Ben Cruachan - 1126m
Stob Dàimh - 998m
Stob Garbh - 980m

Friday 3rd May 2013

Weather/Conditions: One of the wettest days I have ever had. Also very cold, near freezing - and I got soaked through many times over. Hard to emphasise how bad this was, the only positive being lack of the forecasted whiteouts.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 43km / 1630m / 9h 50m
Accompanying: Alone

Today (3rd May) was ringing wet - absolutely ringing. Actually, it's been a long, long while since I've had a hill-day quite as saturated as today. Dad and I camped near Oban last night and I constantly woke to the sound of the tent bending to the force of the wind. Unsettling. Rain hammered down all night and in the morning, the ground was saturated through.

In my two days, two things have taken me by surprise. One, is how dead-set I am on keeping to the schedule. And two, is the way that with a goal in mind I shut everything out and go.

The latter point applies to the cycle. Dad, who had developed a migraine, dropped me at the Oban pier. He headed off to Taynuilt to find a hotel room to deal with his condition and I began cycling. The rain was still belting down (though not quite as bad as on Mull) and I just made it my focus to get to Taynuilt.

I was worried about Ben Cruachan, because MWIS had been talking about whiteout. This is where my earlier first point comes into play: I was seriously doubting earlier whether I'd get to Ben Cruachan today. If I missed it out, I'd be a day behind schedule, and the weather isn't looking so great for the coming days, either. I wouldn't want to be behind so close to the outset.

I got to Taynuilt fine, albeit wet, and made myself comfortable. I was actually in my "own personal little hell" (as I put it to dad), about Ben Cruachan. I'd rather have stayed and slept, or something. But it was gnawing away at the back of my mind. Rain pelted down non-stop, and in turmoil, I decided to cycle to Falls of Cruachan - at least get that bit out of the way.

Another 7-ish miles up a soaking road and I was at the foot of Cruachan. Feeling mentally stretched, I sat in the train station getting cold and low. The train actually came by and stopped for me, and I had to apologise: I was just taking shelter! In truth, I was worried what I might find up Cruachan. With all the rain we'd had, as well as cold temps, I'd expected metres of snow to be building up.

I left the bike at the station and started walking - just a look.... then as I started walking I got this inner buzz, out of nowhere. 100 metres on, I ran back to the bike and hid it as I knew this could go somewhere - I might be gone a while.

I plodded on. The bike had felt hard work and my legs had felt like lead, but the walking, as on Ben More was nearly effortless. In drumming rain, I began to feel good. The best way I can describe is my spirit grew inside, picked up pace. The Cruachan dam pulled into view in no time. Walking along the reservoir, my spirit absolutely soared (best way I can put it). The mist, all day just above the loch, tore back for a moment and I could see the Cruachan ridges way above, nearly free of snow. No whiteout then. An immense change from an hour before, now I was on my way up Ben Cruachan giggling away. The inner fire was welling up and with that I was pretty damn sure I'd make the top.

Cruachan's a high hill, so it took a while to get to the top. I followed the ridge to Diamh with axe in hand since there were big slobbery snowfields melting away in all the rain. The rain had been going all day, I felt pretty damn cold and moved non-stop to get around the Cruachan horseshoe.

What a relief to successfully complete something that had been such a mental block. I'm back on target. A song lyric comes to mind: "one day I feel I'm ahead of the wheel, and the next it's rolling over me". Apt!

However, the next few days seem to be bringing pretty dire weather, too. So I'm changing my game plan a bit. My original intention had been to climb the Eunaich pair tomorrow, camp in Glen Kinglas and do the Starav 5 the day after. In the current weather conditions this actually feels dangerous. On Ben Cruachan, I went out on a limb with my safety since I have a warm hotel to come back to (and it's amazing). But I was on the verge of being too cold today, it took a long time to heat back up (even with every inch of clothing on!) and I can't take that chance tomorrow. So for the sake of staying on schedule, I'm going to go not-quite-self-propelled and take a lift from dad to Glen Etive tomorrow after doing the Eunaich pair. Kind of sucks, but deep down I know that's the way I'm going to have to play it. Doing the hills is amazing, cycling between them has been a bit of a drag and it's taking it out of me.

So yeah - all on plan and a hell of a day today. I knew that I'd hit mentally tough sections but maybe not on day 2!!

Last of all, the effect of walking astounds me. Walking up Cruachan has been one of the most spectacular examples of why I'm doing what I'm doing. I was pretty down at the train station. One hour of easy walking later, I felt brilliant. It also feels good to have come back from the brink (I was on the verge of calling it a day today without having done a hill) and still be on schedule. The next few days will take me over Eunach, Starav, Sgulaird, etc to Glen Coe. Looking forward to that.

Song of the day - One Little Victory - Rush. Anyway that's all for now - I've written enough. I'm sure there will be more drama tomorrow!

Times (Time relative to 0.00)
(0.00) 9.30am Oban
(1.20) 10.50am Taynuilt
(2.50) 12.20pm Taynuilt (left)
(3.50) c. 1.20pm? Falls of Cruachan
(4.50) 2.20pm Cruachan dam
(6.10) 3.40pm Bealach an Lochain
(6.40) 4.10pm Ben Cruachan
(7.50) 5.20pm Stob Dàimh
(9.50) 7.20pm Falls of Cruachan
Uploaded: 2018-10-13