Sunday, 27 February 2011

Dreams by the Sea

Ostel Bay

Last weekend was spent on the Cowal Peninsula. For those that don't know that's a part of Argyll on the west coast of Scotland. One of those long fingery like strands that point down to the Firth of Clyde and the Irish sea. The dreadlocks on Scotlands head if you like. We were staying at the Kames Hotel, Tignabruich.

Ostel Bay

While there we found a stunning sandy bay. When I say 'found' I mean I read about it on the t'interwebz and then asked at the hotel. A very helpful member of staff at the hotel gave great, concise insturctions. It's common knowledge to the locals and they willingly gave directions when asked. We wouldn't have found it otherwise. Off we went following what we had been told. It was a fine day. The earlier clouds and showers were clearing and the sun was starting to show. We found the lay-by and parked up. Grabbed our bags and the camera. Boots on. After a nice, enjoyable twenty minute walk along a private road. No cars allowed. It's a conservation area. We were rewarded with a stunning sandy bay and no-one else around but us. We had the place to ourselves. Just us and the wildlife. Gulls and oystercatchers. Not a human soul. It was just beautiful. My photographs don't do it justice. Go visit, go find it and if your lucky you to will have this magical place to yourself.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Alpkit Gourdon 30 litre Rucksack

Alpkit Gourdon 30 Litre Rucksack

I was looking for a rucksack that was lighter than I had and also big enough to go on an over night trip but nothing too expensive. I'm also trying to lighten the load. I have 2 backpacks; a small 12 litre pack which is fine for a short day walk, the other was a large 65+ litre rucksack with a carbon frame that I used for weekends in the wilds. With that I was carrying ridiculous amounts of stuff. Kit that I didn't need or use. Crazy. After much googling, perusing of websites and reading forums I found Alpkit and their Gourdon 30 litre bag so I had one ordered. 

Why did I go for this one. You only have to read the specification list; roll top waterproof closure, taped waterproof seams, hydration pouch and removable padded back. It's made from hard wearing Taslan with a TPU coating to make it waterproof. It has a clear see through panel that lets you see exactly what's inside and where. It holds 30 litres. It even comes with iron on repair patches should you manage to put a hole in it. As well as coming in a range of colours. Best of all, all these features for only £25. Some of those you don't get on packs that are double the price Yep. A Bargain. 

Trig point and Gourdon

I've had this rucksack/dry bag hybrid for a couple of months now. There is nothing fancy about it but I do love it's simplicity. It does the job and more. On my scales it weights just over 620g with the foam back pad in, it's a shade over 30cm wide and the 60cm in height stated on the website. The water bladder is 45cm long and 20cm wide according to Alpkit. I never measured it but it comfortably takes my 2 litre water pouch. I find it easy to carry and the shoulder straps don't dig. I can't say that I've given it a good soaking but it's stood up to the rain without any issue. It has been and still is being flung about like a rag doll and has had no adverse reaction to this sort of treatment. Great to be using something so simple in design but well constructed.

Waiting for the Bus

I have only one concession to make; I would love some bungee cord on this, like it's littlest brither so I had something to strap my walking poles to when I wasn't using them. Other than that I can't find a fault. Adding the cord would be the only change I'd make. The Gourdon is a very capable and functional piece of kit. Fast becoming my go to bag for everything. Going to work, out with the buggy, camera bag, walking and hiking or an over night trip. Like it says on the Alpkit website, "Gourdon is a strange little beast, ideal for all those strange little things we do." Almost perfect for me.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Alpkit Gourdon 30 litre Rucksack

Alpkit Gourdon 30 Litre Rucksack

I was looking for a rucksack that was lighter than I had and also big enough to go on an over night trip but nothing too expensive. I'm also trying to lighten the load. I have 2 backpacks; a small 12 litre pack which is fine for a short day walk, the other was a large 65+ litre rucksack with a carbon frame that I used for weekends in the wilds. With that I was carrying ridiculous amounts of stuff. Kit that I didn't need or use. Crazy. After much googling, perusing of websites and reading forums I found Alpkit and their Gourdon 30 litre bag so I had one ordered. 

Why did I go for this one. You only have to read the specification list; roll top waterproof closure, taped waterproof seams, hydration pouch and removable padded back. It's made from hard wearing Taslan with a TPU coating to make it waterproof. It has a clear see through panel that lets you see exactly what's inside and where. It holds 30 litres. It even comes with iron on repair patches should you manage to put a hole in it. As well as coming in a range of colours. Best of all, all these features for only £25. Some of those you don't get on packs that are double the price Yep. A Bargain. 

Trig point and Gourdon

I've had this rucksack/dry bag hybrid for a couple of months now. There is nothing fancy about it but I do love it's simplicity. It does the job and more. On my scales it weights just over 620g with the foam back pad in, it's a shade over 30cm wide and the 60cm in height stated on the website. The water bladder is 45cm long and 20cm wide according to Alpkit. I never measured it but it comfortably takes my 2 litre water pouch. I find it easy to carry and the shoulder straps don't dig. I can't say that I've given it a good soaking but it's stood up to the rain without any issue. It has been and still is being flung about like a rag doll and has had no adverse reaction to this sort of treatment. Great to be using something so simple in design but well constructed.

Waiting for the Bus

I have only one concession to make; I would love some bungee cord on this, like it's littlest brither so I had something to strap my walking poles to when I wasn't using them. Other than that I can't find a fault. Adding the cord would be the only change I'd make. The Gourdon is a very capable and functional piece of kit. Fast becoming my go to bag for everything. Going to work, out with the buggy, camera bag, walking and hiking or an over night trip. Like it says on the Alpkit website, "Gourdon is a strange little beast, ideal for all those strange little things we do." Almost perfect for me.

Therm-a-Rest Haven Top Bag - 1st Look

Therm-a-Rest Haven

I'll start with the disclaimer this is another bit of kit courtesy of a very kind Phil and I have no vested interest in the sleeping bag other than to share my views on it. These are my intital thoughts having carried and used the sleeping bag once on an overnighter at the end of January. 

Phil had let me know in advance that he would have this bag, the Therm-a-Rest Haven would available if I wanted to have a go. He had indicated on twitter a few days before that the bag was a bit small for him. With me not being shy and an official small person, I jumped at the chance to test some gear out. Knowing this I had a quick google at the sleeping bag. I was intrigued by the concept. The bag has no zips and an elasticated hole in the back as well as a couple of straps to attach it onto a mat. It comes in a Pewter grey color and is filled will 700 goose down. The shell fabric is Nylon Ripstop with a DWR finish and it's lined with Nylon Taffeta. Looking then; that night, at the photographs it would seem that you can insert a sleeping mat into the Haven or strap it down to mat (a Neo-Air) on the website. All very interesting. 

When Phil first handed it to me in the car park at Ballantrae it was in the big storage sack that it comes with and I really didn't have a proper look at. Phil and I talked about the no zips and the straps. That it was rated down to -6C which would be plenty for that particular Saturday night in January. I run warm anyway and the old adage is true for me, you heat the sleeping bag the sleeping bag doesn't heat you. Nothing to worry about there. I also said that I reckoned there was a couple of ways to insert yourself into the bag having seen the website but maybe not if you're a 6' 2" Phil. 

It went from the storage sack in to the stuff sack. I remember thinking it felt nice and soft as I stuffed it. At the time I wasn't sure of the size but having measured it once I got home, it measured in at 27cm x 18.5cm and weighed about 638g in the stuff sack on my scales. Less than half the weight of the synthetic bag I usually carry, nevermind the difference in stuff sack size. In the Alpkit rucksack it went and that was the last I thought about it until we were pitching the tents.

Once the tents were pitched and I had inflated my sleeping mat, a POE Ether 6. I got out the Haven to let it breathe and loft after being squashed for most of the day. I gave it a good shake out and it lofted well and there is left it until after dinner. This was where the fun began, trying to figure out the best way to use the Haven. I started off with inserting the Ether 6 and sliding in up to my oxsters this was fine while I was lying about talking to Phil over in his tent but when it came to bed down for the night. I found even for me; it was tight, me in the fully inflated Ether 6 inside the Haven but I was willing to give it a go, for a while at least. That lasted until I tried to turn on to my side. Too tight with POE pad.

I decided that this was probably the best time to take a leak and then come back and sort it out. By that time I think Phil was already in the land of nod so I tried to be as quiet as I could. Once back in the LiteHouse Solo, I removed the POE and straped the Haven down and got myself back into the bag through the elasticated hole in the back. Much easier way in than through the hood, rat up a drainpipe experience of earlier. However i think that had a lot to do with the sleeping pad being inside that bag.

Now much more comfortable in the Haven, with plenty of from I settled down for some sleep. Ten minutes later I found myself having to strip off, down to my underwear and my baselayer. I found the bag to be warm and cosy. A lot warmer than the synthetic bag I was used to. At that time of year I would usually be sleeping in my clothes. Comfortable again, I drifted off to sleep but a few hours in I found myself waking because of a cold spot. My bum was straight onto the sleeping mat because of the elasticated hole. That hadn't happened when the mat was inside with me. After much fiddling and rumbling, I tucked one edge of the hole under me and that removed the gap enabling to get a good sleep the rest of the night.

It's a curious design in that it has no zips an well elasticated hole in the back and a couple of straps with clips to attach it to the mat of your choice. I'm not sure how much weight you save by not having a full length zip. I suppose the grams are a bit like pennies in that if you look after them the pennies will take care of themselves. I have no real complaints about the Haven sleeping, the pocket was too small to be of much use to me. Not sure what you would use it for. I judge these things on can I store my glasses safely. Which I couldn't. The cold spot, maybe but it could have just been the wrong mat. Having check up on a few things when I got home. Therm-a-Rest recommend using a tappered matteress like their TrailPro when the weather is cold. This still of mat would allow more room when inserted in and more than likely eliminate the cold spot but I managed to sort that for myself. Maybe that's my next move get hold of a tappered mat and try it with that. All in all I had a very good sleep in a very decent sleeping bag and I'm looking forward to testing it again.


A Winter's Tale: Ballantrae to Lendalfoot.

Ailsa Craig

Here I go again, stealing the second part of Robert Louis Stevenson's title. You can read the first part about the first day here

Striking camp from place that shall remain nameless. We had struck a deal. Hear no evil, see no evil. I don't want the generous people that allowed us to camp to get into trouble for their kindness. A story for another day, possibly. Anither time. It felt colder than Saturday, pulling the pegs for the Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo. My hands were going numb and I had all my layers on. Brrrr. I don't think it WAS colder. It just felt it. Gone were the clear blue skies and weak winter sun to be replaced with cold gun metal grey clouds. The breeze was still there, not helping matters. I was slower than Phil packing up, he had already legged it back to the car and the warmth of it's heaters. I wasn't long behind. Not a morning for hanging around. Hopefully it would clear. Even if the sun broke through just a little it would feel better.

Phil had the car started and the heaters on and his fingers were starting to get there feeling back. I just huddled in my layers hoping to heat up soon. Strange to be so cold after being so warm the night before in the Therm-A-Rest Haven bag. Once I had figured it out. It's always the way, losing all the heat that you've accumulated in your own wee cocoon. We left and joined the road back to Ballantrae. A couple of bedheads not quite fully awake to the world yet but looking forward to another fun days walking. I was anyway.

Back in Ballantrae we stopped at the Spar to resupply. Phil bought another pie for lunch and a big steak pie for his dinner. They are local made pies and he was impressed with them from the day before. Phil knows a thing or two about pies. If he says its a good yin, it's a good yin. I bought two bottles of Irn Bru. My weakness. Sweet sweet nectar. The true drink of the gods. I drink it by the gallon. However I'm not alone in that, just ask Barrs.

With breakfast washed down with half a bottle of Bru. I was ready for the day. No need to be carrying all the gear we had yesterday. Everything other than what was classed as essential got left in the boot. Basically we dumped all the gear in the car except food and liquid and the water proof jackets. We had parked back in the same car park on the Foreland. We crossed the road to where the way markers were indicating the path continued. I had kept my insulated jacket on over my wind shirt and I was glad of the extra heat. Added to that I had my hat on. This served two purposes; one, keeping my head warm, two, hiding the Mr Majeika bedhead from the night in the sleeping bag. Hopefully it would flatten out the ducks tails and coos lick I was sporting. Not that I was likely to bump into anyone I know but you never know, back in the land of my fathers' and the county I grew up in. So vain. 

We walked along the Foreland stopping occasionally to read the information boards. I love those boards especially if there made by the locals. Full of interesting little nuggets of local knowledge. From there we walked round to the harbour. It's a picturesque wee thing like a lot of harbours up the west coast. It would look even better if it had some boats anchored in it's lea. Maybe in the summer but it stood proud and strong against the sea, if a little lonely. The coastal path then becomes just that, a coastal path. You make your way along the shore. For us the tide was out but may have been on it's way back in. The beach was made up of firm sand with patches of pebbles and stones. The common make up of the beaches here and great for walking on. Especially in your bare feet during the summer months. Beware though the sea can still be terribly cold even in the height of summer. Ah when I was a boy.   

It's a long beach and a longer walk than you think. One of those walks that you have to look behind you to see how far you've come as the head land and it's cave doesn't seem to be getting any closer. Something I was doing frequently. It was a good section to start on and stretch my stiff and unfit walking legs. About halfway along I had built up a head of steam and had to remove my insulated jacket. I didn't want to over heat and build up too much sweat. Eventually or so it felt; not in a bad way, we came to the end of the beach. We made our way off up the path to where a marker gave us a choice. A take it at your own risk sort of offer. You could either follow the new road up and over the head land and down or the old road round but that was your decision. On your head be it. Personally it wasn't a hard choice for me and Phil was of the same mind. The two of us were not for the long hard pull along the new road with trucks, lorries and cars speeding by. Added to the fact that there was no real view. It was agreed. We moved off over a small bridge and joined the old road that I remember more fondly from my younger days. 

Snib Scott's Cave

On the old road here is a cave. A cave that I remember well but having never gone in. It took a cairn and Phil to remind me of the story. This particular one was where Snib Scott lived. Originally a banker from Dundee, he just chucked. Decided it wasn't for him, this modern world and he wanted something simpler. Doesn't get much simpler than being in a cave, living hand to mouth. He must have been happy as he lived for many many years. Phil went in for a look about. Too dark for me. I'm a big shite bag in the dark places. It wasn't for me. Even now my hackles are on end just remembering it. I let big brave Phil explore. I just stood in the entrance. He switched on his heard torch and vanished into the back, the abyss. Void of light. To me it was a black hole sooking up all the light. Shiver. I don't think Phil realised that if anything happened back there; like attacked by cannibals, dinner with the De'il or a fall, he was on his own. I would run and jump in the freezing sea before venturing into that particular hell of mine. However I may surprise myself, bite it down and go in there and drag him out. Never say never. Luckily nothing foul happened to Phil and he returned safe.

Snib Scott's Cave

Once the caving expedition was complete we ventured back on to the road and followed it's gently curving incline round the head land. Much more sedate and enjoyable than the up hill slog on the new road. The old road has been claimed back by the local farmer and he's using it for his own needs. It is weird though walking up a full proper road with no traffic. Even although you know there's no cars you still find yourself looking around for traffic. 

It was not long until we found ourselves in familiar territory, another river of coo shite and piss. Yep. We were back there again; well not quite physically, that was miles away on the other side of Ballantrae. Anither turgid, festering and stinking road of pish and shit. We had not long got rid of the stench from the day before. It was nowhere near as deep as the previously crap filled road but it was just as wide and just as long. That and another herd of cows; this time beef not dairy, stood between us and the top of the hill. I could see the look on Phil's face and he didn't look best pleased. I imagine mine to be similar but we laughed it off and got on with it. Skirting the slick road by way of the fence on the slightly higher ground and trying not to get entangled in the rusty old barbed wire. I didn't fancy having to stop in at Ayr hospital on the way home to get myself a tetanus jab. Aye a jab not jag because it is like getting punched in the arm. It was almost like Total Wipe out on BBC1 but I didn't fancy splashing down in that liquid road. That would not be funny.

On getting to the top of the hill we now had to join back up with the main road, the A77. Not the best having to walk along the verge. The views to our left were cracking but I can imagine it not being much fun in the height of summer. The coast road here can exceptionally busy. Nose to tail. We were lucky it was a Sunday in January and cold to go with it. At this point the road is all downhill and makes for easy walking and being high on the headland affords stunning views on a clear day. Northern Ireland, The Ailsa Craig, Mull of Kintyre and Arran. Mind you it has to an exceptionally clear day to see the hills of Northern Ireland. 

It could be one of those places that if a car doesn't get you, the cannibals might well. Oh? You don't know we have cannibals in Ayrshire. Aye. They stay in caves along the shore at Bennane Point. That's what I was lead to believe, my dad told the story of Swaney Bean like he was real and not some 200 year old tale. Used to scare us running round the beaches. It stopped my sister and I from venturing too far. Sawney Bean will get yi. Personally a great yarn invented by the smugglers that did use those caves, to keep folk out just in case the De'il wasnae awa' wi' th' exciseman. It would take a brave man to go down there an' face off against forty odd hungry rabid cannibalised Ayrshire folk. Just be like square in Cumnock when they kick the pubs oot on a Saturday night.

Down the Road

Having dodged the cars and avoided being boiled in a massive cauldron of human stovies or worse by Sawney Bean and his clan, we made it to Bennane and it's very own five star spa. Not that Phil and I were about to go and get a pedicure. We don't need such things. As we reached the spa, Phil stepped out of sight over the wall. I hadn't notice him disappear from sight, I was too busy looking out to sea. The next thing I knew was  a shout of "Morning!". It was a bit startling, no other soul was about or so we thought. I'm sure the De'il himself was woken, if not him then the dead. It brought me round from my day dreaming out at sea. As I jumped over the wall, I to was greeted with a shouty welcome. It was a guy coming out of the spa laden with towels. I returned the greeting but not as load and continued after Phil. He was checking to see if the walk continued on the beach. It didn't, it still followed the road but had become a Tar McAdam(ed) path.

Kayaking in the bay

Now down at sea level barring a few feet. It was a straight walk into Lendalfoot. When I say straight I mean curvy. As we walked and talked on this easy part we noticed a keen sea kayaker. For keen read nutter. That's what I was thinking. It was cold enough on dry land never mind out in the hypothermia inducing water. My face was nipping a bit with the cold and my nose was running like a dripping tap. Wat-iry snotters. Can't image what it was like for him out there. Braver man than me. He must have had three Adam's aipples. Wearing his baws as earrings. Don't get me wrong, I would love to do some sea kayaking but maybe not the back end of the winter in Scotland? I'm surprised the Ayrshire gulls never thought snack, dinner. Probably too cold for even them to bother.

Varyag Anchor

As we continued on we came across the memorial to the Varyag. Greatest of all the Russian warships. It ended up smashed on the rocks here. Not a fitting ending for such a famous battleship. Even if your driving by it's well worth stopping off for a break and a walk about to read about the Varyag's history. As well as to see the monument at the centre of the memorial. Real communist era Russian design. It is something to see. Impressive.

Monument to the Battle Cruiser Varyag

On the last short leg of this section and bit ahead of time, if I remember correctly. We came into the outskirts of Lendalfoot. Lots of unusual holiday homes. Built of wood in many different styles from Scandinavian to your simple hut with lean-to extension. These have been constructed over the years and it feels that Lendalfoot gets longer by the year. I'm not even sure if these are officially in the 'village' or not. Some are very nice indeed and couple I wouldn't mind owning myself as they have wonderful views. Lucky people. In the village proper it was time to find the bus stop. It's easy to tell when your in the actual 'village', it's all old stone and white wash not bright pealing painted colours and wood. 

Looking for the bus stop and finding none. Not like it can hide in Lendalfoot. One street and that's the main road. The guide book said it was by the telephone exchange, a phone box to you and me. If it was, someone had forgot to put out the stop. Maybe they take it away and are laughing behind their net curtains. We walked to the edge of the village. The last hoose or the first depending what direction your coming. It was the auld Smiddy. Where we happened upon a man in a boiler suit painting some ceiling coving. Phil dispatched me and my local accent to ask where we could get the bus. With my one of my dad's many favourite sayings ringing in my ears, "Ya've goat a gid scot's tongue in yir heid, yase it!" Yes; I may have mental issues, hearing voices in my head. "'scuse me chief" it might have been "sur". Doesn't matter either is acceptable in the local parlance. Onywiy. "Ya cudnae tell us whur the bus stoaps?". Yes you always ask in the negative. Like he isn't going to tell you. 

Much to our surprise the gentleman spoke with a English accent. He informed us that the bus would stop anywhere on the main road. That made things easier so we parked ourselves down on a seating bench on the way into Lendalfoot. This gave us a easy view to see the bus coming and plenty of time to cross the road to stop it. We had nearly a couple hours to wait. Sunday service in operation, one bus every now and again. It was cold but you could see the clouds were breaking over the Mull of Kintyre and Arran was starting to appear out of the blue. Not a bad place to sit and wait. 

Waiting for the Bus

Out came the extra insulating layers as it was biting now that we weren't walking. Hoping that the clouds would get a move on and the sun would start to move closer to us and give what little heat it had to our cold bodies. Phil got tucked into his local pie and me my rolls then I cracked open the Irn Bru. It was now just a waiting game. Waiting for the bus but it wasn't bad in the slightest, good views and good company. Eventually the bus arrived, guess the fare? One pound sixty five pence. Seems to be the standard fair. Same as it was Ballantrae to Glenapp. Then we were heading back to the car and home. Two brilliant days.

Leaving Lendalfoot

The Masters of Ballantrae: Glenapp to Ballantrae

Glenapp Church

Hopefully Robert Louis Stevenson will forgive me for stealing his title. The first half to be exact, it just seemed apt. I have not long returned from my first overnight in a long long time. Breaking out old gear and breaking in new gear. Learning new things and remembering old things. Yep, you can still teach an auld dug new tricks. 

I should point out luckily for Phil and I this doesn't end like the novel of the title, obviously I've sat here and written this and Phil is in Edinburgh, probably sitting in a corner shaking with a cold sweat and trying to come to terms with spending a weekend in my company. Hopefully he'll get over it and his ears have stopped bleeding.

I should probably add a little caveat in that this is probably not how Phil remembers the first day of the walk. It is my memories that have been processed, regurgitated and bubbled back to the surface to be committed to these here digital pages. It may not be a true reflection of the events or the sequence in which they happened. If you want a accurate and true version, speaking to Phil might be a better idea than reading this. Then again?

The plan was to walk from Ballantrae over to Lendalfoot on the Saturday. Camping overnight. On the Sunday, walking to the Maidens. It was arranged to meet in the car park on the Foreland at Ballantrae for 9:30am. Very sociable time, not too early and not too late that you don't get to put down some miles under foot.

I decided to stay in Cumnock on the Friday night at my parent's house. Longer lie in and a shorter drive. Easier driving from Cumnock to Ballantrae instead of East Kilbride. Even better after getting there, mum made dad drive me to Ballantrae. No need to worry about the car. 

Driving with my dad is an experience. If you've read some of the other posts you'll know he is an experience. Being a passenger is just plain funny. Dad plays this game when driving in Ayrshire. Anywhere else he'd just get lost. Give this man a compass and he still couldn't find north. Seriously and he'll be the first to admit it. The sat nav gets switched on and the 'route' set. It tells him his expected arrival time at the inputted destination. Then it's on. White on rice and bag of potato chips. All that. Dad proceeds to drive the roads he knows. Which is to say roads without letters or even a designation. If your lucky it's B road. He knows roads I don't even ken. The result of this is; bing bing, recalculating. Bing bing. Take the next whatever. My dad ignores this and keeps driving. Bing bing. Recalculating. This happened for nearly our entire journey to Ballantrae.

Half way to Ballantrae my dad started to inform me at how piss poor the planning was for this walk. If we were walking to the Maidens. Why weren't we meeting Phil there, he leaves his car there and my dad drives the two of us to Ballantrae. Probably because it hadn't occurred to us? Shut up taxi driver and just drive, I never said that out loud; just in my head, I think. Bing bing. Recalculating. Take the next right in point 3 miles. That wasn't going to be the case.

Just as we pulled into the car park I received a message from Phil, "I'm parked here" but I had already spotted his car. Why does that always happen? Introduced Phil to my dad. He informed Phil how piss poor our planning was. Dad has a bigger gub than me and I can talk a squeaky gate into submission. Also that I was carrying enough kit for two weeks never mind one night. All that coming from the car camper.

It was an absolutely cracking morning, a bit chilly but clear blue sky. Maybe even a touch of frost. Now with my dad departed we started getting our gear sorted. Phil was lending me a one man tent, sleeping bag and sleeping mat. A Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse solo in a very fetching yellow (you can read my thoughts here), A Therm-a-rest Haven top bag and a Pacific Outdoor Equipment Ether Elite 6. I really don't have much in the way of lightweight gear where it counts, so he was helping me out. Nice chap. 

Phil suggested a change. That we catch the bus and head down to the very start of the Ayrshire Coastal Path at Glenapp. By saying this I make Glenapp sound like a big place. It doesn't have a bus stop. The bus will just stop for you. Is no more than a handful of houses and an ancient church. Blink and you will miss it. It was a fine day and it would be a waste not to. I was happy with this new plan. No point in wasting this glorious opportunity. You don't always get a fine weather window like that. We made the most of it.

The bus stop is opposite the Church in Ballantrae and handily the little shop of curiosities next to it had a seating bench. After popping into the local Spar to get change for the bus, we sat our self down and waited. We only had twenty or so minutes to wait. The bus was due through the village at about 10:30am. We sat. We chatted until a guy and his King Charles spaniel sidled up. Morning, morning. If I remember correctly he was taking the dog to Stranraer to the vets? I'm thinking would it not be easier to go to the vets in Girvan, it's closer. He informed us the bus was due shortly and we wouldn't have long to wait. He was getting the bus as well. He walked off with the dog in tow. When he returned the bus was running late and we all got talking about walking. Walks that we'd walked and walks he'd walked. The bus arrived about ten or so minutes late. One Scots pounds and sixty five of the new pennies, a single to Glenapp Church. 

 I'm glad Phil was paying attention as I was away in another world. Tying my boots a bit tighter and generally looking out the window but not really paying much attention to what was going on out there. Happy within in myself looking forward to good day of walking. Phil gave me a nudge at the exact same time as our newly acquired friend and his dog said, "Next corner is for you boys". The dog didn't speak it was the guy. Now that would have been something. We got up and walked to the front of the bus. I'm positive as the bus swung round the corner, I nearly took out the old lady with my rucksack. Luckily for her I was going lightweight. I apologised regardless. I plinked the bell or Phil did. I'm not sure. The driver flung out the anchors and put the brakes on like the De'il himself had stepped out in front us; eating thunder, shitting lightening, all raining hellfire and brimestaine. It's known to happen. The De'il is a regular visitor to these parts. Can't you hear the banjos? I have plenty of stories to tell about him. It probably wasn't like that but that's how I remember the bus stopping. 

After jumping clear of the bus. Tuck and roll. We hurried across the road to where the sign post was indicating the direction of the path. Hoping to dodge any approaching speeding traffic or speed freak bus drivers. We took a couple photographs of the church from the relative safety of the grass verge. Settling our packs on our shoulders we set off into the Ayrshire countryside. When we turned, we saw the postman in his van making deliveries to the couple of cottages across from the church. Or so we thought. Instead of coming out of the back of his van with parcel and letters, His chocolate retriever appears. Walkies? Bizarre. 

Loch Ryan

As I said earlier it was a glorious morning, a little chilly in the shade but beautiful for a days walking none-the-less. We started off down an nicely wooded, what appeared to be old estate road. Then we turned off on to what looked like an old cart road. As indicated by the sign post. The Rotary Club have done a great job marking the route. The old road started to go up hill steadily out of the glen and up through the trees. I was puffing a bit. I was out of practice. Pushing the buggy round Whitelees  Wind farm is not the same. However it was a nice path to stretch the legs on and get into my stride. As we gained more metres above the glen the trees started to get thinner and finally we were greeted by a stunning view. We had great views down towards Cairnryan and Stranraer with the Ferries turning into port as well as across to the Rhins of Galloway. Loch Ryan shinning blue in the sun. We stood a bit drinking it in and taking a few photographs. A worthy reward for nice climb.

As the path turned we left the view of Galloway behind and followed the old road on a northward direction. We hadn't seen hide or tail of anyone since we left the postman way down at the main road. Then all of a sudden we came across a dog walker with her little terrier. By that time we were a good few miles from anywhere. We exchanged pleasantries. Morning, Morning. "You boys walking the coastal path to Ballantrae". Both "Yes", well maybe I said "Aye". Her reply was "Good on youse!" but I heard it in tone like. Crikey you boys are a bit keen, that's a fair old walk. You'll be lucky to get there by sun down. What did she know that we didn't? Thinking about now as I type it out, maybe she was an Ayrshire witch? She did appear out of no-where and there hus been no sign of onybudy else. No parked cars or such like and we weren't far from a set of standing stones? Aye. I'm probably reading far too much into it but you never know and standing stones always make me tingle. Ayrshire is an old place.

Ailsa Craig

After we said our goodbyes to the "Witch" (read nice lady). We carried on the road this time with a great view off to the north and west a bit of the Ailsa Craig, the large volcanic plug that sits in the Irish sea. The De'il papped it there in a fit of rage. Some laird somewhere managing to get the better of him, again. The road had levelled out for a while on the cliff. It was pretty apparent that we were now within an estate rather on just farm land. There was feeding troughs for pheasants and not surprising the odd pheasant diving about and generally being skittish. You would be to if folk fired buck shot pellets in your general direction. Little did we know.

As we walked on we noticed in the distance an convoy of four by fours moving towards us. A Land Rover Defender, a Range Rover Vogue, a Land Rover Freelander 2 and a Toyota Land Cruiser. Not the usual banged up farmers choice. Well looked after and new. The clues were plain to see. We were walking into a shoot. The jeeps turned down a track before they got to us and we though we were okay. For about 5 minutes it was fine then we came to the turn they had made and Phil checked the guide, we were to take that path they had ten minutes earlier. As we turned we noticed that the Mole Catcher had been busy.

Moley, moley, mole

Following the road it started to descend down towards the coast and the sea. He turned another corner and came across an old cottage. It was in a weird place. We had look inside. Possibly an old estate workers house but it had a unusual configuration of rooms. At some point it had been done up but it had fallen back into disrepair again. No roof and no original fittings inside. I looked a bit like it could have once been a auld fermhoose with the byre attached but there was no obvious remains of any steadings. We walked on and turned another corner when we heard the noise of an approaching Land Rover Defender. Unmistakable. We got out the road. Phil stepped to the fence; me on the other hand, stepped into the gorse bushes. Ouch! Stupid but no damage down. It's the Beat Master. I nod in greeting. He stops. Rolls down the window and speaks to Phil. I can't hear anything I'm stuck in the gorse. The master has asked us to hang back, there about to start shooting. How long? He didn't say. However he could have asked to leave on health and safety grounds. It's also private land even although we have right of access. A hang back was fine for me. We'll I don't know about Phil but I didn't fancy picking pellets out my arse.

Walking slowly down the track we could see the beaters on the other side of the wooded glen. The side you would have to be climbing back up. I looked that they were driving the pheasants down the glen to the shooting posts. Phil asked a few questions about a pheasant shoot and I did my best to explain, having been on a few. The shotguns where soon blasting out and echoing around the glen. I think more birds were escaping than were getting shot or so it appeared. It was hard to pick out where the shooters were because of the sounds bouncing about like a rubber ball. When the echoes died to nothing and the dogs were sent into pick up the birds. We walked down to the cove where the jeeps were parked. We decided here was as good as any to take a break but as Phil was getting his stove out, the Beat Master appeared. I asked when it would be safe to continue. Now was the answer they were finishing up. Ah well, away with the stove and back on the track.

Pheasant Shoot

The road climbed steeply out this side of the glen as we headed back towards the cliff tops. It looked like a fairly new track. The stones were large and possible ankle breakers, not at all knocked about by estate or farm vehicles driving over them. We got to the top and were about to make a left turn back towards the sea when Phil jumped out his skin. I literally shat myself. An escapee was making another bolt for freedom. A pheasant had blasted out from the ferns at the path side. I think we got a bigger fright than the startled bird. Catching me breath we were now on a even steeper slope. I was starting to toil a bit. I'm blaming the roll and corn beef that I had inhaled as Phil got his stove out. Really it was my poor hill fitness. 

It levelled out as best as nature can. In to say that it undulated like a gentle sea. A mirror of what we could see. It's not so much of a path to follow here, more of a sheep track and painted fence posts with the occasional direction marker. Not like you can go far. You have a dry staine dyke on one side or a fall off the cliffs on the other. It funnels you nicely along towards Ballantrae. We came across a funny stone on here. Weird that things like that appear where you stop. We had stopped again for me to take a wee breather. I'm out of practice remember. To our left was a rectangular stone set in the ground flush with grass. It had no markings, nothing. Wasn't on the map either. Interesting. No ideas. Just a strange place to be.  

There is not much change in the terrain on this section. Steadily making your way along the cliff. Following the markings and the white topped fence posts. The view out the Irish sea is incredible on a summers day it would be magnificent. It was here on this part that I started to really started to struggle. There was a lot more up and down rather than the gentle undulating of earlier. We were also into agricultural fields that was home to a large dairy herd. I don't think falling into hoof holes with my small feet all over the soft ground was helping either. Much to Phil's credit, if the frequent breathers were starting to annoy him as it can when your continually stopping and starting. He never showed it. He is great walking company.

For the land being the same here it more than made up for it with the wildlife. Amazing sights and first for me and possibly Phil. Walking and talking as we were, pointing out views. Me asking about sailing. Phil has a boat. There was a massive FLASH out of the dead ferns and bracken. A massive hare all resplendent in it's winter coat. Pure white like the driven snow. Whiter than Snow White or some untouched Himalayan peak. Whiter even that Gandalf after returning from defeating the Balrog. It was that white. Except the jet black tip to the tail. It was off, so fast. Greased lightening. I was so happy I'd never seen a hare in winter dress before. I've seen plenty of hares. Eaten a few, there just big rabbits really. It was amazing to see and all the more easier considering there was no snow. The hare stood out like a sore thumb. Magnificent to watch it run. Then it was gone. Gone. Hidden again in a hole or the undergrowth. Not long after that we disturbed another or maybe the same one but he had decided to leave the winter coat in the wardrobe this time.

On Downan Farm

Unfortunately there is a problem when you start to get into a rhythm of following the markers. Especially when one is wrong and or just plain missing. We were now in the heart of the farmers fields and not far from the end of the days walk. We could see Ballantrae and Ardstinchar Castle clearly now. Now on a proper farm road. Which for me was good as my legs were getting a rest. No up and down, no kissing gates, stiles to negotiate. Just walking. We came across a nice big white arrow pointing up the farm road. It wasn't clear straight away that we had missed something or that something was missing. We turned another corner and were heading up when we met what can only be described as a river of shit shining with a sheen of piss. All oil slick and horrible. Black and smelly. It was a bottle neck for the dairy coos going to the milking parlour. It was stinking. It was getting deeper. Sure this is the right way? Must be, the arrow pointed this way. After much dancing, skipping and generally trying to find the high ground. Boots now caked in cow shite we make it to the top but it's a gate. Not any gate and electrical wire and we're on the wrong side of the river of excrement. The hook up point is on the other post. At the this point the beasts must have been pissing themselves laughing watching us pair louping around. Not that you would have noticed. Phil being the brave one, wades through and unhooks the wire. Pure manure. I don't think Phil liked the cows. It was enough to put you off your milk. 

Towards Ballantrae

Once through the gate and back on terra firma we realised our mistake. We shouldn't have followed the road but skirted round the field edge. There was a kissing get in the very bottom corner out sight from the road. Ah well. Onward, stamping hard to get as much of the cloying cow pats loose from our footwear. We were on the homeward straight as it were. It was all road from here to Ballantrae and all down hill. We made our way to the bridge at the Stinchar and on to the car. Luckily it wasn't at the Maidens. Maybe just as well the planning wasn't that good? Now it was time to find a place to camp and get ready for another day of walking but that's another story in itself...... 

Gram-counter Gear LiteHouse Solo - 1st look.

Photograph from the Gram-Counter Gear website 

This is new country for me; doing a first look, well my first look at a bit of kit. The disclaimer part. The tent I have is from Phil Turner, you can follow or find him here @PhilOutdoors on twitter or his website Lightweight Outdoors. Phil is also a good friend of mine. He's had a play with this tent before me. You can see and read that here. I had read Phil's post and had commented that it would be interesting to see how it tested. It has now come my way and these are my initial thoughts and impressions. 

I'll start at the beginning. I met Phil in the car park at Ballantrae. Where he handed me the tent, a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. Lucky guy, yes I am. Phil gave me the low down. It weighs roughly 850g; in my hand it didn't feel like 850g of tent, lighter if anything. It is a classic ridge design with a single skin and fully stitched-in mesh interior with a sewn in groundsheet. The groundsheet is not the bath tub type you are used to with a traditional tent, some care is need when pitching. Also I had the nice happy yellow version. The website says orange but it looks yellow to me, there is however a green version available should you wish to blend more into your surroundings.

The pack size is great it fitted into my Alpkit Gourdon 30 litre rucksack width wise very comfortably leaving plenty of room for the rest of my overnight gear. I can't find any details of the stuff sack size but having measured it once I got home, it came out at 33cm by 12cm.

Once we arrived at our camp I was handed a set of pitching instructions, immediately I'm thinking uh oh. Nothing to worry about, it's just like every other tent you've ever done. It's a comprehensive pitching guide as the version I had came with 3 different styles/sizes of pegs. Two large aluminium pegs, 6 titanium micro pegs, 4" long and 5 titanium pegs, 6" long. I think that's just so you are aware which pegs have to be used where. It was definitely a good thing to read especially being new to lightweight tents. 

The pitching is quite simple and admittedly I did have an expert on hand but his input wasn't really needed. More just a check to see if I had it down correctly. Having pitched it once it will be really easy next time. 

The four corners get pegged first with 6" pegs then in goes your first walking pole, stabbed in to the ground. That gets held in place with the tension on the first guy line and a large aluminium peg. Then its round the back with second pole but doesn't have to be a walking pole, a branch would suffice. This is what gives the height at the rear by using the guy line to create the ridge line. Again this guy line is pegged using the other aluminium peg. After that it's just a case of securing the other points with the remaining pegs and tightening everything up. 

My description makes it sound a bit of a long process but it's not. I reckon ten minutes max and that would be pushing it. Nothing complicated even although using walking poles was completely new to me. 

Once pitched the gear porch gave ample room for my boots and Alpkit sack. I had plenty of room inside for the Pacific Outdoor Equipement Ether Elite 6 and the Therm-A-Rest Haven top bag. I actually had masses of room inside meaning I could bring in my rucksack. I should point out that I'm not the tallest person on the planet, being only 5' 7" on a good day. It was a good day. I can also sit up comfortably in the doors of the tent for cooking, putting on boots or just watching the sun go down and the stars come up.

It was my first time in a single skin tent and I had read and heard that they can have problems with condensation but don't all tents? I had none or nothing noticeable inside the tent and it was a very cold night. Not quiet double minus figures but somewhere around -5. There was however plenty of ventilation in the tent which certainly helps. There's venting all round where the groundsheet meets the the sides. Nice big mesh panels which also keeps out the creepy crawlies in the night.

The only things I could find fault with and fault is not the right word. They are just niggles, trifles or personal preferences. I found the pockets inside not to be of much use to me. They were too far down for me to reach easily. I would have much preferred them closer to the door of the tent. Then when I'm lying in my bag they are within easy reach but I had plenty of room to place my specs safely out the of the way. The other would be better guy locks on the strings, don't get me wrong there is plenty of tension there but it could be tighter in my opinion. However it's nothing that hampers the use or enjoyment of the tent.

All in all it's a great wee tent. So much so I can't wait to pitch it again and give it another thorough testing.

Four men went.... and one got the fear.

Shenavall bothy

photogrpahy courtesy of LHOON

It was the morning after the night before. One of those nights. One of those mornings. Bauwk. I was a guest at a wedding. It was a friend of my now wife's parents. It was at the Crutherland Hotel not far from my house. It was meant to be a quiet night. Nothing to be worried about. Aye right. I got foo o' the beer and the vodka. This always a bad move, for me personally. Me and spirits don't get on. A lesson I thought I had learned along time a go. There is no fun in shouting for auld hughey in the morning.

Safe to say I was in no fit shape to get out of bed or anything else for that matter. Luckily I had the foresight or is it hindsight, to pack my gear. I got up and met Hughey in the bathroom. Which was strange because I thought I had left him back at the hotel the night before. Oh well or more to the point unwell. I then met his brother, dry bauwk in the shower. Not someone you want to be sharing a shower with, I'm sure you understand. It wasn't going well. I had a lift to meet. One of those, meet a friend of a friend at such a place at such a time. If I got there first I'll stick a stone on the dyke, if you get there and I'm not there, knock it off and I'll know you've been. However If you get there first you put the stone up and I'll knock it off. You get the idea? Not the best start to a weekend in the hills.

What was worse, I wasn't meeting the guy until 14:00 in the afternoon and I was off, he was working a half day. It was the Septemeber weekend and my dad had pissed off to Spain to play golf with one of his brothers and a couple of mates. I hadn't been late to bed, the Thurday wedding finished at 00:30 dark. I was only at the reception. I crawled into bed and had passed out before 1 am and like heyzeus, had risen late and was now running late. Thankful of the aformentioned foresight but it's not great to be meeting someone you've never met and being late. Fuck.

I was seriously considering a call off. I was not good. Green about the gills and greyer than Gollum. After a good slapping about the chops from my now wife. Only joking she doesn't batter me. Just sometimes. No she doesn't but I do think she told me to man up, grow a set or some such wise sage advice, as usual. I got my shit together and myself squared away. I wasn't on a even keel, far from it. But close enough. She got me back on track and back on time.

I was deposited at the preordaned pick up point. Tuck and roll. I was earlier than I expect but later than I wanted to be. It meant I was standing round like a spare lamp post in my trilby hat, pink carnation and a copy of the Evening Times tuck under my left oxster. We had never met and I've seen it in the movies. That's how they do it. I was there first no one waiting. Perfect, as I thought I was going to have to go round the wall and have a serious shouting match with Hughey. It passed, the wave of nuasia washed over me and was gone. Shiver. Sweat. Shake. Where's a clothes line when you need one.

Seriously though, I was grateful for the walking gear. I worried that the polis might mistake me for some we junkie roon the back o' the hospital looking to tan motors for the cd players. Cash Convertors. Especially in my current state, shaking with an unholy palor. The guy I was meeting worked in the hospital labs at the Royal Infirmary.

I should probably stop now and explain where we were going if the photograph hasn't already given it away. Hopefully the cat is not out the bag. We were off to An Teallach but not climb this magnificent mountain.

From the centre of Glasgow that's about a five and a half hour drive. This bit I was not looking forward to. A very long drive in my current state, was not going to be fun. Nevermind for me but my walking buddies were going to have to put up with this stinking wet washing until it had dried out.

The plan was park up on A832 somewhere around Dundonell with one of the cars and park the other over at Kinlochewe also on the A832. Then spend the next four days walking over to pick up the car Kinlochewe. One night in the bothy at Shenavall and the other two nights bivying. Then drive back round, pick up the car at Dundonell and drive home. Cracking plan for the weekend.

I was waiting but not for long. The guy I was meeting duely turned up. Spot on time and the other two turned shortly after. They were coming from the west of the city so the had made there own arrangements, on who was driving and who was picking up who. The hand shaking and ribbing commenced. Jokes were told. Exagurations exagurated and then we were ready. Packs in the cars. Nothing for it but to go.

Off we went. Heading north. Heading for the A9. It had been decided to stop at Dunkeld for something to eat as none of us had eaten any lunch, I hadn't eaten anything and had drank very little. I was happy with this, it gave me a little longer to recover.

We made Dunkeld in good time, the traffic wasn't too bad. The banter continued along with the tales. I for some reason didn't go for the fish supper but for a massive sausage supper. I was a lot more hungrier than I had thought. Glad to be eating and so was my body. It was going to need the fuel and it knew it.

Back in the car after the late late lunch. Feeling a bit better after a big creashy supper. Something in my stomach. I probably should have done this earlier but the thought of seeing my breakfast again was a non-starter. Now it was time to settle in for the rest of the drive north. I always find that in the car you pass a lot of scenery and a lot happens but as a passenger you take very little of it in. The miles dropped off and the clock ticked on.

We arrived early evening at the lay-by. Later than expected was the impression I got. I was a follower on this trip not a leader and didn't have a look at the maps. I had no idea the distances or where we were actually going. I was along for the ride. I was looking forward to it. I was informed that we should make the bothy before dark. Should. Fair enough.

Having deposited my other dry set of clothes in the boot of the other car that was left at Kinlochewe. I usually only have two sets of clothes with me, a wet set and dry set. The dry set is for sleeping in. For some reason I thought it would good to have some nice fresh togs to get into after four days in the same gear. So much so it's now a standard procedure for me.

I re-jigged my pack, got it up on my back and settled it. I think I was carrying about twelve kilos for the three nights. It was heavy but not that I really noticed. Sit down at the back and take a breath. This is before I started weighing things and before I started trying to follow lightweight enthusiasts. Lets be honest it makes sense. Less weight more fun. Well the weight was the weight and that was what I was carrying. This included sleeping bag, bivvy, stove, gas, food, pot, water, dry clothes and a heavy weight fleece to keep the chill off at night. I could have probably fed all four of us quite easily with sheer amount of scran I had. It's a lesson I need to learn but I like my food. It'll probably be what makes the biggest difference to my pack weight. Not so much the weight around my middle.

We crossed the road from the layby and throught a gate, starting up wards. Onwards. Each of us trying to get into our natural walking rhythm. I fell into mine quite easy, at the back. Last. Like I've said before, I'm short and have stride to match. All was well. I felt okay. I had drank plenty of water in the car on the road from Dunkeld and just created a small burn in the lay-by. A big streak o' pish comes to mind.

It was a fine evening for walking up into the wilderness and on to the mountain massiff that is An Teallach, the forge. It was dry but with patchy clouds. The clouds were high. Not the usual, lower than 3000ft we get. We were gaining height quickly on this path and the views of the massif where getting better with each step. Beautiful. I remember walking over pink like granite slabs. I maybe wrong and it was elsewhere but it just sparkled in the evening sun.

Things were now starting to be a struggle for me. I was stopping and drinking more water from my nalgene bladder and the guys were having to wait a points for me so the didn't get out of sight. It was a plod. One foot in front of the other. A slog. I was feeling worse with every step. The hangover was returning and it wasn't funny like the movie. To top it off the clouds were dropping down and becoming less patchy. It was like An Teallach was gathering them in his arms and turning them dark and angry.

It was going to get dark earlier. The sun was already setting. That time of year it sets before 20:00. We were in the wilderness with some very high mountains between us the sun. Making it darker even faster. Then it started.

Plop................. plop................ plop............ plop..... plop..... plop.... plop... plop... plop... plop.. plop.. plop.. plop.. plop.. plop. plop. plop. plop. plop. plop. plop. plop. plop. plop. plop. Until it was like sheets of water dropping. Like tipping out the bath onto my head. Hood up and thanks to the little gods of the outdoors for Goretex. On we went as the light faded and the path started to disappear.

Then the light was gone. Completely. Gone. Black. Black like I don't like. No stars, no moon. Nothing but rain in the sky. It was weird because the light had been fading slowly with your eyes growing used to it but all of a sudden. GONE. Off came the packs and then one by one. Click. Click. Click. Click. The four of us found our head torches and switched them on. We still had aways to go to the bothy. This was going to slow us down.

It was going to slow us for two reasons. One I had never done a night walk. Never. It's different. Everything slows down because the track just disappears into the heather. It vanishes. Foot placement becomes crucial. The guys were great. Nothing to worry about. Just follow the torches and keep talking. If you have to stop, shout. If one stops we all stop. We'll get there but it'll take a bit longer. Follow the leader, leader.

After about an hour of this I was done. The night before was coming back to haunt me. I was tired. I was hungry. I had lost track of time. Like I said, in reality only an hour had past but felt like I had been walking all night. If I turned my head to the side to look into the void, I stumbled. If I looked up I stumbled. I had tunnel vision. I just had to stare at my feet and keep walking. It was like I was hypnotised by the white blue light of the torch. Only the light bouncing on my feet mattered. Every so often I would stop look up and see the glow of the other torches and then stagger on after them.

I remember all of a sudden being acutely aware of some running water on my left handside but not level with me. It was below me. Running angry and fast like little burns do when the rains are heavy. All dark brown full of silt and stone, with mean white crests breaking against rocks, pools and bends. That was when I noticed I was walking downhill. When did that happen? We must be close. The bothy would have to be near a water course. Then I was alone. I froze. Terror. I was alone. No torches to be seen in any direction. Nothing. Fuck. FUCK!

PANIC! Sheer panic. Like nothing I've a felt since or before. What do I do? Turning wildly in circles trying to get a bearing. That wasn't going happen. My mind started racing, did I miss a junction in the track, was I that out of it? What should I do? Stay? Stumble on blindly? I had no map and no idea where is was. I could have been on the moon for all the good it would do me. FEAR.

I was really starting to freak out. PANIC! I started shouting but it was getting drowned out in the downpour. What do I do? I'm standing there in the pitch black alone and I'm scared. Really scared. How stupid was I getting lost. All I had to was follow. How hard is that? So stupid. Why did I have to get so drunk the night before. I'm lost, the guys will panicing. They be wondering what happened to me. What will they do?

I was resigned to the fact there was nothing I could do. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nothing to do but bed down till the sun was up. Wait for Dawn to show her face and see how the land lies. With this realisation the panic began to fade. The fear was still there but the panic was over. Calm. I unslung my pack. Time to get the bivy out and be as comfy as I can.

It was then I noticed something funny. The darkness wasn't sucking up the light like a black hole. The light was bouncing back. It was hitting something right at the edge of the beam. Must have been about thirty metres away. I then thought I was losing it. Something opposite of those in the desert, my mind was playing tricks on me but like a magnet it had a hold of me and was pulling in me in.

Step after step I got closer and the shape became a wall, then a gable end. Relief. Pure Relief. I had made it. I hadn't lost the rest of the guys. One by one they had entered the bothy. It must have been just out of reach of the beam but in my panic I must have moved closer and it caught the light. I made my way round to the door and entered the shelter and safety of Shenavall. No panic, no fear. I could hear voices in the front room. I went in. The fire was still burning and the other guys were settling down. Happy.

"You took your time, that must have been some shite?", "We heard you shouting but left yi tae it, yi can wipe yir ane erse. Yir a big boy". Bastards. There's always a funny bastard. Always.

There's not much to tell of the weekend after that. No walks walked. No mountains climded. It rained. I never saw the tops of An Teallach or Beinn Dearg Mor. We spent the next couple of days collecting fire wood and hanging round the Bothy. Hoping the clouds would lift. They never did. The company was great, the banter good. A great weekend.