In the beginning … too cliqued, but the story has a beginning, not quite of Biblical proportions, but a beginning nonetheless. In the beginning, Big Kev was taking his son, “The Lad”, out for a trip to the Cairngorms. There was an open invitation to join them, so I pencilled it in my diary, and Dawn was going to travel up from London. Except for the plague that was brought upon both their houses. As I work for a far-seeing employer, I had already been inoculated against Cold, Flu, and the vengeful wrath of the Almighty.
And so it came to pass that I had a rapid turn-around after work on Friday night, and I was heading into the Chosen Land National Park. And lo, it was bloody brilliant!
With temperatures down to –4°c, it was going to be a cold one. I had the MWIS forecast and dressed accordingly. Also this month’s skymap was in my map-case. Leaving the car and walking through the woods, the cold mist clung to my face. No sounds except a distant water flow. No breath of wind except that which my lungs exhaled. The mist thickened with each breath and my gloves wiped away melting water droplets that clung to face.
Walking up the glen, I could smell woodsmoke from the bothy about 10 minutes before walking past it. No birds, no deer, no wind, no sounds bar the water in the glen and the occasional burn rushing down to join it. Clouds moved slowly in the sky, and a meteorite flashed by. Despite all the hi-tech modern kit, the inner-child still made a wish. About 90-minutes later, interrupted only by a “good evening” to a gentleman hiker walking his dog, I arrived at an empty ford (maplink). I had already decided to pitch where Mike and I had been earlier in the year. I stuck to that, even though I had the whole area to myself.
I cleared an area of debris, and pitched the tent. Then I cleared the debris from under the groundsheet. And once more before inflating my Insul sleep mat (the insulation will prove its worth tonight), and stripping down to baselayer, and climbing into sleeping bag (Cumulus Ultralight 350), and pulling my down jacket over my torso, and leaving my fleece-lined jacket over my lower body. I pulled on my warn cap and noted that the air inside the tent was much warmer than outside.
There was nothing interesting on the radio, so ate some peppered salami, drank some malt whisky and switched off the light and listened to Nature. I moved the Silva ADC device onto the groundsheet beside me. That would give me a shock in the morning.
I awoke twice in the night with a cold nose, so turned the cap around by 90° so that an earflap covered my nose.
With no fuss, it was morning. It was also –4.9°c and not quite 8am. Opening the zip on my sleeping bag, the cold quickly drove me to suit up – we’d see how good the Furtech trousers would be today!
Yes, there is an Akto in this photo
Filling the Camelbak from the stream, I found that the drink nozzle was frozen. This is the insulated version too. We had had problems with the crew-in gas canisters before, but was pleased to see that the Blackfly 4 worked well. However, I didn’t put it on a stone, and was using the Honey Stove separately, so it fell over as the frost in the ground melted. Twice.
Display reads –4.3°c
Leaving no trace
Any embers were doused with water, and scattered into the stream.
As I knew that there would be soot, I had carried in a ziplock bag to prevent it from making a mess of my kit.
Duly wrapped inside the pot-cozy, whilst the Honey Stove was back in its pouch.
I’ll do something about the fire starting kit, cutting the Maya sticks into shorter lengths, taking the small blue container of vaseline, pack enough cotton wool balls, and store it all in a lightweight, waterproof container, along with a knife that will fit there.
Everything was packed away and the ground checked for any tell-tale signs of my passing.
Low cloud gave glimpses of the mountains beyond. About 6 people had ventured past, and I would see two more before reaching the car.
South towards the Linn of Dee.
Looking back north up the glen.
Like some gate-keeper, this tree always freaks me.
A final parting shot from a great night out – a small party of deer were lurking near the car park.
Thank you, Nature. Shame out the cap, and the buff cravat.
Standard kitlist: Akto Year 2
Things to do: cut Maya sticks in half. Replace batteries in headtorch. Protect Camelbak from cold overnight (by the way, my Silva measured –24°c in my freezer on Sunday). Water had frozen on the filter of the Aquagear, so that needs watching too. Look into a separate camera for video clips – maybe my old Sony stills camera.
New gear that made the grade and will be with me again: Furtech trousers, Lowe Alpine briefs (xl-w-noir), Honey Stove, Blackfly 4 (using a stable base).
New gear that didn’t make the grade: PossumDown Gloves – toasty, but left tickly fibres on my rough manly face. I also couldn’t operate camera whilst wearing them. My normal Mountain Hardwear “powerstretch” liner gloves will be staying with me.