. It took you a while to post this and me a while to get around to reading it but I'm glad we both got there in the end. Good stuff. Hope that 2010 brings you lots more of the same!

  5. Sorry Dave, service on here has been patchy of late. My BT connection has been up and down like a yoyo. Hopefuly (fingers crossed) it seems to be working better now.

    Cheers for the heads up Ross, I'll look into that. I dont upload pics to Bogger itself as space is limited. I use photobucket and copy the html code over.

  6. Good lad, it's nice to see that sunrise again!

    I know we've had more snow since, but that weekend was one to remember.

  7. Aye, it was that. I want more weekends like that.

    I've barely been out since. Between working over the christmas shutdown and feelin poorly I've only worn my super dooper technical slippers indoors, that wont do at all.


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