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Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week ever

Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week ever


Postby Graeme D » Mon Aug 31, 2020 4:20 pm

Munros included on this walk: Beinn Sgulaird

Corbetts included on this walk: Creach Bheinn (Loch Creran)

Date walked: 15/08/2020

Time taken: 8.4 hours

Distance: 20.7 km

Ascent: 1925m

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The nights are fair drawing in! It is the middle of August after all, so I guess it's not to be entirely unexpected. Anyway, by the time I reached the road along the southern shore of Loch Creran, scouted out a suitable camping spot and got the tent pitched, the darkness was fast approaching.

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Camping spot looking out over Loch Creran

It shouldn't have been like this. The original plan had been to leave work and get away from Perth early, early enough to hopefully fit in a quick up and down somewhere on the road. Beinn Donaichan in Glen Orchy was the preferred target with the probability that I would camp somewhere in the glen before heading up to Loch Creran early on the Saturday morning. But then fate and utterly bizarre circumstance intervened in the finest tradition of the best laid plans o' mice and men! More on that later!

I have been regularly posting walk reports on this site for around 12 years now. To be honest, I have probably forgotten that I have done half of those walks and written the reports about them, but there are some that I will not easily forget. There are various reasons why a particular report sticks in my mind - stunning weather, **** poor weather, great company, just a plain and simple epic route, outrageous misfortune, calamitous decision making, a particular moment in world history or a defining juncture in my own particular journey through history (that becomes more of a thing when you find yourself reading reports you wrote over a decade ago). Sometimes all of the above in the one report! Anyway, today would be one of those days and the report I am writing now will undoubtedly be one of those reports for two or three of the reasons outlined.

With the tent pitched and darkness descending, I cracked open one of the four pack of chilled cans that I had purchased from McColls in Comrie and got the jet boil stove boiling water for a gourmet dinner of Bombay Bad Boy pot noodle! Rock 'n' roll! Again, none of this was supposed to have happened. I was supposed to have had plenty time to get supplies at Aldi or Tesco or some such place in Perth before hitting the A85. When that plan went pear-shaped and I just needed to get on the road as quickly as I could to preserve what remained of my sanity, the idea was to stop at the Co-op in Crieff. It wasn't until I was passing the road up to Glen Turret on the way out of Crieff that I realised I had forgotten to stop! :shock: So I stopped in Comrie while there was still some brain function left (I didn't want to drive on and risk forgetting to stop at all!) and after ruling out a fish supper on the grounds of the size of the face covered queue, resigned myself to a visit to the local McColls. Marks & Spencer it ain't and 5 minutes later I was emerging with 4 cans of chilled 1664 lager, a tube of pringles, a few chocolate bars, a packet of sports mixtures, two pot noodles (buy one get one half price!), a pot of porridge and a packet of Nescafe 2 in 1.It wasn't until I was in the tent a couple of hours later that I realised I had forgotten to buy anything for lunch on the hill the next day! :roll:

After a few false starts I eventually found a nice flat spot to pitch the tent on the seaweed strewn grassy flats by the shores of Loch Creran just west of where the Allt Buidhe flows under the road and into the loch. Within about 10 seconds of turning off the main A828 road at Creagan and looping back round under the bridge on the minor road around the head of Loch Creran, it had became obvious that it was going to be a busy resort with few vacancies. There was a vehicle or in some cases more than one vehicle in the majority of parking areas. Most of them were either camper vans or cars with a tent and/or wind break screen erected nearby. Welcome to Scotland Summer 2020! :lol:

As I huddled in the tent taking refuge from the dreaded midge, supping my still vaguely chilled lager and gagging on the Bombay Bad Boy pot noodle, I tried not to dwell on the fact that I had left my phone on charge in the house in the rush to get out the door and that a) tomorrow might actually be the first time that I needed to call MRT to carry me off a hill or b) my wife would not notice the phone charging away on a kitchen worktop tucked behind a pot plant and it would burst into flames during the night and burn the house to the ground. If only I could call her to let her know! :roll: I suspected that the nearest phone box was probably the best part of 50 miles away, in which direction was anybody's guess, and that it was probably either a) vandalised or b) now home to a defibrillator. Hey ho, best try to get some sleep I guess. The alarm was set for an early start and in any case, I had forgotten my crossword book! :?

The alarm woke me at 6am after a remarkably sound sleep. I had been briefly aware of some excruciatingly bad sound coming from the nearby temporary home of someone who had clearly mistaken Loch Creran for Ayia Napa but fortunately the ordeal was short lived and I soon slipped off to the Land of Nod. When the alarm woke me, I shoved my nose out of the tent and was greeted by a fairly grey scene that prompted me to quickly retreat and put my head back down. I must have dozed back off because the next thing I remember it was 7.30 but at least the weather was making more of an effort.

I took the tent down and quickly pulled my stuff together in a cloud of early morning midge, managing to get everything the 50 yards or so across the flats and over the fence, crash barrier and road and into the car in two runs. A quick morning shot of the night before's camping spot and then I drove the short distance along to the lay-by near the gate at Druimavuic and the start of the track up onto my two hills.

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Good morning Loch Creran - my camping spot just out of shot to the left of the picture

I parked up in the one remaining space in the lay by before making a pretty good fist of multi-tasking in the form of getting changed into my walking clobber, packing a little day pack, making breakfast of porridge and coffee and avoiding wave upon wave of hostile midge attack. By 8.40 I was at the gate and hand sanitising ready for the day ahead. :D

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A sign of the times

I was barely a couple of hundred metres up the track before I was stopping for a lengthy swig from my water bottle and while I was at it, applying a generous coating of sun cream to my face, neck and bare arms. It was pretty obvious that if it was this hot before the clock had struck 9, then I was going to be spending a lot of time today bending over water courses and most of the sun cream was going to wash off in a torrent of perspiration. :shock:

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A faintly post-industrial vibe to the start of the route

After 10 minutes or so of little to report other than copious amounts of sweating and a fairly routine plod up a fairly dull, rough track, I went through another gate after which the track made a couple of wide curves before straightening out, at which point the views behind me over Loch Creran really began to open up.

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Loch Creran like a mill pond

It was a good thing that the views behind me were of a high standard because this was fairly purgatorial and to compound matters my legs were itching like very itchy things with the effects of the midge onslaught of last night. I think it may also have been around this point in proceedings that I noticed and dealt with the first tick of the day as it crawled up my forearm. In the few days after this walk I would remove about half a dozen ticks from my person and do a lot of scratching at what seemed like thousands of midge bites. :crazy:

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The track makes for straightforward, albeit quite steep and very sweaty progress

So, what a week it had been! The first week of my 17th year at Perth High School. In that time there have been some downright bizarre weeks, but the one just gone had topped them all and gone right off the scale. Under normal circumstances it would have been the last week of a normal school summer holiday and I would have been preparing to return to school on Monday with a one day INSET and then wham-bam, into the normal routine of Term 1. These are however a very long way from normal times. Monday would not be the usual mid-August INSET day but rather the first day of the resumption of "normal" school after a week of two INSET days followed by three phased "induction" days with around only a third of the student population of the school in on either of the three days. Well that had been the plan anyway. That would have been bizarre enough, not to mention stressful enough, if the plan had gone according to plan. However, in the finest traditions of Perth High School, the slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune had intervened to make the week even more bizarre than it should have been. :lol:

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Is it just me or are those three boulders by the side of the track working as a team and watching me!!!??? :shock:

I stopped just a few metres beyond the small cairn marking the path branching off to the left for Beinn Sgulaird to fill up my bottle from a tiny stream and pondered the options - take the Sgulaird path onto the open hillside and up the ridge or carry on up the track to the high point and tackle the two hills from there. Normally I would have opted to get high at the earliest opportunity and get off the track but given the fact that I had now moved beyond human form and was little more than a puddle of salty water on legs, I opted to stick to the track and take advantage of the relatively straightforward going.

I was thinking I would go for the Corbett first anyway. It would be my first Corbett since that day in March, on the cusp of lockdown, on Stob an Aonaich Mor above Loch Ericht. Most of that day had been spent in pretty full on winter conditions and it was with some fondness and longing that I now recalled the summit winds and how they had attempted to peel my face off. Oh for just a few quick blasts of that now! :lol:

After a couple more rather pointless applications of sun cream, the track became a bit rougher, a bit less obviously frequented by motorised vehicles, and mercifully, as it dipped into a little depression just below the high point of the bealach, a light breeze got up. :D

When I reached the bealach, I availed myself of a large boulder that looked just a little bit too much like an armchair for its own good and, I believe for the first time in my hill walking career, wrung my top out and managed to extract liquid from it. :crazy:

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Loch Creran from the high point of the track and the bealach between my two hills for the day

As I sat munching on a packet of trail mix and slurping water in a desperate attempt to stop myself from shrivelling up, a couple appeared up the track and we had a brief chat before they headed off towards the Corbett. They only had another half hour or so before they needed to head back down to the road as they had a ferry to catch from Oban. At least I didn't have a deadline, so I sat for a few moments longer and reflected again on the bizarre events of the past few days before making tracks for the Corbett.

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Looking back over Creag na Cathaig with the ascent track visible below

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Blue sky developments over Sgulaird

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Wispy cloud billowing across the Creach Bheinn ridge

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The big yellow thing still not absolutely winning the battle with the grey stuff above the summit of Creach Bheinn

The two INSET days on the Monday and Tuesday had gone OK. Nothing unusual other than planning for an entirely alien environment once pupils returned to school, especially the following week once all pupils were in. There were new layouts to plan and become familiar with, protocols to learn and lots of socially distanced planning meetings to attend. All quite par for the course really in the new normal. Then it got really bizarre. The night of Tuesday to Wednesday saw Perth (along with various other parts of the country) hit by the 12 hour thunder storm from hell. With a couple of hours of broken sleep behind me, I was driving to work and only a minute or two from turning into the car park when my mobile pinged an alert. It was a council group call message to PHS staff that the school was closed due to flooding and storm damage! You really couldn't have made this sh*t up! The first day that we were meant to be open to pupils in 5 months and we get closed down by a storm of biblical proportions! :shock:

I didn't hang around too long at the Creach Bheinn summit trig pillar - the views were limited to the odd glimpse through the haze and I didn't want to be too late off the hill as I had Ailsa to pick up from my mum and dad. In saying that, they didn't want me there until after 5 o'clock - that way they had a good excuse to turn down an invitation to something at 5pm that they really didn't want to go to. :lol: I turned around and retraced my steps back to the armchair rock at the bealach between Corbett and Munro.

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Sgulaird wrapped in a thin layer of cotton wool

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Now under thicker cotton wool

A few mountain bikers whizzed by over the bealach on the track below me as I dropped down off the ridge back to the track, where I took a breather and the opportunity to refill from what just about passed for a running stream, before taking to the southern slopes of Beinn Sgulaird for the initial pull up to Meall Garbh at 848 metres.

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The long eastern facing side of Beinn Sgulaird

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Beinn Mheadhonach and Beinn Trilleachan with Stob Dubh and the Bookils in the background

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South back towards Creach Bheinn on the ascent to Meall Garbh

The temperature hadn't dropped any and I was still sweating buckets but having swapped the cheap Mountain Warehouse top for a better quality Berghaus one, I was at least a bit more comfortable. Despite being cooked, it was still a joy to be in the great outdoors, not that I hadn't spent enough time out of doors after yesterday's school-based fiasco.

The S3 and S4 year groups had been in for the last day of phased return before "normal" service resumed on the Monday but just after midday the fire alarm had gone off. As always, the finger of suspicion fell on one or two high profile neds - even with only a third of the school in attendance, there were still plenty suspects. :lol: It quickly turned out though that it had been inadvertently set off by a member of staff in Chemistry who had been burning magnesium. As you do. But after an hour or so of waiting on the all weather pitch and the alarms repeatedly going off again, the fire service in attendance informed us that there was a fault with some of the sensors and that they were shutting the school on health and safety grounds.We were able to send pupils home of they could be collected by parents, use service buses or walk, but all pupils on contract buses had to stay until 3.40 pm and all staff had to wait until then too. And after my one class of the day earlier in the morning, I had decided not to leave and head north early, stopping off on the way, but to stay for a couple of hours and get some work done in peace. I should have bloody known! :roll:

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Summit of Meall Garbh at 848 metres looking across Loch Creran towards the Firth of Lorne

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The cairn on Meall Garbh provides the first sight of that iconic view of Beinn Sgulaird from the south

From the Meall Garbh cairn, I caught sight of four figures against the skyline ahead of me just as they dropped down out of sight into the dip before the final rocky ridge up to the summit. I gulped a few more mouthfuls of water and in the absence of anything more substantial that might pass as lunch, had another cereal bar and some more sports mixtures before setting off once more.

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She's a rocky one!

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East across little Beinn Mheadhonach and bigger Beinn Trilleachan to even bigger Ben Starav

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Sgulaird and Glen Etive

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The final ascent ridge across the saddle ahead

I stopped for a lengthy break before the final ascent. I didn't have a great deal to eat in the way of lunch but it was bliss just to sit in the silence, with a light breeze now making it just about bearable, views into Glen Etive in one direction and out over Loch Creran towards the Firth of Lorne and the west coast in the other. I reflected on the fact that had 2020 not gone spectacularly off the rails in the spring, I would not be on this hill today. Rather I would have been at the wedding of a former colleague in Luss, the first of two weddings I had been invited to this month that weren't now happening. :(

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Nice spot for a bit of down time

Refreshed from my break, I made quick work of the final pull up the rocky ridge onto the summit where the four people from earlier were sat having lunch. Quite a nice, substantial lunch by the looks of it! :roll:

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Back to Meall Garbh

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Always a sucker for a picture of some bog cotton!

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The Glen Etive hills from just below the summit

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Across Stob Gaibhre to Beinn Fionnlaidh from the summit of Sgulaird

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Beinn Sgulaird - this one has been quite a while coming!

Accutely aware of just how far away in the distance below Loch Creran looked from here, I didn't linger too long before making tracks for home. For some reason, perhaps because I didn't want to have to pass too close to the four people and have to look at their food, I decided to take a direct line due north down into Glen Ure rather than looping round over Stob Gaibhre. Initially this appeared to be a sound idea and I was even treated to the spectacle of a passing group of mountain goats.

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Glen Ure and Stob Gaibhre and a mountain goat trying to blend in to the surroundings

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Mountain goat extended family day trip

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Across Fraochaidh to the Beinn a'Bheithir Munros

After a while though I became ensnared in a wide section of wet, boggy ground with a number of awkward and greasy down climbs and no real obvious way of avoiding the situation. Once through this, I was faced with rough, tussocky ankle snapping terrain before a final section through thick silver birch trees before I finally stumbled out onto the Glen Ure track. The situation was not helped by the glorious sight of the long ridge of Beinn Fionnlaidh basking in the summer sunshine in stark contrast to the September day a few years ago when I had done it with John and Bruce and we were close to being officially registered as drowning statistics. :shock: Hopefully we will get better weather this September when we head up for another weekend at Bruce's house in Gairloch! 8)

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An Grianan, Beinn Fionnlaidh and the Etive hills

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Sgorr Dhearg and Fraochaidh on the questionable descent to Glen Ure

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An Grianan with the long profile of Fionnlaidh behind

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Look back up at my ill advised choice of descent route

The swarms of butterflies amongst the silver birch trees had been scant consolation for an energy sapping descent and by the time I was on the track, my legs were so jellied that I could barely put one of them in front of the other for a good ten minutes or so.

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An Grianan from the little lochan in Glen Ure

Eventually I regained the ability to walk in a normal manner and wondered where the four people from the summit of Sgulaird had got to. I had briefly spotted them heading off towards Stob Gaibhre about 5 minutes or so after I had left the summit but that was the last I had seen of them.

At the bend in the track just before it crosses the river, I kept left and after a few more minutes, came to a very new looking metal gate that led onto the start of a an equally new looking gravelled track that ran between the minor bump of Creag na h'Atha and the western slopes of Meall Garbh. It was all very post apocalyptic looking as far as the landscaping was concerned and not the most appealing end to the walk but at least it made for good progress. None of it appeared on my OS sheet but I knew I was heading in the right direction and felt sure that it would eventually connect with something that was on the map and would lead me back to the lochside road.

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A new looking loch below the western slopes of Meall Garbh

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It is with some relief that Loch Creran finally comes into view

The grey gravel eventually gave way to an older looking landrover track that dipped down through a plantation and emerged onto the minor tarmac access road to Taraphocain, from where it was just 10 minutes or so back to the loch and along to my car.

I quickly changed and did a U-turn to head back along the south shore where I passed the four people from the summit of Sgulaird hoofing it along the tarmac. So they had chosen the more sensible and conventional descent route and gotten off the hill before me but at least I wasn't still tramping tarmac! :lol:



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Last edited by Graeme D on Wed Sep 09, 2020 4:07 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week

Postby kevsbald » Tue Sep 01, 2020 1:35 pm

Bombay bad boy!? You’re brave. Enjoyed this. Are you tired of hearing about the new normal?
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Re: Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week

Postby johnscot55 » Tue Sep 01, 2020 11:04 pm

Jings. Up early in the morn but kept telling my wife I'd be coming to bed right after Andy Murray's match. Then I started reading this. Just joking :lol:. More effort taken than my last report :).
Sounds an enjoyable walk, not completely marred by the dreaded midge. A couple of weeks ago, I parked just beyond the reservoir to polish of the two at the West end of the Lawers range Meall Corranaich and Meall a'Choire Leith. I swear I could hardly see out the car. I had my rucksack available so quickly covered exposed parts with repellent, but had left my boots and pole in the back of the car. Tying my laces at the rear of the car, my sleeves rode up as I bent down and exposed my non treated wrists. About 20 bites on each wrist in the time it took to tie my laces. Rookie mistake. Always have everything at hand in the front of the car, to ready yourself to make a dash away from your car.
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Re: Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week

Postby Sgurr » Wed Sep 02, 2020 12:00 pm

We went up that path 3 years ago to do Beinn Mheadonach, which was our last mainland Marilyn. It has more false summits than any hill and goes on for ever. I can't imagine doing it in any sort of heat. We climbed a hill once with NO FOOD AT ALL as we had just got as far as the bikes would take us when I realised that we had left the lunches in the car. "Never mind, " I said "We've got the emergency sweeties." Half remembering Mars Bars. No such luck. It turned out to be tic-tacs, proud boast 2 calories per sweetie. Life will have now returned to the "new normal", for you a term I hate almost as much as I do living it. Good luck.
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Re: Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week

Postby malky_c » Wed Sep 02, 2020 4:34 pm

Happy memories of doing a stupid route up Beinn Sgulaird with Jaxter a couple of years ago - how time flies! This does make me feel positively organised though, but looks like you still managed a great day out :)
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Re: Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week

Postby mrssanta » Wed Sep 02, 2020 9:45 pm

I can see how that day will stick in your mind forever Graeme!
Our no. 2 son, also Graeme, has just started his first term as a teacher. Meets the kids for the first time tomorrow. I think he is very brave!
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Re: Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week

Postby tomyboy73 » Thu Sep 03, 2020 6:44 am

Hi Graeme
Sounds like a normal day out for me, never mind a new normal! :lol:
I hate packing for an overnight, always forget something. The amount of food you need is always underestimated. But this gave me a a good laugh and you seemed to enjoy it in the end!
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Re: Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week

Postby Graeme D » Thu Sep 03, 2020 2:36 pm

kevsbald wrote:Bombay bad boy!? You’re brave. Enjoyed this. Are you tired of hearing about the new normal?


Dinnae be daft min! There's nae "normal" these days! :lol:
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Re: Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week

Postby Graeme D » Thu Sep 03, 2020 2:38 pm

johnscot55 wrote:Jings. Up early in the morn but kept telling my wife I'd be coming to bed right after Andy Murray's match. Then I started reading this. Just joking :lol:. More effort taken than my last report :).
Sounds an enjoyable walk, not completely marred by the dreaded midge. A couple of weeks ago, I parked just beyond the reservoir to polish of the two at the West end of the Lawers range Meall Corranaich and Meall a'Choire Leith. I swear I could hardly see out the car. I had my rucksack available so quickly covered exposed parts with repellent, but had left my boots and pole in the back of the car. Tying my laces at the rear of the car, my sleeves rode up as I bent down and exposed my non treated wrists. About 20 bites on each wrist in the time it took to tie my laces. Rookie mistake. Always have everything at hand in the front of the car, to ready yourself to make a dash away from your car.


:lol: :lol: :lol: Yeah, your last report was of the "minimalist" variety where the text was concerned. The pictures did a decent job of telling the story though. :clap:
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Re: Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week

Postby Graeme D » Thu Sep 03, 2020 2:40 pm

Sgurr wrote:We went up that path 3 years ago to do Beinn Mheadonach, which was our last mainland Marilyn. It has more false summits than any hill and goes on for ever. I can't imagine doing it in any sort of heat. We climbed a hill once with NO FOOD AT ALL as we had just got as far as the bikes would take us when I realised that we had left the lunches in the car. "Never mind, " I said "We've got the emergency sweeties." Half remembering Mars Bars. No such luck. It turned out to be tic-tacs, proud boast 2 calories per sweetie. Life will have now returned to the "new normal", for you a term I hate almost as much as I do living it. Good luck.


I had a good look at the wee Marilyn and will probably return some day to do it and Trilleachan from that side. Probably a better bet than braving Glen Etive these days! :shock:
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Re: Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week

Postby Graeme D » Thu Sep 03, 2020 2:41 pm

malky_c wrote:Happy memories of doing a stupid route up Beinn Sgulaird with Jaxter a couple of years ago - how time flies! This does make me feel positively organised though, but looks like you still managed a great day out :)


Think I remember that one and you guys coming off in the dark.
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Re: Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week

Postby Graeme D » Thu Sep 03, 2020 2:43 pm

mrssanta wrote:I can see how that day will stick in your mind forever Graeme!
Our no. 2 son, also Graeme, has just started his first term as a teacher. Meets the kids for the first time tomorrow. I think he is very brave!


Hope it goes well for him. If like me he is still doing the job in 17 years time then he will have had ups and downs along the way but will ultimately have decided that he must love it and it must be in his blood to have stuck at it for that long. :D
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Graeme D
 
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Re: Creran cracker: blistering end to the most bizarre week

Postby Graeme D » Thu Sep 03, 2020 2:45 pm

tomyboy73 wrote:Hi Graeme
Sounds like a normal day out for me, never mind a new normal! :lol:
I hate packing for an overnight, always forget something. The amount of food you need is always underestimated. But this gave me a a good laugh and you seemed to enjoy it in the end!


Of course I enjoyed it Tommy! A bit of pain and suffering in the hills. I was in my element. What's not to enjoy? :lol:
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Graeme D
 
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Location: Perth

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