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Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The 2012 Challenge, Day 1: Lochailort to Oban (7)

Eventually Oban bothy came into view, and what a wonderful sight it was! I went inside, dropped my pack, and considered my options. It was 4.30 pm. I'd told myself I needed to be at Oban by 3pm to tackle the Munro in safety. 4pm at the very outside. I hadn't made it ... and no matter how I tried to look at the map, I couldn't see that it would be safe to start over that Munro now given the rate of progress I'd been making so far.

To be fair to myself, looking through the entries in the bothy book, it appeared that 7 hours was a pretty normal time for walking in from Lochailort, and I hadn't taken much more than that. But ... well, the only sensible decision had to be to stop short for the night. However, that then gave me a further problem, because with the storm forecast for tomorrow, I didn't think I would be wanting to head up that Munro in the morning either. And even if I did ... well, I'd never make up the lost time and make it all the way down Cona Glen to Corran. And this was a problem in itself, because I was due to phone Challenge Control from Corran on Sunday evening. Having stopped short at Oban, that already wasn't going to happen.

I tried my mobile, but there was no signal - so I couldn't even let Challenge Control know what was going on. But what WAS going on? I was stopping at Oban for the night, and then ... what?? If the route over Sgurr nan Coireachan was impactical, then it looked as though my only viable alternative was going to be to head over into Glen Pean and down to Strathan, then along Loch Arkaig to Spean Bridge. That would take two days - Sunday and Monday - and then on Tuesday I could follow the route I had taken on my first Challenge in 2000 from Spean Bridge to Corrour, and so make the Sleeper and my Union AGM in London as planned. I would have to hope for a mobile signal somewhere along Loch Arkaig to let Challenge Control know what was going on, though, or else they might call out Mountain Rescue. And, what was worse, they'd tell Mountain Rescue my planned route via Corryhully, Cona Glen and Corran ... and I wouldn't be ANYWHERE NEAR any of those places!!!

I figured I'd better leave a very clear entry in the bothy book, and leave the bothy book open on the table, to let any rescuers who came looking for me at Oban know where they should go looking next! Having made my entry, I had supper (a tin of smoked mussels; a gluten and dairy free chicken hotpot; a couple of gluten free country slices and a quick swig of Caol Isla from my hip flask) then settled down for the night. I went to bed at 7.30 but got very little sleep, because the storm arrived early and there were howling winds and beating rain pretty much all night long.


  1. I was camped just at the loch. As I came over the ridge which drops into the head of the loch I saw there was someone at the bothy, but I'd injured my leg and couldn't face the extra walk down to the bothy. If only I had, I think we'd have both welcomed some company. (BTW, I was sat next to you at the 2011 Challenge dinner).


  2. That's interesting, John. I THOUGHT I saw somebody approaching away up the loch ... but when they didn't arrive I assumed I'd just been imagining it. By then I'd changed into my sandals and fresh socks, so I took a short walk to see if I could spot them, but I wasn't going to risk getting my socks wet so I didn't come too far!