If you’re wondering what I mean by spontaneously, I do occasionally get sent to some interesting places with work. Telecomms sites or SSE Hydro stations, for example, are usually within sacking-the-job-off-and-going-for-a-walk-instead range of a Munro or two. It’s actually really annoying to think of all the places I’ve been over the years where I could easily have crammed in a sneaky Munro on the sly! So, I’m carrying two bags on all jobs now; one with work stuff and emergency pants, the other with walking kit. Which includes emergency pants.
Anyway, Driesh and Mayar got the nod as they’re reasonably close to home, and from the reports, not massively challenging which shouldn’t ruin my already troublesome knee too badly. Oh, and they’re on the same OS Map as Lochnagar, so there was no need to nip into town to buy a new map. Winner. There was one slight complication, however; the weather looked far more accommodating on Saturday AM, with it getting a bit wild by PM and into Sunday.
Well, make that two complications. Some Italian and Scottish blokes were scheduled to have a bit of a dust-up over a funny-shaped ball around lunchtime, and for some reason I’m strangely compelled to observe such contests. 12:15 kick-off? Let’s do the maths.
05:00 – Wake up / breakfast / nervous pee, etc.
05:30 – Leave Aberdeen (allowing 1:30 to get there)
07:00 – Arrive Glen Doll and start walk, first hour-ish by head-torch
11:00 – Depart Glen Doll (leaving 1:15 to get home may involve getting the toe down a bit)
12:15 – Arrive on couch, imbibe beverages, shout.
By the way, whoever it was that wrote the walk report saying they did both summits from Glen Doll and back in substantially under four hours, you must bear some responsibility for the blind optimism of my itinerary. In the end, it was of little consequence as I had a polite dispute with my sat-nav somewhere on route. As it turns out, the sat nav, for once, had a valid point and I was the one talking mince. In my defence, it does have something of a history of telling wee naughty fibs.
Finally getting underway around 07:30, my finely hatched plan was already torched. New plan – forget the egg-chasing, walk at a sensible pace, and catch the last dregs of the match on the radio in the car in the way home if possible.
Even with the 30min delay, it was still very much head-torch territory for a wee while. Other than two camper vans in the car park, nobody else appeared daft enough to be up and on the go this early. I do prefer the less-peopley walks, and it looked like this should be one. It was, however, wet. Note to self – weather forecast about as reliable as sat-nav. The forecast had been for “some cloud” up until midday, when some light rain was forecast. Well, it had rained most of the drive and I can confirm it was still raining when I pulled up at Glen Doll, and it was going to rain most of the way up Mayar. Oh well, on went the pack-away waterproof trousers and off we went.
There’s not really much to report until you get to Corrie Fee. Just a nice little forest walk past the lodge and turn-off to Jock’s Road. A few nice little bridges and bits where the water winds close to the path, but all fairly flat and smooth and not much to pay attention to. And then you clear the forest and walk into Corrie Fee. Wow. With the tops enveloped in cloud it’s impressive, in nice weather this would be amazing. Even on a day like this the sky is alive with wheeling, squawking birds of prey, a few deer crossed the path in front of me and even encountered a couple of hares.
I also had a boggy bit try to relieve me of one of my new boots. As this probably invalidates Millets’ returns policy I guess they’re keepers now.
Up at the end of Corrie Fee the ascent starts on a path to the left of the waterfall. It’s steep in places but well-made and reasonably clearly defined. As is typical for this kind of terrain, the right knee starts checking in with me at this point. Not hurting as such, just sending little messages like:
Roy's Knee wrote:Hey, I see we’re doing this again, are we? Sure that’s wise?
Roy wrote:Shut up, patella-face, let me get on with this. Ok, fine - let’s sit down and have a brew. So long as you promise to behave yourself later on.
Coming out of the stepped ascent, the path fades away and becomes a boggy hill track. At this point, it’s thick cloud and navigation pretty much goes out the window, other than to keep walking roughly south-east, and if I start going downhill I’ve gone too far. I didn’t even see the cairn until I was pretty much on it.
Now, I’m not one of those people who would come off a hill with a good mind to leave a scathing TripAdvisor review because there wasn’t a café, visitors centre, toilets and a pub at the top. However, there really is not much to write home about at the top of Mayar, especially if there’s a strong wind blasting cold wet cloud vapour into your face! With zero meaningful shelter, even the snacks were staying in the backpack for now. I’d made the first summit in roughly two hours, and with no view to enjoy today, it was time to make tracks for Driesh.
Even tracking North-east to avoid the very steep descent, it was at this point coming down onto the flat plateau that my knee signalled its intent to literally be a pain for the rest of the day. Well, at least on anything involving a downhill step, even smooth downhill stuff it’s not too bad. Luckily the next little bit was relatively flat and even soft in places, which gave a bit of respite. Two runners came past me here – compared to me they looked like they were on a bit of a hustle to get to the final stop on a pub crawl before last orders.
And here, ladies and gentlemen, is where my day kind of went to poo.
First (and worst) of all, I suffered a most inconvenient equipment failure at this point. I appreciate there are rules on swearing here, but as a knob is a piece of door furniture or a small measure of butter, and balls are parts of your foot as well as items of sporting equipment, I think I’m in the clear.
So, I found myself thinking “is it just my imagination or are my knob and balls getting cold?”
It was not my imagination. The gentleman vegetables were DEFINITELY catching a chill. On inspection, there was a 50p piece size hole opening up in the crotch of my waterproof overtrousers, which must have gotten split on a steep part of the ascent. I do carry a first aid kit and considered patching the hole with Elastoplast, but decided to press on regardless, thinking my crotch couldn’t possibly get all that wet from such a little hole. I think you already know how this is going.
Furthermore, a navigation boo-boo also occurred here. On a clear day, I’d have been able to see the summit of Driesh no bother and orientate myself accordingly, but in cloud with limited points of reference I managed to take a wrong turn. A waypoint I was looking for was a row of fence posts going off to the south, and shortly thereafter would be a junction with the path to Driesh along another row of fenceposts, with another option to go north onto the eventual descent path back to Glen Doll.
Well, I didn’t see Driesh or indeed any path to it, and headed off along a relatively new fence heading North, not even on the descent path. It’s not on the map but the way I was walking was fairly well trodden, so I’m obviously not the first mug to make this error. Before long I figured that I was heading NNE, where I wanted to be going ESE, and I’d been on this track for a while.
Remember those runners I mentioned earlier? They came back towards me at this point, so I asked them for a map sanity check. Turns out they were also heading for Driesh and had made the same mistake as me. This made me feel a tiny bit better, but not much. Back we all go, and off they went into the clag again. After back-tracking for a bit, I picked a route that took me roughly in the right direction and corresponded with what limited features I could see, but couldn’t really be described as any path of sorts. From here onwards I was fighting an internal battle; map and compass vs. sense of direction. Although the compass was telling me I was indeed going vaguely east, and the map made a degree of sense, my inner ear was screaming at me that I was walking west and I should turn around. A very odd sensation and I can understand how people let this get them into bother.
Shortly thereafter, the scree “path” that I was walking on disappeared, the row of fenceposts stopped and I was suddenly very conscious of the fact I was alone in thick cloud, on featureless terrain with my brain telling me one thing and my compass telling me another. I knew there should be a path around somewhere, so I decided to look for it. I unknowingly went right up to the edge of the gorge to the south. Ooft, no thanks. Let’s turn around. There was a minor peak roughly to the north of where I was aimlessly wandering, I figured that people like to explore minor peaks too, so there may be a path from there to Driesh, so I headed for that more in hope than anything.
On my way up, I spotted one of the runners, coming back the way again. He’d been to the summit and was coming back. Changing course to where I’d seen him, the path was as wide as the M6. Looking back, there was a patch where the path disappeared for a short stretch and it was in here that I was bumbling around getting flustered. Sounds ridiculous wiring about it now, obviously the best things to do would have been to keep walking and there would have been no problem, but when your brain is trying to tell you you’re walking into trouble, it’s hard not to pay it some attention and end up making a problem out of nothing.
Before too long I was at the summit of Driesh and man, was I glad to see that shelter cairn. Sit down and feet up time. Tea, sandwiches, chocolate. Phone pings in the pocket with an email alert. 4G signal available. Unreal. Best ping the wife a quick message to let her know my schedule has been revised slightly. Clock’s saying 10:40, which again my brain cannot comprehend. I would have sworn I’d been fumbling about in the mist for about three hours.
I pack the remnants of my lunch away and go to stand up. The crotch of my waterproof trousers rips open completely to the point where I might as well have taken them off and fashioned them into some kind of flag to mark the summit.
Right, nothing to see here (literally), let’s go home. Back the way we came should be easy enough, right Kemp? Just make sure you don’t accidentally take the treacherous direct descent down the Scorrie. Easy peasy. Well, perhaps not.
With the visibility not improving despite the fact that my trouser region was seeming to absorb every droplet of moisture from the surrounding air and depositing it down my inside legs, I erroneously disregarded the correct path down, suspecting it was the dodgy route along the ridge. I picked up the fence I had started down earlier, and decided just to hug it until I reached the forest. This wasn’t that bad a plan as it stopped me getting even more lost, but I suspect the descent ended up being a little more demanding on a knee that was giving me some serious verbals by now.
By the time I eventually got the forest the cloud was still thick, and I was pretty hacked off with how the day had gone. This, however, cheered me up massively. Yeah, sure. I’ll take a scenic photo. Oh, wait, I forgot, my battery’s getting low. I know - I just painted my office slate grey, I’ll take a picture of the wall when I get home and send that in.
Through the forest, and I use the term loosely because most of it has been logged, the weather finally lifted and I had a view to look at. Not long thereafter I was back at the car, but not before encountering a couple of ladies with a wee lad who had dropped his hat in the stream running alongside the road. I figured I was soaked to the dangleberries anyway, so I just waded on in and retrieved it for them. Whatever is at the bottom of that burn stinks, by the way. Really stinks.
Back at the car for 12:40, so a total walk time of 5hrs 10mins but it felt like a hell of a lot longer. Never mind, a quick change into some dry clothes (work boiler suit and those emergency pants from earlier) and I’m into a heated seat and back on the road home.
Then, as if to sum things up perfectly, I manage to get the radio tuned into the rugby just in time to hear Minozzi score a try putting Italy into the lead.
What a day.