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Big Adventure 2015 or Rescued by Chopper

Big Adventure 2015 or Rescued by Chopper

Postby ngm1scot » Fri May 15, 2015 10:31 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn a'Chlachair, Creag Pitridh, Geal Charn

Date walked: 24/07/2015

Time taken: 15.5 hours

Distance: 29.7 km

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In 2014, I planned to tackle all of these hills (except the Loch Pattack ones) over a 4 day walk starting and ending at Corrour but on Day 2 managed to slip and tear the ligaments on my left foot and decided that wisdom dictated that I should return home rather than risk further injury or worse happening while I was at 1000m. So I came back this year to conquer the Ben Alder range and it's neighbours. The maps that follow right at the end show the actual routes taken but now its the story of my Big Adventure 2015.....

The weather forecast for these 4 days had been pretty miserable for weeks ahead: wet, thunderstorms, cold (colder than normal for July) but I was not for changing the dates as many other things were fixed and arranged to fit around them.

As I sat at Easterhouse station waiting on the train for Glasgow in the bright sun I felt glad that the big adventure had come at last and that the most recent forecast had today down as sunny and bright and the next day pretty much more of the same. The trip to Dalwhinnie was pleasant and passed quickly enough and soon I was standing on the platform, the sole alightee, watching the train curve off towards Newtonmore.
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Train departed
Dalwhinnie doesn't have the same emotional isolation that Corrour can boast and I soon hefted my pack onto my back to begin the long journey up Loch Ericht.
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It was bright and sunny and the midges clearly recognising that dinner had arrived early, came out in force and so by the time I got to the gatehouse I decided I ought to plaster on some SSS.

The route along the lochside is not exciting but it is picturesque and a good view was had towards the far end
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Looking down to the end of Loch Ericht amd Stob an Aonaich Moir on the left (I think)
and Beinn Bheoil. I had timed this trip to the last instant and I was making good time, arriving at Ben Alder Lodge, marking the change of direction into the moorland and open country, by about 11.45. A chance now to see why my left foot was so painful. This is a trip of firsts - as we shall see - and my first first was a blister which I examined and then resolved to ignore as I had no way of fixing it.

Now the path starts to climb - not particularly steeply but it's steady all the way till you see your first glimpse of Loch Pattack.
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Sgor Lutharn from the path to Loch Pattack

The countryside I had so long looked at on the map; had planned routes through and across; had imagined from ts contours, was here in front of me.
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Ben Alder from Loch Pattack
The rain started just as I headed down to the lochside for my lunchstop (still on time). I cared little for the rain and sat on the beach munching into my low GI sandwiches designed to keep me full up and my nutrition at the right levels. At this point I spotted my only other humans (apart from those estate workers zooming along the lochside earlier in their trucks/ 4x4 vehicles. These new humans were mountain bikers who very quickly disappeared from view, heading up the path towards Beinn A'Chlachair.

Lunch and excitement over I packed up, picked up my pack
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Refreshed and ready to set off to stage 2 of the day
and started off again along side this wee loch.
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A brighter Loch Pattack than during my lunchbreak!
Very pretty and scenic although the path becomes peaty beachy stuff eventually. I musn't of course forget to mention the rickety bridge.
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The famous rickety bridge - the water is really deep at the far side
From the map I thought the ford might have offered an alternative but the water at the ford was deep enough to get wet in so I braved the bridge! It was actually good fun except in the middle when it seemed like it was going to dip into the water it got so low.
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Starting on to the bridge
My unanswered question is "Where does the grass come from on the bridge?"

Eventually I got to the big obstacle of the day - the Allt Cam. It didn't look so bad from above (they never do) and even when I started wading across, the rocks were slippy underfoot but with my poles I managed to get some stability and then there was this cold feeling inside my right boot as my foot plunged perhaps too far beneath the surface. Wet feet are never pleasant but especially when blisters have already begun. By the time I got to within about 3 feet of the far bank, the stream got too deep and I had to wade back across and then a little further upstream. My left foot got the cold water treatment this time and getting within 18 inches of the bank, I tossed my poles up on to the bank and clambered out holding on to tufts of grass for support. I was glad despite the wet feet to have conquered todays only obstacle. As I squelched across the boggy ground and up to the path, my feet were floating inside my boots and I quickly found a dry spot to remove the excess water and spin dry my socks (by whirling them superfast round my head).
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Emptying my boots of the Allt Cam - at least it was sunny

Laundry done, socks back on and off I went uphill beside the Allt. The path at this stage wasn't too bad though it does do a disappearing act now and again. Before long I was crossing the Allt. My brain was telling me I wasn't supposed to be crossing it but I did all the same - it's what I call path mentality: find a path and follow it. However once on the other side with one re-wet foot, I checked my maps and crossed back over again! As the path contours along the side of the Loch, it becomes rocky wet gassy boggy and very slow going overall and despite a few stops I managed to keep on target time-wise. It was now a beautiful day and it was tempting to sit and just soak up the view and the solitude.
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Panoramic Loch a Bhealaich Leamhain
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Carn Dearg - above Culra - from the North

Once halfway up the slope at the end the path did disappear but its easy - you just keep going up!
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Lochan a Bhealaich Leamhain from the bealach
Eventually I decided to camp slightly further down than planned and closer to my starting point for the Saturday and soon had my tent pitched, pretty much everything inside and I headed off uphill to knock off the two munros that lay above me.
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Tent pitched and ready for my first two munros of the day

My planned campsite was nearer to Pt 837 and I was quite glad to have chosen my lower location as Pt 837 was pretty rocky. As Creag Pitridh seemed the easier (if only in terms of height), I headed off across the bealach and spotted the narrow but steep path up the side of the munro
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Path up Creag Pitridh (centre of pic) and a couple of raindrops on the lens

It took me no more than 40 minutes from tent to summit and although the summit was "clear" all around was cloudy/ misty stuff and occasionally
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From Creag Pitridh looking over to Beinn A' Chlachair through the misty cloud
some rainy stuff too!

So back down across the bealach and up the side of Geal Charn. Bits of paths, lots of boggy wet bits and a few rocky bouldery field bits too -so something for everyone. As I approached the top, I struggled over a smallish bouldery lump (remember I'd been walking since 9.15 without much of a stop) and glimpsed at last the pointy summit of GC which I reached by about 7.30.
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Geal Charn summit
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Looking over to Loch Ericht from Geal Charn
With neither food nor water with me I stopped long enough to get my pictures taken and then headed back. Not before noticing that the final bouldery lump could be avoided by detouring left around it: was I so glad!

I took a more direct route back down to the path and soon was reunited with my tent and got dinner on sharpish.Turned in by 10pm and slept like a log all the way through till 5am.

Day 2
A quick glance outside at 5am revealed cloud at ground level (bearing in mind that ground level for me was 800m) so I got on with my ablutions and getting the porridge ready. Once I was done, I got packed up and was walking by 6.40 heading downhill to the start of the path that led to the other side of the Loch. I considered just climbing straight up the nose of the hill but as I couldn't see up very far, and it was rocky and I had a heavy pack with me I decided just to carry on with the path.
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A different view of the Loch at 7.15am
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Minutes later...

I knew there was a path heading up on to the hill just soon after it started to go downhill but it eluded me and after a while I realised that i had gone too far down and turned round and headed across the heathery tussock ground and up on to the broad shoulder of A'Chlachair. Even when I was further up I couldn't see where the path came from but it wasn't worth worrying about.

Since I was to be navigating in cloud I took the bearings I had set earlier and headed off for Pt977 which was reached without too much difficulty and from there the next bearing was towards the edge of the Northerly facing corrie from where I had planned to handrail it round till I got to within sight of the summit. But as I descended from Pt977 I came across one of those cloud mirages - you know, where it looks like something entirely different and bigger. This is a picture of what it really looks like
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An odd groove in the hill top
When I first saw this in cloud it looked like a whole new steep sided mountain with a big descent and I must say that it temporarily threw me a little.

Not long after crossing over this was a boulder field of sorts and then the summit rolled into view although still deep in cloud. I was so impressed that I had managed to navigate the plateau in cloud and still get to the summit. (I have a record of getting lost in cloud).
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At the top of BAC

By the time I had taken my bearings a couple of times to check they were right, the cloud had lifted a little and it was heading to be a great day. Back down the boulders - a small slip on the wet surfaces but no damage done - and across to the edge of the Eastern Corrie where my route was to lead me down into An Lairig. By now the cloud had all but lifted and I took a few moments to sit and take in the big views that lay ahead of me and the steepish corrie that I was about to head down into.
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Looking down into the fateful Corrie Beag A' Chlachair

Just after 11.15 I started off downhill and the next thing I remember was rolling sideways downhill, watching as my glasses jumped off my head and headed uphill as I continued my relentless roll downwards. I remember thinking "How on earth am I going to stop myself?" and a bit further on I spotted a rock which either I was about to hit with my head or had just hit. Shortly afterwards, I stopped. I know now from checking my digital log from the PLB that I rolled down about 60m in total and it took altogether 13 minutes from the start of the incident till the time I pressed the SOS button. Initially, I couldn't say whether or not I was knocked out in the roll downhill but it seems fairly clear that I must have lost consciousnees for a short while at least. But my recollection of the time involved in this unscheduled activity is fairly poor but I remember thinking when I realised I had come to a stop: first I need to get my backpack off me and as I lay on the ground undid all of the straps and twisted out of the protecting backpack. I stood up fairly quickly to discover - as far as I could - that I was OK and nothing was (apparently) broken. It took me only a minute to realise that the wisest thing to do was to summon help and pressed the SOS button on my SPOT3 emergency beacon and then sat down to wait.

I should have got my survival bag out of my backpack and got inside but I really hadn't imagined that I was losing body temperature rapidly. To me it seemed like minutes later that the Chopper arrived and despite a small hitch (they didn't see me first time; I managed to switch off my beacon and then put it back on again) the next big thing I recall was the rescuer clambering up the hillside below me on a wire. He motioned to me not to speak but he simply organised my legs and body into the sling and I was being airlifted up into the chopper. More sign language in the chopper between the crew (you couldn't hear yourself think) and we were off to Ft William where we landed in about 10 minutes. Ambulance to Belford Hospital and 5 hours in A & E: I had a broken ankle, multiple lacerations to my head none of which I was aware of. I was discharged from Ft William to the Plastic Surgery unit at Glasgow Royal to fix my left ear which had been cut into two pieces (presumably by the rocks during my descent).

In total I spent about 5 days in hospital and since then its been diagnosed that my Posterior Cruciate Ligament had become detached from my Femur (avulsed is teh techy word for it) and now await the next stage of my recovery.

If I had not had my beacon with me I might still be on the hillside and probably dead from exposure: my body temperature had apparently dropped by 2 degrees in the time it took to be rescued which was closer to an hour and a half than 15 minutes. Another 2 hours in that condition an I'd potentially be a goner. I owe my life to the rescue teams; the NHS surgeons nurses and staff at both hospitals AND to MCofS who recommended that for solo trips I get myself a beacon.

Will I continue to head for 282 munros? Absolutely.

This is Day 1 route

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Day 2 as far as I got

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Re: Big Adventure 2015 or Rescued by Chopper

Postby iangpark » Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:21 pm

Hello, have only just seen this report, seems like it deserves more attention. A quite unbelievable accident that you've described amazingly well - hope your recovery was swift and not-permanent. Even on seemingly fair-weathered days, the hills can be a dangerous place.
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Re: Big Adventure 2015 or Rescued by Chopper

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Dec 18, 2018 11:45 pm

I too missed this first time around, which is a pity for it's a fine report on multiple levels.

I do most of my walking and scrambling solo in quite remote places, so it's a salutory reminder of what can happen! A couple of years ago my nervous family got me a Personal Locator Beacon for just such a possible eventuality. Fortunately I haven't had to have recourse to it to date, touch wood!
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