We left slightly later than planned (the conversation went along the lines of “When are we leaving?” “Seven.” “In the morning?” “Yes.” “Oh.”) at around 9.30 am (much more civilised!) after a bit of faff with gaiters and map case. Making our way south on the A9 we witnessed some shocking driving, but we soon parked up in layby 94 and left them to it. Meall Chuaich was our goal today. When we arrived, the top was hiding behind a veil of clouds, but it wasn’t too grey or heavy looking, so we made our way along the track beside the aquaduct that runs down to Dalwhinnie.
Near the dam, the chap that had started out after us caught us up and overtook, saying hello as he passed by. He soon disappeared into the distance, we were in no hurry today. After about an hour, we reached the bothy at NN 689 869. It was locked, as expected, so we could only peer through the window at the comfy Olympics seats inside, along with the new woodburning stove, piles of dry wood and matches. Ho hum. Behind the bothy were the old seats neatly stacked and someone had hidden their mountain bike, obviously to be collected later. We unstacked a couple of seats so we could have a sit down lunch whilst we surveyed our surroundings.
We could see the chap that passed us by, slowly making his way uphill. Above him, two figures were making their way down and another figure eventually came into view, just below the cloud base, also on his way down. The clouds were moving quite quickly over and around the hill and I began to have doubts about our plans. I’ve done my foul weather walking for this year (trust me, it was foul, several times!) and although I’d quite like to practice my navigational skills in less than perfect conditions, I do not think it necessary to flog myself up a big hill to do so. It can be just as foul at low level and that will do me! The thrill for me is to get to the top of a big hill and have tremendous views. This was simply not going to happen today. I would be wet, miserable and whiney. Not good. After a bit of a chat and we decided we would go back and regroup. We let the two fellas come off the hill, pass the hut and allowed a discreet interval before following them back down the track.
I tried so hard not to look back. I couldn’t face the disappointment if the clouds were to lift. At one point, they did just that and we caught a glimpse of the top. I momentarily regretted our decision, but shortly after looked back to see the hill once again shrouded in cloud, this time, thick, heavy and foreboding. The other chap coming down the hill was obviously the owner of the bike and he shot passed us as we dodged the puddles. By the time we got back to the car, the clouds were half way down the hill and the rain pouring in the surrounding glens. Phew! Definitely the right decision for me. I'm more interested in a good walk than a tick on a list. Besides, if we hadn’t have turned back when we did, we wouldn’t have seen the two golden eagles, soaring across the glen. Fabulous.
Still managed 5.72 miles, a moving average of 2.2 mph and around 418 ft total ascent.
We’ll be back!