A record breaking human power relay over every Scottish mountain over 1KM high!
The ARCHIE Foundation's Mountain Challenge
Having spent the week watching the tracker I was eager to rejoin the Archie athletes for more Archie bagging so a quick drive up to loch Quoich after work on Friday was in order.
The road along to Kinloch Hourn is quiet so it was a strange experience to come round a bend and find myself confronted by Paul Fettes on a bike!
He was about to set off up Sgurr a' Mhaoraich on his own, breaking his two person per leg rule (this was the only time this happened on the entire challenge - Ed). He did justify this transgression by pointing out he had Rabbie with him. In addition to this he pointed out that people knoew exactly where he was going, it was a short 'out and back' option in good conditions, andthere was plenty of daylight. It was such a lovely evening who could blame him. A brief chat to inform me I was climbing Gleouraich with Craig later and he was off.
Having met Craig near Kinloch Hourn we organised cars, bikes and kit before heading back to meet Paul in what we thought was plenty of time! However Paul was a man on a mission and we had only just parked up when I spotted him belting down the hill. Shit Craig we better get ready. Paul was in high spirits having made good time on the hill. Rabbie was handed over with the now obligatory check of the Tracker then a short cycle down the Glen and off up Gleouraich. A well built path takes you up the south east shoulder and we made good time. At one point we could see the lights of the Archie camper van convoy snaking their way back up the Glen from Kinloch Hourn. A quick summit selfie and it was back down to the waiting camper vans for curry and beer. Finish work on Friday and bag an Archie before bedtime. Is there a better way to end the working week?
Paul, Craig and I convened in Craig's camper to discuss the weekend plan. The Knoydart runners and kayakers were heading away which left just the three of us. Craig had a couple of kayaking friends coming to join us, and John Irvine was due to arrive some time that day, but other than that we weren't sure and had no phone signal to contact John. I knew discussions had taken place between Russell and John and that the weather was due to deteriorate overnight. There had been talk out a rest day on Saturday with the remaining Glen dessary hills being done on Sunday and the cycle to Feshie with the plan to start a big Caingorm assault in the improving weather on Monday. It might have been his recent head injury but when I put this plan to Paul he simply could not comprehend it. "Rest day" he said almost retching as the words formed in his mouth. "Oh no,we can get to Glen Feshie by tomorrow night".
Paul's plan had been a long cycle round to Glen dessary to approach the remaining Archie's. Having done it before, I suggested that canoeing across the loch would save time. We still had sea kayaks, Craig had his kayak and his friend was arriving with one in the morning. It goes without saying that when I suggested it I was not anticipating doing it!
Morning came, and with it strong winds and rain. Paul was excited at the paddling option. I was just praying John would arrive and that he and Paul could embark on this escapade. As we organised kit it became evident that John was not going to be there in time and I resigned myself to doing the leg with Paul. I had no-one to blame but myself for suggesting it in the first place.
Kit was donned, boats were launched and the usual logistics of moving cars and arranging Rabbie handover points organised. I had kindly been kitted out by Kirsty's Mum with her sea kayak which I just fitted into. Thankfully we also had dry suits which was reassuring given the conditions. Four of us set out, Paul and I in sea kayaks and Craig and friend John in play boats. The plan was they would act as escort and tow the two boats back after Paul and I reached dry land. As we poked our noses out of the bay into the Loch the strength of the wind and swell became evident. It was enough to send me scurrying over to a fisherman camped nearby with a boat to ask for a lift. He was not prepare to go out on the loch that day!! Only one thing for it then....
As we got further out into the loch it became more choppy. I was squeezed into a boat too small for me, my hips were wedged and my knees jammed against the side, if I went over I was going to struggle to get out. The only thing for it was to keep the kayak nose into the wind and focus on the far side. Turning round and getting side-on to the swell was not a option. Beyond midway the swell became less as we gained shelter from the hills. After regrouping on the far side, a very relieved Paul and I set off up Sgurr Mor. The north west approach was pleasant enough as we were sheltered from the wind but it was a different story once on the ridge. The ridge walk over Sgurr Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche was in storm force winds and horizontal hail. We tried to stick to the more sheltered side of the ridge but even so Paul and I discovered that a Buff does little to protect your face from being peppered by hail.
We were thankful to descend into the bog that is Glen Dessarry and make our weary way out to the waiting cyclists. Two very bedraggled runners were then very happy to be picked up by Criag in his campervan. At the head of Loch Arkaig we met up with John who laid out the plan for the coming days which was get to Feshie the next day doing as Many Archie's as possible on route then start the Cairngorms early the day after.