The Glen Feshie Weekend
We were in the pub, it was a sunny Tuesday evening after a club run in the Ochils, and Bob Hughes was holding court over a couple of pints.
"Honest guys it would be great....Glen Feshie�s a beautiful spot " said Bob,
"And if we go the third weekend in May....it�s the only weekend that�s not a bank holiday.....we�ll get the place to ourselves....it�s a great bothy." he continued, waxing lyrically between swallows.
And so it came to pass that on Friday night, the third weekend in May a group of us headed of up the A9 in Bob�s car. Members of the expedition were:-
Bob Hughes Leader
Pete "The Lemming" Buchanan
John "I�m sure it�s this way" Gallacher
Frank Kelly Official Narrator
Maisie Club Mascot
First stop was Kingussie for a bar supper and a couple of pints, and then suitably fortified we drove the remaining few miles to the road end at the head of Glen Feshie.
We were delighted to find the car park empty, immediately congratulating ourselves on our choice of weekend ...undoubtedly as Bob had suggested we would have the bothy to ourselves.
Dividing up our supplies between the various packs and rucksacks caused us some initial problems. Clearly a disproportionate amount of our provisions consisted of tins of McEwans export and various other alcoholic beverages. (Surely in this day and age somebody could invent dehydrated export.)
Eventually we set off to walk up the glen, looking like Ukrainian refugees, bent almost double with the weight of our huge packs. To alleviate the weight problem, we were forced to drink some of our beverages as we marched onwards into the gathering darkness. The first few miles were covered easily enough, the surface being of good tarmac, but we eventually had to forsake this for some rougher ground known as Ruigh-aiteachain.
I had been looking forward to this spot, but it was now dark, raining heavily and we were splunging through a morass of dark chocolate fudge......God�s own fly paper. Sink here in the liquefied peat and you could re-emerge in 2000 years as a famous man. Resisting the temptation for immortality, we ploughed on in swirling mist and rain, trainers (we had decided against walking boots due to their weight) like sink plungers, plopping and splashing about.
Navigating the remaining few miles to the bothy required sobriety and dead reckoning...."OK give or take a few degrees for magnetic variation"....."shine that head torch this way will you?"......so we followed the compass dial and got hopelessly lost.
Imagine grape treading in a vat the size of Strathclyde, imagine stomping around for hours on end with water seeping into every private crevice, imagine being cold and hungry with three delirious companions jabbering about the illusion of an illuminated McEwans export sign just over the next rise. And imagine seeing that vision of Heaven. A mirage? No! At long last we had found the bothy.
To say the bothy was busy was an understatement. I have seen quieter Glasgow pubs during happy hour on a �Fair Friday�. The building was a simple two-roomed dwelling of similar proportions to some of the deluxe hamster cages now available from Harrods. In the main room, in which we had now managed to compress ourselves, people were milling around like they were the last people on Earth in one of those 1950�s science fiction films about a meteor about to hit Croydon. Beyond this there was a sort of inner sanctum which was piled high with rolls of sleeping bags and looked like the sluice room in a wartime hospital. It was clear that great quantities of alcohol had been consumed by the inhabitants. One woman, who bore more than a passing resemblance to the lesbian serial killer from Prisoner Cell Block H, weaved from one man to another throwing her arms around them and kissing them feverishly. The fact that one man was in the middle of throwing up at the time did not appear to deter her. The overall scene resembled a Denis Wheatley film, circa 1972.
Within seconds of our arrival a tall scruffy bearded man squeezed through the throng towards us. He smelled like a circus tarpaulin and was wearing asymmetrical pea green trousers with a bright red tartan shirt, apparently unaware of the vagaries of any fashion....unless you consider a grey tide mark round his neck to be a fashion statement.
He immediately accosted Bob..."I know you from somewhere....don�t I?
"I think we might have gone to different schools together" said Bob
"IS THAT ISLE OF SKYE WHISKY you have there?......Oh Ah�ve never tasted that for years." said the stranger, completely oblivious to Bob�s witty rejoinder.
We never did find out the stranger�s real name but for the remainder of our weekend we referred to him as �Moocher� because he moved effortlessly from one company to another, appropriating drink, food and cigarettes with apparent ease. All things considered he was a thoroughly obnoxious character and we resolved to avoid him as far as possible.
We discovered that the bothy was so busy because a large group who were walking the Coast to Coast route had agreed to meet up for a monumental "piss-up". We also discovered that they were expecting a band to arrive. This came as some surprise to us since we had arrived after one o� clock in the morning. About an hour later a band did appear and before long the bothy was echoing to the plaintive strains of "Hairy Mary Fae the Gallowgate". Any thoughts we had of a good night�s sleep had now evaporated.
Eventually though things started to quieten down and people were making their way towards sleeping bags. Finding somewhere to lie down was not easy. I managed to find a corner of the inner sanctum, next to a row of shiny foreheads that looked like the seven dwarfs all lying in one big bed.
It seemed that I had hardly lain my head down when I was abruptly awakened by someone splashing water on my face. My befuddled mind was still trying to decide whether this was New Year or New York when I heard Moocher�s voice.
" Hah so this is the youth of today......Ah don�t know....You�ve had a full two hours sleep.....The youth of today..just can�t get up in the morning.....when I was your age......etc."
I had clearly picked the wrong spot to bivvy down. It transpired that I was in the kitchen and Moocher had been first up to get his breakfast....or more correctly to help himself before everybody else got up....and he was now splashing the water for his tea all over me. I would have got up and punched him had I not been sandwiched between the seven dwarfs and a table leg, and also feeling like a used condom that had been thrown into a canal.
Despite our lack of sleep and alcohol consumption we soon started to feel better and made some breakfast while Bob was sorting out the day�s route.
"Are you guys going running? " asked Moocher while we were getting ready.
"I think they�re the SAS " said another hill-walker sitting nearby watching us putting on our balaclavas.
"Aye that�s right ...." quipped John...."we�re the SAS.....you might have heard of us....Stirling Avalanche Surfers....we�ll be back tonight to let you know how we got on."
"Aye....ahll maybe be back tonight as well"....said Moocher, again completely unaware of any jocularity ..."My ankles giving me some bother....so maybe ahll see youse later." Obviously Moocher must have considered our Isle of Skye whisky etc. to be rich pickings.
Leaving the bothy around seven o�clock we were soon burping our porridge as we jogged in hazy sunshine along a delightful little stalkers track which contoured around the summit of Creag na Gaibhre to arrive at the beautiful Lochan nam Bo. From there it was easy running up the ridge to Druim nam Bo and on to the summit of the days first Munro, Mullach Clach a� Blair. It is often said that the weather can change dramatically in the Cairngorms and we were now experiencing this at first hand. Within seconds it had started snowing and by the time we had donned full body cover it was the proverbial �white out�. Nevertheless, in our now sober condition it was a fairly easy task to navigate over the head of Coire Garbhlach and climb through knee deep snow onto the broad summit of Carn Ban Mor. A further short climb took us onto the second Munro, Sgor Gaoith, perched precariously above Loch Einich.
By this time the snow had stopped and the clouds that had enveloped us suddenly evaporated. The four of us stood with mouths open in amazement at the sight that now greeted us. The skies above us were perfectly blue and filled with huge puffy clouds that listlessly floated past. The peaks of Braeriach, Cairn Toul and Ben Macdui encrusted with vast snow cornices stood out above Loch Einich and the extensive plateau of the Moine Mhor. Above our heads a lonely buzzard circled with its familiar Keee...Keee sound. It was a scene fit to grace any calendar. (Except maybe Pirelli�s . Ed)
"Wow" John said peering intently like a sheep into the middle distance.
My spirits were lifted. Clearly John was so much at one with nature.
"Wow" he repeated slowly, reaching down to pull his tracksters out of his bottom and swat a fly..........
......."That cloud over their looks exactly like Elvis."
Since the deep snow underfoot made any attempt at running impossible, we decided to abandon our earlier plan of staying high and continuing on to Braeriach and Cairn Toul. Instead our route took us down over the Moine Mor and followed a stream which eventually led us to the River Eidart. This led us to the River Feshie and onto a right of way which headed back to the bothy. By the time we got to the river it was so hot that I was sweating like a Sun reader at a Philosophy lecture. Soon we were all reduced to running in shorts and tee shirts.
Our overall distance was estimated to be about 36k (22 miles) and we had been out for over seven hours. The most important thing now was to get some liquid back into our systems and we were delighted to discover that our stock of McEwans export remained untouched. (We had had reservations about leaving this with Moocher around)
All that remained now was to get some dry clothes on and sit in our Nirvana with a few beers. It was at this point that we started to become concerned about Bob. He had taken off his balaclava to reveal hair that had mutated into what appeared to be two Shredded Wheats with a sweaty centre parting. But more worrying was that his facial condition now resembled an illustration from Dermatologist Weekly. The hours of continuous exposure to the sun being reflected off the snow had taken their toll and he now had a severe case of sunburn. Fortunately one hill-walker who came along managed to provide him with some sun tan lotion and Pete kindly donated his Friday �bunnet� (which he wouldn�t be needing until next week) to alleviate his condition.
The only thing that could spoil our situation now would be for Moocher to return. John and I decided that that there was no way we would put up with him again and over a couple of beers considered various possibilities for his disposal, ranging from industrial strength Chinese burns to enforced colonic irrigation and curare dipped darts. (If only Big Chammy had been there.) Eventually we concluded that Moocher was such an anally retentive ba*%$rd that all that was required was to ask him for some money and his arse would implode. Despite John constantly whistling Ennio Morricone�s theme tune to the Good the Bad and the Ugly whenever a figure approached from the distance, Moocher never arrived. Perhaps he had found some more benevolent people with whom to spend the night. Towards nightfall however, a steady trickle of walkers were arriving at the bothy. One of them turned out to be our own Steve "never hurry a " Murray who had been working all day.
In the bothy Bob constructed a gargantuan version of his chicken-korma curry, full of palate scalding condiments from the east, and a bacchanalian festival of face stuffing ensued. The members of the band who had entertained us the previous evening were still around, having spent the day nursing serious hangovers, and were soon in full flow.
Only a dozen or so people were around now and we could all get seats in the inner sanctum in front of a roaring fire. A most cordial evening was spent and once again the doleful strains of "Hairy Mary...." could be heard late into the night.
Our plan for Sunday�s outing was a much less ambitious affair, though only Steve and the inexhaustible Maisie seemed enthusiastic. Bob�s countenance was still cause for concern. He was now emulating the facial expressions of someone starring in a particularly harrowing haemorrhoid cream commercial.
However, Pete once again came to the rescue with his Saturday bunnet and it was not long before Steve, with his fresh legs was leading us South, over the River Feshie and up via a stony rake to pass the waterfall on the Allt Lorgaidh. Following the stream for a further two kilometres led us to a grassy sweep which gained us easy access to a couple of unnamed tops then onto the summit of what must surely be the most unpronounceable Corbett, Meall an Uillt Chreagaich. (Watch this space. -Ed) From there we picked up a land-rover track which led us back in a northerly direction to the burnt heather clad slopes of another Corbett, Carn Dearg Mor. We followed the long whale-back ridge away from the summit for about a kilometre before plunging down �straight as a beggar can spit�, as Kipling so eloquently put it, back to the track leading South from Glen Feshie.
Sunday�s run seemed really tame by comparison. We had only been out for about three hours. Maisie had to content herself by running for sticks while we packed our gear for the six miles walk back to the car. At least we could see where we were going now and the packs were considerably lighter without food and drink to carry.
Driving back down the A9 it was decided that our alcohol levels now required some topping up, and so it was back to the pub in Kingussie. The barmaid who had waved us off on Friday night with a cheery.....
"Bye now lads....enjoy your weekend"....
......was now having reservations about serving us and kept casting sideways glances at Bob, whose face due to further exposure to wind and sun now resembled a pizza. Catching sight of my own reflection in the pub mirror I found myself wondering how Moocher had managed to keep himself so tidy, and looking round at my companions it was evident that we were all lacking our usual sartorial splendour. The barmaid did eventually remember us but was overhead saying to one of her colleagues...
"Ah mind they three and the dug....but Ah canny mind that one wi the face like a skelped erse."
Soon, however, pints of beer were being quaffed amidst a lively discussion, which revolved around the interesting biological stains that accumulate on Ron Hill tracksters....... three days on and counting. Unfortunately it was soon time to head homewards. Thankfully Bob, now looking like an extra from Tenko, had remained sober enough to drive us back homewards.
Good old Bob
Since abstinence from life�s comforts is not my forte it felt great to be back home for a hot bath and some food.