It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Number 69 & 70 Stob a’Choire Odhair and Stob Ghabhar

27 04 2017

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On days like this, you treasure every moment.

Having just arrived home from visiting my wee girl Ceri in Australia and New Zealand, emotional from the physical distance once again restored between us and raw from the news that a great man and good friend had been tragically killed in a biking accident when I was away, I took to the hills for some meditation and contemplation.

Calum and I picked up John, Peter and Ritchie at the Drovers; we had booked in the Beinglass campsite for the night for some beer, chat and an overnight stop; I dropped them all off at the entrance to the Tyndrum campsite. Their plan was to walk the West Highland Way path back to the Drovers, whereupon I would meet up with them after my solo day on the hills Blagging some munros to add to my tally. I headed for Inveroran, the weather looked good, the peaks looked clear and it looked like how it would eventually turn out, a great day. The best of days in fact.

And then there was Ewan.

I had been sitting in the departure lounge in Queenstown Airport, traveling with Arlene, Calum, Ceri and Louie back to Melbourne for a few resting days at the end of our holiday. I had been in negotiations with the airline staff to get my guitar on as hand luggage and it was looking like they were going to insist it went in the hold. I was not pleased at all and ready to go off on one if they refused me taking it on board with me. As I sat waiting, I checked facebook. Ewan had been tagged in a post which announced that he had been killed on his motorbike on the A82 that day. I read it three times before it sank in. I could feel my whole body shake. I looked at Arlene, “Ewan Smith’s dead” I mumbled. I watched her burst in front of me.

The cabin staff walked over to me. “I’m sorry but your guitar will have to go in the hold”.

I nodded numbly and looked at Arlene, “Fuck it, its only a guitar”.

Ewan was a wonderful guy, a great friend and probably never knew just how much of an impression he left on people, he certainly did with me. We had some great adventures together, we climbed munro’s with his boys Fraser and Luke (go back in this blog the ascent of Stob Coire Sgreamhach via the Lost Valley), we holidayed in Spain on a Trailblazers off road trip and, we shared a bunk for 7 days visiting St Kilda which turned out to be the most incredible experience of my life. We shared the best of times.

I posted this on facebook:

Today we said goodbye to a great guy and good friend. I got to know Ewan some years back when he was working at N G Bailey. Noticing he had a motorbike calendar behind his desk, we hit it off with a common interest. We soon became good friends. He had worked on St Kilda a couple of times and I listened to his stories with interest – he knew it was a place that I had long wanted to visit. I got a call from him one day asking if I fancied joining a diving party to St Kilda he was going on. I jumped at the chance and what transpired was the most incredible trip of my life. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend this trip with Ewan. I’m sure he knows it, I told him often enough, but I am forever indebted to him.

I will miss your chat and your good company bud, I will miss your advice on all things Land Rover and bikes and life in general. I have the lowering kit for my bike still here waiting for that day you would help me fit it – it won’t happen now sadly. The last text I have from him is when I said I couldn’t make the last bike trip as I was in Oz. It said simply “don’t worry bud, always be time later in the year, enjoy Oz”.

Ewan was a gem, he talked fondly and often of his two boys Fraser and Luke, and of his wife Marie. He loved them all dearly and was a proud dad and husband. Your family did you proud today bud.

You are sorely missed.

As we were about to fly to Spain last year we were walking through the duty free shop when Ewan says “I’m gonna get a bottle of Monkey Shoulder, you getting something for the room?” I suggested that we’d probably find a place in the village where we could get a bottle, to which he replied

“I’d rather be looking at it than looking for it!”

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You will be sorely missed indeed bud.

So I had to get to the hills. For various reasons, but mostly for mediation and making an attempt to get my tally into the 70’s. I pulled up at the car park before the Victoria Bridge and got my stuff together and ready at 10am. The book time gave 8-9 hours for both, so I knew this was going to be a longish day. I bumped into John about half way up the steepening to the Odhair summit, he was nursing a blister. We got chatting and after a few minutes we set off together on what would become a really magic day on the hills. As we approached the first top I took the opportunity to mention to him that I wouldn’t be going to the top, that in fact I never go to the top. He laughed and shook his head. “Brilliant, well that’s a new one on me”.

Its really hard to do this walk justice, in words or in pictures. The greatest compliment I could give it is to say that I would definitely go back and walk these two hills again. The route was never boring, offered a range of terrain and levels of walking difficulty and offered the most spectacular views across Rannoch Moor and over the the Buachaille and further to the Ben an the Mamores. Good company helps, but it was simply stunning.

Here’s some pictures:

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We got back to the car park in a surprisingly quick time of around 6 hours and 45 minutes. My Brother in Law John had called me when we are at the top of Stob Ghabhar to let me know that they had popped into the pub in Crianlarich and there was a distinct possibility that they would not be walking the last few miles back to the Drovers as the beer was flowing and a pool tournament was in progress!

I asked him to text me what he was doing and, if need be, I could pick them up on the way back. As I got myself out of my sweaty clothes, thanked my new found walking partner John for his company and chat during the walk and said our goodbyes, my phoned buzzed. Message from John from two hours ago “We’ve left the pub, see you at The Drovers!”.

I picked up a bag of chips from Tyndrum on the way home and headed to the campsite. The first Guinness was wonderful, the last was at least one too many and our walk back from the Drovers to the campsite saw us finding a locked gate to be climbed!

Not before we took the night stars in on a black sky.

“Friends and family are everything, Music is the glue, You know who you are, Tonight I’m with you.”

The MunroBlagger

I’m doing this for my friend Corinne’s charity Finding Your Feet. https://www.findingyourfeet.net/

My Just Giving Page is here

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Bobby-Motherwell1

 

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