Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Better late than never...Beinn a Chreachain wildcamp part 1

Pfnng, whassat? uh? Oh. "Click" I switched the alarm off and rolled back over. It was my day off and I wouldn't be hurried. Anyway, the rucksack was already packed. All I had to do was strap myself to it and I would be ready. The drive along the M8 was slower than expected until I hit the A82 where the roads were clear. I always forget to take in to account the clowns who drive at 15 MPH in the fog with no lights on.

I had a quick coffee and a bacon roll at the Real Food Cafe while I willed the fog to disappear. My Jedi mind trick must have worked; because as the car climbed up the big hill out of Tyndrum the skies cleared and the weak winter sun made the frosty landscape all twinkly. This was gonna be good!

I parked at Achallader farm next the the ruined tower and set off along the track towards the ruined farm at Barraavourich. Immediately I realised I had no buff with me as I reached for it to ward the burning cold air off my face. Ach, at least I had my lip balm. No cracked lips for me this weekend.

I was walking in the shadows cast by the mountains I would be on top of later on. The frost was hard and the puddles frozen into some eye catching designs. As I made my way along the track the sun occasionally peeked out from the clefts in the ridge line illuminating the cloud as it flowed over the peaks towards me.

A few kilometers of following the "Water of Tulla" and I eventually came to the bridge over the half frozen river. I crossed it and started off up through the trees towards the railway line where I found a tiny hobbit sized underpass.

After negotiating the underpass in a probably undignified fashion I followed the Allt Coire an Lochain upstream towards Beinn a Chreachain. As I gained height I found the going tougher than I was expecting. I'll blame my pack weighted down with all the extra winter insulation and hardware but I suspect that really it's my fitness I need to look at instead. Not to worry though, plans are afoot to remedy that. Progress was slow but it wasn't all down to my puffing and panting. The views out across Rannoch Moor and down Loch Tulla were opening up and left me gazing out at countless other mountain days of the future.

I arrived at the lovely Lochan a Chreachain high up in the corrie and stopped for a bite to eat next to the water. I enjoyed a few slices of cinnamon and raisin loaf washed down with some icy snow melt whilst I picked out my line of ascent up on to the ridge.

Having regained my composure (read breath),I stowed my trekking poles, got my crampons near the top of my pack, un-slung my axe and set off up the steep slopes to the left of the Corrie back wall. I picked my way through the large boulders and reached the snow line which only got steeper. Quickly I found my pace had dropped to that of a snail. The snow here had been through several freeze thaw cycles and although it had a hard crust, it had a loose granular texture underneath. I couldn't "pigeon hole" steps into it with my bendy boots and using the edge of the boot was similarly difficult. I fitted my Kahtoolas and found that the stuff under the crust was so loose that the short points of the crampons gave little purchase. I managed for a while leaning right in on my front points and knees, and using the pick of my axe to drag myself up. In the end though I was reduced to just cutting steps with the adze into the white hillside. Progress was slow but determined and constant.

My consistancy of pace won out and I reached the ridge, while the sky was starting to fill with glorious colours to contrast beautifully with the monochrome of snow and rock. All the way across the silent and frozen wastes of Rannoch Moor the hills were gathering their misty cloaks. Their white caps were slowly turning orange as the sun dropped lower and lower. My own mountain was swirling in mist rushing up from Glean Cailliche and over the summit towards me. I was breathless but this time definitely not from effort. This is the mountain experience we all dream of yet so few are ever lucky enough to have.

I stamped off towards the summit immersed in the moment. The colours were truly stunning, the place was frozen and wild but I was in my element and grinning like a mad man. I wish Scotland would slap on it's makeup and throw on it's pretty frock like this more often. Day's like this really are special. When it's grey out and miserable I'll be thinking of this one. I thought about how I was supposed to be at my work's night out and knew I had made the right choice despite all the raised eyebrows when I announced I was taking my tent out to play instead.

When I reached the summit the sun was very low and the swirling mist around me was ablaze with colour. I didn't have much in the way of a view but I didn't care a jot. The memory of standing on that summit, that day is one I will carry in the forefront of my mind forever. I only wish I had, had a wee nip to toast it with.

Eventually the cold crept in despite my down pullover and I had to go and look for a spot for the tent. By the time I had a pitch leveled out with the snow claw and the tent up it was dark and most definitely time for dinner.


  1. Aaah nice work again. The pinky orange puffy cloud photies are grrrrreat!

    Did you get the 'prize' by the way?


  2. Hi Ange, nope nothng has arrived but it appears I have a problem with my post. I was on to the council tax people and they say they have some of my mail being sent back to them. I seem to be getting mail for a day or two then nothing for days?

  3. Aw that's rubbish, i sent it about 3 weeks ago!! Damn! should have sent it recorded delivery or something. I put the proper address on it and everything i wonder where's its vanished to?
    Aw that's a shame. Anyway it was a wee Merry Christmas hand made thing for your new home. :o)
    Merry Christmas!!

  4. Great stuff matey! Love the ice piccie at the beginning. We got snow here last Thursday about an inch, it stayed and is now under the extra couple of inches that arrived in a crazy three hour blizzard on Tuesday. Measured lawn today and it is still 4.5 inches deep. So we've had inches of snow on the ground since last Thursday, roads are a nightmare. And as I type it is again bucketing it down with snow dumping around anothr two inches! Incredible!

  5. Ach, nevermind Ange I'm sure it'll turn up. I'll go down and make a fuss after christmas.

    I've bee struggling in the snow here with my beat up old BMW Jamie. Because it's rear wheel driven and the big heavy engine is over the front wheels I've been driving sideways for abouta week now!


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