I originally wrote this trip up for an OM feature. But as a good opportunity to save effort and look through old photies I thiugh I’d stick it on here as well, but with extra words and photies. Ah, memories…
I set off late on Wednesday morning, the weather was looking good. The weekend would be all full laybys and social interaction and once again earning money suddenly took a back seat.
I stopped in Pitlochry for supplies and had a look in Escape Route. It’s an independant store with bikes a priority and outdoor stuff coming up fast in their mirrors. Looks like it belongs either in Ambleside or the past. Good luck to them. I headed out onto the long dead-end road to Rannoch Station. It’s a beautiful drive through forest, lochside and then empty moorland littered with glacial boulders, scattered like the contents of the Scrabble letter bag after two old ladies fought over the ligitemacy of that triple word score and it had gotten nasty. I clocked the lovely wee village of Kinlochrannoch and its tearoom for the return leg. Such reconnaisance can make or break a mision.
I arrived at the end of the track I was looking for about mile or so from the end of the road at Rannoch Station in glorious sunshine. I parked up at the side of the road where there’s plenty of room for the motor and also for other folk to easily pull in beside you and ransack yout stuff. It didn’t worry me so much at this grid ref however. Off I went, cap on to shade my eyes and sleeves rolled up but with a winter sleeping bag in my pack (that sunshine wasn’t fooling me for a minute).
The track is easy going, well used by the estates wheels. It takes you away from the highway of the B846 pretty quickly as it skirts the West of the hills on it’s way to Loch Ossian, Spean Bridge, even Glen Nevis. There’s a network of tracks there that really need to walked and biked.
It gets slowly higher and the view over Rannoch Moor opens up. The visible distance is is quite outstanding, it took a train on the West Highland Line 15 minutes to pass through my field of vision from north to south. Oddly the train wasn’t intrusive, it’s tiny weeness added to the feeling of being away.
I was quite happy wandering along the track but the ridge of Carn Dearg was rising ever higher to my right so I had to start climbing. I headed for a cairn on a wee outcrop that isn’t on the map. It’s well before Corrour Old Lodge which was annoying as I wanted to have a shufty at it. Ach, next time. The ridge is wide and interesting, rocky with clear views all around. Plenty of places to camp as well, in case the summit was rubbish.
I got to the summit just before 2000hrs, pitched the tent about 20 feet from the rather fancy cairn, got my furniture admined, cooking kit ready for action and then swanned about on the top watching the sunset. I was right about the temperature as well, it was ‘king baltic as soon as the sun dipped out of sight.
Once I lost the light, I had dinner and then a wander in the dark, the hillsides for miles around lit up by grass fires. The grass fires didn’t play on my mind constantly, not at all. I didn’t once think of the large patches of scorched hillside I’d been avoiding on the way up. Anyway, I went to bed and did get to sleep. But I was woken up by a bright light that caused me some confusion, it’s 0330hrs. “It can’t be dawn yet “says I…Fire! Fire! No, it was the moon you dick. Like a 100watt bulb over the tent. At this point I noticed that my Titan kettle has frozen onto my cooking rock in the porch, so back to bed.
I got up again at 0600hrs to one of the most amazing sights I’d had in the hills. The sun wasn’t up but it was getting brighter all the time. From East to West was a sea of cloud, bubbling gently, soft waves lapping onto the hillside below me. The peaks stood sharply against the cloud most still flecked with a little snow. i was snapping away when the battery in the camera died. I kept on trying and got some more shots if I was quick, switch on-point-click, but most of the photies are courtesy of my phone. Praise be for such convenient consumer items.
The sun broke through and it knocked me back on my heels. The tops caught the sun first, Glen Coe, Ben Nevis, the Mamores and Black Mount glowing warm against the blue sky and thick blanket of cloud, a single shooting star drew a white streak cross the sky and faded in an instant. The colours changed and fluxed like the paint of a carefree decorater emptying out his nearly empty tins out of sight in a quiet layby. I’m still trying to bring my camera back to life as well mind. Crivvens the stress.
The cloud waves caught the rays of the sun, they woke up properly then and started flowing towards the East, mostly likely to where clouds have their morning cuppa. The waves flowed up hillsides and slipped back or vapourised on the ridges, plumes would shoot up and fall back down. The whole mass of white was moving, and it looked like it had weight and purpose, not the flimsy foamy uncommited nonsense of reality.
It was outstanding. I spent hours watching the silent movie unfold, I had breakfast, many cuppas and reluctantly broke camp. I climbed down to the boggy bealach and up onto Sgor Gaibhre, where it was still all wonderland, but the cloud was breaking up a little and a could see reflected light sparking through it from the surfaces of lochs and rivers. I meandered down into the corrie and followed the river out. The cloud disappeared, the sun was blazing and with with a spring in my step I found the landrover track again and headed back to the motor where I became all cotton shorts, sandals and sunglasses.
I drove to the end of the road and looked at the closed tearoom and a train biding its time at the platform. It’s a fine spot though and a few weeks later I was through on a train as we headed to Ft Bill to start our disasterous attempt on the WHW. Now there’s a story…