For the third year running we were once again on our way to Scotland for our annual stay at Voringfoss. This time we had chosen to do the Easains (or Yin and Yang, the Chinese twins as Hamish Mcneish calls them). They were chosen due to their proximity to our route of travel and the likely length of the walk. The route from the main road took us past Tulloch railway station, down a pretty wooded track and past an old wooden shack. Following his defection from Germany this little wooden building was where Rudolf Hess was detained for a chunk of the Second World War. No doubt it was chosen for its remote location. A couple of hundred yards further down the road and we arrived at Fersit, which would be our starting point. It simply comprised of a turning circle, a small collection of mature houses, a telephone box and all in all formed a pretty setting at the head of Loch Treig.
For some reason and not for the first time Mark seemed to be taking forever to sort himself out. Similarly not for the first time I ran out of patience and set off on the gradual slopes that lead off towards the ridge (it must have been something to do with spending all those hours cooped up in the back of Paul’s car). Either way decent progress was made and after hanging around for some time Paul and Mark finally appeared. When we reached the ridge we came across a rather unusual concrete structure. It turned out to be a remnant of the once substantial ore mine that worked this area. Apparently the ore was extracted, lowered down via some form of bucket and cable system to a narrow gauge railway line and then transported to the smelting plant in Fort William. Up here on the hill, this old concrete pillar was just about all that was left. Whilst plodding up the zig zags towards Meall Cain Dearg we heard the rumble of a freight train all the way down by the loch side. It was so diminutive and simply looked like a miniature model as the Munros that flanked the other side of the loch dwarfed it. Mark, using his binoculars believed one of them to be 37145. Either this was the most amazing train spotting location either of us had ever come across or Mark was up to his old habits of “cabbaging” again. During this spell Paul was making reasonable progress up this stepped ridge whilst Mark and I hung back, taking our time and having a chat with a pair of Jocks that were just returning from bagging the pair. I can distinctly recall them saying that their tally of Munros was now in the early seventies. How long would it take to achieve so many? At the time of writing this report Mark and I are now at 79, so the answer would have been approximately four and a half years. It’s amazing what a little application can achieve. One or two steep rises and we were there on the summit. We even had a few glimpses of the sun as we sat looking across towards The Grey Corries and the slightly bigger twin of Stob Coire Easain.
The route from one Munro to the next was really easy; it was simply a case of descending and reascending three hundred feet. Very little changed from one summit to the other and so Paul and I decided that we might as well start making our tracks down into Coire Laire. Mark, perhaps wanting a little solitude decided to remain on the summit for a little while longer and promised to catch us up soon. As virtually everyone who climbs these two Munros takes the same return route we decided that we’d try something different and drop down into this corrie. It was damn steep and hard work, however we soon found ourselves two thousand feet lower down the northwest flank of this ridge. Where was Mark? He should have been in sight by now. Whilst I had a view right back up the descent route I decided to let Paul continue further down towards the river (ensuring that he remained in sight). From here I hoped that he‘d be able to spot Mark making his descent. I scoured the hillside, shouted Mark’s name and the only response I received was a long distant view of a great stag that had looked up at me to see what all the fuss was about. There was only one thing for it, I would have to reclimb the hill and go in search of Mark. That was the last thing that I fancied doing, but after all he may have had a fall or something. Just as I had resigned myself to climbing all that way back up Paul yelled at me to say that he could see Mark making his way across the hillside some way off our descent route. Needless to say Mark and I had words when we finally regrouped. It’s strange to think how roles have changed. These days (2003 as I write this) it’s far more likely that it would be me that would be a little reckless and take on solo descents and the like.
Having reached the Allt Laire we could now understand why every other Munroist returned down the ridge. They would have a gradual descent, firm ground to walk on and a shorter route, whereas we had this really steep descent, a long march through boggy ground and a great big loop that contoured around Creag Fhiaclach to contend with. There is always a silver lining to attempting a different route and in this case we had the company of a hare, a pair of Ptarmigan, the aforementioned stag and the chance to walk back to the car on the old railway track bed. It must have been a cracking sight to see the old narrow gauge steam engines working hard around the tight curves and up and down the steep gradients. In fact I’m sure that I’ve heard somewhere that there is some movement to rebuild this line as a tourist route. We’ll have to wait and see. It was surprising how close the old track bed took us to the car park and yet when we set off we had no idea that it was there. It just goes to show how quickly nature reclaims derelict man made structures.
Needless to say Mark and I were back on talking terms pretty quickly and all in all the start of Scotland 1998 had been just right. We were now just right for a meal and the pubs or Fort William.