Facing Direction of Travel

It was just as well that Gregg’s is on the way to the station in Dumbarton, the tea trolley didn’t appear until after the train had split into its Oban/Mallaig halves at Crianlarich. I’m sure the whole carriage was jealous of my bag of tasty bakery fare.
The three Australian girls didn’t care, they were jumping from one side of the carriage to the other, clicking away as ever better stuff appeared at the windows. I was pleased for them, the Arrochar Alps looked stunning, all sunlit and snow capped, they’d picked the perfect day to go and see the Harry Potter Bridge at the other end of the line.

I’d planned to read my book but I couldn’t peel myself away from the views. It’s different to the road, when the rails take that extra bit of height or run on the other side of the glen it changes everything and I was grinning at the familiar as it looked like it had put on a new t-shirt or brushed its hair. What a journey this is, what a wonderful place this is.

As we swung away from the road onto the Moor of Rannoch I could see towers of white grinding across the hills ahead, the snow showers that the forecast had spoke of. It was so bright though, the sky was so blue, I couldn’t see these misplaced blocks of winter having any real power left in them.
At Corrour Station it was bright and breezy and it was very nice to be back after the memories of last years trip been stirred up in Trail mag and on here recently. It’s a wonderful spot, so many places claim to be a “gateway” to this or that, but Corrour really is a gateway to wilderness and adventure, and when the train leaves it’s a gate that swings shut at your arse.

It’s nice to be packed and ready, for once I’d been completely set for leaving having admined everything the night before, I walked off the train, slung on my pack and hit the trail. A fine trail it is too and at first through hills I feel know well having spent nights on their summits that live with me still.
There was a chill in the air, I had my hood up and my hands in my pockets as I strode on by the lochside and I stayed just nice. I met a couple on their way back to meet some folks that had come off the train with me. They were all climbing Beinn na Lap and as this pair were as late as I normally am I wondered if their friends had waited? That tea time train home wasn’t going to wait for any of them.

The bond villian hideout that is Corrour Shooting Lodge is visible from far away and up close it draws the eye no less. It’s like an architects doodle pad made real, so many shapes in stone and glass with log fire chimneys running through it in clusters. £30,000 a week to hire it for your family get together, a selling point is that you can land your helicopter nearby for maximum anonymity and security. Last week in August anyone, we could chip in?

And then there were no tracks or trails, it was heather and peat hags with eye watering sunlit snow fields ahead. A newt scurried away from my unexpected footfalls and a fall of snow was so gentle it didn’t even suggest I put on a shell. It was still early afternoon and I was in no hurry at all.

The snowline was reached and passed. It was colder up here, the wind was stronger too amplifying the cold, I was glad I’d put my gloves on. My plan had been to camp on the summit, but the summit of Beinn Eibhinn which was only a few hundred metres away was hardly higher than where I was but there was no shelter at all from this wind. I had a dithery moment.
While I was dithering my faze froze and my legs started to freeze up, bloody hell it was cold. I decided to camp here, in a little depression on the ridge next to some rocks. I think any extra security I was getting pitched here was imaginary, but I felt happy with my decision for the moment, it was still 1012m so that was good.

Pitching the tent was a nightmare, it whipped around like a hooked marlin and I swear I’ve got dyneema guyline scars all over me from the battle to get the thing attached to the ground. I did get it fixed and tight, but the wind was pushing at it right away, distorting the shape and pulling at the pegs. By this time my hands were gloves full of frosted fish fingers and I had to get inside and get a heat whatever the tent was planning for itself.
It was a relief to get inside and get wrapped up. I admined my gear for the night and wrapped my sleeping bag around me as I fired up the stove. It was bright outside, there were still huge tracts of blue above me but that wind was vicious.  I pulled by Buff over my face as I willed the pot to boil a little quicker.

I was dinner time, probably, I was hungry anyway, so I had my dinner. Pasta, oatcakes, cheese and a coffee with the last of the Greggs, a yumyum. What joy there was in that line up.
The tent was stuck to my back the entire time I was eating and I wondered if I was holding the tent up and the guyline had gone, but it was fine, when I slipped into my sleeping bag, just to see what it was like the tent stayed up, it swayed, shook, rattled, but stayed up.

Spindrift was blowing in, it was coming in the gap between the fly and the inner and beginning to coat everything, including the tent inner. I pulled everything in from the porch that I could and zipped up. I was we bit tired, I’d been been up early to catch the train and my plan of catching the tops in the evening light retreated as I lay in my bag. That wind is picking up I thought, and my face is frozen. I felt a little uneasy, I’d been expecting winds around 15/20mph which is just a gentle shoogle of a tent and this was way past that. With the added constant rattle of spindrift inside and outside the tent I was getting a little twitchy.

Music saves the day and my little iPod speakers are worth their weight in gold. Is that still a good phrase to use, is gold still considered the most valuable or desirable of materials? It seems a bit dated reading it back, but what else do you use, stick platinum or titanium in there and it just looks as if you’re trying to be smart, so I don’t know, I’ll go with gold until the EU directive gets published on the matter.
Another cuppa, Turbowolf fighting admirably with the tent noise and I felt in a better place as I warmed nicely under many inches of down. There was a little croaky quack from right outside the door, a sound that brings delight every time I hear it. I grabbed the camera and unzipped the doors as gently as I could but the little bugger was on to me and was scurrying away by the time I had him in my sights. All the ptarmigan are nearly fully brown now, the poor sods must wonder what’s going on with the weather.

I shivered my way back inside, brushing off snow and spindrift, which was getting ever thicker in the porch. There was no visibility outside at all and fresh snow was falling. The wind howled, the tent shuddered more than ever, I sunk deeper into my sleeping bag and closed my eyes. That was when my iPod died and it was as if the volume of everything else instantly doubled.

I went outside once, just to see what was happening, columns of snow raced across the mountains as the setting sun lent them an undeserved warm glow. I hid inside again. With my weight off the floor of the tent, snow had begun to bank under the floor at the back, I was now sleeping in a U shaped channel.
In the noisy darkness I read my book, World War Z, which distracted me for a while along with a packet of fruity Mentos, which it occured to me are just round Tooty Fruities sized to definitely choke you if swallowed, unlike Tooty Fruities which might only possibly choke you. But, pressing the book against a tent wall that wanted to come in the sleeping bag got too much and I decided to just hide from it all.

I was fully dressed apart from my shoes, I had seriously thought about retreating to a lower site, but the tent was holding, I just didn’t know if my nerve would follow suit.
In the early hours I peaked outside, the sky was clear and there were stars, I could see them through the spindrift that hurtled past and into my face. I slipped back inside, zipped the sleeping bag over my head and wished it was morning as the minutes ticked painfully by.

22 thoughts on “Facing Direction of Travel

  1. Hey… I’ve found my login details again! Been lurking all the while. Always a good read.

    Nice… That last pic has the cuben fibre looking like tartan. Oh and weren’t the purple tooty fruities just sooo nice.

  2. Blowey ridge that. Once camped next to the 800m lochan to the north of Geal Charn in a Hilleberg nammatj (the one often used in expeditions to the north pole)

    Slept quite well for the 5 minutes that the wind stayed end on. Problem is that the wind couldn’t make up its mind and for the rest of the night the buffeting was so bad that that guylines kept pulling off their pegs. The flailing guys put me in mind of the mine clearing devices they put on tanks!

    The Beinn Eibhinn four 1 The North Pole 0

  3. Good test for the tent (and your nerves) by sound of things Pete.
    Only been to Corrour a couple of times but when that train pulls away leaving you behind it definitely adds to the excitement! As you say, a bit like a big gate closing behind you.
    Wonderful read,
    Cheers Paul

  4. Ah,a windy night in a laser tent,you must have got at least five minutes sleep,you lie all cosy in your bag thinking I must go out and check the pegs and guys,but then again I’m sure it will be fine,crank up the ipod!!!

  5. I love Corrour. From the journey up to that “Trainspotting” moment of desertion, it always feels like an adventure. I stayed in one of the cottages once and you can get them to pack the fridge with venison in advance. Apparently Bono had just checked out of the £30 grand one which I’m sure helped make poverty history.

    You should try guying the tent to climbing nuts on rocky ground – the wind doen’t stand a chance.

    I am liking the tartan but I’m holding out for my dream dome tent – a giant Tunnocks Teacake.

  6. Magic place, though I’ve never camped there … always stayed in the Stationhouse !!

    Talking of which, has a new lease been signed … for the tearoom if not for the accommodation?

  7. Your stuff was fine Gavin, I gave it the once over, the signal box roof has lost a ridge plate and some slates right enough.
    What was a surprise was the train going to the “wrong” side of the platform when I’d set up the camera on the tripod with the timer to catch the leaving for home moment. The other three folk waiting with me were chuckling away as I tried to reset it all before the train stopped and all I got was a shot of my foot.

  8. Corrour is cracking place, lots of interesting history too, worth a bit of research.

    There’s still no new tennants for Station House, turns out the refurb notices are a bit misleading after all, I hope they get it sorted.

    Tartan tent? The outcome will be revealed in part two, but you should see the floor after a year of careless pitching…

  9. I know that “twitchy” feling well…although I’ve kind of gotten a little blase (how do you do graves or acute accents on this?) about it in the laser comp.

    Think I might be looking for a new tent soon or getting an inner made up for my Golite SL3 now that I’m gonna have to fit a mutt in with me soon!

    Nice read and nice pics (as usual) and I’m looking forward to part 2

  10. Actually, I can add accents to comments back at the dashboard but you’re on your own out here :o)

    The Laser design is fine. I’ve never known what all the fuss about is, it just gets a little high volume at times!

  11. Good words and pics again my man, lovely stuff.
    It’s been too long since I have been in there, I need to sort that out.
    Good though the wee “Comp” is, single pole tents, bad weather and high ridges don’t mix well for a good nights sleep. I wonder if Streapadair would have fared any better in his low slung Phoxhole? Probably not.
    Looking forward to Part 2.

  12. There’s something especially nice about the way you arrive at Corrour that makes it quite unlike any other mountain trip, it’s almost like being parachuted in. Good for the soul having no motor to rely on.

    The Laser most times is worth the compromises. Most times…

  13. You have had worse. But the views look so good. Makes it all worth it the views. We might get tired, cold and belted in the eye by flaying guy-lines but the views make it all worth it.

    Cracking photos as ever.

  14. It’s always worth it Martin, if not immediately then with hindsight.

    This was a good one for me in lots of ways, I enjoyed the extremes of joy and misery that I swung between for the two days. Lots more to say.

  15. I never had a car for many years and the WH line was my gateway to the mountains. One highlight was an early April snowy walk from Currour over the Easains and catching the evening train from Tulloch.
    Another time I missed my evening train at Currour and had to flag down the London sleeper train at about 10:30pm. It didn’t stop at Dumbarton, just Helensburgh, so eventually got home by taxi in the early hours.
    It all seems so much more pleasant reminiscing. You edit out the bad bits.

  16. That’s very true, you can’t remember pain.

    I’d planned to do the Easins that same way when I did them last year (year before?), looks like fun that way. The train is the way to get in there, Stob Ban by train will be the next one I think.

  17. Stob ban is on my ‘to do’ list as well. Perhaps in September when I’ll be spending a week in the Fort William area.
    The last I heard the sleeper no longer stops for passengers as they took away the seating coach (in case you ever decide to miss the evening train).

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