Thursday, 22 May 2014

Cheesecake with extra toppings

More photos

Just had 5 days scurrying around from Kintail to Torridon trying to keep up with the unstoppable Duxbury machine.

Biblical rain greeted us at Shiel Bridge on Saturday evening, as Dan, Simon and Chris were battling their way over the 12 Munros from Cluanie to Five Sisters. This unremitting deluge was the kiss of the death to the much-loved tracker. Water ingress put the light out on the tracker, but Dan was still fully charged. Sue and Phil were looking pretty tired and frazzled at the van on Shiel Bridge campground. Ellie, Benjamin and I took refuge at the Kintail Lodge Hotel for one night of comfort.

5am Sunday morning, I jogged the 6km up a sodden water-logged track from Morvich to Glenlicht bothy to find Dan, Chris Lumb and Simon Stainer gathering themselves for another battering on the hill in wind, rain, low cloud.  After a quick update on where Dan wanted the tent that evening, I jogged back out, had breakfast at Kintail Lodge, then drove in pouring rain back through Glen Shiel to Inverness for new wellies for Benjamin, before hitting the Cannich Campsite to rejoin Sue & Phil.  We packed overnight camp kit for Dan, I then headed up Glen Affric, and hiked in 8km to pitch the tent below Carn Eighe.

Monday morning we headed into the stunningly beautiful Glen Strathfarrar, and hung around in peace and tranquility waiting for our steely gazed hero to appear. After seeking him here, and seeking him there, Benjamin was delighted to finally meet Dan - "the man who climbs snowy mountains".

Now it was my turn to climb some hills. As Dan put it, the pacers start out bouncy on Day 1, are broken on Day 2, and ready to go home on Day 3.

So, I was feeling bouncy enough on Day 1, with an easy section over the 4 Strathfarrar Munros. As Graham mentioned in his Patten's Patter, all the Scottish hills have made up Gaelic names that nobody is likely to remember, so you have to call them things like "Stathfarrar 4" or "Fisherfield 5".  After an easy saunter over the 4, we arrived at the tents near Loch Monar, lovingly pitched by Phil and John. (Getting the tents back was a whole different story, given that the Strathfarrar gate is locked on Tuesday's, and the road is 16 miles)

Looking north from the Strathfarrar Munros (Carn nan Gobhar)

Tuesday, my Day 2, would be a whole different story.  We were away by 4.55am, and the pace was relentless from the word go.

Sunrise over Strathfarrar

Dan at the summit of Carn nan Gobhar, the first of today's 10 Munros

Dan romping across the Mullardoch Four 

The four Mullardoch Munros were ticked off before 9am, followed by a long crossing to Lurg Mhor.

The long crossing to Lurg Mhor

We reached the summit of Bidean a' Choire Sheasgaich (pron. Cheesecake) in time for a chat with Ian and friend, for Munro no.6. I was still feeling OK at this point, but there was quite a roller-coaster to come.

Summit of Bidean a' Choire Sheasgaich (aka Cheesecake)

The view from Bidean a' Choire Sheasgaich. Just 4 hills to go.

A fiddly route around Corbett Beinn Tarsuinn, then 3 more Munros, with a short sharp hailstorm on Maoile Lunndaidh. Then the real sting in the tail. A full-blown descent and re-ascent to Moruisg with nothing left in the tank. Dan stormed away from me up the stalkers' path zig-zags. A tiny red speck in the distance. I eventually found him at the summit cairn frantically making phone calls to sort the next few days. An overnight camp had originally been planned before Moruisg, so this was the first day of the trip where Dan bagged an extra top compared with his schedule.

We could see the van and car in Glen Carron as soon as we started descending, and it was a relief to finish after nearly 15 hours, with just over 4500m ascent, and around 30 miles (my Garmin packed in long before the end).

As predicted, Day 3, I was ready to go home. We awoke in Glen Carron to dismal torrential rain and low cloud, but Dan was soon on his bike and battling the spray on the A890 up to Achnasheen.

Sodden weather in Glen Carron
Bike ride up to Achnasheen for Fionn Bheinn
Heading up Fionn Bheinn - see the clean new Mudclaws
Shoe change after Fionn Bheinn and straight back on the bike

We plodded up Fionn Bheinn in squelchy sodden conditions. Then back on the bike, a quick bite to eat at the van, and another cycle to Achnashellach.  Alan Dawson and Chris Watson just happened to be waiting for us for a quick chat whilst Dan changed his shoes, and we headed off into the driech sodden wilderness en route to Torridon.

The going was pretty fast up into Coir Lair on a good stalkers path, before we broke off for a steep climb to Beinn Liath Mhor. We took a good line to Sgorr Ruadh in the mist, and enjoyed Sue's excellent sandwiches to get us up the final 200 metres.

The crossing to Maol Chean-dearg was a monster 750m drop, a wade across a deep fast flowing river, then a monster 750m climb, thankfully most of the way up a good stalkers' path.

We fiddled around trying to find a decent way down, before biting the bullet and thrashing down a nasty shattered-quartzite boulder slope to pick up the stalkers path all the way to Torridon, to reach the road in just over 6½ hours.

Some panic and exhaustion set in when we realised there was no car at the road, and neither of us had a mobile phone. To increase the chance of finding Phil, we split up - Dan walking north and me heading south towards the Torridon Hotel.  Luckily Phil soon appeared, and Dan had already jumped straight on the bike for the cycle to the foot of Beinn Alligin. In Dan's haste, he hadn't bothered changing shoes, so I've no idea how he managed to cycle up the killer zig-zags towards Inveralligin with wet Inov-8s on Look pedals.

A quick change, and we were all seated in the Kinlochewe Hotel for a fine meal and beers.

My work was done, but Dan has it all to do again tomorrow!

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