Friday, 3 February 2012

Return of the villain

The decision was made quite late at work, 22:00ish, on the Friday night that “damn it I will take tent” when I go for a walk the next day. That also meant my route choice was pre-made as I've few hills in the cross-hairs already for wild camping trips this year. I also had to get myself to the 24 hour Asda to stock up on some last minute “hill foods” as my shelves were bare. All of last years inactivity has meant I've not really replenished any shortages in kit. Last years inactivity also meant I was out of practice in the art of packing a rucksack with overnight kit in it, so it was at least 2:30am when my head finally hit the pillow. That meant an alpine start was definitely off the cards. No problem though, I hadn't been intending to rush anyway.

Leaving Hamilton and up the M8 to the A82 was a breeze. The roads were clear although being covered in salt and grime meant my window skooshers were on full overdrive and I was beginning to run out alongside Loch Lomond. I stopped to clean the windscreen with the contents of my water bottle whilst watching the remains of an inversion burning off to the sound of Pink Floyd's “Poles Apart” drifting out the rolled down window. I was enjoying this trip already! The Real food cafe was shut, so I topped myself up with a quick coffee from the machine in the Green Welly stop and topped up the now empty skooshers in the car park before the last stretch of road into Glen Etive itself.

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I parked up, changed my footwear and left the locals to keep an eye on Daphne as I shouldered my pack and hit the slopes. Oooft! The slopes hit back! Jeez, it's been a while since I carried a pack with overnight kit in it I thought...and even longer since I humped one up a hill with winter ironmongery strapped to it too. Still, I slowed my pace a little and soon I settled into a gait more fitting to the gradient I was on. It wasn't long before I threaded my way between the 2 crags mentioned on the Walkhighlands route and going got easier.

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As soon as I hit the snow line it just felt right! It'd been far too long since I've been out to play in the hills and I realised just how much I'd been missing it. I'm not sure where I “lost my way” over the last year or so? Somewhere between the constant overtime hours and the decline in lung function I think. I know it's easy to say with hindsight but I reckon now, that that's the period I should've been getting out more often than not. In fact thinking about it, it's not actually that hard to see how couch potatoes fall into the daytime TV trap. So if you're permanently glued to yours, get up, get oot and repeat. Go on, force yourself. Trust me, you'll thank me later.

The camera came out and was pointed at everything, photogenic or not. I wanted this trip to last in my mellon as a reminder that staying still is not an option. I picked my way over the frozen but soggy terrain and took the longest and least direct route where possible. Stopping on rocky outcrops to breathe wheeze in the fresh air I was aware of the cloud base getting closer and closer as I ascended. I had been intending to get onto the ridge proper and camp either somewhere along it or at the summit. Although I was feeling all enthused I wasn't that keen on the prospect of spending the night inside the murky dampness that lingered above. I got as close to it as I dared, about 600metres from according to the GPS, and then reacquainted myself with another old pal.

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I had imagined myself standing there scratching my head trying to remember how to pitch the thing after all this time and ending up with something that resembles the sort of fort you may have made in the kitchen from two dining room chairs and your mums best bed sheets as a child. Nope, not this time. Perfect pitch and up in just a couple of minutes. I really just don't understand the people that complained about the trusty old Laser Competition. I settled in, got my bed out and the stove on to have a cuppa whilst I drew back the red silnylon curtains and enjoyed the view again. There was snow on the ground but the thaw was on again I thought, as it was so wet you could have almost wrung the water from it like a sponge. Still, I had forgotten how long it can take to melt snow for cooking and cuppas.

The sunset never came came. The best I got was a golden flash from somewhere beyond reflected briefly in waters of Loch Etive. As the lights went down I spent a peaceful and enjoyable night drifting in and out of my land rover magazine articles and dozing. I'd also forgotten how long a night in a tent in the winter months can be. I may look into outdoor proofing my Kindle for the next trip. The alarm went off for sunrise and I opened my eyes. I opened them again and realised I hadn't got that wrong it was still dark. Proper dark. Hmm, looking out the tent I found that everything had a kind of washed out and bleak looking dark blue water colour feel to it. No sunrise pics for me then either. I rolled over and tried to drift off until I could ignore my bladder no more.

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The cold fresh air outside had me properly awake and feeling refreshed so I decided to get a brew on whilst I decided what I was going to do that day. Again I could almost just reach up and touch the cloud base. I had wanted to camp on Beinn Maol Chaluim for a while, not because it's one of the big “must do” hills of Scotland but more so because it's quieter and surrounded by the big boys. The views from it should be fantastic from looking at the map I reckon. I decided to leave the ridge proper for another day then and explore the lower slopes some more. I'll come back in the spring I reckon for a summit camp...maybe even a bivvy? The snow came on for a bit and mood lighting got dimmer again. So dim that I ended up have breakfast by head torch just to brighten the tent interior up. The stove was struggling to eke the last dregs of gas out of the tin, one last cuppa and pack up then.

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Kit admined, I stomped off around towards Coire Cearcaill and kept an eye pointing upwards. The break never came so I gradually lost the little altitude I had and found myself meandering around again. It was certainly no hardship though. It really is great to just be on open hillside again after such a while away. I wound my way back towards the Landy noticing just how much the snow had receded even overnight. It really is a pity that this years winter has been so lack lustre after the previous two. Still, I like spring too and there's always next year.

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Back at Daphne I rummaged about in the back and found another gas tin so got the kettle on one last time as I changed my shoes and reflected on the previous day and night. It wasn't much by mountaineering standards, laughable even. In fact some of the more aloof may even sneer but I couldn't care less. I'm happy to slow down a little and at least I'm getting oot. It's working wonders for my lungs but also more importantly, for the state of my mind.



I feel like my old self again.

9 comments:

  1. No sneering here, excellent post and great photies. Looks baw cold but great none-the-less. Really enjoyed reading this and glad I found your blog. I really like the image of the cairn table ;)

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  2. Ahh Thanks Tookiebunten! Cairn Table really is a special place for me. My Grandpa was from Muirkirk and worked in the Kames Colliery for a long time before moving to the waterboard. I haven't been up it for a while...need to remedy that soon.

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  3. Well done - It looked a bit nippy. I did like the video: Brings it all alive.
    :-)

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  4. Ah, good man Sandy. That's a proper day oot.

    :0)

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  5. Excellent stuff, it doesn't matter how 'worthy' a route is if you get what you need from it. It made for a great Monday morning read!

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  6. Cheers folks.

    Aye, worthy or not, I got my fix. Don't think I'll get out this weekend but I'm looking forward to PTC's thing the following week. Should be a good laugh I reckon.

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  7. I'm a Cumnock boy and there's a pretty good chance that your Grandpa dug holes with some of my family at some point :) Next time your thinking of heading that way give me plenty of warning and I should be able to join you. Hopefully I'll see you at PTC shindig in a couple of days ;)

    http://walkwithtookie.com/66754556

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  8. As you say "some of the more aloof may even sneer" I think that is the problem of blogging, if you are not seen pushing the limits then what you do is not appreciated by some. In my view it is what you the blog writer values is more important than what others value.

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  9. I'll be there Tookie!

    Aye, what is it they say Nielsen?

    "hike your own hike"...

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