The internet is a very small place.
I met a group of Dutch hikers at Derry Lodge, they were kicking back in the afternoon sun with their tents pitched ready for a shot at Ben Macdui in the morning. I said that I might see them there, maybe even with the wheels, a statement which was (rightly) met with much amusement and some mild mocking.
I was tempted to break out the gear and get a cuppa on the go, their relaxed air was drawing me in, but I was still miles away and a fair wee bit of ascent below my target, so I hitched up the wagon again and hit the utterly wonderful trail on the east side of Glen Derry.
It was a breeze with Wheelie, I’ve never known such an easy long walk-in. If I ever do Lurg Mhor from the south again, I’m taking Wheelie.
The water crossings were fine, the biggest one was pretty shallow, and it was only when I was in the upper glen where the Glas Allt Mòr meets the Derry Burn that the wheels stopped spinning. It’s pretty deep, fast, but easy on foot. With Wheelie strapped to my back on the rocks if felt like I was unicycling on the top of a flagpole, so the only option was to head upstream and find another way over. I haven’t walked uphill with so much weight on my back in years, but I found a place and made it over without even a hint of disco-legs on the slightly precarious middle boulder.
I trekked back down the side of the burn with Wheelie’s basic shoulder straps sawing into my collar bones (I’ll be hot-rodding this if it’s going on the WHW) and as I reached the track again I bumped into a fella about to cross in the other direction. He was saying stuff, I was saying stuff, but the roar of the water meant that hand signals were the only understandable options, and his offer of assistance to cross the burn had come a few minutes too late and we parted company in opposite directions.
The next water crossing was on the wee narrow wooden bridge, after which the track was steep and incredibly rough for Wheelie all the way to the Loch Etchachan, save for the wee oasis that’s the Hutchison Hut.
There was a boy in the hut and we shot the breeze for a while, he was taking his time crossing from west to east via the tops. He mentioned a previous caller who’d been bivying on Macdui and he described the bloke at the burn, but he had the hut to himself for the night, well apart from the mouse living in the pile of rubbish inside which caused me much dismay. “Oh, are you meant to take that stuff away?” he said…
I nearly burst a gasket getting Wheelie up from here, it was really difficult for that single km, but oh such a lot of fun.
The walk up to Macdui in the morning was sarcastically easy. I’d packed an Exped Drypack Pro and I threw some bits and pieces in there and headed off. It was a glorious wee trek, dry rock, snow, blue sky with Simpsons clouds and sunshine. The top was completely clear and I headed west to peer down into the Lairig Ghru, a glen full of memories and thoughts of making more.
It was a glorious bimble and boulder-hop back to camp, that little red dot was visible from far distant. I sat in the sun on my Neoair and ate sweet and sour chicken for lunch. A runner and his dug called by to say hello, I think the dug was more interested in the food than the onwards route though.
I was reluctant to leave, here was just perfect if I’d had another day as was the original plan, but the descent to the hut was definitely a diversion. All the way down fighting the very mobile load behind me, it felt like holding back a transit van with a broken handbrake which will roll right over the top me if I tripped. In such instances they say you should lower Wheelie ahead of you, but I could just see it tumbling down the mountainside and bursting inexplicably into flames after I accidentally let it go when I sneezed. So, I stayed clipped and acted as the front brake, and yes the disc knees got awfy hot.
I was soon rolling easier again after I stopped to take some shots, I was now so used to the handling and the width of Wheelie that I could jump gaps or take detours and know what the reaction would be, I really did gel with the wee bugger quite quickly.
However, I was soon at the Glas Allt Mòr again, and I knew that was trouble. As I got close I could see a figure skipping the boulders and heading my way. I got to the water’s edge as he landed on the bank. Bloody hell, it was the same fella I’d met at the same place yesterday.
“Alright?” Said I.
“Yes, what’s the chances of meeting at the same spot?”
“I know, what are you up to?”
“Camped at Derry Lodge to dry out my gear, I’m heading back in now”
“Are you Pete?”
It was danonthehill, a name I recognised as a poster here and elsewhere. Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.
He’d flown up on his week off and was spending it cruising round the Cairngorms, walking, bivying and getting both soaked and sunburnt. We hung out for a bit, and of course the offer of help to cross the water was gladly accepted. I went to set up the Zipshot tripod and the ballhead was missing. Bastard, it must have come off when I stopped last time. Borrowing Daniel’s Pacerpole/monopod setup I got a shot of the water crossing that I really hope makes the feature.
We swapped good wishes and went our separate ways.
I took the track on the west side of the glen lower down, different views and atmosphere, and just as beautiful. Something landed on my neck and buzzed as I wandered through the trees, I brushed at it and it fell down my t-shirt, and with no pack to stop it, it went right down to my waist, struggling all the way (as Holly said while watching a bee having a fit outside “The bee is having a tantrum”). I unclipped Wheelie and pulled my t-shirt off in 0.666 seconds. Any doubt that if there was an incident I would be trapped inside the Wheelie’s machinery was gone. As was whatever the bloody buzzing thing was.
A cuppa by the river calmed the nerves before the trundle back to reality.
An email from Daniel arrived a few days later (which I had to rescue from the spam bin, why does all the mail from the blog contact form go into the spam bin?). He was home safe after what sounds like an immense trip, more adventure in a week than many who live near the mountains could muster in a year. An outstanding effort, good lad.
He’d met a group of Dutch hikers who’d climbed Macdui (well done them) and they’d got to talking, a black widget had been spied on the track and Daniel immediately knew what it was and where to find it. He picked up my Zipshot doodah on the walk to Loch Etchachan, took it on his travels and then home.
It arrived back here in the post today, having been on more Cairngorm summits than me.
Coincidence or luck? Maybe, but without good people rowing the boat with Chance painted on the bow, we’re never going to find these wee sunny islands of good fortune at all.
The internet is a very small place.