We were on our first winter traverse West to East of Scotland. We had done a North to South a year earlier and John Hinde one of our mentors had said “if you think your fit try one unsupported in winter” . His words still resound “December with limited daylight would test you three. We were young fit invincible and cocky. “ The Three were myself Terry Moore and Jim Morning.
The gear was simple in these days , basic maps and long days with wet gear bothy to bothy setting off and arriving in the dark. Yet we had a secret weapon the new Helly Hansen Fleeces . What an improvement they were what an investment.
We were on our last week a crazy journey that started in Skye. Blown of the Skye ridge with only 1 Munro done. Then the snows came for the rest of the three weeks. In the last week after Ben Nevis big 4 then the it was the plan to climb all the Mamores . We had been on the go for 10 days had all types of weather it was the hardest journey we had ever done. The Mamores was to be the hardest day the 11 Munro’s even then a test of all your skills. Not easy when you add on big rucksacks and 4 days food. This day in winter is so underestimated it can be Alpine but what a day.
So we set off laden with food for and kit . That day we only managed 9 Munro’s that was crazy enough. Then it was the long walk to the bothy for the night. The bothy was at Luibeilt. Yet after getting there we forded the river to the nearby Meannanach bothy. We were soaked the river was high but we had to get shelter.
We were soaked cold and hungry. We had a system every night: One would get the stove going with soup or tea and the boys would change. Then They would get sorted.
The bothy was dark as hell freezing cold and the stove was lit and the brew boiling. We had a few candles the bothy was bleak. It was freezing, damp and wee just wanted to eat and get in our sleeping bags. Over in a corner was a load of wood. Jim and Terry got the fire going and the room lit up. The wet clothes were put near the fire and then we heard a rustle. In a far corner was a man who had been there since we arrived. We never noticed him! He had a knife and was sharpening a stick. He was not happy we were burning what seemed all the wood. It was very creepy. He sat on the shadows as the firelight room with his knife. I offered him a brew but he hardly spoke. Yet he told me enough that he had been staying here for a few weeks. He seemed troubled. In these days the bothies were very quiet at these time’s of year in these days.
We were exhausted had a big day tomorrow heading for Beinn Alder 4 Munro’s so we needed sleep. I told him we would be away early and gave him some of my emergency chocolate. He was still carving with his big knife as I fell asleep. I was worried but slept okay. We were up and away by 0600 and he was still asleep.
A year later our friend from the bothy arrived at Kinloss to see us. He was having a bad time in his life was a big business man and thanked us for speaking to him during his dark period. I told him how worried I was that night. I imagined waking up or not ! I slept with my ice axe nearby !
Strange days !
I have written at length on this walk in my blogs. These were incredible days thanks Jim and Terry.
Comments welcome !