The little pools of happy smiling Challengers from my descent into Slumberland had all dissolved in the pools of water filling the ditches either side of Sally Solomid and only the little blown slug-lets remained, staring up at me from my titanium cup. Some bastard had been drinking my whisky in the night as the flask was now barely half full. Desperate for a pee and in an unfamiliar tent I only just made it outside in time.
I’m not one to pee into bottles or litre mugs or whatever in the awkward confines of my tent. No. I need a fresh air pee, staring about me, admiring the fresh sun-dappled dawn. I enjoy the first pee of the day au natural – it’s just that you have to get out of the tent smart-ish, before it all goes horribly wrong.
Mission successfully accomplished I etched the zip arrangement of the Oookworks inner firmly onto my hard-drive, with back-up copies all over the shop. That was close.
[CLICK MAP TO ENLARGE]
Today’s route plan (should I really be saying this?) was actually not too bad. Lord Elpus had anticipated the problems of the difficult second
album day and had plotted a shorter, if slightly more hilly walk. He knew that our flabby Fenland muscles would not be used to two consecutive days of struggle and so had provided an acceptable compromise. He had obviously anticipated the weather: Cold blustery winds with soaking showers chucked in to add to the misery. Here’s what it looked like on the ground:
It probably looks quite beautiful to you right now, sat as you are on your comfortable settees with a nice glass of red in your hand ~ all ethereal and full of wonder and mystery. However, back in the real world, where we were, it was pretty cold and horrid. Nip outside for a moment, douse yourself down with the garden hose and stick an enormous rucksack on your back and then look again at that picture. Then walk up to the top of that block of flats thirty times with a bit of a hangover.
So, back in our real world there was a gentle warming walk up a forest Rover-road, followed by a bloody awful slog up through some sodden conifer plantation and out onto what is now open fell, which on the map was shown as plantation. The forestry workers had cut a great chunk of the forest down, leaving huge piles of brash and a quagmire of heavy plant tracks that had completely obliterated the path. The hefty showers were topping up the bogginess of the place to ensure our assault course was set to level ten. How I got to the top I’ll never know. It was miserable.
Having got to the top of the ridge, there was no triumphal celebrations, no planting of national flags. Oh no! As I dumped my rucksack to the ground (with a pleasing “splutch” as it hit the sodden ground) the other two bastards carried on walking – disappearing over the horizon!
I left them to it and sat on my pack to devour a second breakfast of a Mars bar, peanuts and whisky. Summits should be celebrated. New vistas are opened up and there is the elation of having beaten your knackered body into submission to get to this new view, this whole new section of your day. It is definitely not the time to go beetling onwards and down into the next hell-hole before you have gleefully grabbed at, and consumed, all the richly deserved endorphins!
But such are the perils of hiking with partners. After the briefest of brief rest-stops, I shouldered the pack and set off to follow the keen, keener, keenest bastards, down the forty-five degree running bog that was the hillside that slid down into Gleann an Fhiodh. There was spiky shrubby things that pulled at my pack, huge swampy gloopy patches that pulled at my boots and big greasy bits that prompted bum-slides down to the bottom.
There was a brief respite for an early lunch at a side-stream, but it was too cold to linger for long and before we knew it we had found ourselves in Ballachulish, to stock up with pie products at the little grocers, and, an unexpected bonanza, we found ourselves in a pub!
The above photo is illuminating for a couple of reasons. Phil is looking happy (obviously – he is in an unexpected pub) and Andy is looking nervous, tense, perhaps? That’s because the lad had not visited any porcelain for quite a number of days. He is worried that the extra pressure from the application of Scottish fizzy beer will suddenly produce a devastating deluge, and he is already wearing his spare pair of knickers. I am sitting well away, at a safe distance.
After the delights of the pub and having been handed Stormin’ Norman’s laminated map of his first two days of the Challenge by the attractive barmaid, we lurched outside into the the horrid daylight only to have to stop almost immediately to don full waterproofs for another little stormlet careering up Loch Leven.
The Glencoe coffee shop was a little oasis, to further top up the mounting Vesuvius that was Mad’n’Bad’s digestive tract. Still no eruption. Something had to give soon.
Then there was the vertiginous clamber straight up the shoulder of the Pap of Glencoe that was rewarded with the following view: That’s the Ballachulish bridge, four miles away, spanning Loch Leven
[CLICK ON THIS PICTURE TO MAKE IT BIGGER, ‘COS IT’S GORGEOUS!]
Then it was quite a charming clatter along the hill path above the main road to Kinlochleven, that drops you quite suddenly down a stumbley stony bit down to the road.
We stopped, on schedule again, at Caolasnacon campsite, which is wonderfully friendly and does deals for backpackers. We had finished the day some eight miles further north than we had started yet barely six miles further east. Phil put it all down to the Ordnance Survey’s complete inability to fathom out Scotland’s geography, and continental drift.
Andy & I put it down to bloody rotten route planning.