Best Laid Plans – 3 summits avoided: Carn Dearg, Sgor Gaibhre and Beinn Bheoil

17 07 2011

And so, later than I had intended in 2011, I got my summit avoidance started again. For those of you new to the blog and the art of summit avoidance, I am very slowly working my way through all of the munros with the intent of almost getting to the top of all of them. That’s right, I struggle my way to the top of yet another featureless lump of grass, and turn back before I reach the summit.

Crazy you may think, and you are probably right. I certainly felt it was crazy last week as I slogged up yet another bog sapping hill only to find a misty cairn within eyeshot – the signal to turn around and retreat – and pretty much nothing else other than a view of some similarly dire surrounding hills. But hold on, it’s not just about the walking is it? I certainly hope not.

I had a cracking couple of days with Peter. Plan was to drive to Bridge of Orchy, catch the train to Corrour then head of and avoid Carn Dearg and Sgor Gaibhre, stay at Ben Ader Cottage and then do a couple the next day, head to Culra Bothy, stay over there for the night then have a wee walk along some ridge or other which would allow me to “tick” another 4 avoided summits. Best laid plans.

It all stared well, well it didn’t really. It all stared pretty badly actually. Up early and ready to head off on Thursday morning at 8.30am for the drive to Bridge of Orchy, Pete sends me a text “train is now on the summer timetable. Leaves BoO at 11.23. Sorry!”. Great! Some thumb twiddling then till half nine.

Off we set, made the station despite the best efforts of some atrocious drivers on the way up to hold us up, and arrived at the station. Train arrives, on we go, time for beer. As you do at half eleven. Very conveniently they had no vegetarian sandwiches and I was stuck with an oatbar and Tennents. Peter, was more concerned about avoiding the train fare, and in achieving his goal, probably made his entire weekend in that moment when he leapt of the train onto the platform at Corrour and waved his hand in triumph at a bemused party of walkers and ticket inspector.

The party of walkers we met were a rather elderly party who declared themselves to be the East Kilbride Mid Week Hillwalking Club. Obviously they were affiliated to the EKHC, but had decided to form a splinter group dedicated only to walking between Monday and Friday. Why was this? had they fallen out with the EK Weekend Hillwalking club over some issue? Was there division in the EKHC which was so deep-rooted, splinter groups were now forming in the manner of the Judean Peoples Front and the Peoples Front of Judea? we dared not ask, we were after all here to enjoy our outing and not involve ourselves in the machinations of the politics of the very noble EKHC.

We bode our farewells and moved on.

It started to piss down.

A rather dull day ensued, highlighted only by the sight of Petes Rock (nothing to do with our Pete, although he claimed it did) and some amazing frogs along the way. Two summits were avoided, and some misdirection by our navigator, added another half an hour onto our journey.

As we headed towards Ben Alder cottage, we decided to take the direct route rather than trace our way along the ridge, and dropped down toward a small lochan. As we descended, the clouds gathered ominously, we were in for rain and it was gonna be heavy. when we got to the lochan it was clear that we were gonna have to find our way around the series of bogs and marshes which were crevasse like in their awkwardness to navigate. Just when you thought you were through them, another one appeared requiring a detour. It was now pissing down heavily and I was soaked.

It was at this point I lost my footing and went sliding down a muddy embankment only to land at the feet (feet?) of a huge stag. The stag looked at me, looked back towards a young deer hiding behind it and the two of them bolted. I don’t know who shit themselves more! A very special moment.

Pete and I plodded on in the direction of the bothy and upon finally clearing the marsh and bog, it came into sight through the drizzle. With the bothy in sight, I began now to feel tired. As we neared the river, Pete announced that a river crossing may well be required. No problem as I was already soaked, however, they wee burn was running quite fast and high, and actually finding a way to cross was proving difficult. We opted to follow the burn to the loch and hopefully shallower water. Then the bridge came into view. Aye Pete, the bridge, thanks for letting me paddle about like a loony looking for the way across further upstream.

I have to say, what a great wee bothy, and we had it to ourselves. There was some sleeping bags and an inflatable mattress on one of the bunks, however this appeared to be from a work party who had obviously left earlier in the day. They had also very kindly left us their trainers to use as bothy slippers and a copy of the Sun to pack our wet boots with. Ta! The trainers unfortunately were the “white wans” normally on offer at Sports Direct at Braehead worn by Marvin and Danya. We slipped out of our wet clothes and boots and put on the newly acquired bothy slippers. My IQ dropped instantly, Pete’s took a spike.

We made food and settled for the night.

Next morning the sun was up early and so were we, we draped the wet clothes over the timber and scaffolding left by the work party and watched as they dried in the morning sun. Breakfast and coffee was taken and the days plans discussed. We planned to get almost to the top of Ben Boil and Ben Alder then drop down and head to Culra for the night. Evacuation of the bowels ensued prior to the days exertions. It was at this point we discovered ……. Shitehenge. A perfectly formed circle of dirt mounds which concealed various bowel evacuations from travellers gone by. About 15ft in diameter it was almost perfectly formed like the face of a clock with only 10 and 11 o’clock missing. Try as I could to muster a late addition to complete the Henge, I couldn’t. If you are ever in the area, go visit and finish it off.

We headed up towards the bealach between the two munros. This plod will now be known as the plod to the series of never-ending bealachs. Just when you thought you were there, another one loomed in the distance, then another, etc. Not helped by my inability to find a path which followed us all the way up and was only about ten feet away, hey ho!

The weather changed when we got to the saddle. The day which started so beautifully was beginning to turn dark. We opted to ditch the sacks, and head for Beinn Bheoil, then drop back down and head to Ben Alder. Off we set, got the first one and immediately noticed the weather front coming in. As we turned to descend, it started to rain, then hailstones, yes, fecking hailstones in July. We returned to our sacks and decided against Ben Alder, It was looking gloomy and I really could not be bothered getting soaked all over again. We decided to go back to our wee bothy and stay another night and see what Saturday would bring.

We followed the Path, yes the path, back down the hill. Maybe we could complete the Henge after all.

We also found the cave where Prince Charlie hid. If you are ever looking for Price Charlies cave whilst staying at Ben Alder Cottage, you can’t miss it, it is clearly visible from the bothy in a small rock outcrop with a small tree growing out of it. It is also very well illustrated on any OS map.

Back at the bothy, with the rain and black clouds confirming the wisdom of our decision to retreat, Pete decided to head off to the woods to find firewood. Dubious of his reasons for heading to the woods, I let him go. True to his words, he returned soaked with some nice wet firewood. I got the fire going and felt bad for doubting the reason for his visit to the woods.

Before, I had the opportunity to complete the Henge, our solitude in the bothy was disturbed by two visitors. Very decent chaps, however due to the close proximity of the incomplete henge, I wasn’t prepared shit outside the hut in full view, just to finish it off.

It remains incomplete.

Fed and watered and with only a couple of mouthfuls of Morgans spiced rum left (I had overindulged slightly the night before, not realising how much you are drinking when you can’t see the contents inside a water bottle!) I headed to bed early.

Next morning, the decision was taken by Pete and me to make the long walk out and satisfy ourselves with three summits and three summits avoided respectively. Due to Pete only having a 35litre rucksack with him, he was unable to pack 3 pairs of socks (how many days am I going away for? 3 how many pairs of socks would it be wise to pack?Mmmm……2?) and had to settle for 2. I had a similar sized rucksack and managed to get 3 in? I think some outdoor equipment manufacturers need to be investigated here under the trades description act re volumes of space in their 35litre rucksacks. Anyway, the result was that Pete had to walk out with wet socks, yeuck!

My feet were dead comfy and warm, a point I felt worthwhile labouring as we followed the lovely wee path which lead us away from the bothy. Pete didn’t seem to enamoured with my continued observations on the benefits of a three sock rucksack, and just to add to his discomfort, he was being distracted by some embarrassing chaffing. I pushed on ahead of him as by now the smell was beginning irritate me and up wind was the best place to be.

On the walk out, we managed to spot Bobbys boulder which was the landmark between the two paths which would lead us to the train station (Bobbys boulders are also clearly marked on any decent OS map). Not really wanting to blow my own trumpet, but if you are going to have something named after you, it is better to have a useful landmark rather than a sad memorial attach itself to your name.

We dropped down to the winding path which followed the river to the mouth of the loch. We met the path at the end of the river and stopped under a couple of trees to brew up lunch. Very nice Pete thanks and well deserved after the long trek. In retrospect, we would never have “ticked” the four munros planned on that ridge and, as you say, they’ll still be there next year, barring any global meltdown, pestilence, famine or boredom induced torpur by myself to go back and not do them.

Our train was due at 6.30pm. Pete had reliably informed me that “we could get the early one” if we make it in time. We plodded on to the station. I kept a wee distance in front just in case the wind changed. I got to the station and walked onto the platform to get the train times. Pete slumped on the bench at the hostel/coffee shop letting me walk the extra distance to get the train times. He was obviously aware of how bad the chaffing was smelling now and kindly saved me from the uncomfortable stench now emanating from his undergarments.

I looked at my watch. 2.30pm. I looked at the timetable. Next train 6.30pm. Previous train 12.30pm. We were never getting the early train. We now had 4 hours to kill. We went inside the cafe.

“They sell beer” said Pete.

And indeed they did.

Bobby Motherwell (the munro blagger)

Hurry up we're gonna miss the train.

Pete brews up.

By now the chaffing was becoming noticeable Beinn Bheoil

At almost the top of Ben Boil (that's how I pronounce it)

Corrour train Station and Hostelry

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3 responses

7 08 2011
Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean | Renny Rambles

[…] Best Laid Plans – 3 summits avoided: Carn Dearg, Sgor Gaibhre and Beinn Bheoil (munroblagger.wordpress.com) […]

29 08 2011
My monday supplement – adrenalin overload | Renny Rambles

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5 10 2011
Munro fan

Love the anecdote about you coming face to face with the curious (and possibly protective) stag. I would have also been prepared for a bowel movement in that scenario. Thanks for sharing.

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