A lot of happy memories came flooding back as I sat writing the last blog post of my ascent of Buachaille Etive Mor, not only the ascent but passing places where I spent many happy weekends and indeed, longer periods of time.
I spent a lot of time in this east end of Glencoe over the ’77-’79 period.
Cold, icicles inside the tent, snow-covered, non-stop rain and even sunshine whether it was winter, spring, summer or autumn. Whole days stuck in a small two-man tent sheltering out of the constant pouring rain with damp sleeping bags and boots etc trying not to touch the sides of the tent. The walk to the pub of our choice at night, the Ferry at Ballachulish, the Glencoe Hotel, Clachaig Inn or our favourite, the Kingy (King’s House Hotel) public bar. These watering holes were reached by all means, walking, thumbing a lift or even by bus…..Getting back was sometimes memorable as we tended to thumb more in hope but many a night it was shanks pony back from whatever hostelry we ended up in. Most nights in an advanced stage of inebriation. It was fun.
I started heading up Glencoe in mid ’77 with Robert a friend and workmate with whom I’d fished with, plans being hatched on cold winter nights cod fishing in the local dock areas. He had spent some time working in the area in the 60s and had made many contacts from which eventually we got permission to use one of the bothies in the east part of the glen. I unfortunately have no photos of this time but the ones I have scanned are from mid 1978..
We headed almost fortnightly from our work, literally racing to catch the train to Bishopton then catching the bus to Erskine then a quick over the bridge to drop into Old Kilpatrick where we would separate and thumb a lift, if you had boots and a rucksack you normally had no problem being whisked northwards. The other would follow and if we were late or on the odd occasion if we got no lift, we would catch the Fort William bus.
The first thing was to set camp at the side of the River Coupall just opposite Altnafeadh and fix up the tent and off to the pub. Priorities eh?
Later we would get back and everything was just ready to crash in to.
Food was the normal healthy fodder of any camper in the 70s. A fry up each morning, a tin of rice or custard with chocolate for lunch and tinned meat with ‘Smash’ for our tea obviously washed down with multiple mugs of tea or coffee. This is when I started drinking straight tea as I found I hated powdered milk. On one memorable occasion we treated(?) ourselves to a supermarket’s own label meat, Chopped Pork if I remember correctly. I’d boiled water then mixed in the ‘Smash’ instant potato then after opening the can of meat it was cut in two and dropped into each dixie. the meat then ‘melted’ into liquid, yeugh! Lesson learned as only branded tins of meat were purchased in the future. The cuisine in general was excellent and with imagination our dixies were filled with some strange nutritious mixtures. You haven’t dined al fresco until you have cubed corned beef, ‘Smash’ and peas all mixed.
We spent our days walking the surrounding area with many a haul up over the ‘Devils Staircase’ dropping down to Kinlochleven and a pint before heading back through the glen towards our camp. We explored Lairig Gartain, Lairig Eilde, Glen Etive, Loch Etive and Glen Coe areas. I later thought of my journeys over the ‘Devils Staircase when reading Patrick McGill’s ‘Children of the Dead End’ of the poor itinerant workers who lost their lives after leaving camp to head over to the hotels for drink and meeting their ends either losing their way or through poor weather conditions. Their bodies were found in the spring. There is a cemetery to those who perished at he construction of the Blackwater Dam on a nearby hillside.
The skiing attempt is best left alone…..
We fished out on the small lochans out towards the Rannoch Moor, Blackwater Reservoir and more than occasional trip down to Loch Ba. The odd trout was taken for the pot.
The photos of me on the summit were taken the week of the World Cup in 1978 and I could narrow it down to being either Monday the 5th or Tuesday the 6th as Robert had headed back to Tyndrum to head back as Stevie and myself had planned to stay until the end of weekend, we had left Greenock early Sunday morning after we had held back to watch Scotland’s disastrous defeat by Peru on the 3rd of June. After we dropped Robert off we headed to find somewhere to watch an even more disastrous game against Iran and into Oban we headed, a pint was called for and the first pub we came to I bumped into friends from Largs who had moved up to the area. We thought Fort William was a better bet and headed N and after sourcing some scran it was in a comfy lounge bar we settled to watch the game.
On one occasion I was taken up Curved Ridge and plans to tackle some more serious routes the following summer but someone put paid to that idea…I guess I’m glad I listened to her (and still do?) but I wonder what might have been. Ces’t la vie!
I even introduced my future wife to the delights of Glencoe even trying to set her car on fire when priming the Primus stove, we dined out after that incident but our digs was the posh campsite in the Glen. No trowel and into peat hags at this place. The two-day old married Mrs Mhor was even taken up the Buachaille as part of her honeymoon but we gave up just below the 902m summit en route. The lass had previously conquered the Hill of Stake….
Engagement loomed and more time spent together meant visits were down to two/three times per year but after marriage other places explored, mainly the Lake District as we used to stay in Stonethwaite with friends.
The visit for my 60th birthday hill (albeit 9 month late) with Euan was a quick fleeting visit and I have promised myself that I will return a bit more often…
Well I’ll have plenty time on my hands soon..won’t I?
Patrick McGill‘s book ‘Children of the Dead End’ is a recommended read. It has local connections to Inverclyde as ‘he’ worked on the railway which is now Route 75 which I use…the book is available from the usual sources or as a downloadable ebook HERE