Thursday, 29 September 2011
A fine autumn day on Schiehallion
So I've planned my route, and measured up the distances, and made changes to take account of the problems I'd been warned of at the South end of Loch Ericht, and sorted out all my FWAs and one or two FFAs. And all that poring over maps got me pining for Scotland once more.
And it's a long time until May, and I don't even know I'll be there.
And it occurred to me ... well ... why don't I pop up for a little bit of walking one weekend?
So I took Friday off, and I decided to do Schiehallion because ... well, I've never been up the famous fairy mountain; and I'd been looking at the maps which cover Schiehallion; and I don't see any sensible way you can ever work it into a Challenge route (cue long list of comments from Challengers who HAVE been over Schiehallion on their way across, just to prove me wrong).
I nearly didn't go, because MWIS was promising me a cloud base of 900m with sporadic rain and winds gusting at 40 - 50 mph. But then I thought ah what the hell - I was on the 2011 Challenge - surely a wee bitty of rain and wind and poor visibility isnae gonna deter me.
So I spent Friday driving up there in the camper van, spent the night at the Tummel Bridge caravan site, had a good night's sleep, a satisfying fried breakfast (egg, bacon, sausages, mushrooms ... wonderful things, camper vans!) and drove to the mountain. I started at about 10.30 and took two hours to the summit.
And you know what? I didn't have ANY of the things the MWIS promised in their forecast. Sunny with broken cloud, light breezes, no rain ... perfect mountain weather. Although to be fair to them, looking around it seemed pretty clear that other parts of the region WERE experiencing the weather forecast (or, at least, the forecast weather ...)
I left my pack and my poles at the foot of the final summit ascent, and returned there after posing for a few pictures at the top to enjoy a spot of lunch. Then I returned to the car park, had a long natter with some John Muir Trust volunteers and the chap who built the wonderful pillar cairn at the top of the made-up path, then drove back to somewhere in the region of Musselburgh where I parked up by the shore, went for a paddle in the Firth of Forth (brrrrr) and had another very good night's sleep before trundling back down South on Sunday.
It occurs to me though that maybe, if I am going to do a weekend in Scotland, I should take the Friday AND the Monday off for the journey. Then I can get in two days of walking and maybe knock off three or four tops rather than just the one. Because, let's face it, 900 miles of driving is an awful lot of diesel to burn for the sake of just a single ascent ...