A record breaking human power relay over every Scottish mountain over 1KM high!
The ARCHIE Foundation's Mountain Challenge
The descent to the bealach to the west of Creag Meagaidh was pretty uneventful, and as we climbed and the mists closed in the rusting fence posts of an old boundary were a welcome sight, at least to those of us from the FTF (Follow the Fence) school of navigation, the boundary being marked on the map. Unfortunately the higher fence posts have disintegrated which partly explains our brief disorientation on the plateau. Once we had established, after 5 minutes of faffing, that we had conquered the mighty Creag Meagaidh (1130m, Archie number 2) the descent to the Window involved a bit of doglegged navigation and then it was a quick burst up to Stob Poite Coire Ardair (1053m, Archie number 3). After a few more photos of Rabbie and some revoltingly snottery selfies we retraced our steps to the Window, in the hope of an easy descent (we could have continued along the ridge to bag the final Munro of the group, but hey Munros are so last Millennium). Not so, the east face of the Window was almost completely choked with a bank of quite hard packed snow which was much too steep to descend without ice-axes. We picked our way down the side of the snowfield on broken scree and loose turf, then followed the glen to the Nature Reserve car park, passing snow bridges over the burn and then through a young woodland of rowan and birches. As the sun eventually came out for the evening we were joined by John and Tom, the latter possibly anxious to complete his cycle to Glen Feshie, and we finished by about 1900.
It was a fantastic privilege to have taken part in the Challenge, enthralling to follow the tracker in the week before and after our stage and, with regard to the tracker, I was relieved to see that there is only a slight kink in our passage across the summit plateau of Creag Meagaidh.
Stats for the day:- 13.4 miles, 1753m ascent, 5 hours.
Climbing Munros (sorry, I mean Archies) while being tracked by GPS is a very disconcerting experience. Wandering around in a white-out on the summit plateau of Creag Meagaidh I was acutely aware that mission control in Carrbridge would be wondering what on earth we were doing. Alternatively, perhaps they would be oblivious to our travails and tucking into vast quantities of pies to replenish fat and glycogen reserves much depleted by mammoth efforts in the preceding week. The team had set a very high bar, we knew the clock was ticking, we were supposed to be running over these 3 Archies, and the problem was we were not absolutely sure that either of the small cairns we had already touched actually constituted the summit. We were also wary of straying too far over the snow dome towards the cornices. Fortunately, closer scrutiny of the map showed that the first cairn was the summit, so we glissaded/stumbled onwards. All of this GPS tracked confusion in the mist was compounded by the fact that it was the 7th of June, and it was supposed to be summer!
We had volunteered for this particular weekend of Archies Mountain Challenge but severe storms had impeded progress and the team were still in Knoydart. However, our call-up came on the Saturday evening - "be at Fersit for 0800 tomorrow!" So it was up at 0400 to drive from Aberdeen and Edinburgh respectively to meet John Irving, Tom Fardon, Phillippe Lacoux and Graeme Gatherer with whom we divided up the day (I liked John's summing up of the planning for an impromptu day involving an awkward bunch of Archies half way between Knoydart and the Cairngorms - "it's a combination of meticulous organisation and ad hoc improvisation"). We spent a pleasant 6 hours chatting and watching the rain sweep by in sheets while runners ticked off three Archies either side of Loch Treig - the Easains and Chno Dearg - and Tom cycled the stretch from Fersit to our starting point. So, at 1400 Alan and I set off through the forest on the north side of the A86 at Roughburn. Beinn a'Chaorainn (1052m, Archie number 1)) was a wet, boggy ascent with wonderful views, during a brief lull in the driechness, back to the Loch Trieg hills, the Grey Corries and the Aonachs . It was amazing to crest the summit ridge and run up extensive snow fields, massive cornices to our right, and our 1st Archie came quite easily and we, to paraphrase Wainwright, paused awhile to take selfies with Rabbit.