|Looking south east over Loch Lochy to the Grey Corries, Aonachs, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis|
My first observation was that my fitness and stamina has continued to improve. Lugging the pack up steep slopes and across trackless moors from the south to reach Meall na Teanga (917m) was hard but far from exhausting work. My pace was steady and stops infrequent. The weight training is paying dividends: if I can't train by regular hillwalking, weights are the next best thing.
|Grey Corries from Meall na Teanga|
An unavoidable late start meant that by the time I reached the Cam Bhealaich it was too late to go on to Sron a'Choire Ghairbh and find a campsite before dark, so I focused on the latter and found a lovely grassy spot by the Allt Cam Bhealaich with a view to the craggy cone of Meall an Tagraidh ahead to the west, and the snowy bulk of Meall na Teanga and its tight complex of subsidiary peaks behind. I was also tired from the adrenaline buzz of the wintry traverse.
Freeze dried chilli con carne and rice followed by custard and berries were tested and found to be pretty darned tasty. The brand was Mountain House, bought from Tiso's superstore outside Perth on the drive north. I imagine freeze-dried food has been vile in the past but I could happily live on this stuff for a while, with the odd steak and salad and bacon and eggs thrown in now and then. The preparation is simple and ideal for situations like this where you're cold, tired and don't want to be faffing around: open the pouch of food, fill with boiling water, stir, re-seal, leave for a few minutes, stir again and eat. A hot meal worked wonders and I felt fully revived.
I'd looked forward to witnessing a stunning starscape; it was also not long past the full moon. However it had clouded over somewhat and there were snow flurries so I crawled into my sleeping bag and read until my eyes started to close. Sleep ended abruptly at 4.30am: the cold was intense and woke me up. My sleeping bag has an extreme limit of -10c (so probably will be fine for the early summer Tay watershed walk) and I reckon it must have been around that temperature or lower. Some sort of instinctive survival mechanism kicked in: I desperately wanted to sleep, but every time I was close to dropping off I was jolted awake.
|Intensely cold early morning by the Allt Cam Bhealaich|
|Frozen waterfall on Meall an Tagraidh|
|On the summit of Geal Charn looking west|
|Loch Arkaig from the Achnasaul path in the late afternoon|
Next month I'm off to Fisherfield for three days and two nights of backpacking, which I'm now looking forward to with confidence rather than trepidation. In the meantime it's back to the weights.
|View from Meall Coire nan Saobhaide over Glas Bheinn to Aonach Mor, Carn Mor Dearg and Ben Nevis|