Wednesday, 9 June 2010

A sticky peace

Deciding to head for the hills after night-shift is always a dilemma for me. Do I just go straight from work first thing in the morning or do I grab some shut eye in the morning and head out in the afternoon? The answer is usually decided by my level of fatigue and or the weather.

With the hot and humid weather of last week I didn't sleep well at all during the days all week so come Friday morning I just went straight to bed when I got home. The rucksack was already packed and it wasn't getting dark until late so I lingered until early afternoon. After a quick shower and breakfast I was off to face the horrors of the M8 towards Loch Lomond and the A82.

Surprisingly and pleasantly the drive was issue free and I was in a good frame of mind when I turned of at the Bridge of Orchy hotel and headed for Loch Tulla and the Victoria bridge car park. I couldn't resist a refreshing pint at the bar of the Inveroran Hotel before shouldering my rucksack and wandering past the west highland way'ers camped between the water and the road over to the Forest lodge. Turning left onto the Land-rover track following the Abhainn Shira I was glad of the peace and quiet afforded to me by setting off late.

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After about 1.5 K along the track, taking the odd photo along the way, I came to the mountaineering club hut/ex school house and turned off the track onto the path leading in towards Coire Toaig. Even with the sun dropping and the light beginning to fade it was still very warm and close feeling with little or no breeze.

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I don't cope well in the heat, especially when it's a sticky heat. It makes me even more grumpy than usual and so I had made a conscious decision to become one of those anti-social bastard hill walkers that I normally complain about on here. So if you are the hill runner I met coming down the track I apologise for not stopping to shoot the shit. This time, I simply wanted to be left alone and enjoy the peace and solitude of the hills.

I wasn't long in reaching the bottom of the shoulder leading up onto Stob a Choire Odhair where I began a long slow and pleasant ascent. I had to deliberately slow my pace a couple of time to prevent me overheating and becoming a sweaty mess. As the light faded from the sky some of the clouds gained a soft pink tinge to their edges and that was it. None of the spectacular sunsets I've had of late in the hills. It was kind of eerie as the twilight enveloped. I stopped to listen and could hear nothing but my own heartbeat pounding in my chest. There was nothing, not even the slightest of breezes.

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As I left the fairly well defined ridge and emerged onto the open slopes and began picking my way through the broken rocks and boulders I was joined by a pair of birds. Who seemed at first to be slightly alarmed by my presence. They followed me uphill for quite some distance calling out with a loud falling whistle. They always stayed one diagonally in front and one diagonally opposite to my rear, occasionally switching places. It wasn't until I was nearly on the top when they eventually left me. I'm no twitcher but from a quick look at “Hostile Habitats” I'm suspecting a pair of Golden Plover??

I touched the summit cairn at 23:00 and realised that I still had not reached for my head torch. Even though there was no visible moon or stars I could see quite well through the gloom. I caught my breath while watching the twinkly car lights glide silently across Rannoch Moor before starting to look for a bed for the night. I quickly found a swathe of grass just to the west of the summit with fewer rocks in it and threw out the 3 wire bivy installing my mat and sleeping bag inside. Shoes off I grabbed my food bag from the rucksack and climbed in leaving the door open. As I lay there munching on a cold steak pie peering through the gloom the only thing I wished for was a clear sky so I could drift off while watching the stars. It never really got dark and I didn't sleep long, just drifting in and out of consciousness. I could even read the safety label inside the bivy without torch light. At around 4:00 I was woken by the gentle pitter patter of rain on the bivy. At around 5:30 I just couldn't lie there in the increasing light any more so I got up and and had a breakfast of banana's (obviously) followed by oat cakes and cheese while sitting on the summit cairn.

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Dawn was another unspectacular affair with a thick haze hiding the sun and making the hills all around blend into the sky and each other in a washed out painting of blue and grey pastels. There was a small band of orangey pink low in the sky that reflected in the water on Rannoch Moor for a while. It was gone by the time I had finished eating and by the time I packed up the bivy I could feel the heat of the diffuse sun through the haze once more.

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Setting off west I descended to the beallach and Coirein Lochain before turning and attacking the steep north facing slope up onto the Aonach Eagach (No not that one!). The loose terrain and now oppressive heat slowed me down once more but picking a route through the scree was easy enough though. I stopped on the ridge and sat down on a flattish rock praying for even the gentlest of breeze to ward off the gathering insects and cool me by blowing through my soaking base layer. I was driven off towards the narrowing ridge line shortly by some midges that had found me. Not enough to swarm but still enough to annoy.

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I enjoyed the exposure of the narrow, rugged ridge over looking the Coirein Lochain and found myself wishing it was longer. I doubt I would've said that last year and I decided whilst up there to look at doing more ridge routes this year. Before long I was following the old fence posts up the last short section to the summit cairn of Stob Ghabhar. I stopped there and was surprised to see a large bumble bee hovering and bouncing wildly past like a child's helium balloon on a string. Damn it was hot and still up there. I phoned Louise to check in and then dropped back the way I had come turning south before the narrow section of the Aonach Eagach then turning South East to descend into Coire na Muic.

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I stopped at the waterfall to cool my roasted feet off in the water and fill my bottles. I was in no hurry and I stayed there enjoying the sound of the water splashing and watching the walkers in dribs and drabs heading up the path I had taken the night before.

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It was a long while before I set off again towards the Alt Toaig and and the walk back out to the car.

7 comments:

  1. From the post heading I thought you were going to tell us all about you dropping your jam sarnie on your shirt.

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  2. That bivy makes so much sense reading that. I see your kit was in a dry bag. Small footprint and low and I expect the wind is no concern with it. fantastic way to do a overnight trip. The hills look great and that ridge looks rather tempting to do.

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  3. Wrong peace Ross ;o)I cannae remember the last time I had a piece and jam tho...

    Hi Martin, yeah the Bivy is so easy for those fast, off the cuff trips and you really can pitch it almost anywhere. I carry the dry bag but there is enough room in there for all my stuff with leaving it outside. Aye that wee ridge is a topper even if it is short. I'll maybe drag Louise up those two hills later, on a clearer day I reckon the view across Rannoch would be spectacular.

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  4. *without* leaving it outside even.

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  5. Looks like a good walk, inspires my to camp high next time round...

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  6. IT was good to get out and get some me time in the hills. Jamie, Fraser Ive seen both your last camps on your blogs and they both look glorious.

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