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Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The 2013 Challenge, day 2: Out Of (Rough) Bounds (1)

It rained all through the night, and when I woke up (at before 6 in the morning) absolutely everything in my tent was sodden - apart from the dry clothes I had slept in. In part, no doubt, this was because much of it was already wet when I pitched the tent. In part, also, it was down to the fact that my tent had been swathed in cloud all night. But the fact that I had managed to pick up a small hole in my groundsheet somewhere along the line cannot have helped all that much, either! I therefore decided that rather than walk in my "walking" clothes (trousers and fleece), I would walk in the clothes I had slept in, even though these were the "dry" clothes which I was supposed to keep for changing into on reaching camp. That's all very fine and well in theory ... but in practice, you have to reach your camp first. And I didn't think that dressing in cold, sodden clothes was the best way of ensuring I made it safely to my planned camp at the end of my second day's walking.

Now my planned route for the second day was to follow the stream up East from Loch a' Choire Riabhaich, drop down to Lochan Feith a Mhadaidh, ascend Eastwards following the string of small lochans, then follow the Allta' Bhlair Dhearg and the Abhainn Chlachach down to Meoble and walk the North shore of Loch Beoraid to a wild camp South of the Ruighe Breac (always assuming it to be in crossable state). In order to do this, however, I first needed to get to the Loch a' Choire Riabhaich. And in order to get to the Loch a' Choire Riabhaich, I needed to figure out where I was. So I crawled out of my tent and took a look around.

The cloud had not lifted overnight. Indeed, if anything the visibility was even worse than it had been when I pitched my tent. All I could establish for sure was that there was high ground to the North, East and South of me, and that the ground fell away to the West. And when I studied my map I could not find anywhere in the area I expected to be that matched this topography. I have studied the map many times since, and I now think that I was probably camped at the top of the little reentrant shown at NM 707874. Quite how I got there, though, is anybody's guess. I had obviously been blundering about rather more egregiously than even I had given myself credit for the previous afternoon; and the path I dismissed as a deer track may well have been the correct path. Had I followed it, I might therefore have found my way to my planned camp spot after all. But, that hadn't happened; I didn't know where I was; and I needed a plan.

One possible plan was simply to head East and hope to relocate myself as I went. But visibility was poor, and there were lots of hazardous looking outcrops shown on the map a little to the East. I was out of position, and could easily find myself amongst them, in a hazardous position, not knowing where exactly I was. All things considered, that did not seem a very good plan. Safety is paramount, particularly when you are a solo walker and do not know where you are; so I decided that the only responsible thing to do was to head South and the safety of the road, then head to Lochailort. At Lochailort there was a hotel where I could hopefully get a bed for the night and dry out all my sodden kit. And from Lochailort I knew that I should be able to make it, in a day, to my planned camp spot for the end of day 3 - which would put me back on track and back on schedule.

I therefore ate a slab of Kendal mint cake for breakfast, struck camp, and was on my way by 6.30. I headed South, skirting to the West of the high ground, and was soon on falling ground.

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