Monday, July 25, 2011

Fisherfield Round 24-25 July 2011

Another go at my round of June, 70 miles, 28,000 feet, 31 hours

Having been disappointed to have had such dreich weather on my previous round and having seen what a good circuit it made, I wanted to repeat the experience in better conditions and hopefully in a time much closer to 24 hours. So just over a month later, I set off from Loch a Bhraoin Bothy at the early hour of 4:30 am. with the promise of fine weather and being suitably psyched for the adventure. 

Loch a Bhraoin - start and end point
The rationale for the change of starting point was simple - I wanted to get the tricky ground done first when fresh and the bothy also made a decent place to stop over since the bunkhouse was full.  To begin with my plan seemed good.  I made good time despite the depressingly familiar sight of low mist over the tops.  I was no longer afflicted by knee pain and had cut back on food and clothing so the sack was as light as I could make it.  This time I saw no-one on the Fisherfield peaks, but did see a golden eagle soaring next to the cliffs on Beinn Tarsuinn.  I was much quicker to the bothy at Shenavall but this time didn't stop inside.  The slog up Sail Liath was soon dispatched despite upsetting a huge boulder which crashed down the slopes.  Fortunately no-one in the right mind would be climbing this slope - just me - and the sheep seemed to keep out of the way.  An Teallach flew by and again, I moved much more efficiently than I had previously, seeing no-one but a herd of wild goats.  By lunchtime I was down at Dundonell and like last time I emerged into the sun from the grey pall that obscured the peaks.  This time I found a way of avoiding the gorse and ditches and was soon at Inverlael.  I managed to sort of run up the track alongside a lady who was out for a very sedate jog.  I could see how slow I was going by her gait, but eventually I overtook her and made good progress up Eilidh na Clach Geala where once again I re-entered the mist and rain.

Video 2 days later

By Cona Mheall the rain had really set in and on Beinn Dearg the wind rose to about 40mph making me cold, wet and a bit miserable.  The prospect of a night in this was not appealing.  However, food and a change of clothing awaited at Loch Droma, which I anticipated would take me through the night.  By now I'd be on the go for over 18 and a half hours, but I reckoned I was on target for a 26-27 hour completion.

Unfortunately things didn't work out that way despite a good start up Beinn Liath Mhor Fannaich.  I soon entered the mist and dark and could see very little.  the rocks were hideously slippy, I was having to watch the compass all the time and all I wanted to do was go to sleep.  The previous night I had slept very little in the bothy and it was finally catching up with me.  With no support, there's little you can do.  I tried everything - soldiering on, stopping for a quick nap, eating, drinking, slapping my face - nothing seemed to work.  All I wanted to do was to lie down and go to sleep.  So in the wind, rain and dark I did just that.  I slumped to the cold ground, made a cocoon and for a precious time allowed myslef to enter the land of nod.  I must have been tired as I actually fell asleep three times on that windy, damp plateau, buffeted by the wind.  In between I was reduced to a slow walk over the glassy rocks, peering into the gloom.Zombie-like I plodded on, seeing nothing, just feeling the wind and dampness.

The dawn brought no real relief.  I was still exhausted and could only plod slowly on in my little dream-world.  The peaks seemed to take an age, the slopes got longer and longer.  Nothing was short.  Nothing was easy.  But eventually the tops were bagged and the day brightened.  By A Chailleach the sun had come out and it was a nice day.  The irony was not lost on me, as I dozed on the summit.  And then it was over.  Not the trip I had really wanted, but I am in no doubt that this is a classic round, worthy of a third visit?  I think that the route could be improved and probably shortened a little.  Let's see.

Photos (from the following few days)

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