Saturday, April 19, 2008

Up a Munro (Glen Affric Day 2)

Saturday morning after all my guests headed out for the day and I had cleaned up around the place, I headed out for a walk. Not owning a winter jacket over here, I just layered a couple of tank-tops, shirts, and sweaters (including a thick wool one) under my jacket, and was quite warm other than the cold east wind blowing on my face that even my scarf could not block out. Not having brought a small backpack with me (I don't have a good one), I carried my map, lunch, and water bottle in a small plastic shopping bag, which made me look as though I was just strolling down the high street according to one guest the next day.

I should mention here that the weather had been reasonably sunny in Inverness since Monday, and in Glen Affric as well. The mountaineering fellows told me that it was the first time that they had seen the tops of much of the mountains, as every time they'd been to the glen before it had been cloudy and misty. So it was still sunny on Satuday, but windy as I mentioned.

I was feeling stiff in my legs, probably because I'd gotten back at rollerblading earlier in the week, and I'd also taken a hit from an epee on my thigh that had left a good bruise on the muscle, so I figured I'd take it easy walk-wise and just go down to Loch Affric. I set out along the road that we'd driven in on, but eventually ended up wandering up a hill and once started, I figured I'd go all the way up.

The hill I went up just makes it into Munro qualification, as it's over 3000ft (it was 941 m = 3087 ft), so that is the first one I have been up, and the highest I've ever climbed up entirely myself. There was snow on parts of the ridge at the top, and the ridge leading off to other mountains was deeply snow covered, so I didn't dare head that way.

A few views from the top:

I meant to take a path back down to the hostel, but cut down the mountainside to early to avoid snow and ended up having to traverse a steepish slope that was boggy and covered by snow in parts:
I eventually made it to the path after some downward trekking and crossing a burn. Coming round a bend near the hostel, I surprised some grazing deer, who pictured here are all starting to flee me.

I rested back at the hostel, and around 5pm a fellow from the National Trust (they own parts of Glen Affric, including the land the hostel is on), Willie, arrived in his Land Rover with supplies for a group of volunteer tree planters that were due to arrive at the hostel. He informed me that to heat the water, I needed to light the stove in the kitchen (which we hadn't been doing since the kitchen was kept warm enough with people cooking). I set about doing this, and it did result in hot water again, although how it did, I don't know, as when Stephen got back on Monday he told me that there was indeed an electric immersion heater. Must have just been coincidence.

Whilst lighting the fire, one of the younger mountain climbing guys rushed in to tell me that his friend had had an accident on the mountain and cut himself with his ice axe. Willie was still around, so I went out to see if he might have a satellite phone to call out for help, but he told me that if the fellow got down to the hostel, he would drive him out to hospital. So the young fellow went back up the hill to meet his friend and escort him down. When the injured guy arrived down, one of the older mountain climbers helped to re-bandage his face (where he'd been hit by his axe when he fell through the snow), and then Willie drove him out to Inverness. It was very fortunate that Willie had been there at the time; otherwise the young fellows would have had at least a 7 mile walk out to their car at Cluanie.

The hostel became very busy then, as there were 11 tree-planters, which filled the hostel up a bit. The two older mountain-climbing guys were staying on, and another fellow had arrived, and we all sat in the lounge to wait for the group to finish eating before going in there ourselves to cook. The new arrival had grown up in Sandbank, near Dunoon, so we actually found we knew a few people in common. We sat around talking mountains for a while (well, they talked mountains, I asked questions and listened) and they forced whiskey upon me that they didn't want to carry back out, as they put it.

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