Saturday, 14 March 2015

Beinn Dearg March 14th 2015

So, Fraser had suggested a walk to shake off the throes of Winter and get us in the mood for Spring. Unfortunately, he had completely forgotten that the weekend in question was also Mother's Day here in UK!! But once the appropriate amount of grovelling had been performed, a day pass was duly granted! So, where to go? Had to be somewhere close to home and probably with a Bothy in case the weather turned a bit nasty. Much head scratching later, and we decided on Beinn Dearg, a Munro, near Blair Atholl, North of Perth that could be reached in under an hour.

Friday 13th March 2015 Dig out gear that has not seen light of day since last summer. Decide on food, music, designated driver, timings, oh and work a night shift before setting off on Saturday Morning!

Saturday 14th March 2015 The morning saw the weather settled with grey skies and a light wind- ideal for walking with a 25 kg rucksack on your back i.e. a bit chilly to start with, but perfect once the body heat started to work its magic. Last minute shopping for food and gas for camping stove saw us leaving Perth at around 11.30am and light traffic saw us parked up and on our way by 12.30.

Ben Dearg

Setting out from the car park at Bridge of Tilt we began what would be a 2hour 30, nice afternoon walk to the Bothy, where we intended to dump our gear and head up to the summit so i could tick off my 3rd Munro. I had now been awake for 20 hours as we set off and i have to say i thought i looked remarkably fresh compared to my travelling companion!!

It never fails to amaze me the power that Mother Nature has over us and how she can break trees as if they are twigs. If only i could find an easy way to carry some of that lot up to the Bothy, we would be guaranteed a roaring log fire for the night!!

With Fraser navigating and me trudging along behind him, we soon found ourselves away from the sounds of civilization, with beautiful scenery being the only thing that would cause us to stop talking rubbish for a few moments every now and then. Isn't it amazing the s**t you chat about as you walk? Lottery win fantasies- Mine is one of those powered parachute things with a fan on my back that would save me having to actually climb the mountains!- , favourite holidays, favourite TV shows, favourite TV stars, will the Swedish, Female, Beach Volleyball team be staying overnight at the Bothy we were heading to?!!

Hey if Bear Grylls can drink pee from a snake skin, then i can drink wonderful tasting fresh running water from a stream... and i have to say it did taste amazing.

So, with the world put to rights as we walked and talked, 2 hours later saw us getting a glimpse of what looked like Everest to me!! You can't be expecting me to climb that Fraser, surely??? (Apparently it is the little cone shaped thing in the center of the photo.. miles away from me!!)

 I never really understood how people could fall through snow and die whilst walking in the mountains until i saw this stream. The grass is green on the right, and if you are walking from the grass onto the snow, then without looking left or right to see the stream, you would have no idea it was under the snow, especially if the snow has not melted, as it has in my photo.

Another 30 minutes and Home Sweet Home came into view..and there, framed in the doorway was a dog, which could possibly mean that we would be sharing the Bothy that night.
For those of you reading this who have never stayed in a Bothy, I should explain that you do not book them, you simply turn up and if anyone else is there then so be it. This can make for some fun evenings, with total  strangers, that you probably will never see again in your life- Just add alcohol and a fire, candles and some music from a mobile phone for an instant party!

As it turned out, the hounds (and their owners) were only stopping for lunch and soon Fraser and i had the place to ourselves for the rest of our stay.
Sleeping arrangements were sorted easily enough as there were only 2 beds, if you could call them beds! Aside from a few chairs, a table and a fireplace, there was nothing else in the shape of home comforts... minimalistic is how i think an Estate Agent would describe it!

5 mm of padding on top of a wallpapering table, but after a 31 hour day, 6 cans of beer and a hip flask full of Jack Daniels, it could have been a 4 poster bed for all i knew. 

 All recognized food groups catered for, but the main course was green pesto pasta with chicken and bacon through it, all cooked in mess tins on the open fire- fueled by the coal that Fraser had lugged up the hill. Delicious!!

 If these candle sticks could talk.....



Fraser, tidy your room!
So, beds made, rucksacks off backs and a quick bite to eat, it was time to go climb a mountain.
Fraser reckoned that 2 hours would see us up the mountain and back down again. as it was roughly 2.30pm, we should be ascending in daylight, descending in daylight and still have enough light to cook by... The best laid plans etc etc etc.


Almost immediately we hit the snow fields, which was a first for me and words fail me in an effort to describe how energy sapping it is to try and walk in this type of ground. Imagine sinking 4 - 6 inches every 3rd footstep and having solid ground the rest of the time, you don't know if, or how far your foot will sink and also you are trying to walk up hill at the same time. Nightmare!

Snow Angel time!!
View from Bothy

Weather closing in

Don't like the look of that weather.

And i had to agree with him! It was now getting cold, we had been ascending for about 90 minutes and the sun was beginning to set. We had a chat about safety and decided that we did not want to be another couple of idiots who had to call out the rescue services because we made some stupid decision to complete the climb regardless of the problems that were heading our way. Reluctantly, with the summit in sight, we got our hip-flasks out, raised a toast to the Mountain and turned around and headed back to the comfort of the Bothy.

We were rewarded for our sensible decision by some wonderful features in the snow...
Snow bridge caused by running water.

Messing about! The photo doesn't do the colours justice, the ice is actually turquoise blue in places.

We got back in daylight, cooked dinner and settled in for a night by the fire with some alcohol, music and aimless, childish, chat!! 22.30 saw me having been up for over 30 hours and it was time for me to call it a night.
I don't know if anybody reading this has slept in a sleeping bag, but it never fails to amaze me how warm they can be, even if the environment is cold, and this warmth, coupled with the food, exercise, alcohol and lack of sleep saw me asleep for 11 solid hours!

Sunday 15th March 2015

There is nothing quite like being woken up by sunlight shining outside a window after a good sleep. It just somehow picks you up and makes you want to get up and get moving i find... And this was one of those mornings!
Clear blue sky, warmth in the sun and a cooked breakfast to kick things off!! 

You make the breakfast in your open plan kitchen with a view Fraser....

I'm just gonna stand here and look like i enjoy being outside of a centrally heated house!

We are good to ourselves when we go away for a weekend and breakfast was going to consist of sausage, black pudding and haggis, washed down with real coffee courtesy of a portable percolator!

  Breakfast over, it only left us to squeeze all the kit back into our rucksack, sign the guestbook and tidy the place up ready for the next visitors.
I love reading the guestbooks.. there are some pretty funny people walking around the mountains of Scotland... here are 2 extracts from this bothy.. apologies if you are offended, so i wont even go into what we wrote!!

Of course it is all gonna fit back in the rucksacks.. it came out of them didn't it?? oh and we have less alcohol and food so get on with it!!

I swear the sky is not Photoshopped!

But, all good things must come to an end and it was time to hit the road for home.

The route back out was the same as the one we had walked in on, with the difference that the sun was shining and the air was warm.
Eagle-eyed Fraser spotted an arctic hare.. can you spot it? Look where the snow meets the bracken....



2 hrs 30 minutes later and we were back where we had started from. Not another Munro ticked off the list, but a damn good walk, some sunshine, a great nights sleep and a deal made with Fraser that we would do more like walks like this before 2015 is finished.

Yeah, i was brave, but if you look closely, you will see its foot is pawing at the ground!! 

Thanks for reading and if you have enjoyed it, leave me a comment please.