Through the brunt wind that dented the balls of my eyes
The tent of the hills drummed and strained its guyrope… Ted Hughes, ‘Wind’
At 5am on Tuesday morning there was a glorious sunrise.
But before we could get up and take a view of the situation, the rain and wind came in again, a torrential downpour which lasted until mid-afternoon. The stream hurled itself downhill not far from our place of safety with a continuous, furious noise, less like the sound of a stream and more like the roar of a jet engine.
We sat it out all day, discussing, planning, dozing, assessing the situation. Pleased to have Kindle books. Stretching. The wet clothes from yesterday were now damp, and in the fug of the tent, we put on one item at a time and let the warmth of our skin slowly dry them out. We now had a spare set of dry clothes again. There was nothing to be done about our boots bar removing the footbeds and loosening the laces. We had a hot breakfast and a hot supper. Peppermint tea. Stephen remarked that there was something comforting about making tea: it means you have time.
In the afternoon we contacted Mountain Rescue to talk through our escape plans for tomorrow with someone with specific local knowledge, and were patched through to the Fort William lead. We were safe and in no danger, and his advice agreed with our own assessment: the excess water in the flash-spate would go down at some point. We could track back up, cross the deer fence again and thence the river, then retrace our steps back up the gorge and across the westernmost of the entrapping rivers, and gain that shooting path, visible in the background of the tent picture above.
We also spoke to Dan Holland, our long-ago pupil, now BBC Radio Scotland producer and lifeboatman, living in Ullapool with his GP wife Erica and their daughter. We had been due to stay with them on Friday – but our discussions that day had led us to the conclusion that it was simply impossible to take the route up the west side of Scotland that we had hoped. The weather this June simply isn’t good enough, and although we are prepared for unforeseen circumstances we judge it too unpredictable and possibly dangerous.
Dan was utterly positive and reassuring. He and Erica spent the evening putting together a feasibility study for an east coast route for us. If we could make it to Inverness by Friday he would pick us up and take us back to Ullapool anyway, and we could then finalise the onward route to try and finish our End-to-End Trail on time.
Another night out on the hill. There had been less rain in the afternoon and evening, just the odd shower. Perhaps the rivers would have lost their force by tomorrow.
Funny: in Fort William I had bemoaned the fact that we only had one rest day. I wanted another. I wanted a whole day in bed.
The walking gods must have been listening.