Well, after a 2 year wait for the powers to be to STOP filling us with fear (more of that on a later day), it was finally time to head off for my 15th Crossing.
Yes... 15th (WTF was I thinking about) 😨
This was an ambitious route (weather permitting), for an old git like myself, especially as post my 4th knee operation, I had developed somehow a right hip issue.
NOW, this may have been caused by cycling 40+km daily for over a month in Lockdown, or the running daily, or, it may just be that having taken advice over the years, that SPORT is healthy for you, my body was now worn out and fucked.
We may never know the truth.
Then of course, to add to the physical misery, there was the car crash, where I was T-Boned by a lady coming out from a junction, which resulted amongst a set of injuries, concussion aside, in having a grade 3 A/C joint disruption (look it up you lazy buggers). Simply, this means my right clavicle joint is no longer attached, and moves up and down. Worth fixing??? Well, a year on, I'm still waiting to get the medical claim finalised. Would it take a big bag for 14 days.
Day 0, the journey UP, and the disappointment of being a PLEB!
So, all this aside ( I mean, compared to Alan Sloman, I'm in prime condition).
I noodled down to Euston to get the 21.15 sleeper to Inverness.
A short wait at Euston, where I met up with Peter Aylmer and we were on the train.
Time for a meet up in the buffet car, a few beers and a natter on the early bit of the route and then a decent kip in my solo sleeper.
What could be better?
WELL.... Don't get me ****ing started.
Apparently, there were a lot of people on that train, and they had all paid a LOT more than my £150+ to be the UBER ELITE CLUB CLASS ARISTOCRACY!
These were the World Economic Forum Elite of the Sleeper train.
NOT for the likes of the mere sleeper proletariat no sir.
The buffet (nay CLUB LOUNGE as it's now re-branded), was only for the like of the toffs.
I should have read the small print (Al said, and paid the extra).
"Are you ****ing kidding me?"
My state pension is about £8000 a year, I cannot afford to go POSH. I thought I was posh enough.
We could (said the guard), have a cabin delivery, but we would NOT be allowed into the elite carriage until the TOFFS had finished dining.
I did order a sandwich and some beers.
I drank them aka Billy Solo Cabin No Mates.
Next time I'm BLOODY DRIVING UP in my Diesel.
**** the planet and global bloody warming.
This is WAR!
Now, where was I?
Eventually I fell asleep, to wake up to my breakfast bacon roll (not convinced it was bacon as we know it), and a coffee (that turned out to be TEA 🙆)
I couldn't be arsed to fight back now, so off the train we got at stupid o'clock to wander round Inverness for ****ing hours until everyone else finally arrived in the afternoon via plane and train and whatever.
So a coffee shop was sought out and many caffeine beverages were drunk slowly.
Then a wander round town, until it pissed down, and a second under cover coffee was partaken, before returning to the pub to meet up, and watch Peter eat his lunch.
I had a whole half pint.
I'm NOT keen to pour money into the hands of that obnoxious Tim Martin bloke.
Time passed, eventually we wandered down to the bus station to meet up withy the rest, and get into John McCormack's cab, where 6 of us would head to Torridon.
Peter Aylmer, Myself, Carl and Gabriella, Scott Rae and Kate Kowalski.
There were going to be 7 with Laura, but she rang when in the pub to say, NOT coming, she'd tested positive for Covid that morning. Shite timing or what?
Well, what with Covid being the deadliest disease ever to grab a headline & allow population control, it was best she stayed at home.
So, 6 headed to the West Coast and the Torridon YHA.
We now had a spare bunk bed in our room, which worked out well for Kate.
And Torridon it was.
In the YHA, gear and room sorted, we wandered down to the sea for a toe dip prior to an evening meal ( a buy it there and cook it yourself job).
At least they sold beer.
A few pics from the beach wander, in some reasonable weather to follow.
OH, what the weather Gods had planned for the next 48 hours.
If I'd known, I'd probably just have stayed in the bloody YHA until SAT.
Tomorrow was going to be another day.
AND OH what a day!
Day 01 Thu 12th - Torridon to Craig via the bealach and a very long foot river.
The forecast was NOT GOOD, but at least at approx 09.15 it was dry.
TBF, there is only one way from Torridon and that is UP
There were 5 of us heading off.
Peter, Kate, Gabriella, Carl and Me.
As we headed upwards individual paces began to string us out.
And then THE RAIN BEGAN 🙆
By the time we got to the first proper river crossing (no pictures sadly), a difficult balancing act over wet rocks and reasonably deep flowing water, Peter, Kate and I were some way ahead.
We all decided to wait for Carl and Gabriella as it wasn't an easy crossing point, and best NOT to lose anyone now.
It was cold and wet.
Everyone was cold by now.
My waterproof gloves (MLD Cuben) were proving to be porous, and my hands were now cold and wet. I SHOULD have brought the bloody Buffalo Mitts! 🙄
We headed off, and varying paces, until the point were the track cuts left.
Still cold and wet, I waited for Carl and Gabriella to make sure they knew the path.
I knew they did, I was just checking.
Once they caught up, Carl said it's OK, crack on, we'll be fine.
"OK buddy, see you later on!"
AND I headed off, eventually going past Peter and Kate.
TODAY, was NOT a day for too much stopping.
As I headed up, the wind and rain increased.
The paths were all awash.
It was walking up a small stream.
By now, my feet were damp.
Actually as I headed up towards the 2nd Bealach, most of me was wet.
Waterproof coats are fine, but they have this sodding great big hole at the top where your head pokes out, and lets the water drip in.
|Me, now wearing everything other than spare clothes.|
Even my PHONES (yes I have 2) are in the waterproof coat pockets, my stomach isn't square,
It's called a Challenge Right?
Today was more about mental fortitude than actual physical inconvenience.
I guess it was also about fitness levels too.
The additional 200+ metres would have been foolish. I erred on the side of survival.
By now, I had already decided I would NOT be stopping unless this wind and rain stopped too. Today was a head down day. Normally I would have a rest every 2 hours, take weight off the feet, and stare at the scenery.
I grabbed a chocolate bar from a soggy rucksack pocket, fought the sideways gusts, and ate on the hoof, for what it was worth.
And I should have drunk more too, but we'll come to that tomorrow.
I was now heading back down hill.
Thank the ***K tonight I would have a bed inside a hostel, rather than a tent.
As I headed down, the weather did NOT ease off.
By the time I was finally descending towards the bottom, and still being battered by crosswinds, my left foot was hurting on the outside.
This was I guess, a combination of wet and slippery contoured ground, damp socks, and the elastic laces that I realised gave insufficient sideways support.
I would be changing those buggers tonight, NOW was not the time! I would keep them though, as useful bits of shock cord.
As I hit the bottom track that heads parallel to the road towards Craig Hostel, the worst of the rain finally ebbed away.
Not to worry, it would hose down again just before I got to the hostel.
I should have taken some of the hostel TBH.
Not sure why I didn't.
What can I say about the last 2½ km of the road walk? 😲 CARS!
I went round the back.
I was greeted by Simon wearing a mask. (an interesting character).
Lucky I didn't mention the school party in the YHA the night before, or the pub, or talking to Laura (who had tested positive) on a phone 🤔🤔
I was booked in, he may have some OCD tendencies, like.
"LEAVE THE POLES OUTSIDE!"
I took most of the outside clothes off to hang in the drying room.
Then into to try and see if ANYTHING I had was dry.
Martha was already there.
OMG, she had put her sleeping mat on the bunk 😲😱
Well, that wasn't allowed.
Simon has a thing about sleeping bags!
So, anyway, I settled in, sorted some stuff out.
I mentioned that as far as I knew, there should be 4 more arriving, but I didn't know how long, and 2 of them were likely to be a long long way behind.
Eventually Peter and Kate arrived and got settled in.
TIME PASSED, but NO SIGN of Carl and Gabriella.
We made food and had tea and coffee.
By 20.30 still no sign.
Peter decided that if no show by 21.00 we would ring it in as a precaution and we spoke to Sue.
Around about 21.30 I got a text message from Carl.
They had put a tent up in poor conditions near Loch Coire Lair (about 14km into the day). We told Sue. At least they were safe, a sigh of relief.
He was OK, but by the next morning I almost felt he blamed me for it, having turned some people away, as if I was their keeper???
By about 22.30 everyone was ready for bed.
The forecast for tomorrow was just as bad 🙄🙆♂🙆♂️
Day 02 Fri 13th - Craig to Loch Monar & the Meig Crossing.
High toutes were out again, so my Sgurr Choinich, Sgurr a Chaorachair & Bidean a Eoin Dearg (red) original plan, along with my plan B or Carn nam Fiaclan & Maoile Lunndaidh (blue) were out.
Today was the river march and hope that the Meig was crossable at one of the normal fording point(s)
Hence, not too many pictures today either.
Kate and Peter had headed off first, saying that we would easily catch them long before the crossing point.
So I started out today's walk with Martha.
There is a very nice building here (locked)
Also a smaller bothy style building (also locked).
But for a bit of passing shelter, there is THE SHED.
It actually has a heater, and enough room to swing a small cat (plus 2 bunks).
Peter and Kate were here already, plus Paul Myersclough and another chap whose name eludes me.
It was seriously cosy.
Paul had stayed there the previous night.
We stayed here about 30 minutes, amidst damp and humid dripping clothing.
It was a shelter.
We could hear the wind and the rain lashing into the shed.
|Me, Kate, Paul & Peter|
(picture by Martha)
From this point on, much of the track shown on the map is next to non existent.
This is a theme between the reality of a Scottish track, and the fantasy of the OS maps. My theory is that OS maps are now just researched from an office using Google maps and eating pizza. I may malign them!
As we went along, we looked for likely crossing points over a widening fast flowing river, finally getting to the point where we should have been able to ford it.
As we stood looking at it another squall blasted through.
People started to put up shelters.
I did not want to stop here.
It would make the next day very very tough, and no guarantee the water level would drop, as more rain was forecast.
I wandered back to the crossing point to look again and plan.
It was potentially doable, but it was if possible going to be tough.
I decided to bite the bullet on this one, as at that point nobody else was.
Martha, Paul and I think Kate and Peter were back now.
I stripped down to underpants & waterproof top.
Put sandals on.
Chucked everything into my pack, not clipped on (shoes on outside), and with a final comment.
"I'm going for it.
If I get across I am NOT coming back.
If I don't get across (Walker 473), you'll have to call it in." 😬😬
I headed into the water.
I reckon it took over 5 minutes to get across.
It was lean into water, use poles, single steps keep balance as best.
The water was pushing hard.
It was also bloody freezing.
The stones were a tad slippy.
I took a diagonal line, looking for the shallowest bit and moving into the flow for best stability.
Finally emerging onto the other side.
Even my underwear was wet by now.
I hoped it was just the water 😬💩
Paul was next across.
He had longer legs.
Martha the last.
She didn't even change.
Just strode through it, with a couple of interesting moments.
Peter & Kate stayed, we wouldn't see them until the end now.
We took a while getting shoes and wet socks back on.
It was cold, but at least the rain had held off to allow a bit of drying time.
We waved bye, and headed off on what would be a bloody long hike to camp by the Loch.
This track is hit and miss at places.
It also crosses the stream (not possible today, so we needed to climb up).
Paul was ahead by a fair distance (he was on a mission, maybe the much later start from the hut).
I was struggling with cramp in a niggling right calf muscle.
A combination of the ground conditions, the cold, and more importantly taking on board woefully insufficient water over the last 48 hours.
I was going to need to do some serious re-hydration at camp.
The ground was a lot more rugged than I remembered from 2007.
Looked for a flat spot, and then put tent up.
It had stopped raining for it a bit, but it was going to lash down again overnight.
Martha gave me some Magnesium tablets to help with the cramp, and I collected 3 litres of water, plus drinking nearly 2 whilst collecting it.
Tomorrow I needed to carry and drink more.
At least tomorrow finished in a camp site AND A POD.
I did sleep well.
Lots of deer poo about, I guess there may have been ticks.
I did the good old hand tick test before putting the tent up.
Didn't see any.
|Lots of damp stuff hanging.|
It would be going back on damp in the morning.
Martha had headed off earlier.
Paul was doing 2 days to Cannich.
I packed away ready to head off.
Hoping for a nicer day, and maybe, just maybe that Corbett.
It was still very very wet underfoot.
The hills were clearing, but under cloud.
I was hoping for no rain and it would burn off.
it looked close and worth a shot.
I said to Martha.
"Well, we are here now, and it's only just up there, so it would be rude now not to do it"
We needed to go up the left.
I had planned to go along the river and then turn left, but looking at the hill, it looked like it would be doable from going across to the fence line and to the left of Creag Innis na Larach.
It was tiring, and the sun was out.
Only 1 layer was needed.
Stopping for water where possible on the never ending off-piste tussocky climb, that just went up and up. In fact, up for 600m, and NONE of it on anything other than tough ground.
The map route below is a rough guess.
My inReach had run out of power yesterday 🙄
The may call Sgorr na Diollaid (a pimple), but it bloody well isn't a pimple at all.
|That's pretty much how steep it was the whole way up|
At times hands not poles were needed.
|It never ever seemed to get any bloody closer|
|And still it's in the distance|
I needed to add some precautionary tape to my toe (wet ground and wet socks).
And then it was time to descend.
All I can say is, that the navigation off is tough too.
There is very very little to go on other than eyes and a compass.
|Navigation Off (in all directions)|
It was also later than expected, having taken a long, long time to get to the top.
Just needing to avoid dropping too far into the gorge, and ideally dropping off Cnoc na Moine on the path.
The latter was actually easier said than done, and we ended up I think slightly too far west, and dropping down via some steep woods.
Slippery slidy stuff, we eventually got to the track, and a walk up to Craskie (with NO issues), we finally hit the road and the rather tedious, but oh so thankfully easy going approximate 6 km into Cannich and the campsite.
Also, he'd booked a table at the pub for 18.30.
I messaged back to say, that we would be later than that.
He rebooked for 20.00 (we actually started the m4eal at 19.30)
Oh the joy!
I'm guessing around 18.00.
Martha's friend (I think Mark?) met us at the crossroads, and wandered the last bit to the campsite.
I was rather glad to not be putting up a tent.
The POD was a bit frugal and cramped, but it was a shelter for the night.
Well top man, he did.
Lucky as by the time we went back to the pub in the evening, the shop was shut.
Over 40 people withdrawn already 😨
On a plus note, the forecast for the next few days were not bad!
Ben Macdui may be on, on day 8 🤞🤞
Craig was impressive 🤣