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First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby Frogwell » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:14 pm

Date walked: 15/01/2012

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Unsurprisingly I was late setting off again and I didn't get to the start point at the bottom of Glen Etive until early afternoon. Still, I should have been able to tick off at least once Munro and find a spot to pitch the tent before nightfall. Or so I stupidly thought. After a short but heated conversation with a scraggly looking stag about how I was not going to feed it, and it wasn't to use my wing mirrors as scratching posts I was on my way.

All was well for at least ten minutes until I found my self deep in bogland. I was about two thirds of the way through before I bothered looking at the map of my route - a route that was actually 300 feet or so to the North along the riverside, and more importantly, not in bog, and even more importantly, leading to a bridge over the upcoming burn. A quick course correction and I was over the bridge. Five minutes later and the uphillness really started. It didn't stop. It would seem a diet of Pringles and chocolate over the Christmas holidays didn't actually help much with my general fitness. I don't suppose I really should have been surprised by that. I was though.

On the ascent I did a fair amount of grumbling about my lack of planning for winter walks. While the rest of the Glen and surrounding hills was bathed in glorious winter sunshine, I was trudging along in the shade of the hills. Every time I do this I vow that next time I will pick hills for winter that have a Southerly approach. When next time arrives I always forget.

After an embarrassingly long time I found myself at a small shoulder just before the final steep climb to the summit. Here I met a young guy doodling about with a camera and tripod, presumably looking for a decent spot to get some sunset shots. He said he hadn't been to the top because he didn't have any crampons or much winter walking experience. Looking ahead I could see what he was talking about. The final section did look like it was going to require a little more thought. Thought which I didn't have time for, since it was about fifteen minutes before sunset and I needed to get the tent pitched. A quick doodle about and I found a nice, level spot that was suitably sheltered from the strengthening East wind. With chilly fingers I managed to erect the tent no less than seven times slower than the time advertised by the manufacturer. Cold fingers you understand - not inept incompetence.

The best of the glorious red sunset disappeared as I finished, so I had time to grab a couple of shaky, held held snaps just as things turned grey.

The temperature was dropping pretty fast by this point, my sweat soaked hat which I'd set on my walking pole was now frozen solid and my water bottles were 50% slush. Fortunately I had a spare hat, so I set about the search for some water. I managed to find a very small running burn about five minutes walk away. It did require a bit of hacking with the ice axe to get to the running bit, but at least it was water. I filled my water bottles and ambled back up to my camp, only to find the water had already started to ice up in the five minutes it took me to walk back. Could be a tricky night I thought. I managed to get myself a very welcome cup of tea made, despite the jetboil struggling to get a decent flame in the cold temperature.

Another hour of doodling about and setting up bits and pieces for the night and I figured dinner was in order. Even though the sun had only been down for an hour and a half, the temperature was -6.3C by the point. Fortunately I'd kept the gas cannister in my pocket to stop it freezing, so I wasn't too worried about it not working. I should have been though - the piezoelectric starter on the stove clicked but produced no spark. Not good thought I. No matter, out with the backup lighter. It wouldn't even click! Twenty two faultless years I've had that bloody thing and it chose then to pack up?! That's timing. I tried unsuccessfully to take the lighter apart, when that failed I took the jetboil apart instead. I couldn't see anything wrong with it, and fortunately on re-assembly it decided to work again. The gas had of course just been sitting in the open the whole time and so the flame was a little on the limp side, but holding it with increasingly frozen fingers for the next few minutes got me enough water for my dinner and another cup of tea.

As I ate I watched the little bobbing lights of other walkers in the Glen far below on their way back to their cars, presumably after a day up Stob Coir'an Albannaich and Meall nan Eun. I must admit to substantial amount of envy at that point. The idea of the heated seats while I drove through Rannoch Moor on my way home to a roaring fire was so very appealing.

Another few hours of keeping the gas cannister warm, watching funnies on the little mp3 player and doodling about to keep my temperature up and I figured it was time for bed. It was actually way past my planned bed time actually. I've no idea what the temperature was by this point, the batteries in my digital thermometer were so cold they wouldn't power the screen enough for me to read. I wasn't expecting a comfortable night, but I've got to admit I didn't feel in the slightest bit chilly at all through the night. A Rab Andes 800 it turns out is a very worthwhile purchase. Thank you Webtogs!

I woke to my alarm at 06:00, switched on my light, grabbed my clothes and invited them into my sleeping bag to warm up for a bit before getting up. Next thing I know it's 08:00. So much for a leisurely breakfast before the sunrise photos then. Turns out I wasn't going to miss much anyway. The MWIS promise of clear skies with a low cloud inversion was, surprise surprise, a lie. What was actually waiting outside was low cloud totally obscuring all the summits and doing a pretty good job of obscuring everything else too.

One water bottle was totally frozen solid, fortunately I'd had the forethought to empty the other one the night before so I fetched more water and slowly boiled it to make another cup of tea and de-freeze the frozen water bottle. While packing up camp I decided that given the cloud, cold and excessive wind I wouldn't bother with the three Munros, but get maybe one or maybe two of them ticked off before heading home early. As I set off I've got to admit I was a little miffed to see someone ahead of me on the ridge. I spend the whole night up there only to be overtaken at the start by a daytripper?! Perhaps I could catch him and throw him off.

I set off in chase! Two minutes later a gust of wind caught my rucksack and twisted me right round, sending shooting pains through my knee. I de-packed and cautiously walked about for a few minutes to see what the damage was. It wasn't too bad, no major pain going uphill, but any change in direction or less than perfect foot hold and sharp pain shot right through the middle of my knee. I think without the wind or the heavy rucksack, or even a less demanding walk ahead and I'd have carried on without any problems. But I did have a heavy rucksack, it was windy, and there was slippery scrambling ahead.

So, glad that there was no one about to observe my little schoolgirl wimp out, I about turned and wimped out like a little schoolgirl. A couple of minutes later I met a couple of young women on the ascent, presumably sent to observe my pathetic retreat. "Good views from the summit?" they asked. In a split second I tried to come up with a manly sounding story about why I didn't reach the summit - a story involving a fight with a shark or crocodiles or something was the most likely scenario I thought. I was then of course disappointed when I heard myself say that I hurt my knee with a little bit of wind. "Awwww, that's a shame" they said with barely concealed condescension. "Don't patronise me, I just had a fight with a shark!" is what I should have said, let down again with my actual line about the hill being there another day.

They went their way, I went mine. Another couple of minutes and yet another person to observe my failure! How unfair is that? A man and his cat/dog came casually ambling up. I decided he probably wasn't going to buy the shark story, so I went with the crocodiles instead.

Three hours later I was back at the car - that is not a fun hill to descend with knee pain.


Sunday's shots, including a couple of obligatory Black Mount/Etive Mor shots.













Last edited by Frogwell on Wed Feb 20, 2013 11:46 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby DeeGee » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:28 pm

Stunning pictures and as you say the hill will still be there.
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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby Gavin99 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:38 pm

Enjoyed reading that , the old shark/crocodile excuse is always a difficult one to pull off :?
Beautiful images .
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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby quoman » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:48 pm

A really good report and fantastic photo's

story involving a fight with a shark or crocodiles or something was the most likely scenario I thought. I was then of course disappointed when I heard myself say that I hurt my knee with a little bit of wind. "Awwww, that's a shame" they said :lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby skuk007 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 1:55 pm

Great photos as ever frogwell, and a funny report that had me smiling.
Hope your knee isn't too bad and your out on the slopes again soon - with new back-up lighter. :)

I'd have gone with the fight story, maybe changed the shark for a stag though.
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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby Steve B » Wed Jan 18, 2012 2:16 pm

Bad luck on the injury.
Great photos though!!
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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby paul2610 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:24 pm

As if the thousands words that each of your superb photos don't say is enough, you as usual follow it with another thousands or so written words which just ligth up the true beauty of the landscape and of course, your natural falities - in future, for women saying its an old war wound usual works - when its the mountain men you meet, a football injury! or if all else fails and your stuck for words - just say they have to hurry as last orders were called on the summit just as you were leaving.

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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby morag1 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 3:29 pm

really funny story :lol: :lol: :lol:

sorry about the knee :( :( :(

great photos 8) 8) 8)

Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby kevsbald » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:34 pm

Cracking read nonetheless - hope the knee is better.
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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby Fudgie » Wed Jan 18, 2012 4:49 pm

Having twisted a knee last year I know exactly what you're going through. As ever, you've told quite a story and your pictures are wonderful so it won't have been a total loss of a trip.
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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby starrynights » Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:11 pm

:lol: Love your reports Frogwell, always make me laugh out loud - (and they are interesting to boot!!)

As for the young women .... I'm sure it wasn't condescension. They were probably thinking, 'wind eh, pah!!!! You've been fighting off a crocodile'. They just happened to be patrons of the SSCS (Save the Scottish Crocodile Society) ... what you were seeing was contempt!!

Hope you knee recovers soon. We need more reports ...... :D
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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby mountainstar » Wed Jan 18, 2012 5:52 pm

Nice report and pics, my type of thing...camping up high...as I was last Friday night on Carnedd Llywelyn (TR about on WH somewhere) and I've got the same tent as you!
So we have a few things in common then....good taste :D
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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby pollyh33 » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:02 pm

I first read this title as 'First Fall of the Year'.....damn! :( :(
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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby Jock McJock » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:07 pm

:lol: :lol: That made me laugh, nice report. Pics are cracking! :D
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Re: First Fail of the Year - Ben Starav etc.

Postby Klaasloopt » Wed Jan 18, 2012 8:52 pm

I like this report. It is well written, a pleasure. And the fuss about the women, pfff, not worth it. Be a total snob and state that you can't be bothered with summiting a munro no more. Meeting people on a track is a great chance to adopt any role. Tourist, insect-collector, poet...
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