Mr Walker’s movements were greeted with relief this morning. The unexploded bomb that was his digestive tract had finally been dealt with, much to the relief of Andy and his walking companions.
The weather was poor again ~ blustery winds, low cloud, heavy showers turning to continual rain, heavier winds and temperatures set to plummet later on in the day. This meant that our rather nice stravaig amongst the Mamores would be abandoned in favour of a more sensible route along Lochs Eilde Mor and Beag and then decide on either nipping to Staioneag or Meanach bothies, depending on the state of the Abhainn Rath, which can be quite tricky.
[CLICK MAP TO ENLARGE]
But first we had the little dash along the road into Kinlochleven, so that we could pick up supplies for the cheese & wine party scheduled for the evening of Day 5. But before shopping we decided on a visit to the Tailrace Inn – the full Scottish with pots of tea and piles of toast. Without this injection of superfoods the brutal clamber out of Kinlochleven up to the lochs would have been a non-starter. It’s a 1300 foot straight-up haul with heavy packs – that’s a full oxygen job for us Flatlanders, with risks of embolisms, nose bleeds and dizzy spells.
It was noticeable that Mr Walker was still adhering to his slimming regime; he opted for a slimming skinny latte and some dry toast. The pub was wonderful – soft bouncy settees and womblike warmth. Looking out of the windows it was all cold and wet – not the place to be at all. However, it had to be done, and the sooner we got out there, the sooner all this unpleasantness could stop. (This walking lark is horribly over-rated.) So we shuffled out – straight out into the warmth of the Co-op to buy wine and pies.
We’ll draw a veil over the next bit of navigation. All I’ll say is that I was not doing the map reading. I noticed that we were heading towards the Blackwater penstocks. This was at right angles to our intended direction of travel and so we retraced our steps, hoping that no-one had witnessed this shameful lapse. So we’ll all just have to keep quiet about that.
Mr Walker’s fitness fad seemed to have paid off, and as Phil & I laboured under the weight of five added pounds of cholesterol, the blighter set off up the hill like a spring chicken. He waltzed up ahead, continuously a hundred or so feet above us, as we stood there spluttering and wheezing, as he snapped away with his camera, mostly pointing the thing at us, propped up against each other for both moral and physical support.
[THE VIEW BACK DOWN THE BRUTAL HILL]
Thankfully, all hellish things come to an end and we made the top of our climb to sprawl about untidily on the hillside, gasping for air. Then it became colder quite quickly and every available item of clothing was pressed into service. The trudge along the lochs in this weather wasn’t all that pleasant.
There was brief respite from the wind and rain amongst the walls of a tumbled ruin, but then it was onwards once more to the forlorn little ruin of Luibeilt, tucked under its sheltering pines.
Once again, we were confronted with the appalling destruction of the paths from the Scottish Six Days Trial riders. Hundreds of the ignorant bastards had torn up the delicate peaty soils and turned it into a quagmire. They get seed-funding from the Scottish Government to do this. It’s centred on Fort William and every year these louts tear up hundreds of miles of paths hereabouts. It is an utter disgrace.
We spotted Bob Tucker’s tent sheltered under a bank, but as there was no sign of life we left him to himself as we scouted down stream to find ourselves a decent crossing point over the river.
It wasn’t too bad at all, and so rather than fanny about I just plunged straight in and yomped across and over the bogs the other side to the shelter of Meanach bothy. Of course this does mean soggy boots, but they are leather and un-lined so I wasn’t too concerned.
We made the bothy into our home for the night and I set about drying my socks and we generally made ourselves comfy with soup and chocolate. Andy produced his ghetto blaster and before long we were partying to the White Album.
I noticed that someone had left a dog-eared copy of “Laughter in the Next Room” (Osbert Sitwell – there’s a name to roll round your tongue after a few drinks). I was sure no one would miss Appendix H at the back of the book. It made excellent boot drying material for my Scarpas. Surely they wouldn’t miss Appendix G either?… This was inevitably followed by Appendices F to A, followed by the index. And after the last page of the dreary tome was swiped for the heels of my boots, well, there was no point worrying anymore, and the rear two hundred pages swiftly followed the appendices travels into my boots.
So, thank you Osbert Sitwell. A fine book!
You’ll see from the picture above that the whisky supplies were now perilously low. Something had to be done. Just one glass of the red I had lugged up the hill from Kinlochleven would be fine, surely? Then buoyed up by the general bonhomie and Andrew’s disco and lightshow, another glass followed.
Oh dear. We did manage to leave about a glass in the platypus. After all, we had a cheese & wine party to think about in two days time...
Sleep was a precious commodity that night, as the bothy mouse seemed to be wearing bloody great wooden clogs as he beetled about his business all night. I caught him in the beam of my head-torch at one point, but the little devil was quite cunning and nipped behind chair legs, the table and the wood bag in a game of cat & mouse.
Outside, the wind was getting up and the rain was thrashing against the bothy. In fact it was turning into a blizzard out there. Phil wondered out loud how Bob was in his tent on the other side of the river, as we passed the last of the whisky to each other. Schadenfreude is the only thing that keeps us going at times.