No 498 – The Cairngorms Strikes Back Pt2

The following morning we woke after another disturbed night. Although all of us slept well we did have one ear open at all times as each gust hit the shelter, or deluge lasted longer than anticipated.

Unconsciously I’m sure I put my hand out a few times as I slept just to check if the ground had become so sodden that water had seeped in anywhere. Thankfully I returned my dry hand to quilt and once again turned over crossing my fingers that it stayed that way.

The river was rising continually

The original intention had been to move on from here towards Loch Ossian and camp again. However the brief discussions shouted between the shelters concluded that 24 hours here might be the wisest course of action. The weather looked to be in for the day. A brief glance over to the Bothy indicated that the couple of German mountain bikers were packing up and setting out up the same path we intended to go.

3 hours later they had returned and unpacked once again. A good indication that some of the burns and paths were as difficult to cross as we thought they might be. So I rolled over in my warm quilt and returned to my Kindle.

The repair job isn’t neat, but it held

I had never stayed put, or been forced to lay horizontal in a tent for 24 hours before. It started off as being relaxing, then comfortable, but soon the inability to move and stretch my back out started to feel very restrictive. Between dozing and reading I was also tempted to eat and drink all my food supplies. I had a bad case of the nibbles, however I managed to restrain myself and not drink too much. If nothing else I didn’t want the pressure of needing to go outside for a pee or to dig a hole during the pouring rain.

Due to the roaring sound of the weather and the close by river, it was also impossible to hold anything like a conversation with Lee or Tony. They were closer together but after struggling to hear parts of sentences I gave up and though I would wait until the weather passed.

There was a lull mid afternoon I seem to remember and I popped out for a pee and found Tony moving his shelter as the ground water was only a few inches away in the nearest ditch. The ground was so wet the water had nowhere to go and on inspection, my tent was slightly higher but the puddles were looming closer never the less.

Around 7pm we all finally turned in once again following a check of the guy points and a triple check of the repaired sewing. It all seemed solid so I felt confident I was okay for the next few hours.

The following morning, the weather had eased slightly and looked more promising. The water coming off the hills had significantly reduced so the burns and rivers we had to cross should hopefully be lower.

We all packed fairly quickly and crossed the burn in front of the Bothy without much difficulty. The walk then progressed back up the path and then across country, through heather and bogs down to the river Uisge Labhair. Thankfully it was much calmer than I had anticipated and although knee deep it didn’t pose much of a problem for all of us to get across.

We followed the vague path along the rivers edge hoping for a more established hard core path and it was during this section I had a simple, but potentially dangerous fall.

This was just after my fall

Walking with poles is great as you get into a rhythm of testing the ground before you step onto it. However on this occasion I stepped to one side of tip and my right foot wet down in a bog to above the knee. At the same time my left foot was lifting to step up the bank and so I ended with my left leg horizontal across the front of my body. I called out in pain as I was sure I had broken or dislocated my knee. Thankfully neither had happened, but the shock stayed with me and naturally slowed my progress for a while.

Finally we made it to a new dam and hydro construction scheme as we approached the loch. The track became firm and progress was easier. All that remained was the walk along Loch Ossian to the YHA at the end, where hopefully we might find a cup of tea. The wind was in our faces and the rain seemed determined to find its way into any pocket, hole or gap in the clothing. We were sodden and tried to keep each others spirits up during the 5km walk.

We made it to the SHYA and received as warm welcome from two volunteers Alex and Gorden along with the warden Val. As luck would have it, the trains to Corrour weren’t running and so the hostel was virtually empty. Did we want to stay? Doh yeah!!

The evening was spent in glorious warmth, with friendly banter and chat, drying all of our wet possessions and sleeping in a comfortable warm bed. Total bliss!

Departing from the SYHA

The following day the weather had once again eased off to just a light drizzle and breeze, so we bade our farewells and headed towards Spean Bridge, rather than Fort William.

What is this strange orb in the sky?

We took this advice from Alex and we were glad we did. Although the path was boggy, it certainly wasn’t as bad as the alternative. In places we made good progress and the sun even came out a few times to cheer us up as we approached Loch Treig.

Looking back to Creagguaineach Lodge

Creagguaineach Lodge was an abandoned building located at the end of the loch, but what a marvellous setting. Although all boarded up you could still tell that in its day it must have been a magnificent location to enjoy the views, watch the wild life and soak up the silence. Surrounding it are some flat sections which makes it an ideal camping spot too.

The walk along Lairig Leacach was fairly uneventful. Boggy in places, okay in others with a few good camping spots thrown in. After a break at the bothy for lunch and a rest we continued towards our goal hoping that the perfect camping spot would appear.

Lairig Leacach

There nothing before or in the The Lairig forest, however as we emerged onto the last open ground before the village we struck lucky. Although grazing for cattle, there was plenty of it and we managed to tuck ourselves behind some heather on what was slightly higher and firmer ground. The rest being sodden from the weeks rain.

We all managed to pitch our tents just as the rain started once again. Only this time is seemed biblical. For half an hour we had storm force winds and rain fired at us across the open plain. Then as quickly as it started it stopped again, returning to a calm drizzle. We all shouted ‘what the hell was that’ at the same time!

Sadly the night was another long wet one which we all felt sadly summed up the general mood of the week. 

Good as it was to get back to the Cairngorms again, we all were reminded in future to (a) triple check your gear for sewing weakness or defects before you pack, (b) ensure the waterproof roll top bags you use ARE waterproof and (c) ensure that any clothing you take for waterproof protection is up to the job.

Below is my gear list with weights and age comments. I had hoped to have some discussions with Lee and Tony about the practicalities of using old equipment. Everything performed as well as can be expected and there was certainly no difference I felt between using gear this age over the latest more expensive offerings.

The bottom line is the enjoyed factor wasn’t reduced in the slightest by using older, second hand or recycled gear.

So get out there!

5 Comments

  1. Patrick

    Great trip report, Bob. As it happens we’d walked the second section of your walk, from Corrour Station to Spean Bridge, in the middle of September, which must be just a couple of weeks before you did. We’re a family of five and pitched on one of those fine camping spots you noticed on your way up the Lairig Leacheach. We were all sharing an Octopeak, bought from you, in fact, last Christmas. Which made me think – have you thought of sharing a tent between you on one of these adventures? An Octopeak, for example, split between three of you would have been no more weight each than your Power Lizard, but is so much more sociable, particularly if holed up in a storm, as you were.

    Reply

    • theoutdoorsstation

      Thanks Patrick for your feedback. Interesting idea, however three grumpy old men sharing might be cause for divorce lol!! And of course I would always get the blame it was all my idea……

      Reply

  2. alex smith

    Hi Bob, I,m glad to hear that the Three Amigos made it back home safe and sound. What a surprise I got when you opened the Hostel door and came in dripping wet followed by Lee and Tony. I was glad that I could help you all to get dried out and made comfortable for the night as you cant beat a warm bed after several wet nights in a tent. Gordon has signed up for the TGO Challenge next year and is busy planning out his route. Thanks again for the extra guy lines for my F8 I have put them to good use. I hope you have a drier trip on your next visit to Scotland and that I bump into you again. All the best Alex.

    Reply

    • theoutdoorsstation

      Glad to hear it and good to meet you too! Give Gordon my best and tell him to listen to the old TGOC Podcasts for inspiration. Next time I bringing wellies!!

      Reply

      • alex smith

        Iv,e already got Gordon checking out the videos and he,s buzzing to go. Next time you come up north bring a dry suit and snorkel.lol.

        Reply

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