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Monday, 14 November 2016

The 2016 Challenge, day 11: Once More Into the Hills (19)

As I dropped off Glas Maol and headed for Creag Leacach, it quickly became apparent that the bad weather was going to beat me to the summit ... and boy did that bad weather look bad!

I wavered this way and that, briefly considereing the possibility of pushing on anyway, just for the sake of ticking off this troublesome Munro which has something of a habit of turning me back. And then common sense prevailed. pressing on to that summit in the weather I could see ahead of me would be dumb. So I turned about, and retreated to the summit of Glas Maol. I sat at the summit shelter contemplating my options, and THAT was when the bad weather reached the summit of Glas Maol.

As the rain came beating down, I reached into my rucksack and pulled out my emergency bothy shelter. I have carried it on every single Challenge I have been on, but I have never before needed to deploy it. I needed to deploy it now, however.

I managed to spread the shelter sufficiently to keep both myself and my rucksack dry, and I curled myself into a vaguely comfortable posture, wondering how long I should need to sit it out at the summit of this mountain. Broadly speaking, my options seemed to be to sit here at the summit, curled up in my bothy shelter, my bum getting numb from the rocks beneath it, until the rain let up - which might be who knows how long? Or to cut and run. If I cut and run, where would I run to? I could run to my intended overnight camp, pitch in the howling wind and rain, and spend a miserable, cold, and quite possibly wet night camped out at high altitude. Or I could yomp my way back to Tolmount and join Colin at his wild pitch, if the daylight lasted long enough. If it didn't, I could always stop short at any promising looking spot. But either alternative would still be a high level camp in the howling wind and rain, getting cold and possibly soaked through, and all for ... what, exactly?

My crossing had already been interrupted. I wasn't going to complete this Challenge because I already hadn't. I had spent a day solo in the hills, and not got freaked out by it, so I had clearly conquered any remaining mental demons from my glissade 6 days before. Now that I hadn't reached Creag Leacach, I was not going to make 12 Munros and Corbetts (unless the weather celared sufficiently to do Ben Tirran ... which it wasn't forecast to do). So why, exactly, was I sitting here shivering at the summit shelter of Glas Maol, in the howling wind and rain, contemplating an uncomfortable high level camp??

At 5.30 I decided this made no sense at all. There are times when it is best just to retreat from the hill. If I were to retreat now, I could be at the Glenshee Ski Centre in an hour, and then thumb a lift back into Braemar. The Youth Hostel was bound to have a bed or two going spare, because the last of the Challengers would surely have passed through. If I left it much longer, though, the light might not be sufficient to get down to the ski centre - particularly in this storm.

And so my mind was made up. I stood up and packed my bothy shelter away, hefted my pack once again, and strode Westwards across the summit plateau, towards the path down to Glenshee Ski Centre.

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