Warning: this is a long entry with over 75 images (click on one of them for the slideshow), and is mainly of interest to Dave, Nick, Ian and Johnny, who were there and who all contributed to the diary entries transcribed below, together with a few additional comments from me that are shown in blue.
Our chalet in Duirinish is marked in the centre of the map shown below, the rest of which is self-explanatory. I've plotted individual maps for each day, based on my best guess of where we went.
Duirinish Adventures - February 1988
20 February - The Journey (Diarist: Martin)
Nick, Ian and John having arranged their own transport, Martin and Dave leave
at 7 am after a short delay whilst Dave collected together his wet washing. Uneventful
journey to 's
Little Chef by 9 am. Some low cloud in the Gretna
but Saddleback and others were clear, and quite snowy. South Lakes
Both Dave and Martin had hard weeks at work, Martin having left work at 9:30 on Thursday and 7:50 on Friday. Dave had a last minute lost backup disc problem and left work at 7:45 on Friday after leaving messages for minions.
Due to 'change for launderette' problems Dave was up until 3 am washing clothes. He complains now about having woken at 5 am (the room was probably sauna like) and then at 6 am. Some of his clothes are even dryish.
Traditional breakfasts and pots of tea, with an additional gooseberry pancake (!) for Dave, set us up for the long haul to Crianlarich (next stop).
New features are Dave's new boots (but no Yeti gaiters - no shop has any, especially size 47). Boots now cost £85 to £90, about double the price of five years ago. Dave also has a new (hidden) anorak which is so precious that he is still wearing his old torn one for the journey.
We confused the Little Chef management by moving from one end of the restaurant to the other half way through the meal, due to smoke control of other customer problems.
On another 190 miles to
via Crianlarich station for tea and cakes. Fort William
The southern hills had a piebald look, but by Glencoe there were clear vast expanses of snowfields, although the snow line was higher than usual for the time of year. Roads were very quiet.
We paused for a picture in front of Buachaille Etive Mor
Dave shopped vigorously in
purchasing 'Yeti' type gaiters, a quilted waistcoat, and some more socks (he
apparently classifies these as 'consumables'). Fort Bill
Martin bought some books (Torridon /
and some beer (for John).
After a substantial lunch we off went to the north, stopping for lots of photos by the statue of three men who Martin's mum still thinks are Dave, Roger and Martin standing on a trig point looking towards Ben Nevis.
There was lots of sun and rain and snow and not the summit of
Ben Nevis, and rainbows, etc, etc. Variable
intermittent wipe would have been handy. (All day!)
stop was two hours, but we still got leisurely up to Duirinish by 4:30. Clocked
in at the lodge where MrsFoottit rushed (legged it) to greet us before we
disturbed her parents, who apparently live in another part of the house. Fort Bill
Armed with the key to 'Rona' we entered same and soon transferred the seven Hays boxes (food, booze, etc) and all our gear.
Martin copped for the bunkroom, whilst Dave chose a central position to enable him to exert his influence over both neighbouring bedrooms during the course of the night. And we forgot to bring his Sonorex!
(Dave: the room was subsequently double banked with auxiliary snorer John.)
The heating in the main room seemed inadequate until Martin found an extra fan heater in his wardrobe. Apart from a smallish fridge and cooker the log cabin chalet is fine. It even has a washing machine and nappy bucket.
2 hours after arriving, Dave found a clothes rack which assisted his immense drying programme. After 4 hours he found an electric clothes dryer rack. This discovery was greeted with enthusiasm and amusement by Dave, whose nocturnal activities had recently been imitated by a maniacal coffee percolator.
Needless to say, by this time Nick, Ian and John had arrived (6 pm) and Martin's first meal (spag bol as tradition dictates) had been duly consumed. The 10 litres of wine and 2 litres of sherry had also taken a beating, although the beer remained intact.
So Dave went away (by tradition) to compile his custard (with blackcurrants and raspberries) to the reverberations of "The Rock Machine Turns You On", with such lyrics as "...like a Chinese wrestler's jock strap cooked in butter on a greasy afternoon" and all that jazz. (Well, the jazz comes tomorrow.)
Ian drove 540 miles today, including errors, whilst Dave and Martin managed a meagre 410 miles.
[Dave's assessment: "content ok but plot line slightly incohesive at times - 8/10."]
Sunday 21 February - The First Tentative Steps (Diarist: Dave)
Dave's alarm went off at 6:50 and he provided the traditional early morning tea and butty making. Porridge from Ian and breakfast from Martin. Fairly leisurely getting ready. Out of the chalet by 9:30. Drove down to Glen Shiel area, past the
which nobody photographed despite it being visible. Eilean
Parked the car on the road beyond Morvich - the wrong road as it turned out, and booted up. Dave with his new boots and Yeti gaiters looking particularly smart and fashionable. Walked up beside the river (Abhainn Chonaig). Turned right where the path from the car park we should have parked at joined us.
Here we were caught up by a lone walker who stayed with us for a while, chatting mainly to Ian. Walked up Gleann Choinneachain to Bealach an Sgairne.
Very pleasant walk up with a good gradient. Interesting stream to cross. John much photographed crossing it.
The bealach was very windy so we stopped for food and coffee. Anoraks / cagoules put on (another new item of clothing for Dave) At the bealach were a party of three who we had seen ahead of us.
Heading up to the bealach.
Set off north for A' Ghlas-bheinn '...a rather small and insignificant hill..." according to our guide - a summer description. It is one of those mountains on which you can never see the top until you are 50 yards from it. Many false hopes on the way up. Some minor steep bits. Some snow but no ice - it's too warm.
Martin, John and Ian up first and they were rewarded with some whisky from the other party - part of a whisky manager's free ration. (Part-time whisky manager; professional Munroist, judging by the conversation.)
After a pause for food, we carried on over the top for a splendid descent. Deep snow being a good test for Dave's new gear. Some sliding also done. When off the hill (though still quite a descent to the car) the group split up. Martin and Nick and went west to the car. Ian, Dave and John went to look at the
. An impressive
big waterfall with lots of water in it. Falls
Pictures were taken at a slightly precarious viewing point, but couldn't fit it all in. Stopped for the rest of our food. It began to drizzle so Dave put on over trousers and it stopped. Long haul up out in which Dave suffered a bit but got going again with some boiled sweets.
Went down tracks to car park near Dorusduain where we found Martin and Nick as arranged. They had got back to the car and driven it to here - saving the rest of us one and a half miles.
Above - Martin's pictures taken during the descent with Nick, and below - Martin and Nick's route in dark blue (15 km, 900 metres ascent) is overlaid by the others' route in light blue (18 km, 1250 metres ascent).
Back to the chalet where close examination showed Dave's new boots to be ok. Lots of gear hung from beam in roof for drying. Ian had a bath! Martin a phone call from his boss.
Roast chicken for dinner in which Martin overcame the absence of cooking foil. Lots of booze - sherry, wine, beer, port ensured that this diary entry was not written up today (yesterday).
John exited early for bed. The rest of us played a noisy game of Trivial Pursuit in which Nick and Dave, by inspired guesswork and a reflective TV screen, won, beating off a late surge from Martin and Ian. Nick must learn to count: 5 comes after 4 not 6.
All in bed by 11:30.
Of note today was Nick drinking beer from a wine glass - presumably this being the sort of image he wants to project...
Monday 22 February - A Gentle Day (Diarist: Ian)
The dulcet sound of falling rain obviously kept Dave asleep, because the tea didn't arrive until 7:20 am. After a leisurely breakfast we had another brew to delay the inevitable departure, and then stopped at the shops to postpone the walk a bit more. By this time Martin had received the Royal Reprieve and did not have to post the Fiesta's keys home, so we didn't need to find a post office / box.
We had thus managed to delay the walk until the rain had stopped - there must be a moral here somewhere.
We set off up Moruisg, just west of the
. Achnashellach Forest
A gentle stroll along a stalker's path lead to a nasty steep slope. Martin thought he had found a faster way up and left the rest, who spent about 20 minutes waiting for him. Eventually John (boy scout stalker's badge) spotted some deer obviously disturbed by Martin, and we set off. John and Ian still beat Martin to the top.
Just before we got to the top, the slope got very icy. John stopped to put his crampons on, and Ian wished he had brought his with him! Ian set off for the top just as a squall hit. There was no shelter top and Ian got covered in spindrift putting his javlin on under his cag.
The party then regrouped on top as the squall cleared, and we had lunch in clear weather, with the Fuar Tholl and Torridon mountains in the clear.
By this time Ian and John were noticing (cold) wet feet. Martin also confessed to (new) leaking boots later in the day.
We then wandered along to Sgurr nan Ceannaichean, admired the view, and descended to finish off lunch by the stream.
A quick boggy walk led us back to the car. No Scotch on the hill, but still a good day out.
The journey back to the chalet was punctuated by a pause to record a wonderful sunset.
Here's our route - 19 km with 1200 metres ascent.
Tuesday 23 February - Five Go On a Winter's Expedition (being a chronicle of the exploits of 'Blind' John, 'Cap'n' Martin, 'Fartin' David, 'Keen' Ian and 'Tired' Nick) (Diarist: Nick)
"I've got a suggestion" suggested Nick - "what about going over the sea to Skye and the Cuillins, Sligachan and Bruach na Frithe in particular.
It must have been a good suggestion because tea arrived a good 5 minutes earlier than usual.
The morning dawned clear after a night of drips from the ceiling (how else do you explain a wet sleeping bag? - on the outside you lot!). John nearly opted out of porridge - Dave had his spoon at the ready but John managed it. He did however refuse beans and/or spaghetti because his 'bastard' stomach couldn't take it.
Washing up done, butties made, heaters off, and we are off to Skye, Cap'n Martin at the helm in search of further rations. "Speed bonny boat..." -no time for second thoughts as we climbed the ramp to the ferry and Kyleakin.
Broadford Co-Op was almost empty, as was the Tourist Office. We bought basics then headed to McGregor's for chops. The road to the Slig is now two carriageways all the way. (We all remember when it was single track from outside Kyleakin.)
Parked, then off by various routes to Alltdearg House, and up beside Allt Dearg Mor towards Bealach a' Mhaim.
Good views of Sgurr nan Gillean, Am Basteir, and the 'tooth', and back to Glamaig and Loch Sligachan. All soon obscured by cloud and hail.
On the way up we met three walkers from Liverpool Uni who we continued to meet throughout the day. Crossing the stream, we headed across towards the ridge with a thin covering of fresh snow over bog. The first part of the route was a bit of a trudge, zigzagging up over small gravel/scree. View now obscured by cloud, though we could still see Beinn a' Bhraghad (469 metres) for a while.
As the ridge started to get more 'interesting' we stopped for lunch, punctuated by windy gust and spindrift.
Very soon afterwards it was out with axes and crampons and we quickly caught up with the
Liverpool lads, one of whom was cramponless.
After a bit of messing about Dave and Martin decided they'd leave this Munro for another day and descended with their cramponless mate (who refused their coffee and their sliding down slopes into the corrie. [I remember this. The
Liverpool lad was out of his depth
but would have carried on if Dave and I hadn't decided to go down. We did it
partly for his safety.]
Nick and Ian continued on up and although there was no view the route up the crest of the ridge gradually became easier until the trig point (which Ian described as looking like a litter bin) came into view.
No hanging about for photos (not many anyway) but just time to make yellow snow. We then climbed backwards (see diagram) down towards what we hoped would be Bealach nan Lice and Fionn Choire.
Meanwhile, Dave and Martin 'played' in Fionn Choire.
"I'd like to do Am Basteir" said Ian. "Not I" said Nick (we couldn't see it). So we started down. Just as we'd taken a 330 degree bearing downwards the cloud cleared and we saw 'blind John' stumbling towards us. What mishap had befallen the rest of the party? Luckily none, but John couldn't see as he had removed his glasses (and we didn't recognise him). He had navigated via the yellow snow but didn't realise he wasn't on his way back down the ridge until he saw us.
We decided to go back up for a view of Am Basteir (very impressive), then Ian decided to try going up. John and I decided to go back down into Fionn Choire, a fairly gentle stroll down snow and finally across bog to reach the stream where we ate the remainder of our butties. Dave and Martin caught up after playing in the snow, so we all trudged back to the Slig. Unfortunately no beer (it was shut), so we waited in the car for Ian, Cap'n Martin scanning the horizon through his conning tower.
Ian's route - 16 km, 900 metres ascent; the rest of us did a little less.
All reunited, we went back over the sea, then to Kyle boozer for a few pints of heavy, some very skilful pool, and Winter Olympics on the telly from Calgary.
Back to the steamy hut, now decorated with boots and other items swinging from the rafters. Soup, jazz, chops (thank you Martin) and after washing up, a very late fruit and custard.
John didn't have any so he went to bed, then got up, fell off the stool, and dubbined his boots. Martin read extracts from 'Danziger's Travels', John farted, Ian festered, and Dave went to the toilet.
(Almost) the end of a perfect day.
Wednesday 24 February - Some Notes and Observations on a Sunny Winter's Day - A Numerical Approach (Diarist: John)
1. Had breakfast. Sun shining by the time we finish. The choice is between Beinn Sgritheall and something in Kintail.
2. Off to Kyle at 9 ish. Sun still shining. Shopping, newspapers, and no postcards.
3. Off to Beinn Sgritheall via
, Glenelg and Arnisdale.
10:50ish start (about 970 metres from 0 metres). Sun still shining. Slope v
steep. Route starts via a hunting lodge. One of the sheds has hides (grallochs
thrown over wall - ugh!) Shiel
4. Up to the bealach between Beinn Sgritheall and Beinn na h-Eaglaise (Bealach Arnasdail). Sun still shining.
5. Up above the bealach, the sun is not shining and the breeze is cool. Therefore it's time for lunch on a steepish bit of scree.
6. After lunch, up to the ridge, snow is hard. The first top leads to a ridge via a narrowish bit (foot irons and picks needed), to the top. Group photos, hazy views, cool breeze.
7. Down from the trig point via a rocky(ish) and icy(ish) ridge to a col, then down, via some thickets, to the road.
8. 3 km back to the motor. Road very busy - four vehicles pass us in 30 minutes. We get our ears bent back by a local (he must have seen us set out, because he tells us the easy way up). He relates something about the summer solstice - maybe with aging hippies and people going to the top of Sgritheall to see the sunrise... "On a clear day you can see
, etc, etc... Ireland
Our route - 11 km, 1100 metres ascent.
9. Back to base (not via a bar after last night's beer) and a big tea.
I think this is the view from Bealach Ratagain - we must have stopped on the way home.
10. Boring old Trivial Pursuit. (Not me.)
11. And so to bed.
Thursday 25 February (Diarist: Martin)
This is a late entry due to unforeseen inability to find a pen / custard making due to Dave's incapacity.
Johnny had arrived at 12:30 am. Nick, alone, had waited up for his dear little brother.
Dave produces his usual delightful cup of tea, but unfortunately the tape recorder was unable to offer the delights of 'Cream's Last Performance' - neo-contrapuntal and all that! - take-up spool failure after all these years. [The Philips tape recorder has now - in 2020 - been handed on to Martin's son Mike, who has repaired it and continues to use the 1960's reel to reel tape player.]
The usual efficient breakfast run brought a full English breakfast to all, before Dave and Martin shot off to Kyle for the final shopping bash, whilst the others gave Ian's car a run up to NH005136. When Martin and Dave arrived, all six of us leapt into the estate and huddled for the short trip to NH037118.
10:30 departure in indifferent but dry weather almost due north up beside a fence on to Meall a' Charra. [I have no pictures from this walk. I'm not sure where or when the next picture was taken - maybe the previous day.]
Into the cloud by now, we head up softish snow to the main ridge. Very difficult to make out things visually, although bright enough for sunglasses for Martin. A brief discussion results in the group departing for Aonach Meadhoin, which is reached fairly quickly after minor difficulties.
Nasty slushy snow leads to much crampon balling, but the wind is generously light and there are no mishaps in the warm, extremely sweaty, conditions.
A quick descent and ascent bring us to the summit ridge of Sgurr a' Bhealaich Dheirg, whence Ian zaps across to a cairn along a knife edge. All except Martin follow on. Martin decides enough is enough and retraces down the hill, not realising that the said cairn was in fact off the main ridge and was the summit.
Martin has an uneventful if steep descent and reaches the car by 3 pm.
It starts to rain heavily and visibility is low above 600 metres.
After ascertaining through his conning window that no one is following, Martin drives down to the expected line of descent of the others below Bealach an Lapain. They soon come into view, led by John, closely followed by Ian and Dave, with Nick and Johnny trailing. All are back at the car by soon after 4 pm, after an interesting but not too arduous ridge walk over Saileag, the summit of which they claim was indistinct. Visibility had been poor, with one or two awkward stretches for Dave, who tried to emulate the action of a strained spider.
(Dave later objected to being singled out here - it was apparently a group activity.) At one point Ian had needed to throw snowballs to find out where the snow ended and the void started. Happily they survived the white out and we adjourned briefly to the chalet for tea.
Martin and Dave went via Plockton for eggs (no success due to half day closing) and photos. Martin was successful in photographing the palm trees his workmates refuse to believe exist up here on the gulf (stream) coast.
Here's the route taken by all except Martin - 10 km, 1250 metres ascent.
The hordes duly arrived at 8 pm after apparently threatening the locals with pool cues - Ian having cheated as usual, and donated substantially to the Trivia Quiz fund. [I've deleted a significant and verbose diatribe about Dave trying to eat people and the car!]
A few sherries provided a preamble to another large nosh. However, Dave then collapsed in various places and even substituted for a clothes horse for a while. As a result, his usual delicacy - custard - was produced tonight by Martin. Nobody seemed to notice the difference though. Trivial Pursuit then pitted the cheating Grays against the cheating Inch and his honest accomplice Martin, who kept up his 100% losing record (except for the Young Person's game).
By midnight everyone had well and truly flaked out, the port had been finished, and the chalet was again calm.
Today we didn't see ptarmigan, lots of deer, and other things which have been a feature of this holiday but which have not been recorded by the earlier diarists. But Martin saw an oystercatcher.
Friday 26 February (Diarist: Johnny, and his vivid imagination)
7 am came earlier than normal, heralded by the delightful tinkling of drizzle on the chalet roof. I had spent all night 'break-dancing' on the top bunk due to the fact that it was a good three inches shorter than me.
An eggless breakfast (Martin: no it wasn't - amongst the many items was a small portion of scrambled egg) was eaten. Many plans were discussed and eventually after much book consultation Martin and Dave went somewhere and the rest of us went to do The Saddle via the Fuchin' ridge (possible spelling error)
A useful stalkers track made the initial climb fairly 'easy' to the 'beealack', as John insisted on calling the dip between two hills. Thence to the top of Meallan Odhar (610 metres). At some point around here, Nick decided to head back carwards, and the gruesome threesome travelled on. A quick conference at the bottom of the ****ing ridge decided that it was a bit windy for a knife edge ridge, and the 'easy' route from the Bealach Coire Mhalagain was approached. This was very easy, almost boring, so much so that before we reached the top we stopped. I stopped first, John went another six feet, and Ian disappeared to report back that the ---------- ridge looked even more tedious. With that we simply rambled back down to the 'curry', (as John would say). On the path down we met a couple of becapped chaps who'd been camping in the excessively mild weather we're having; it takes all sorts.
The descent was pleasant, particularly when we reached the car. Nick had listened to every tape Ian possessed and a few more too. [There follows a page of what can only be described as 'Johnny's pathetic rantings'] After stripping off and re-dressing, we set off and picked up a local hitch hiker who recognised Jean-Michel Jarre.
Even now as I write Dave (who is under chalet arrest) peels potatoes as a penance, and baths are being had.
Just out of interest, John says a gralloch is a sheep's gut system; I thought it was something green and shiny extracted from one's innermost depths, but there you go. [It's actually the viscera of a dead deer.]
We almost saw three golden eagles, we saw two deer and missed a wild cat by mere minutes.
Here's their route - 9 km, 950 metres ascent.
Dave and Martin decided that it would be best to get up something rather than fail miserably on The Saddle, and so set off for The Storr on Skye.
Set off in waterproofs, but after a short while it began to clear. Went up into The Sanctuary - photographed interesting rock formations, and began climb up gully to top. [As in several places where the diary says 'photos were taken', I can't find any for this walk, except for those taken at the car.]
Began to rain - put on waterproof again and drank some of Johnny's revolting coffee (Nick was supervising, blah, blah. Steep climb up - wet grass and slippery mud.
Once on the ridge, it's a quick walk to the top for obligatory photos, and then a quick slither down. Some rocks were sent crashing down. Slid down a very wet snow slope. Martin got wet bum through overtrousers.
Our route - 8 km, 650 metres ascent.
Others were back before we were (probably spent day in pub!)
Saturday 27 February (Diarist: Martin)
Total cost of holiday including chalet, food, booze, petrol, ferries, electricity = £85 per person.
Saturday 27 February (Diarist: Martin)
Johnny rises from the floor complaining that an 'awkward sleeping position' must have made his legs stiff!
Dave's tea came by autopilot just after 7 am and breakfast was abbreviated to porridge (double quantity for Dave). Food share out, packing, cleaning (Nick was especially conscientious with the cooker) etc, etc, followed.
8:30 departure came very quickly and although all three pairs set off separately they were soon a convoy of Sierras beside Loch Duich.
Johnny's constant braking soon upset Martin, who stopped at a 'P' before quickly overhauling the others. Numerous further petrol and 'P' stops brought Martin and Dave to Abington Little Chef by 12:45, closely followed by Ian and John, who were last seen busily noshing there and swapping stories about yesterday's snow slopes.
Total cost of holiday including chalet, food, booze, petrol, ferries, electricity = £85 per person.