Author: Ben B
This year's "semi-official" [i.e. Andrew counts it in his leaderboard stats] Scotland trip took us to the Grey Corrie bunkhouse in Roy Bridge, a few miles from Fort William. Andrew took on the gruelling Saturday drive up from Cambridge, with moral support supplied by Sumita, Jantine and Ben. Alex (H) joined the party at Birmingham International Airport, fresh from a wander up the US west coast. Saturday night was spent in the Tulloch Station bunkhouse (whose owners are cursed forever to be occupied in the frying of sausages), before relocating to our more permanent lodgings the next morning.
The Grey Corrie bunkhouse proved very comfortable. The puzzling scarcity of mugs was made up for by the box of boot newspaper – considered such a pleasing innovation that the Bunkhouse Review Board (BRB) representative was persuaded to withhold a rating (in favour of their earlier demolition order).
The first few days' walks were drawn from Andrew's impressive ring-binder of as-yet unbagged Munros, with two (Beinn Teallach and Beinn a'Chaorainn) checked off on Sunday, the first day of walking. The group were joined that day by Tom and Paul, arriving from an even less official Seathwaite trip. Monday saw a notable spike in the intensity, as Andrew, Ben, Alex, Tom and Paul took a trip into the Mamores. The stunning ridge walk included six Munros, plus assorted Tops, leaving Andrew's checklist sated. Meanwhile, Sumita and Jantine set out from the bunkhouse to explore the nearby forest. Their reports of an encounter with a dinosaur are yet to be independently verified, although the scratches they bore on their return appear to corroborate.
Tuesday was the day appointed for our meeting with Ben Nevis. The ascent of the "tourist track" to the halfway lochan proved more technical than expected, with some bold footwork required in negotiating ailing tour groups. From there, Andrew, Tom, Paul and Alex set off to conquer Carn Mor Dearg, before crossing the arête onto Ben Nevis. Andrew was called away on bagging duties at this point, and rejoined the group later in a state of some exhilaration (and exhaustion having decided it wise to run the 1300 m of descent from Ben Nevis to sea level). Ben, Sumita and Jantine continued the arduous ascent of the tourist track. At the summit was observed a most touching marriage proposal, swiftly curtailed by adverse atmospheric conditions (a sandstorm and choking cloud of cement dust). The descent was slowed by the need to offer patronising encouragement and misleading estimations of progress to those on the ascent ("there's a pub at the top, you know"). Andrew described the tourist track as perhaps one of the least interesting walks he had ever done.
Wednesday was spent exploring the high (Andrew: "dull") moorland of the Monadh Liath. ticking off another three Munros. It is a sad reflection on modern life that a bent spoon is no longer sufficient deterrent to stalker stalking. Nevertheless, the refuge we found in the stalkers' hut was very welcome, given the ever-present leporine threat hanging over these hills. The route onwards from our first pair of (admittedly underwhelming) Munros involved a great deal of treacherous bog-hopping, guided only by our navigational wits and a line of steel fence posts stretching the entire length of the ridge. This trek led to the high point of the day: the dramatic summit of Carn Dearg with its shear fall-off into the glen. Then followed a damp and rather cold hike down to the river and thence the road. This had been termed our "rest day" (or perhaps that was just what Andrew led people to believe), but when Paul's GPS told us that we'd walked over 27 km and Andrew's altimeter said we'd managed over 1500 m ascent, it hardly felt so in the end.
Thursday saw an exchange of personnel, with Alex K having arrived the previous day, and Andrew, Sumita and Jantine leaving for home. The weather was rather miserable, with thunderstorms forecast, so we took a drive along the Great Glen to Fort Augustus. After a silent yet fierce battle with selfie-stick wielding tourists, Ben secured the jetty overlooking Loch Ness, from where no monsters were seen that day. After terrorising walkers along the Calendonian Canal, we retired to a tea shop.
Friday and Saturday saw two forays into the Grey Corries. The dramatic landscape and good weather contributed to some very enjoyable hillwalking. Particularly memorable was an exhilarating bouldery descent followed by a clamber up the crushed-quartzite scree of Stob Ban. From the summit, we admired the glorious views out over the boggy wasteland beyond Loch Trieg, turning our backs on the monotonous heights of Ben Nevis.
I believe this trip had something to offer for all those involved. This was for several of the group a first trip to Scotland. For Andrew, it was a continuation of his Scottish conquest, bringing him close to the midway point of Munro Bagging; for Alex K, a spell of post-viva relaxation; and, for Alex H, some welcome mountain nap-time whilst waiting around for the rest of us. For the whole group, it was a chance to explore one of the most dramatic landscapes the UK has to offer. I hope there will be many more such trips to come. Seconded [AW].
Andrew W, Tom A, Ben B, Paul F, Alex K, Alex H, Sumita C and Jantine B.
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