The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Druim na Sgriodain (NM978656; 734m)

Distance: 7.7 miles
Ascent: about 750m
Weather: Mainly wet with a lowering cloud base
Start point: Parking area opposite the old chapel, at around NN 01070 64222. Altitude: less than 5m

After a couple of days without a mobile phone signal (except on a hilltop, and I didn’t think about it then), it was only just before I set out this morning that I was able to look at a weather forecast. A 90% chance of heavy rain at 10am, and a greater than 95% chance of heavy rain at 11am, said the Met Office. Up to that point my decision to head on up a hill had been informed by the cloud base being above 750m at 7am. Seeing that forecast, I possibly would have abandoned thoughts of doing much of anything today, except that the six-minute return journey on the Corran ferry costs £16.40, so I wanted to get my money’s worth*.

The next fly in the ointment was finding that part of my route coincided with today’s stage of the Scottish Six Day Trials (a motorbike event that involves ripping up great swathes of perfectly good Scottish hillsides and turning them into monstrous mudbaths for everyone who comes after them). Mick was still with me at that point (he only planned to walk as far as the Ardgour Mast, and it was behind the mast that the Trial was encountered), and after a bit of dithering (and grumbling about there being no notices up about the Trials being in this area today) we decided that I could safely dash up the bit of the course I needed to cross, in between bikes.

A few minutes later, as I made my way up, up, up, alongside a burn, it started to rain. It was 9am. The forecast definitely didn’t mention rain at 9am. Harrumph!

Entering Coire Dubh the wind hit me with force, but, in the hope that it was just being magnified by a channelling effect, I pressed on (it was; the wind on the top was fair blowing, but not unmanageably so). I then lost time dithering every ten yards about which route to take up onto the ridge. You can see from the map snippet above what choice I made.

It’s difficult to say whether my ascent up onto the ridge was faster than the rate at which the cloud base was descending, but by the time I was at the top visibility was appalling and the rain was lashing. Much compass work got me to the summit.

Most people seem to combine this hill with its not-quite-twin-top the best part of 2km away. There was not a chance I was going to do that in those conditions! I turned tail and there ensued a couple of navigational blips and a moment of panic, until I gave myself a talking to about the futility of panic, when I found myself at the top of a crag where a crag should not have been. Even at the time I knew there was every chance that it was just a bit of a stony lump in the ground that in 10m visibility I was seeing as a crag, but I didn’t want to take my chances. That explains the bizarre routing of my return leg.

I had, on my way up, had the presence of mind to tell the mapping on my phone to record my exact route, and to build myself a couple of mini-cairns (yes, I did destroy them again on my way down), which made my retreat significantly quicker and easier than it would otherwise have been, as well as giving me certain knowledge that I was dropping back off the ridge in the right place (i.e. in the break in the crags).

Back down at the Scottish Six Day Trials course, it had now been churned up such that I waded through ankle deep soft mud, then all I had to do was to stride along the track back to Bertie. It’s a bit of a circuitous route to take, but it is a waymarked route up to the mast, and it avoids the field boundaries that would be encountered by taking the direct line.

The only other real incident of note was that I returned to Bertie sporting a bruised and swollen left cheek bone, looking exactly like someone had punched me. That’s because someone had punched me, and very hard too. That someone was me. The hazards of blowing one’s nose when holding a walking pole in the same hand and whilst still walking. The walking pole caught on a large rock, and my forward momentum cause me to slam my own fist into my face. Mick does despair of me sometimes, and on this evidence, with quite good reason…

(*The original plan for this trip involved us catching the ferry over to Ardgour last Thursday morning and not coming back until tomorrow morning, giving me plenty of time to get my money’s worth out of the ferry)


  1. Those contours look very close together. How long does your gadget thing last on batteries when it's recording your route?

    1. Generally, I'm prepared to go up or down any slope where the 1:50k map is able to show all 4 contours in between the 50m bold contour markings, even if they're really close together, and I'm prepared to stray onto slopes where the steepness is such that only 2 intermediate contours are shown between the bold lines, provided that the silly-steepness is only for 50-100m of ascent. In the latter case, I do prefer if I can see the slope first to make sure it looks feasible. My knees don't always thank me for this attitude!

      My Garmin Gadget is now around 8 or 9 years old (I think) and the battery life seems to have dropped recently. A couple of years ago I got over 12 hours of recording out of a single charge. This year it has been giving me the 'low battery' warning after about 7 hours' use (the low battery warning coming when it reaches a quarter battery remaining), giving me the impression that it would only last around 9 hours, but I haven't actually run it to empty recently to check its capacity accurately.