Saturday 14th May, 2011
Glen Affric to Cougie
9.5 miles 1394 ft ascent
It was a very wet and windy night, but the tent was solid and didn’t leak. I was very pleased. Jane, however was wet. Her, her sleeping bag, her spare pants. She’d also stopped short of where she’d wanted to be and had a lot to do in the next two days. I started to fret that I was holding her up unnecessarily, especially as we’d crossed the burn the had been worrying me and I was now quite comfortable. We set off after a panic pack and everything was just wrong. There was much floodiness around and what had been a tiny stream was now full and wide. My pack wasn’t on properly, I’d forgotten to take my medication, Jane disappeared ahead of me before I had a chance to tell her to carry on without me. I began to feel more stressed, but eventually managed to catch Jane and told her to carry on alone.
After sorting my pack and medicine, I happily carried on along the familiar path along the side of Loch Affric. After a short while, however, I started to feel quite homesick, how absurd! I desperately wanted to phone home and beg to be collected from the car park, but I had no signal. I felt demoralised and questioned why I’d ever imagined I could complete the feat ahead of me, what had I been thinking!
Eventually I happened across a couple and a chap having a break, Hugh and Barbara Emsley and Stuart ? and they cheerfully greeted me and asked “How’s it going?”
I burst into tears.
This may not have been the reaction they were expecting.
However, they boldly carried on and made brave attempts to cheer me up.
“Do you have any chocolate? Eat some.”
Why hadn’t I thought of that. So, I did.
They made me promise to meet them in Cougie and went on their way.
I ate more chocolate. Then I followed and soon found them having a lunch break, sheltered under the bridge before the turn off to Cougie. I joined them, in much better spirits and we were in turn joined by Patrick, who was having a hard time. He’d somehow pulled his back and seemed to be in quite some pain. He had blisters too.
The Emsleys and Stuart ? left and I followed shortly after, taking the signed path up the side of Allt Garbh. This is quite a seriously boggy path and continues uphill for quite a way. I met Mike ‘The Cowboy’ again and another chap who turned out to be James Boulter. At the top, I trusted my instincts and memory and headed ‘left’. When the lochan came into view I was quite pleased with the decision. This is quite an easy track with lovely scenery and a feeling of remoteness. It did seem to take a long while to reach the forestry where I was expecting to find Cougie, but I found the foot and hoof prints and piles of horse droppings reassuring that I was still headed in the right direction.
I eventually found a steading and made an educated guess that this was the oasis of Cougie. Sure enough, when a young lady appeared from the back door and I enquired as to my whereabouts, I was ushered in to find a table laden with food and tea and surrounded by Challengers. Jane was standing in the kitchen and greeted me with a huge hug. When she’d arrived earlier, Val and her family had swung into action and dried all her soaked belongings whilst she’d sated here appetite for tea and cake.
I soon found myself seated with a mug of steaming tea. Hugh and Barbara left to make themselves comfortable in their room, Stan Appleton chatted amiably and there were others. It soon became apparent there were beds available. Stan succumbed. Then I weakened and asked about pitching my tent. Suddenly, Virginia mentioned there was a spare bed in their chalet. Could I? Should I?
Yes! What a brilliant decision. A bed, a shower, hot food, breakfast, a packed lunch and brilliant company. In addition to Stan, Hugh, Barbara, James and Virginia, there were Stuart and Maria Scott, Janice Thomson, Emma Warbrick, Patrick, Colin Reid and The Cowboy. There were six bookings and fourteen of us accommodated in the end. (To my shame, I can’t remember the name of the tall chap that was also there, despite the fact that I came across him several times on my crossing. Sorry!)
In one night, this turned my Challenge around.
But near disaster was, again, just around the corner.