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Friday, 6 June 2014

The 2014 Challenge, day 7: Double, double toil and trouble (13)

I arrived in the car park of the Dalwhinnie bunkhouse just as Ali Ogden was leaving it by car. She stopped to exchange a few words, telling me that Dave Albon had had a serious fall on Streap - 200 metres, she said; sliding down a steep slope before going over a rock edge. He had survived, but he was a bit battered. She had been looking after him at the Newtonmore bunkhouse, and had just brought him up to Dalwhinnie. I don't mind admitting I was pretty shaken up by this news. Dave Albon is an experienced, sensible mountain man. If it can happen to him, it can happen to anyone.

I took the opportunity to show Ali my antler. She was impressed. I then smiled sweetly, and before you know it she had agreed to take it to Montrose, so that I should not have to carry that additional weight all the way across. So I put the antler in Ali's car, and she headed back to Newtonmore. Then I went to the bunkhouse, apologized for being a day early, and asked if they had a bunk for tonight as well.

They hadn't. The last one had just been taken. If I'd rung ahead (something I'd been contemplating doing, once I was on the shores of Loch Ericht and might have found some signal) I might have managed to get it. But no worry. We discussed where I could put my tent up for the night, and then I sat down with a drink in the company of a number of other Challengers. The conversation was, naturally, largely focused on Dave - who came and joined us after a while, and even treated us to a private viewing of his posterior. It was - how shall I put this - highly colourful. According to Dave the fall had only been 150 metres; but scary, none the less!

After supper, I took my leave of the other Challengers and went to pay a social call - on Jules and Elizabeth Akel. Jules was the gentleman who gave me a lift back to Dalwhinnie after I had completed my Easter expedition, and I had promised to look in on my way through. I just happened to mention that the bunkhouse had not been able to accommodate me, and they immediately said I must spend the night at their house. They had guests, so they could not offer me a bed, but I was more than welcome to put my sleeping bag down on the sitting room floor. They were about to head out for the evening, but would be back at 10 - which suited me just fine. So I thanked them for their hospitality, and headed back to the bunkhouse.

At the bunkhouse I enjoyed another drink (or maybe more ... I really cannot remember) and discussed routes with other Challengers, including Judith. I was intrigued by Judith's onward route: into the Gaick pass, and then South to Blair Atholl. It had never occurred to me to do this.

The bunkhouse wanted to shut up shop somewhat before 10, so I went and had a poke about the station while I waited for the Akels to return. I was fascinated to see the plaque on the wall (pictured) commemorating Monty's visit to Dalwhinnie, which I had never seen before. I also noted that the waiting rooms were left unlocked, and would make perfectly acceptable emergency bothies if the bunkhouse were fully booked on another occasion, and the hospitality of the Akels unavailable. I did wonder, though, whether the signalman locks the waiting rooms up when he switches out the box and goes off duty for the night. It might not be quite so nice being locked in the waiting rooms ...

Having finished poking round, I walked back through the village and arrived at the Akels house just as they were returning. They plied me with drink and other refreshment (as is their way) and we had a very enjoyable conversation for an hour or so; and then I turned in and had a very good night's sleep in their living room.

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