RIVERS in spate, paths transformed into streams, water, water everywhere: it was one of those mountain days that sparked perverse feelings of nostalgia.
I tend not to do wet and wild any more, one of the benefits of being being able to pick and choose days out. But this was an organised meet, a date set in stone. You have to take what you get. And what we got was a good soaking.
The original plan had been to do the Black Mount Traverse, but committing to this classic crossing seemed a waste of time in the conditions. Instead, we switched to the Bridge of Orchy Munros, an ascent from our drop-off point at Achallader. As we watched the coach head off, there was that feeling of abandonment similar to kids watching their parents disappear after leaving them at nursery. We now had nine hours to play with before being picked up.
Fair play to the forecasters – they got it bang on. The morning got off to a grey, threatening start with rain blowing through. There were half-hearted sunshine moments on the pull up Coire Achaladair and a couple of heavy showers. The multiple crossings of the lively stream were interesting.
Fleeting glimpses of the landscape gained from the high col above Coire Daingean were lost as soon we headed on to the ridge. The wind became more appreciable, although the buffeting was interspersed with curious periods of calm, including a welcome one at the misty summit of Beinn Achaladair. There was a brief moment of serenity on our return to the col, the long view opening up again, but it didn't last. We'd had the best of the day – now it was downhill all the way (so to speak: we still had a lot of uphill to do).
The rain was more sustained on the trudge to Beinn an Dothaidh, the grey cloak becoming thicker, more intense, as we worked our way round the three tops. The descent was conducted in ever-decreasing visibility, a compass line through a constant splash which quickly became timeless, every looming contour a false horizon.
We formed a huddle to consult the gps, the circle providing some shelter to prevent the electronics becoming too exposed to the incessant rainfall. There are some serious crags above Coire an Dothaidh and it's all too easy to find yourself on dangerous ground. A few steps to the left and we were on safer ground ready to head up Beinn Dorain.
Except we decided not to. A unanimous verdict. No one had any enthusiasm for an extra four kilometres and 300-plus metres ascent with nothing to see. Enough wetness for one day. The warmth of the pub was calling.
The chaotic chute of rubble that masquerades as a path needed care, the water pouring down making every greasy boulder a potential ankle-snapper. Once on softer ground, it became a matter of avoiding the worst of the waterlogging.
We arrived at the hotel to find some of those who had attempted the Black Mount walk already ensconced, our dripping gear joining theirs on the racks, increasing the spread of the small loch which had formed on the floor. I imagine the staff here have long become used to working in a licensed wet room. Our decision to ignore Beinn Dorain was confirmed to be a wise one, as the coach was able to return earlier than planned with everyone now off the hill.
It may sound strange, even a little masochistic, but a day out in wild weather like this every now and then is good for you. When we were working and had less spare time, we would set a date every week to walk and generally went out no matter what. There's a certain novelty value now, a reminder of what used to be the norm on so many occasions.
On days like these, there is a tipping point when you become resigned to the belief that you can't possibly get any wetter. It is, of course, illusionary but we still buy into it, perhaps as a sort of security blanket. Every layer becomes damp to varying degrees and stopping to put on a new one exposes you to further ingression. In fact, taking anything out of the rucksack can become an ordeal. Having good boots is no guarantee of dry feet; the run-off eventually finds a way in.
Carrying snacks in your pockets is a gamble – especially if you forget they are there. I thought one of the grandkids had been using my jacket as a sick-bag until I remembered I had oatcakes in there for a whole day in the rain. Mush ado about nothing, I suppose.
Removing gloves and then trying to put them back on becomes a task more suited to boffins working on the Large Hadron Collider. Or maybe a raven. I have tried many pairs and variations over the years (gloves, not ravens) but have yet to find this a simple task. Whoever comes up with easy-to-fit-in-the-rain-gloves will deservedly make a fortune.
On the plus side, the waterfalls are always nice. And, er ... that's it.