16.6 miles – blustery, later sustained galeforce or stormforce winds, driving heavy rain
I want to give you some idea of what the conditions were like. for a start, the ‘gashes’ in the mountainside in the above photo weren’t there the previous day. The precipitation must have been exceptional; the water poured down any way it could.
But the beauty of the scene still struck me. The grass was a rich green and the grey rocks erupted from it like boils: there was unequivocal power in both scene and weather.
By late afternoon the gale was howling into my face, driving heavy rain, the drops sharp as icicles. The ground, which two days earlier would have been quite firm, was now a floodplain. Photography became almost impossible, but I did manage the one below, which shows the level of water.
There was no turning back, it was too far; there was no staying where I was (you can’t pitch a tent on flood water) so I had to go on. There was a perilous river crossing – normally safe, the water was now surging down the glen – but I kept calm, and inched my way across, bracing my feet against boulders to stop them and me being swept downstream. It is no exaggeration to say this was no longer about hiking or walking home to Hastings, but about endurance and survival.
I knew there was a bothy a few miles ahead, and I had been told the manager always left dry firewood there for walkers. I pushed on. I did survive.
Normally an easily crossable ford, the picture below – it’s less than half a mile from the bothy – shows that my efforts could have been scuppered at the last moment. Fortunately I found a rude bridge just to the right of the illustration.
And then safety, warmth, relief, and a large slug of whisky. I was on my own in the bothy. It was glorious.