• MAPS, BOATS AND K2 - A CAUTIONARY TALE FROM KNOYDART

    Published 8th May 2014, 14:43

    YOU can often get off lightly with one mistake in the mountains but a series of them can really ruin your day.

    And it happens to the very best. The K2 disaster of 2008 was caused by some of the world’s top mountaineers each making one small error which, when added together, led to disaster.

    Not that we were heading for a K2 expedition - we were only going to Knoydart to climb Luinne Bheinn. But the same rules apply. 

    Luinne Bheinn is a big, bold and beautiful peak at the head of the Mam Barrisdale pass and is often affectionately referred to Loony Bin. You could say it was appropriate on this occasion. The night before our trip, my friends decided they would give me a day off by doing all the navigation.

    First mistake: Always do your own navigation.

    As they then couldn’t find the required map, I handed them mine to do the calculations. 

    Second mistake: Never part company with your map.

    They had it all worked out, every step, every co-ordinate, every twist in the route and then showed me their calculations. They had planned a route up the wrong hill, Meall Buidhe, the one next door.

    Third mistake: Always know which hill you are planning to climb.

    Next morning, armed with just one map between the three of us, we boarded the boat for Knoydart. And this was where the mother and father of all cock-ups happened.

    Fourth mistake: Always have a map of your own, or at least two between three.

    Now to save this young lady’s blushes I don’t want to name her, but for the sake of this cautionary tale we shall call her Rebecca.

    As we sat waiting for the boat to leave Mallaig harbour, Rebecca took the map out of her rucksack to recheck her calculations. Satisfied that she had cracked it, she put the map down on the seat beside her with her rucksack on top.

    A few minutes later, as we got further out in the water and picked up speed, the swell also started picking up. As Rebecca was leaning over taking a picture she was soaked by the spray. Her automatic reaction was to jump back and grab her rucksack to save it getting wet. She forgot the map was underneath.

    Before anyone could yell: Map Overboard, the map was, well, overboard and drifting off to an unknown destination.

    Fifth mistake: When on a fast-moving boat always make sure your map is inside your rucksack or at least securely clipped on to something.

    We survived Luinne Bheinn. Had the weather been bad, we would have abandoned the walk. On another day we may have run into trouble, but we managed to get up and down again without any mishap.

    For the boat trip back, I had suggested tying a rope to Rebecca and heaving her over the side so she could look for the map as we retraced our passage to Mallaig.

    I would like to report a happier ending, like a Flipper wannabe swimming up to the boat having found my map or simply that it had floated back into the harbour, but it wasn‘t to be.

    But if you are ever walking up Luinne Bheinn and are passed by a group of Faroese fishermen, you’ll know where my map finally fished up.

    (First published Daily Record, May 8, 2014)

    Watch the map is gone here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTm6c6s6A_c&feature=youtu.be