Some background to this first…
I’ve a big date in my life coming up in just under a years time.
I intend to go and visit places I’ve always wanted to see.
I have a bike, I’m improving my fitness and slowly gathering the equipment to help me make these goals.
I will have to test and try things so when that day arrives, I will be ready to go.
I haven’t spent the night under canvas for a long, long time, if my memory serves me well possibly the mid ’80s and then only in campsites with all the facilities. ‘Wild’ camping ? the late 70s.
I’d been mulling this over for months plus it was getting near the summer months when I could get organised to ‘do’ a trial run or two….
Our only long weekend off work, the Easter break was coming up and the long-range weather forecast was looking good and I’d have decided on doing something on each day but mostly on the cycling side.
I’d thought long and hard about where a good camping venue would be, Corlic?, Dunrod Hill? but I thought short and sweet, Hill of Stake plus I could do a SOTA activation in at the same time, sorted.
The holiday Friday arrived and off I headed on the bike, my intention was to head out through Langbank, Bishopton, Georgetown then back but as I headed down the local Clune Brae, I just carried on to the bottom of the hill and turned back up. I dropped down the gears to the ‘granny gears’ and once the first steep section started to slightly flatten I steadily but slowly rose to the top roundabout, another Cat 4 hill conquered.
I headed back downhill and took my original planned route,as I pedaled along my mind was mulling over this ‘wild camp’, what would I take? radio equipment? tent etc.I knew it would be a heavy load but as I reached the top of the Port on my return, I looked across and thought ‘that is the hill for me’, Beinn a’Mhanaich.
I’ve been a regular on this hill over the last five years plus it has a faint quad track almost its entire length. The Hill of Stake is a pathless boggy mess after a mine track. No contest.
I decided that I’d go check everything out and look at the logistics.
I had to organise my radio stuff and charge batteries etc. I had to look out my one man tent and organise a sleeping bag, food etc.
Saturday spent packing and unpacking the rukkie and finally around lunchtime, everything packed.
I decided to take all I thought I needed so I could decide after the trip what I needed and what could be left next out. Lightweight this rucksack wasn’t but future trips would be much lighter once I’d figured out what was essential.
We left about 4’ish to find the traffic was pretty heavy heading towards Loch Lomond but soon we were on the Haul Rd towards my drop off point at the bottom of the Strone, a ridge that heads to the summit of a’Mhanaich.
I said my cheerios to Katie and slowly climbed over the gate and started the first slog, a mile of unrelenting uphill. I’d put my Baofeng on scan and heard Gerald WML on Green Lowther so a quick ‘hello, cheerio’ and 4 points were in the bag. In my usual fashion on this part of the ascent, I stopped and caught my breath but slowly made the top of this section where it starts to level slightly as you meet the rising ridge walk . Soon I could see the destination cairn but I still had one big lump to ascend until I took the last short rise to the summit.
I took off the rucksack and laid it down and stopped my GPS, it had taken 1 hr 51 mins now I was amazed as I had expected much longer due to the weight of the rukkie with the kitchen sink etc in it…
I first erected my sleeping quarters in a slight depression near the summit cairn then threw up the mast and beam and positioned it so I could work inside the tent. I must say that once I’m in the tent there isn’t much room.
I next threw down the under mat and when I brought out the sleeping bag from its bag. OH NO OH NO!!!!!!! bad bad bad idea…now this is the part where the lesson learned kicks in.
I’d chosen this one as it was slightly lighter than the ‘mummy bag’ and had not taken it out to check it first, serious bad move Mhor.
I fitted everything together and settled in for the night, it was still light around 7.45 and I listened and gave a few calls but only a short QSO with Barrie KZX who was just to the SE of me let me know everything was working. I would activate in the early morning.
I started reading White Fang by Jack London, bad move as the first few pages are not the best reading material when out on a hillside alone for miles although my next door ‘neighbour’ was Faslane Naval Base.
I tried to get comfy but with a chill strong breeze racing up from the glen floor, I was soon regretting my choice of sleeping bag…
I’d packed extra warm clothing in case so on it went but not soon after the poor heat retaining qualities of the bag showed, I was cold plus I knew this could fall to 0c…
I thought…go home now or rough it out?
I called home and after a minute debate, I’d break down and camp and head off whilst there was still some light left..
I quickly broke the camp down and with everything packed away ‘loosely’ into the rukkie, I started the phone GPS and headed down in what was now quickly failing light…
I thought if I could reach the Strone that even in the dark I could find my way off safely, my wind up torch in my pocket if necessary. I moved quickly as I could as I descended the initial steep bits and soon I was heading down the Strone, I took note of ‘lights’ as I headed for when it fell total dark. I came to the top of the last steep descent and soon saw the odd car headlights as by now the light had gone.
I could still see the quad track which at this bit gets a bit muddy so I was taking extra care in sections as I didn’t fancy twisting an ankle. I reached the first gate and climbed over, I knew not long to go….
I had to slow down as the track was getting slippier so it was on to the grass side when I saw headlights passing, turning then heading back…Katie?
I saw the headlights disappear east as I reached the roadside. I looked at my phone, no signal then but my oldest lass called to ask where I was as they had asked my youngest to check Endomondo and she said ‘Dad is at the roadside’.
5 mins later, I was in the car heading back to a shower and a warm soft comfy bed..
Disappointed? hell yes but glad I took the option to head off. I could have roughed it out but as one of my kids said the next day, ‘Dad you must remember you are now 60 not 30’.
I found out and learned a lesson the hard way…..always check everything.
Oh and a new sleeping bag is being looked at.
The rucksack when weighed was in excess of 14kg…plus the beam and mast…it will be much lighter in future.
**Please note that I mentioned my phone GPS and Endomondo, I only use this for personal back up and that I carry an OS paper map and compass as well as a dedicated GPS unit with spare batteries**