A record breaking human power relay over every Scottish mountain over 1KM high!
The ARCHIE Foundation's Mountain Challenge
Day one of the Archie's Mountain Challange and Rabbie had already been cycled from Dingwall to Ben Wyvis then escorted up and down the Archie by the first three runners and it was only lunchtime. I so far had just been enjoying myself on a nicely paced walk with the children up the lower slopes of Wyvis.
Simon and I reckoned we had left Garve in good time to get to Loch Droma before the cyclists but when we still hadn't caught them by the Aultguish Inn we did start to fret. This would not look good to be late for the handover. We needn't have worried, about 2 kilometres along the side of Loch Glascarnoch we spotted them. Barry, head down pressing on into the wind, Rory on his back wheel trying to make himself as small as possible. The weather was closing in.
We arrived at loch Droma and met up with Nick. " Right lads. All set? Got everything you need? Know where your going?". " Yeah" we replied.
"Better get yourselves ready then. They'll be here soon".
I nipped over the road to check out our starting point. " Looks pretty straight forward". I reported back to Simon.
"Through the gateway, then there's a path which we follow north up onto that ridge there. From there we should see the river up to Loch nan Eilean then it's up the southern spur".
At that point the cyclists arrived and there was a flurry of activity. Greetings made, Rabbie and the all important GPS tracker handed over and secured in the pack, a few quick shots for the adventure show and we were off. After about the first kilometre the path became a stream, one of many streams crisscrossing the bog but we continued on up to the ridge. From there we could see a river, not as big as we expected but a river nonetheless, so we began it follow it. The weather had closed in, visibility was poor and it was raining hard. The terrain didn't seem right, neither Simon nor I were convinced of our position and the compass was telling us to head 90 degrees right for a northerly heading. I checked the OS App on my phone and the grid ref it gave me made no sense, it wasn't even on the same map so couldn't be right. At that point we moved into an area where I got a signal and my phone rang.
It was Nick. "Are you guys alright" he asked "I think so" I replied. "We're following a river up to the loch but the visibility is poor and my GPs isn't working."
"According to the Tracker you're too far west." He said then the phone signal went.
I relayed the information to Simon and after a bit of discussion with map and compass we set off again in a new direction, north east up to a ridge. When I got a signal again I got a text from Nick "Tracker says your heading for Loch Feith nan Cleireach. Head north east."
Well at least we now knew where we were!
Having climbed up the ridge we descended into a Glen with a wide river. The Allt a' Gharbhrain. To get to the river involved crisscrossing a bog and once there we spent a few minutes scouting up and down the bank looking for a place to cross. Realising there wasn't one and are feet were already saturated we plunged in and forded the river. From the other side it was a steep 600 metre climb up into the cloud but at least conditions under foot were dry for the first time.
We reached the summit plateau in a white out. Visibility was about 10 metres, it was snowing and we found ourselves by a small cairn. Well this isn't the summit we both agreed. The phone GPS was still talking nonsense and our only option was to head into the klag in what we thought was the right direction.
The we realised we did have another GPS attached to the tracker with Rabbie.
And we had a phone signal. Time to phone home!
"Are you watching the tracker" I asked.
"Where are we? We're on the plateau in zero visibility"
"The tracker says your down the ridge about 200m below the plateau"
"rubbish. We cant be".
Hang on. It's just updated. Your 200 m from the summit. Head east.
5 minutes later we were at he summit. Quick summit selfie and off again. Conditions were not for hanging about in.
We descended quickly, skirting the crags and were soon back at the river. Little time was spent looking for a crossing point and Simon and I plunged in. Back across the bog to were we found the path we had lost at the start.
Soon there was the welcome sight of Nick and the cyclists. Once Rabbie was offloaded and a bowl of hot pasta thrust into our hands time for a interview with the adventure show.
"So, what happened out there"?
"simple. We got lost."
I had the pleasure of driving back out past Beinn Dearg later that evening to pick up the walkers from An Teallach. At that point the weather had cleared and I was treated to the sun setting behind its plateau. Wish it had been like that earlier in the day.