This is the story of a winter walk from West to East of Scotland by 3 young member’s of the RAF Kinloss MR Team in November 1977. Every day was a test in all ways this is Part 4!
Day 11. 7/11/77 – Fort William ATC Hut – the plan was the Big four The Aonachs and Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis but again the weather is awful and we are running on empty. Carn Mor Dearg is tricky in the wind and snow and we meet out first few people on the Arete. We feel that they intrude in our solitude and by now are walking at our own pace, I am grinding it out and glad we have only to climb the two Munros. We get great views of the North Face the gullies and ridges are favourites and we pick out familiar climbs. Jim and Terry going very well but good to see they are tired. We met a few on the Ben summit with no kit, it is winter now and icy, the wind batters us but we are now used to it after 10 days on the hills. There are big Cornices on Ben Nevis already and we take care as the navigation can be tricky and we are tired, no errors yet and all are checking. Jim and Terry so powerful and I feel the pressure but they make use of my area knowledge at times and I take my turn breaking the snow. I feel that we are becoming at one with the mountains and see a storm coming and are ready for it with the gear on quickly, no faffing about now. I noticed this on my other walk how the mind and body is aware of the weather and the terrain after several days out in a row on the hill or is it just me? We travel light today no sleeping bag or cooking gear as we have a day off in Fort William, the body is battered and the gear needs a bit of sorting but a day off bliss. What a difference going light weight is and the effect on the knees is great. Note to myself never do a walk unsupported again!
20 k 1700 metres an easy day at last!
DAY 12 -8/11/77 – Fort William ATC Hut and a well-deserved day off. Up early breakfast of the kings in Nevisport Café and resupply with rations we have a huge 4 days ahead of us heading for Dalwhinnie. We have the time to recheck the gear buy some new socks and another pair of gloves in the shops. How are we going to carry this gear? A lot of time is spent packing and repacking Jim and Terry so organised me as always a bit of a mess but I get there carrying about 25 lbs more when wet. We manage a meal in the Jacobite pub and are really tired, I nearly visited the doctor about my knee but decide not to. I weigh myself and have lost a stone!
DAY 13 – 9/11/77 Fort William ATC Hut then off very early to climb the Mamores. Another long walk from Fort William up the West Highland Way to Mullach Nan Coirean, Stob Ban, Am Bodach, Stob Coire A Chairn , Na Gruachean, Binnein Mor then to Luibielt bothy. It was very heavy going on the ridge and any plan of doing all the 11 munros was not on in the time or the snow conditions available. It was fairly fraught along the ridge Alpine in places and very hard going and 6 Munros was enough. We had a huge bags and 4 days food, this again was wild country and full winter conditions. We arrived in the pitch dark soaked after many river crossings. As always I put the stove on whilst the others got sorted and then changed into out track suit bottoms, dry top and socks and spare jumper. We had a few candles and our torches for light, the bothy was very basic. We had been in the bothy for 10 minutes all in our own world, there was lots of wood inside and we soon had a raging fire. The bothy lightened up and we saw that there was someone else in the bothy. A figure stood up and spoke; he said he was getting away from the world and was staying in the bothy. He was not a happy man we were intruding on his privacy but it was an open bothy. We tried to have a conversation but he was not having it. Jim stoked the fire up and soon it was roaring and the bothy bright as day our visitor was there cutting wood with his knife in the shadows, it was scary. I offered him some food but he did not want it. We ate and were in bed early with our gear drying by the fire. It was a scary night but Jim and Terry slept the sleep of the just, I was worried and before I went to bed I gave him some chocolate and said jokingly “kill them first please” He just looked and continued with his knife drills? We survived the night and were away by 0700. Our visitor was fast asleep and the fire still glowing. The gear was nearly dry and we had another big hill day. Lots of snow had fallen yesterday and the hills would be plastered we were off and heading for Corrour Youth Hostel. We had been told that a key was hidden for us as it was shut for the winter. Many months after the walk our “bothy visitor” arrived at RAF Kinloss and dropped of a bottle of whisky, he had been very depressed and been contemplating suicide. He had sorted himself out and apologized for his behavior, he was a very successful business man from down South and we had a good chat. Funny game life is.
27 k 2241 metres of ascent a big hard day with big bags.
Day 15 – 10 /11/77 Luibielt bothy to Stob Coire Easian and Stob Coire Mheadhoin this was a day of bogs and wild river crossings from our bothy and then eventually up onto the ridge East of the Grey Corries, It was extremely hard going of the path, very wet and boggy and then the snow, it was very deep, would the weather ever get good? Huge herds of deer were about but by now we were all three in our own worlds head down and just the occasional look at the map and compass, then the navigation got tricky. The weather was fraught but we got these two peaks in, huge Cornices and great care was needed. The wind got up and we had to get off the second Munro quickly was a very steep descent down to the Loch Treig and even more rivers, eventually we hit the railway and stumbled along it to Corrour Youth Hostel. It would be closed for the winter but a great friend the Warden Tom Rigg had left me a secret key and the bothy is a marvelous place to be he had said he would leave us coal as well. Would we find the key if not it would be a wet night it was pitch dark as we stumbled along the railway track, praying for no trains and then glad to be on the estate road to Corrour Youth Hostel and hopefully a great night in a warm bothy? I was exhausted!
Another hard day 22k and 1618 metres but the ground was so wet and the snow deep as for the rivers they were testing!
To be continued!