I awoke, feeling cold, at 0230. It really was quite chilly, so I took a look outside to see what the weather was doing. It wasn’t really doing anything, but the socks pegged on my guyline were frozen solid and there was a thin layer of ice on the inside of my flysheet. I put my microfleece jumper on and went back to sleep.
It was impossible to get lost today. All I had to do was follow General Wade’s road down to Melgarve bothy then keep following the road to Garva Bridge then, if I still had the energy, walk a few more kilometres along the road and find somewhere to camp. It should also be possible to keep my feet dry all day and, having identified Melgarve bothy as a perfect lunch-stop, I set off with the intention of having an easy day without any dramas.
Unfortunately, my body had other ideas and chose today to complain. I’d ignored the slight discomfort in my left wrist, but I could now see that it was slightly swollen. This could only really be due to the way I was using my new PacerPoles, as I couldn’t remember falling on it or banging it. My right ankle was also sore and swollen. This has happened before and is probably something I should get looked at. I used to think it was due to how I laced my boots – but I wasn’t wearing boots, so it can’t be that. I was developing a lump halfway down my spine, probably due to my rucksack not being very supportive. In short, I was a walking wreck.
This was my second time over the Corrieyairack Pass; the first time being on the 2009 TGO Challenge. I remember being a bit nervous of the Pass back then, as I’d heard it could be a bit exposed, but I’d found it was a really nice walk – so I was not concerned this time, especially as I was starting a few miles in from Fort Augustus and was only planning to walk about 13 miles today.
There are enough signs of human intervention on and around the Pass to make you realise that this has been an important line of communication for centuries. The road itself dates from the 1700s, although I should imagine there was already some sort of path or track there beforehand. There are several sheds and buildings, and remnants of fences and gates which, presumably, must have been used to keep something or someone in or out. Whilst walking, I thought about the possible history of the place and vowed to do some research when I got home.
Last time I visited Melgarve Bothy, I was still nervous of the idea of bothies. They were bound to be full of either mad axe-men or drunken stag parties or, most probably, ghosts and ghoulies – which is a strange thing to think, as I don’t believe in ghosts or ghoulies. Last time I was here, I was brave enough to stick my head round the door and take a photo of the plaque on the wall but then I walked on before “they” could get me.
I’m glad to say that I was a lot braver this time and not only made a cup of soup in the bothy but even had a look round, downstairs and up. It really is a fine bothy and one that I’d be happy to spend the night in. The only worry is the proximity to the road which could encourage unsavoury types to use it.
After lunch, I continued walking down the old road to the point where it becomes metalled. I was interested to read this sign:
At the time, I had no idea what on Earth it meant but, afterwards, I realised that it refered to the bridges next to my last campsite. ie the bridge I had crossed that morning with no knowledge of the great peril I was placing myself in.
Shortly afterwards, I saw another interesting sign set back on the left-hand side of the road:
I left the road to investigate and was soon pushing my way through trees and stepping carefully over nasty boggy stuff. Remembering that I had intended not to get lost and to keep my feet dry, I gave up looking for the bridge and returned to the road but not before seeing these rather odd “trees” –
There’s a slight irony to the next part of today’s story. I’d planned to camp near Sherrabeg, a few miles past Garva Bridge, and there’s a lot of water in this part of the world; there is Loch Crunachdan, a reservoir and a man-made channel linking the two. The road was wet and the ground to the sides of the road was absolutely sodden. However, I couldn’t find any water I was happy to drink.
I had left the road to find somewhere to camp, and my feet were getting soaked, but I couldn’t find a nice clean-flowing burn from which to fill my bottle. Also, there were sheep in the adjacent fields and I don’t like to take water from farmland.
Eventually, I decided to take off my rucksack and nip back a hundred yards or so to where I’d passed a half-decent rivulet. I filled my Platypus then, content that I had enough water for dinner and breakfast, went back onto the road to see if there were any suitable pitches by the reservoir. I found a lovely spot just short of Sherrabeg and quickly put up my tent as the rain started to lash down. Ideally, I would have been able to pitch with the door facing the main body of the reservoir but, as it rained heavily all night and I had to keep the door closed, it didn’t really matter!