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Day 8 to 12

April 10 2023 – Day 8

Starting off from the “wrong” side of the Ballachulish Horseshoe – not the usual route but reducing the distance from yesterday’s end point, Euan had a smooth start zooming along a forest track for 40minutes in warm sunshine. He was tackling the horseshoe in an order that no self respecting farrier would be proud but this was the most efficient way to tick off 2 Munros and not to hammer out a comfy boot for a large equine. The Beinn A Bheithir range – HILL of the THUNDERBOLT – had the Munros of Sgorr Dhonuill – DONALD’S PEAK – nepotism in the Committee on Hill Names (COHN) methinks and Sgorr Dhearg – RED PEAK. The sunshine of the lower slopes turned to rain and snow – images of the tops and the weather Euan faced can be found on the website and describe far better than this van based writer can put into words. The feat of taking out a mobile and completing video clips, recording panoramic shots and setting up classic hill views during a climb is an accomplishment in itself. Stats for the day – 18k travelled in 4hours 30mins, 2 Munros added to new total of 21. With a forecast of heavy rain the next day, pressing admin tasks and most importantly the need to give the body time to repair meant a day of rest was planned for day 9.

April 11 2023 – Day 9 – A Day of Rest

This was the first day of rest since the start of the challenge on April4 at the base of Ben More on Mull. It does seem a long time ago. The torrential rain of the previous night lessened to a steady downpour as wet gear was dried in Cr282 courtesy of a small fan heater linked to the campsites supply. As you will remember, HQ commander missed the opportunity today to sit outside and watch clothes dry. The compensation being Cr282 becoming warm if a little “fuggy” inside. (No further detail is required regarding the atmosphere since some readers may be squeamish or having a meal – The Editor).

Cr282 was also receiving some TLC – well actually, its water and fuel tanks were being topped up while its “grey” and “yellow” tanks – think about it – were decanted. HQ commander was being trained in van maintenance though he was a bit of a watch and learn pupil as opposed to being an active doer while Euan was there. (Readers can be reassured that all health and safety and environmental protocols were strictly followed – The Editor)

Challenge 282 supported the Ballachulish Coop for supplies but to be fair it had a bit of a monopoly. Coop staff began to sigh when they saw the commander approach since he invariably asked for the location of goods being unused to their perfectly logical places in the shelves or aisles. He often became lost in the pet aisle which was of no use at all for the animal free zone that was Cr282. A parcel from home was delivered by a visiting family member which was very welcome containing such essentials as a needle and thread, extra specialist knee tape and another beanie for the commander.

Cr282 found a reasonable parking spot just off the A82 except the odd artic could be heard hurtling down the road in the middle of the night. This spot was ideal for Euan’s start the next day.

April 12 2023 – Day 10

Today is the day when the “finest ridge walk on mainland Britain” is tackled or the “classic rock scramble” that is Aonach Eagach – the NOTCHED RIDGE with its Munros of Meall Dearg – the RED HILL and Sgorr nam Fiannaidh – PEAK of the FINGALIANS (legendary Celtic warriors). Far from red, all the ridge was plastered white and any Fingalian warriors had moved down to lower levels! Initially clear from the base, Euan started at 7.00am with the mantra”Be bold, start cold” fixed in his mind. This saying was reinforced by the sight of a gritter lorry with flashing lights trundling down the A82.

Between the 2 Munros, there are “very steep spiky bits” the commander considered even from his sea level vantage point. A perhaps more expert description follows from the Munro book – “a lot of excellent and in places exposed scrambling, up and down gullies, slabs and chimneys and over some little pinnacles.” Today, however it was all covered in snow, deeper than anticipated. Euan described later how he used the 5 point method on any descent – 2 hands, 2 feet and 1 other body part. He failed to divulge what he used in the ascents. Whatever he did, he made the rendezvous buzzing with the adrenalin which this traverse inspired. Check out the superb images he somehow squeezed into his climb of the Notched Ridge.

HQ commander may have inadvertently come across in this blog as an over confident individual, a bit too sure of his status in this challenge. Consider that misplaced attitude a thing of the past as the real hero tackled the mighty Aonach Eagach. As the commander completed minor domestic chores – washing dishes in the river Coe, he closed the side door of Cr282 to move into the front seat. CLUNK…All the doors locked with the keys inside and no spares. A large piece of humble pie was immediately swallowed and digested as the situation became apparent - this was 7.30am and no local recovery garage opened until 8.30, Euan was engaged in a tricky traverse expecting a prompt pick up later, the phone signal poor and its battery as low as the commander’s self esteem. Some texts from family with suggested garage contacts helped his morale but a Spean Bridge recovery service 29 miles away which the commander made scratchy phone contact with solved the crisis by 10.00am. The commander considered immediate resignation or demotion at the very least to temporary orderly 3rd class but fortunately no one was there to enact either. Position saved but pride destroyed.

On more relevant Challenge282 business (and not before time – the Editor), Cr282 met Euan who still on an Aonach Eagach high polished off the next cycling stage of 12.5k to Glencoe Ski Centre in double quick time. The ski Centre was the parking spot for the night and a good start point for tomorrow’s stage. Euan kindly only mentioned keys twice during the ensuing evening. He must have been distracted or something.

Thank you very much to all who helped with the key crisis. In particular special mention should go the RRcouple from Derbyshire whose camper was next to Cr282 today. The commander was given a cup of tea, pen and paper, the loan of a duvet jacket, the use of a power bank to boost a phone but most of all supportive conversation during the wait for the recovery mechanic. Thank you as well for the subsequent donation to Ch282. A pleasure to meet you both.

April14 2023 – Day 12

A mist shrouded ski centre did not make an inspiring setting for day 12’s stage start which would include no less than 4 Munros. Following positive feedback about the publication of COHN’s decisions on hill names, this blog practice will continue unless the writer misplaces the reference book where the definitions come from! This is unlikely as Euan runs a well organised wagon and given a recent key misdemeanor, the commander is on best behaviour. The unseen Munros from the base are –


Meall a’ Bhuirdh – the HILL of the BELLOWING

Stob Ghabhar – PEAK of GOATS

Stob a Choire Odhair – PEAK of the DUN COLOURED CORRIE

The observant amongst you, everyone then, will have noticed when COHN uses Stob or Sgurr, it translates to “peak” whereas Ben, Beinn etc is the more mundane “hill”. Do you think that there is hierarchy of mountains according to names or does size matter? Discuss.

Euan was oblivious to such niceties especially since the mist and snow was attracted to all the Munros regardless of name, size or shape. He finished the day at the grand sounding Forest Lodge close to Victoria Bridge. He should have been well pleased with his day – 24k travelled in 7hrs 18mins with 5900ft of ascent and 6679ft of descent.

The end point of Forest Lodge reminded the commander of the time when he met a famous celebrity…. (Enough! Thought a lower KEY approach was to be adopted – The Editor)

Even after this long day, Euan was keen to cycle a short distance, in comparative terms, to the next day’s start point – Bridge of Orchy. He found a quiet parking spot opposite the local Fire Station and Village Hall. It remained quiet all night – no 999 klaxons or rowdy Friday night discotheque. (The Editor would like to clarify for younger readers that a discotheque was a term used in the 1970’s where young people moved rhythmically in time to loud music as flashing or strobe lights shone from an elevated stage.) The commander can just about remember such events with some fondness.

A late entry was received for the aborted competition which called for the name of a collection of gamekeepers. This was inspired by the sight of a group of gamekeepers on electric bikes. When the suggestion of a stalker of gamekeepers only received a lukewarm response, the entrant tried again with an e-stalker of gamekeepers. Nice try!

(The Editor would like to reiterate that there is no competition and the above entrant would have been disqualified anyway – contravention of rule 37 sub viii – no member of the organiser’s family may enter said competition.)

April 15 – Day13

The early start to a day had almost become a habit but it was with very good reason that Euan started around 7.00am. A long trek was planned which would take in no less than 5 Munros with an overnight camp a possibility depending on progress. Euan packed accordingly but wisely decided against an ice axe despite the snow cover. He had begun to consistently use walking poles which were excellent in easing pressure on joints, providing stability on rough terrain and very handy when crossing fast flowing mountains burns or streams. Despite the poles, Euan often returned with wet feet because of the wet snow or large streams which could not be avoided.

The Munro hit list for today –

Beinn Dorain – HILL of the OTTER

Beinn an Dothaidh -HILL of the SCORCHING or SINGEING

Beinn Achaldair – HILL of the FIELD by HARD WATER or THE MOWER

Beinn a Chreachain – HILL of SCALLOPS

Beinn Mhanach – MONKS HILL

Euan had to kickstep in the snow for others to follow whilst he got the benefit of climbers who had done the same in later steep ascents. Euan’s choice of leaving his ice axe in the van and opting for poles had proved correct but he was astonished to see a fellow hiker with an ice axe but also wearing shorts. One wonders in what climbing manual he’d seen such a combination that he might copy. Euan didn’t say if the sighting was on the hill of the scorching or singeing but if it was the COHN has a lot to answer for. On the topic of hill names, the meeting that chose the mower and scallops as appropriate names in the middle of a rough part of rural Scotland must have been an animated one, maybe the Xmas one when port was served.

The 5 Munros took 10hrs 48mins across 32.5k of terrain and included 8697ft of ascent and 8200 of descent. These are big figures but readers should try to put them into a personal context. The commander, never one to shy away from self promotion, announced that on a hike that morning up a local Corbett ( a hill between 2500 -3000ft) he had climbed the equivalent of 15 flights of stairs. This was according to his Garmin watch. (This blog has strict rules on the use of brand names – the Editor) 15 flights no less– Euan did 74! A quiet night followed beneath the dam at Loch Lyon – Euan was understandably “quiet tired”, the commander was just “quiet”.


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