I set off on Friday morning, with the intention of climbing Stuchd an Lochan and Meall Buidhe in Glen Lyon. These two are often climbed in the same day, from the East end of Loch an Daimh, but as I had quite a distance to drive, I decided to split them into two days, passing the night between them in the campervan at the dam. The car satnav didn’t have the dam in its database, so I programmed it with Meggernie Castle and set off.
All went well and I arrived at the head of the glen in reasonable time. I was puzzled that my handheld gps didn’t display my prepared route, despite its having being entered and showing in the menu. Anyway, I headed North with Meall Buidhe my intended goal. Ill-advisedly, I decided not to take the snowshoes – there didn’t seem to be a huge amount of snow – and to rely on my crampons when I needed them. The weather closed in and I was in whiteout quite a lot, though there were occasional breaks and good views. The wind was strong and there was constant spindrift stinging my face as I ploughed through increasing depths of powdery snow. The weather forecast had warned of “buffetting”, but I didn’t see a single kilted sausage though “vol-au-vent” was fairly apposite.
It was somewhere up in the wild deep snow that I suffered a bad bout of cramp. I often carry a banana for such eventualities, but on that occasion: well you get the picture. A rest and some slower progress allowed the cramp to dissipate and I carried on.
Eventually my intended route did appear on the gps, but not at all where I expected it to be: however, I followed it to a summit, only to discover I was at the top of Stuchd an Lochan, not Meall Buidhe! I was totally confused as to what was happening. On the basis that, given the conditions, I might have become disoriented I thought: believe the gps and compass, not my own judgement and followed the preplanned track down the hill. Eventually Loch an Daimh came into view, but it was the wrong loch: no Hydro buildings and no sign – even in the distance – of a welcoming campervan. It was then that the realisation dawned. I had started from the wrong place!
A look at the map will show you – as it should have shown me – that just west of Meggernie Castle I should have driven to the right. I recalled the road now: there was just a sign naming some estate, but no further directions or mention of Loch an Daimh. My gut feeling that I should have been descending to the South had been quite right and now, with darkness falling, I had to turn and negotiate the boggy lower slopes of Stuchd an Lochan before regaining the road up to the campervan which was, in reality, parked at the Stronuich Reservoir.
I plottered on gathering balls of snow in my crampons, which I’d been too hurried to stop and take off, until I reached a burn with stepping stones and decided it was time to remove them. At this point I discovered to my dismay that I’d already shed one, unintentionally and unnoticed. I walked back about half a mile in the gathering gloom looking for the damned thing, but finally decided to give up and make for the tarmac. By the time I reached the road, it was virtually pitch black and my head torch came into play. Just east of Kenknock, a farmer came by in a Land Rover and offered me a lift – I was very grateful as you can imagine as I still had a couple of miles to go in blizzard conditions. He was understandably very proud of his old vehicle which had almost quarter of a million miles on the clock.
He left me at the camper van where I knocked up a quick cup of coffee and decided given the weather, my obvious incompetence at navigation and the loss of a crampon that I’d call it a day rather than wait until the morning to see whether or not I was snowed in. So I beat an ignominious retreat down the glen, getting home sometime about 10:30pm.
I have always said that the first half hour provides the biggest challenge in navigating, but up to now I’ve assumed that the half hour started on leaving the car, not before then! The map shows – in blue – my intended route and – in red – what I actually did. An object lesson in something or other!