No damn sleep.
Heyya Baabby, Ooh Haa I Wanna Be your…… it was 12.30 and the drunken revellers from the pub were singing their way back to the bunkhouse. I thought it was funny, especially when one bloke said to his mate “you were in there you could have had her” and then the mate replied “that although he was drunk he wasn’t that fu@@ing desperate”. I thought to myself how many times have I heard that phrase? This racket didn’t stop and went on for at least the next hour and a half – Mark had a word which was to no avail and so there was no alternative for it but to use the ear plugs. Guess what they worked ! So much for that early night and the planned eight hours sleep.
Breakfast at just after 8.00 am was ample to say the least. The hotel bar was full of tired or guilty looking faces. But, given that we didn’t know who was responsible for last night’s racket we decided against using the evil eye.
Horrible weather (typical March snow and clag)
Well wrapped up we set off towards the clouds, only to be stopped by one of the party of women who apologised for her friends behaviours, advised us that the mountain guides hired to take the group up the hill had ended up in compromising positions with one or two of their party and that no one had any more faith in the guides ability to get them to the top of the hill. She proceeded to advise us that they were climbing the hill in aid of charity, however the last thing on our minds was charity. Therefore we ignored this plea for help and set off towards our goal. The route was straight forward, along a reasonable path and into the corrie. Here the cliffs seamed to surround us on three sides and the going became much steeper and slower. For once Mark was struggling (he thought that he was coming down with a cold). Until I realised this I felt great, thinking I was getting one over on Mark. Following the steep rise at the end of the corrie we encounted our first snow and without much of a stop we set off towards Beinn Dorain. The climb was initially quite normal, however after a short while we reached our first decent patch of snow and then more and more of it. For quite some time we trudged upwards kicking steps into the snow and this probably went on for about 500’ of ascent – brilliant. A cairn was reached and bypassed, as we made for the true summit about 200 yards further on. Once there, there were no views, just cloud and snow. I felt low at this point and forced my self to eat a couple of sandwiches and don every item of clothing I had in my sack – including my over trousers and balaclava. Clearly we were the first up the hill that day and it wasn’t until twenty minutes later that we met two blokes on their way down. They’d turned back because they believed it to be too dangerous to continue in these conditions. Anyway near the bottom of the big snow slope Mark once again pulled out his survival bag and the playtime started all over again. At this time a large party (containing the women from outside the hotel) who were on their way up passed by laughing at us. Needless to say it was only a case of time before they had borrowed the survival bag and were joining in. Mark tried valiantly to sell the use of his survival bag for 50p a time without any success.
My navigation was right, but I did loose his compass
The fun over, it was back down to the beallach and up the other side. This was as similar story – rocks – snow – no visibility but a lesser gradient. It was simply a case of walk twenty yards in that direction, stop, take another compass bearing and then repeat. We agreed that we should come out just west of the summit and that is what we did. Again we were on top of another munro “Beinn an Dothaidh” and again all we had was clouds and snow. A discussion followed over whether or not to attempt Beinn Achladadair . Mark gave in and we set off on a southerly bearing. Once we had reached the subsidiary top Mark duly claimed this to be the real top and there followed a repeat of our “Bowfell” disagreement. The culmination was Mark giving me his compass and telling me to do a better job if I could (sorry Mark, but on this instance I’m 100% sure that I was right). Anyway, off we set heading further south with the intention of turning east once we hit steep ground. We tried this but due to the very steep gradient, the total cloud and snow that could have been corniced we decided that it was too risky. The reality would have been a series of traverses across gullies full of snow that were all at an alarming angle and none of which we could see the bottom of. Clearly without crampons or an ice axe it doesn’t bear thinking about the consequences of a fall on this terrain. Common sense then prevailed for once and we tentatively made our way down the extremely steep gradient trying our best to avoid the white stuff. This took an eternity and also took us into a valley that was well off our route. On the way down and in the midst of the most awkward terrain I realised that I had only gone and lost Mark’s compass. Given the predicament that we were in neither of us had any inclination to retrace our steps and look for it. That’ll teach him to give it to me to navigate with ! The only route for us now was to abandon the third munro and head off again towards the beallach for a third time during the day. On the way there much of the cloud lifted and we got some great views of the hillsides, the waterfalls and our route down. When looking up we could tell that we had thankfully taken a wise decision and avoided some serious crags.
From the beallach it was a relatively easy return to the hotel. In the bar that night it was much quieter but still had a great atmosphere especially in front of the stove whilst talking to other hill walkers about recommended routes. Ahhhhh
Marks responce. Do not believe it.
Dear All, especially Chris,
In the interests of clarity, accuracy and completeness (I'll explain the meaning of those word if you require Chris) I do not concede you were 100% right and, by implication I was just a bit wrong, when we debated our whereabouts at or around the second Munro. Anyway, if your map is worn and illegible it's only to be expected that one of us gets it wrong! Please get some proper equipment; it can be dangerous up there you know.
AND BY THE WAY, HOW COME YOU FORGOT TO MENTION WHAT HAPPENED TO MY COMPASS?
Yours, in amazement,
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