Lost weekend in Glen Nevis

SITTING in the cafeteria on Fort William station eating a bacon bun and drinking proper tea from a pot, accompanied by a pot of hot water for refills and a stainless steel strainer. Outside the rain is scything against the windows in great blasts from the sea, as I sit defeated though strangely and contentedly philosophical.

I drove up yesterday through horrendous rain along motorways that had been turned into rivers, to pitch my tent on the campsite at Glen Nevis where I was the sole occupant of the main field. There were half a dozen tents up on a hill in the next field, but in a very exposed position and in boggier ground.

The wind got even stronger and the rain heavier this morning, so when my front pegs blew out for the second time in twenty minutes, I heaved everything into the Wagon, had a leisurely wash in the empty toilet block, then drove to the station.

Camping is a learning experience. I’ve been doing it now for more than 40 years. I realise that if I’d had better pegs (the V shaped, toothed variety as opposed to the simple bendy bits of alloy I’ve got) they would not have sprung out of the turf so readily and I would have probably seen Saturday out.

So I’m sitting here thinking what a waste of time this expedition has been, and how I’m not going to get up on the tops in this weather (warnings to walkers not to venture out – Plan B was to explore the famous Parallel Roads. Well, famous in geological circles), and facing a long and slow drive all the way back home.

Floods and brown water all the way through Glencoe, with great plumes of white foam streaming off the mountains. Horrendous gusts of wind sweeping rain across Rannoch Moor, where I find myself in a convoy travelling at no more than 40mph and nobody willing to overtake or go any faster.

Fields flooded at the head of Loch Lomond, and water gushing across the main road in many places. And, to cap it all, I take a wrong turning onto the wrong motorway in the middle of Glasgow, make a panicky exit down the nearest slip road, and end up slap bang in the middle of Sauchiehall Street. It takes me half an hour to extricate myself and claw my way back onto a busy M8 with rain howling in over the rooftops. But as someone once said in a film: I’ll be back.

(This was the weekend of October 24 and 25, 2008. In the Lake District, a major endurance race – the Original Mountain Marathon – was abandoned and rescue teams called out after a month’s rain fell in a day.)

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About McFadzean

Alen McFadzean, journalist, formerly of the Northern Echo, in Darlington, and the North-West Evening Mail, Barrow. Former shipyard electrician. Former quarryman and tunneller. Climbs mountains and runs long distances to make life harder. Gravitates to the left in politics just to make life harder still. Now lives in Orgiva, Spain.
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