Unfit and unprepared for serious backpacking, I was glad to be invited to join the Pieman’s expedition to the Unmentionable Mountains with Alan and John. A few days of snow, mud and desolation would be just what I needed to get back into the TGOC spirit.
I’d left all the planning up to Mike. All I had to do was get myself to Carlisle railway station then play follow-my-leader into the wilderness. When I say “wilderness”, well… it was wilderness last time I was there in 2012.
I’ve had some great times in the Monadliath. It can be tough going but rewarding. But the years are taking their toll on my knees, heart and lungs, so I was secretly quite pleased that we hadn’t gone far before we found a young estate worker helpfully bull-dozing a new track. He seemed to be filling in the burns, too, which should help to dry the place out a bit. Yes, it was messy – but that won’t be a problem once the tarmac’s down.
We found a functional patch of ground for the first night’s pitch. The lying snow was slushy and it was easy to get the pegs in – but the overnight freeze made for a saggy, frosty tent in the morning.
Day 2 started slowly while I enjoyed another cup of tea and looked at the empty nothingness on the map. We’d only been walking a short time when we caught sight of the turbines and I realised just how out of date my 2012 map was.
Mike and I tried to count them all by starting at opposite ends and meeting in the middle, but I kept going dizzy and lost count after 40 or so.
These are magnificent structures and really add a sense of meaning to what would otherwise just be boring, brown bog. We’d passed a sign, as we approached the windfarm, explaining how good for the environment the turbines were as they allowed construction traffic to be distributed across areas of low population density rather than being focused in the congested cities.
There was only one disappointment for me. I’d brought my phone charger, but the turbines are only equipped with USB sockets and I hadn’t brought my cable.
It seemed a bit daft trudging through the snow over ankle-twisting heather, so we were happy to follow the new access roads.
We were chatting about how long it will take for the new roads to appear on the OS maps when we were nearly run over by an (unmarked) white van. At first I thought the occupants were lost as they asked us a lot of questions about where we were going. To be honest, I couldn’t really understand all of their questions because of their strong accents; I thought they must’ve been from Orkney but Mike said they were either from Lewis or Romania.
Anyway, once they’d checked our rucksacks and taken our names and addresses (Health and Safety!) they helpfully pointed out the best route to make sure that we didn’t come to any harm.
That night’s camp in Caochan Mo Chreach was even colder than the first night but I gently drifted off to sleep to the gentle reassuring whoosh of the turbine blades in the distance.