Weather forecasters loom large in the life of the average run-of-the-mill hill-walker. On Thursday afternoon I set off for Loch Quoich to meet Orkney Leslie who had the misfortune to stumble across me in Glen Doll during our foray onto Mayar and Driesh. The agreement had been made “depending on the weather” but when you live close to Ultima Thule and have to book a ferry, it’s got to be pretty horrendous before you give up and stay in the pub.
As I drove up Glen Garry that Thursday evening, it was all I could do to convince myself the eclipse hadn’t arrived early: the further I ventured, the darker it got and the less optimistic the conditions looked. I parked a few yards west of the bridge over the arm of Loch Quoich and settled down to mushroom soup, beef casserole and mashed tatties – all home cooked prior to my departure. I fell asleep in the Bongo – which is almost smelling fresh again after all the airing and drying –quite early on and awoke to very similar weather in the morning, except someone had turned up the rain dial.
Although an AJG Parcels chap stopped to ask the way to the Hydro Camp (poor choice of informant on his part), there was no initial sign of Leslie. After an hour or so, easily filled with the usual paraphernalia of getting up, Leslie’s grey campervan, with another car, hove into view. It transpired that Leslie’s son had had made good his promise to come too, so there were three of us: Leslie, Paul and me.
We debated which hill to do: I’d done them all before, so my view didn’t really matter much. Leslie fancied starting with Spidean Mialach and Gleouraich. Paul didn’t much mind as he’s done all the Munros. Running!
We ran back a couple of miles. Let me rephrase that: we drove back a couple of miles to the start of our route, parked, got our kit on and set off in the drizzle.
At some point, the gloom gathered a bit more than theretofore (not sure about that word! – it’s supposed to mean “up until then”) and Leslie reminded us this was the eclipse. Dara Ó Briain and Prof Brian Cox have a lot to answer for: I was singularly underwhelmed. If I’m unlucky and not struck by lightning before the next one, I suspect I’ll be saying “Oh, I remember the eclipse of 2015 – things aren’t as good nowadays”. Even though this one was crap in Glen Garry.)
For the rest of the day, the drizzle varied from almost – but not quite – off to blasting horizontally. There were a couple of points where a view could be had – “Magnificent!” we cried – but most of the time we strove on in windy mist and drizzle.
My companions were probably more sure-footed than me: I’m a real wimp and always fear falling, slipping or sliding to an unwanted – though timely – death. I wore my crampons in a couple of places and the others were good enough not to complain at the inevitable putting-on and taking-off stops.
Gleouraich and, eventually, Spidean Mialaich were reached and put behind us. The route was much as I’d planned, though – as the red line shows – we took a midway path between the SMC’s so-called “official” route and some new-fangled one the Orcadians had found.
The route ended back on the road, just a hundred metres or so from the campervans. I didn’t hang around, as I’d arranged to go back home that evening so waved a quick farewell to Leslie and Paul then hit the road.
I can’t honestly say I greatly enjoyed the outing. I hasten to add my companions were pleasant and inclusive, so whatever my beef it’s not with them. The weather was poor, to be honest: not sufficiently horrid to make going out a stupidity, but not benign enough to make it enjoyable. I’ve never been one of those who climb hills “for the views”: I do it because… Well I’m damned if I know why I do it. And that’s true with knobs on for Friday. Especially as there were few views.
Leslie has said he’ll forward some photos, so I’ll add them when they’re available.