Driving up the A82 the weather was grim. Rain lashed down, driving was hazardous. We considered bailing and staying at the Kingshouse; however we remembered we were meeting Nice P travelling from the far North. Approaching the Fort, food became a priority. Unfortunately this blighted chancre of a town is not renowned for fine dining. At the behest of P2, henceforth known as the new Nasty P, we ended up at MacDonalds fast food emporium. The shame, the shame, the shame!
I can recommend the toilets which are eco friendly and save thousands of gallons of water per annum, a mercy in the arid climes of Western Scotland. Topping up on napkins in lieu of toilet paper, and a few sachets of condiments does not go amiss. Alas the food cannot be recommended: due to a mess up with my order I was offered a free cheeseburger. This offering was one of the more repugnant things I have had in my mouth; soft pappy dough and greasy meat oozing yellow mucous, eugh! Feeling as sleazy as Hugh Grant in an LA car park, we re-embarked on our journey. The weather seemed to clear, the stars came out, it can only get better.
After an uneventful walk through the forest we gratefully arrived at the bothy. We entered to find our weekend companions already ensconced around the fire, drinking ale (ok lager but ale sounds better). A bijou bothy it may be, but 2 very tidy rooms newly floored and panelled after a previous fire.
The 3 essentials of any bothy trip in no particular order are: booze, food and coal. The next morning it was clear that we were likely to be short on the first of these, we do have a reputation to live down to. We divided into two groups, non-pejoratively we will term, the shoppers and the men.
The men amongst us decided to head for Braigh nan Uamhachan, which I will translate as never ending slopes of the bastard, as given the forecast, the original plan for Streap would be unsafe in high winds. The walk commenced well enough, the sun shone, autumn colours were stunning. I had expected a short up and down, always look at the map beforehand. We wound our way up steep grassy slopes to arrive on a ridge, Streap clear on the left and the Massif of Gulvain on our left and seemingly a top not far away. We had an awkward deer fence to climb, Dr J nearly became entangled at the top and was close to becoming, half man half shopper. The ridge undulated on and on, each new top revealing a further top higher and further away. For some bizarre reason, logic known only to the commissioner, a well-built wall pointed the way along the last 2 km following the ridge line. Finally the main top, the wind beginning to howl around us we did not linger.
We followed the ridge back to a bealach and then debated whether to head for the valley or back along the ridge. We decided to head down, we carefully picked steps down treacherous steep wet grassy slopes (yes pedants I split an infinitive). The route past a ravine was particularly hazardous, and caused me to regret not having written a will. My companions marched on whilst I at a more leisurely pace enjoyed the loneliness of the medium distance walker. The boggy ground and tussocky grass did begin to cause a case of terrain induced Tourette’s. The weather began to take a turn towards the seriously inclement as we approached the bothy.
Cold wet and tired we were hoping the shoppers had set up a roaring fire, not the case unfortunately, the dismal excuse of a fire was depressing. After 2 hours of ministrations and fire starter we finally had some respectable heat. Selling wet coal should be a capital crime strictly enforced.
The evening progressed convivially with excellent food, and copious and varied libation. The hut guardian had arrived, she declined our well-meant offer to join us in a glass and the warmth of the fire and was less than appreciative of our forthright political discussions. Eventually the bellicose YES troll crawled under the table and peace descended, only then to resurrect along with partner in crime Mr W in order hoover up every last drop of liquor.
I am proud to say I am not the loudest snorer, you might compare Dr J’s nocturnal soundscape as something akin to a stag in rut or a jumbo jet taking off. Inebriated as he was Mr W had to crawl to the adjoining room to avoid the din.
After a raging night of rain, we woke to a river in total spate, cloud shrouding the hills and light but persistent rain. We hopefully redeemed ourselves with the Guardian after a conscientious and thorough clean up. Half the group had bacon sandwiches, which smelt fantastic, they declined to share. My view now is that morning bacon is a bothy essential and I hope to enjoy in front of the selfish gluttons in future when they have none! Also note to M and Nasty, lapsong bloody souchong, peppermint, chamomile etc., are not acceptable bothy beverages. In future I will ensure I have a supply of Twinings English Breakfast.
A 2 mile trudge back to the car, was mitigated by the interest of the roaring river and a beautiful moss and lichen garbed old oak. A quick change of clothes, the joy of dry pants then off. Our adventures continued, we discovered that the A82 was impassable after Fort William due to a land slide, so a slow steady journey back via A86 to Dalwhinnie and then down the tedious A9. Finally home and already looking forward to the next trip.