I appear to have lost almost the entirity of the second half of the fishing season. I’ve looked everywhere but can’t find it. It isn’t even in the outdoor cooking equipment drawer like most things that go missing around here. Somehow it really has gone missing, and with the 6th October rapidly approaching something had to be done. A few weeks ago it thus seemed like a good idea to plough all that pent up fishing frustration into a proper expedition, one that would make memories to last more than a few seasons.I trawled through the list of remote lochs on my ‘to do’ list, and finally settled on one of the remotest. The eastern edge of Knoydart, a 16 mile round trip, lots of uphill, two potentially dodgy river crossings and a long walk alongside a hydro-loch of variable height. There was no way to do it in a day, so together with the brother we opted for a three day expedition including two nights of wild camping.
After a Friday evening stopover in Glen Etive on the way north, we found ourselves in Fort William wasting time in outdoor shops, wondering what items might have been forgotten. My propensitiy to be drawn into outdoor gear shops, even when I know I wish to buy nothing, is something I really must address. Terrible consumerism and an unholy waste of time.
My initial purpose was perfectly reasonable. I wanted a lightweight trowel with which to bury the natural waste of eating and walking long distances. Alas the lightest trowel I could find weighed almost as much as the (heavy) trangia I was already carrying. I finally decided that with all the rain the ground was sure to be pliable enough that the camp spoon could be put to a new and interesting use.
To further digress, dare I say to rant, I must recount my conversation with an assistant (that’s a funny word) at one particular camping shop on the high street. After asking him if the shop had any trowels, he looked at me as if I’d just shat on the carpet right there and then, and stated, “We don’t sell things like that here.” I suppose I must have missed the secret method his regular customers no doubt adopt for turding in the wild, perhaps involving standing side on to the breeze and grimacing intently.
A couple of pies later, the venison version of which would go on to help provide a memorable night and bring the camp spoon into earlier use than expected, and we were driving ever north and west through sheets of rain. Every five miles or so the clouds parted as the rain subsided, only for another shower to be met around the next corner. Spirits didn’t flag though, as the always reliable highland weather forecast suggested that Sunday would be better.
We arrived at the parking spot and kitted up. Normally this is a brief affair, but with me around it tends to get somewhat slowed down as camera equipment is strapped on. This time it was further retarded by the fact that somehow 3 days of camping and fishing and walking gear didn’t want to fit into my 45L rucksac. Some emergency discarding helped a bit, but only in combination with wearing all clothes and offloading (ahem) the fishing bag to my kind companion would the lid shut. In my defence I was carrying the tent…
Thus we were on our way. For about 10 minutes. At which point it became immediately obvious that the first river wasn’t going to be crossed without swimming. Much hard staring at the map and an alternative start point was proposed. Back to the car.
Along the way to the revised start point an interesting looking bridge, which is maybe stretching the use of the word, was almost tempting enough to draw us across. But given the state of my balance, and the 80-year old knees located at my leg hinges, we kept going for the last mile up to the top of the road and thus avoided the river altogether.
All this arsing about had cost us another hour of light, which together with the Great Fort William Turd Scoop Debacle (GFWTSD) meant that we were not going to eat into very many miles before sunset. We thus took a more direct route towards our destination, which involved climbing quite steeply up to gain a long ridge, but which saved a couple of miles of low level trudging. Arriving on the ridge we were greeted with one hell of a nice view, including the sight of a sinking sun and beautiful splashes of colour on the surrounding mountains. The tent was quickly errected on the flattest raised spot we could find, which was nonetheless waterlogged.
Meanwhile SP went off to get some cooking water and I whipped out the camera and started photo-spamming. I spend so much of my regular time imagining being in places like that ridge at the right time of day, that to actually be there was really quite wonderful. Clouds danced around the higher summits and occasional patches of whispy mist passed under our feet. It seemed quite unreal that simply by plodding one foot in front of the other you could attain such a location and view. It gave the understanding that there really is no great trickery in the beautiful photos of folk like Colin Prior and Richard Childs, just a lot of trudging and patience (to go along with a healthy dose of skill and technique of course).
With dinner duties finished (it’s always worth taking that block of cheese and French sausage..) we watched the sky deepen through all imaginable shades of blue, until at last a few stars revealed themselves. I took a few long exposure photographs with the camera propped on rocks (the tripod was one of those emergency discarded objects), managing to simulataneously photograph Ursa Major and scratch the hell out of the LCD screen.
Squeezing through the tent door I produced the first suggestion of what the night would hold, but pretended it was just gas released from the bog under the groundsheet. The brother wasn’t buying it, but did decide to join in. Fun fun times in a cramped space. A few generous sips of whisky and off to sleep. I’ll spare the rest of the details.