Derry Cairngorm - 1155m
Friday 15th December 2017
Weather/Conditions: Cold with snow to ground level and dry powder. The hill day was a bit grey with cloud in on the hills, some breaks of sun. The day walking out was beautiful with sun on the hills and a muted blue/pink sunset.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 21.7km / 970m / 3 days
Accompanying: Kev, Hugh, James & Rich
We headed into the bothy the previous night, walking and carrying all our kit by headtorch. We followed the glen track into the bothy, which was somewhere out of sight. It was pretty benign, the glen was white with snow and the great old pines were black silhouettes in our headtorch beams. On arrival at the bothy, we disturbed a couple of girls here on a foreign holiday. They did not seem to appreciate the drunken hilarity that raged into the small hours.
The following morning, Kev and Hugh weren't for surfacing. So James, Rich and myself headed for Derry Cairngorm ourselves. Snow was deep, especially in the glen and this would really sum up the rest of the day. After an initial steepening by Creag Bad an t-Seabhaig (just above Bob Scotts), the terrain eased off and we headed up in the direction of Carn Crom. Beyond that, we followed the hill so gently upward in the direction of the summit. It was actually pretty exhausting work, although I also felt fit and strong. I was moving well. Derry Cairngorm's cairned summit came after a long push to the top – a third time in the mist and still no summit panorama! This is the only Cairngorm summit I have no panorama from now.
I felt I could physically have gone on to more peaks quite happily, but the afternoon was wearing on and it was not the time for more! But it was good to feel fit. We roughly reversed our route back to Bob Scotts, where a fire was going on our arrival.
Then came the second half of the trip. Some time after a dinner of chilli con carne and rice, I became staggeringly unwell. At first, I had to lie down, and after some time had the incredible urge to throw up - so it was boots on, jacket on, and I escaped through the door in time for the contents of my dinner to end up on the ground outside.
The ensuing night was grim. I would periodically need to go until there was nothing left in my stomach any more. The ground outside was a mess. With the sickness rising, I gained an unpleasant routine of boots on, big jacket on and go – quickly! Otherwise it would have been too cold to hang about outside.
Bob Scotts has the benefit of an outside 'toilet' (hut with a hole in the ground). At some point in the small hours, I found myself falling asleep standing slumped against the door. The air temperature was well into the minuses, and when I woke up again with nothing on but undies, I was sweating profusely and baking hot.
More significantly, I was also blinded, with no sight. Imagine waking up with no sight? But I wasn't panicked. I wondered; perhaps it was just dark in the toilet? But I recalled the ambient light flooding in from outside. To be sure, I fumbled my way to the door and opened it in expectation of a starry night sky. There was nothing, only blackness. And I must have stood, blinded and roasting hot on a freezing winters night, wondering what on earth to do? My to my relief, vision returned within a few minutes and I crawled back into the bothy.
By morning, the vomiting that had taken place all night, every half-hour or so, finally subsided. I was emptied. Though glad for it to be over, I was out of calories and I was freezing cold.
It was a fine day of weather, and James and Rich had nipped up Carn a' Mhaim in the morning. By afternoon, we walked out. I felt like death; even with everything on, my jackets could not arrest the encroaching cold. Without appetite there was no food, and without food I couldn't keep warm. It was just as well we were heading back to the car, but it was a trial for me to walk those final miles.
When I got back to Glasgow that night, I walked in the door with a withered expression. The only thing mum said was "you too, then?". That'll be the winter vomiting bug and it cannot have struck me in a much worse location.
As for Bob Scotts though; what a location. I hope I can go back and enjoy it come time soon.
(0.00) 10.15am Bob Scott's
(1.45) 12.00pm Carn Crom
(3.20) 1.35pm Derry Cairngorm
(5.55) 4.10pm Bob Scott's
(0.00) 2.20pm Bob Scott's
(1.05) 3.25pm Car