Four to Doomsday, Part 3

The little burn bubbled by two feet away, I could hear it inbetween the blasts of wind. It was light, the rain was gone and I needed a cuppa.
Hunched figures stumbled around camp at first, it felt like an aftermath of sorts. But as the clouds streaking by above us thinned, the sun struck Na Tuadhan’s spires and slipped down towards us and the second cuppa was in hand, we found ourselves quite fresh and happy to face the day.
The final insult though, was the whole end of my tent letting go and wrapping around me again. Like a clip round the ear as I step through the door, it was telling me who was the boss.

We were all pretty relaxed about things, there was one stiff climb ahead to regain the bealach between Conival and Na Tuadhan and then a nice wee trail walk out. The route had become a nice figure of eight, not often that happens on a trip.
Camp was broken slowly and we picked our way through some little crags and onto the steep slopes to the bealach above. The sun was beating down, but it was still cold, with a just little less wind it was perfect walking weather. We split up as the slope flattened into the rocky wonders of the bealach, Phil off at a tangent, Mike to talk to a couple of folk climbing Conival, and Marian and I found the track and waited for the wanderers to return. When they did, we all pulled up a sun-warmed block and sat for a while. Ahead lay the shapes of Cul Mor and beyond.

It was still as windy, as the waterfall we passed was going upwards underlined for us, but the well trodden track down to the River Traligill took us out of it’s path for the first time in a couple of days. We stopped at the bottom where there was some disrobing as it was much warmer.
The scenery was mostly above us now, Conival a 1000m cascade of glistening sugar lumps, but the way onwards was no disappointment. The trail follows the deep trough cut by the river, it’s endearingly picturesque, gurgling water, trees and heather and at one point me landing on my arse in the mud. Mfff.
I was looking at the map and trying to remember at the same time, Joycee and I had stumbled on the caves in foul winter weather and the map put them well off the track. We had to take a sideways diversion to find them as it turns out the map was right, and now I’ve no idea how we got there the last time, we must have been miles away from the track. Whatever, we threw our packs down, and stoves and snacks came out. The team had officially bonded.

I slipped into the low entrance and climbed up the wet limestone as the river rushed into a sinkhole just to my right. I shone my headtorch into the darkness, cold, wet, angular and totally wrong for camping in. I am so glad we changed the plan. Marian followed me in with fading torch batteries and didn’t get too far. I wander on a little, finding a bigger chamber where I could stand up and another passage that continued onwards. It was a little drier in there and I really wanted to keep going. Funny, I’m not good with heights and I’m always up a mountain, I’m great in enclosed spaces and I’ve never done proper caving. Hm, I wonder… ?
Reluctantly I worked my way back outside. The three of them were sitting in a grassy hollow, under a blue sky smiling about a story that I’d missed. Ach, this was better. We had coffee, soup and whatever else we had left. We sat there for ages, the day was kinda done and the energy seemed to have drifted away from us.
But sitting as we were on a fine example of tectonic plate movement, exploring brought us back to life and we walked the dry riverbed where one ancient rock had crept up on another.
Where the water resurfaced we struck sideways to find the track again, across some unusually weathered limestone shapes, an alien landscape in miniature. The track was now wide, we could see a lodge house, the sun was bright and our steps were light. We talked gear, we talked design, we talked history and about where things are going. Mike’s the Innovator in Residence at Lancaster Uni from about now, and the kids he’ll be teaching are going to have the best step-up they could get. He’s got ideals, ideas and a focus that would make a modern marketing department weep, we need that undiluted vision and unbridled enthusiasm in out kit. The season-by-season genuine progression and improvement of the kit when Mike had OMM should be a lesson for all the designers out there and the brands that employ/encourage/restrict them.

We stopped to do some traditional “Trail” shots near the road and then it was all over. Shoes  and socks changed, t-shirts changed and we were off to the Elphin Tearoom where I had the rather amusing task of interviewing my companions.
Whatever doesn’t make the feature I’ll come back with on here later on, between what I got on the trip and what Mike sent me before we left, I have everything, and by then I might have some stuff to add as well, Mike’s not quite done yet you know.
We finally left Elphin before the staff ran out of ways to hint that they were closed, putting the chairs in a cupboard, shutting curtains, taking the half-empty mugs from our hands, we ignored it all. 
We said our farewells and I my thanks as we hurried through the creeping cold to the motors. The Parsons were splitting the journey again, Phil and I were headed home.

We had to stop and take a few dusky shots, it was a beautiful evening, but the distance was our enemy and I kept the beat up until we pulled into Aviemore in the dark to sit in the chippy for a rest and some hot food you actually had to bite. The miles flew past now, Perth and a quick cuppa at the BP garage (the big Tiso at the same roundabout is open now, has a cafe too) led to Stirling where I peeled off the motorway and took the short cut cross-country to Balloch and home. Uneventful, and much shorter than the journey up. Them’s the breaks.

I had planned one thing and got another. The location was perfect, and the weather was both the best and the worst. I can’t thank Phil, Marian and Mike enough for supporting me with so much of their time, such good humour and endless patience as I ventured yet another question or asked “A few paces back and go again…”.


17 thoughts on “Four to Doomsday, Part 3”

  1. Cool!

    I look forward to the interview. Are you posting it on here?

    Will you be heading down to Dartmor at the end of the month? I am sure it would help with your research:)

  2. Loving this photographs in this series of post. Looks like it was an absolutely cracking few days. Need to add Assynt to my to-do-list, like it wasn’t already there.

    Are you going to post a route with the wild camps marked? Would be cool to see it roughed out on a map ;)

    Notice the LA Lakers inspired TNF pro shell from your other post was out on test.


  3. I’m busy that weekend sbrt :o)

    I’ll do something with all the info I’ve got at some point, maybe when the feature goes out. It’ll take me a while, I’ve got a lot of stuff to sift through!

    Bless you tookiebunten, it was a cracking trip.
    Never done a map on here, I think I’d have to some sort of photocopying thing?! I’m not lying when I say I’m shite at this stuff :o)

    That TNF jacket is a joy, more on that soon.

  4. Many thanks to you as well for taking on the burden of organising the trip !
    Thats the furthest North I have been and it was good to somp new ground in such great company !

  5. Good read and some crackin’ pics Pete – like the rock one the best tho, made me wanna head out scrambling. Can’t see me doing any overnighters till xmas, so it’s good to read other people’s trips.
    Just had a catch up on the blog, as been pretty rough since I got back from Iran, gastroenteritis, full blown man-flu (worst I’ve had since the late 90s) and a torn calf muscle just behind the knee… no chance of being out and about, so it’s been a good morning’s read.
    Sold some gear to a guide I met in Iran as they can’t get much Goretex or eVent, it was strange seeing a proper mountaineer get real excited about Montane, Exped, etc when we take what choice we have here for granted.
    So needed some new waterproof troos… settled on the Montane Meteor DTs, light enough, strong enough and a zip fly so I can wear them as trousers when the rains in for the day. Just hope they fit! Actually had a checklist of things I wanted out of shell troos and apart from not being eVent these were the only ones that ticked all the boxes. Lighter would have been better but function had to come first. It will be interesting to see how they breathe.
    New Merrell Chameleons with a grippy sole nowadays! I was shocked as I’d got so used to slipping around on ANYTHING wet, even the pavement – they are my fave casual shoe, so it’s nice to have something safe finally!
    That new MH Hammerhead I got for £70 for Iran worked perfectly, managed to get gas canisters out there so didn’t need the Whisperlite in the end, in fact everything worked well except for me. Altitude sickness, my fault as I went too high too fast. No sickness or headaches but loss my marbles for a while and decided back down was safer. Made it to 4500m but it’s a good lesson learnt and whatever else… wild-camping in Iran is something to say you’ve done.

    Keep up the good work fella.

  6. Phil, a little further north and we’d have been paddling :o)

    Ange, it was mentioned that you’d still be awake, we were just on the wrong side of town!

    Chewy, good grief, sounds like you’be fallen out of a high building, went through the roof of a doctor’s waiting room and lay there on the floor until you’ve caught all the illnesses in the room.
    At least when they wheeled you away the ambulance driber said “Nice waterproof pants…”.
    An adventure you had there for sure.

  7. Ah – a good one tho, I’ll go back sometime for longer.

    This DT fabric Montane use, have you any experience with it? Never been a whore to the Gore as they say, I loved Triplepoint from Lowe and I found eVent to be brilliant when it comes to breathability… I have no mates who’ve used the DT Entrant fabric tho, so it’s a stab in the dark for me.

    Very naughtily ordered one of those OMM Adventure lights to replace The TN Laser Elite I had problems with. Twice the weight but I’m hoping it’s a bit more user friendly.

  8. It’s a nice wee pack chewy. Mine’s agetting alittle tatty now, but there miles left in it, comfy and brilliant forward-angled bottle pockets.
    I’ve got the matching Meteor Jacket on test, it’s a decent enough fabric, very pleasant to wear as it’s light, no inner scrim as such to absorb sweat though, so it’s a little Paclite-y, but I don’t find that much af an issue.

    You know how much fun you’ll have when you get there Martin. I had a pretty barren couple of months there, no bigger trips, and this one just sang to me all the way home!

  9. Cheers Pete – they turned up and the troos impress, light AND stretchy, way stretchier than I’d imagined. Very thin or thick leggings will work well under them I’d expect.

    I’m liking the OMM pack… well worth the extra weight. Roll on next weekend and Snowdonia! Have a good weekend yourself.

  10. Here’s hoping, got to change a valve in a factory in the morning and if it goes well then it’s Arrochar on the mountain bike :o)

  11. “Phil, a little further north and we’d have been paddling :o)”

    Hey, paddling’s good too… on the clagged-in days on our trip last week we took in Sandwood Bay (again), the Old Man of Stoer (not the top ;O), Clachtoll and Achmelvich beaches, and Faraid Head out north from Durness – all magical places and sometimes a pleasant change from the inside of another cloud! :))

    Your trip sounds fun though, thanks for another good write-up shared.

  12. Ah, I haven’t been right on the north coast for ages.
    I was gazing up at Ben Hope and the memories were flooding back from trips there, both horrific and joyous.

    Youse made good use of your time up there!

  13. this is me just catching up on the last few weeks on here and it definitely looks like you all had an amazing time just by the smiles – fantastic pics and write-up as always mate – looks like another world up there, maybe someday.

  14. Even for me it’s another world up there. Somthing about driving over the ridge from Ullapool feels like crossing a border.
    Seems like a lifetime ago now.

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