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The Double Big One

Whilst you may be thinking this post is about a new Burger King product, it is not. It is about two big weekends that have just gone by.

The first weekend I shared with Derek up in the Scottish Highlands where we were ticking off some Munros. The second weekend I shared with 16 other members of my family in Herefordshire to celebrate my grandparents Diamond wedding anniversary!

I’ll tell the Munro story here.

On Thursday, I left work dead on 5pm and zoomed out to Ballinluig to meet Derek Petrie – my friend, fellow adventurer, motivator and mountain guru.

When I found him, we shifted the stuff across from his car to mine and hit the road north. We planned a break at the Happy Haggis in Aviemore for some dinner and a fuel/coffee stop in Inverness. Our plan was slightly foiled when we discovered the Happy Haggis restaurant was closed for renovation. Fortunately, they were still producing excellent fish and chips, which we ate in the dining room of my car!

A few hours later we had set up camp, had a drink and made plans for the following day. We shifted our Saturday plan a day forward after checking the weather forecast – a decision we didn’t know (at the time) would really pay off.

After a good night’s sleep we nipped round to Loch Mullardoch, from our campsite in Cannich, to have some breakfast and meet the ferryman. We made a lot of porridge and then washed it down with some tea before checking that we had everything we needed and making our way down to the beach to meet the ferryman.

It costs £25 each to use the boat, but that does take you 9km up the Loch in only 15 minutes. Apparently it covers the cost of fuel, a license to operate and insurance, but I wonder what his insurance company would say if they found out he didn’t use an engine kill cord and sat on his buoyancy aid rather than wear it? Anyway, we survived the amazing trip and set off up the mountain side.

Whilst the first slope was in the shade, the second certainly wasn’t, and was arguably the steepest bit of hill all day. This may have been due to the fact we started at the bottom of the mountain, whereas the others we only had to climb up from the saddle between each summit. Either way we were soon being rewarded for our efforts and enjoyed 360° vistas.

We warmed up very quickly with the sun beaming down on us and our relentless uphill speed, so the cool breeze at the top was very welcome and, fortunately, stuck around all day which helped to prevent us from overheating. It was good to keep most of our height as we journeyed towards An Riabhachan – our second Munro. Any height we did lose was regained gradually, allowing us to storm along and admire the view at the same time.

We had quite a drop off from An Raibhachan which meant quite a climb coming up but the drop aided us by bringing us near to a stream from which we topped up our water bottles.

After a heavy sigh, we set off. A good 10 minutes into the ascent we made jokes at each other about the pace, with myself being surprised that Derek couldn’t manage a faster pace whilst Derek retorted that he didn’t want to leave me behind so had to slow his usual pace down to make sure I was ok.

I love a bit of fitness banter, especially with Derek!

Our conversation passed the time and we found the summit in front of us. An obligatory touch of the cairn of Sgùrr Na Lapaich and then a good stop for food, drink and to soak in the views which were different from the first summit. From here we could see the Fisherfield Five that Derek and I did together last year which conjured up some brilliant memories.

The descent from our third Munro of the day was tricky. It was a pretty steep boulder field with only small sections of discernible path, but Derek did a marvelous job of picking a safe and quick route down and out.

One Munro to go, despite being the smallest one of the day, it packed a mean punch and mocked our depleting energy levels. Just near the top, a couple of grouse were wandering about minding their own business. The female sat around long enough for me to get a slightly blurry picture, but the male didn’t stop moving.

From the top of the fourth Munro, Carn nan Gobhar, it was all downhill. We noticed a track in the bottom of the glen and aimed for it. It provided a welcome relief for the last few kilometres – walking on rough ground isn’t just hard work physically but mentally too. You have to really concentrate on each foot placement and make sure you don’t stray from your route, so a track to follow back to car was a great wind down at the end of a long day.

Four Munros ticked off, 22.4km and 1700m of elevation gain and all of our food gone in 8h20m.

What a day! Now to rest back at the campsite.

On our way back it started to rain and we remarked that we were glad we weren’t still on the hill.

After an excellent sleep, we woke to rain on Saturday morning. A change of plans again – let’s head home. We were well worn, and wouldn’t have any way of drying our wet stuff in the evening, so, homeward bound we went.

A fantastic and very memorable weekend. Thank you Mr Petrie.

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