So....the invitation was to attend a charity event with friends from Spain, at the Galloway Activity Centre, http://www.lochken.co.uk/
The idea was that I would arrive at noon on the Saturday, chill for the rest of the day, then at night, do a gig.
This was a tad daunting to say the least, having not played live for many years.
In addition my eyesight has been going downhill faster than a marble on a helter skelter, making it hard to read the music, so I was not exactly 'looking' forward to it.
As things transpired, all the worry was for nothing......I ended up doing a karaoke for 20 Girl Guides who were also attending a weekend course. They were. I must say, a credit to themselves and their behaviour and enthusiasm doing all the differing events on offer was fantastic.
Most of the day was spent walking the surrounding area and letting the dogs play in the loch.
The only place to get a phone signal was on this wee hill.
The weather could not have been better.
Blaze & Baby really wanted to stay in the wigwam
So, karaoke done....and a few beers drunk and stories swapped, it was off to the bunkhouse for a good nights sleep, with a packed day planned ahead for the Sunday.
Next day, up I was up surprisingly early, bright and bushy tailed......and aided by numerous coffees whilst sitting on the jetty, we plotted the days activities. I decided on Laser guns, Archery, Wall climbing & finishing off with a canoe paddle.
Pre-game tactical discussion
For anyone who has never played this game before...it consists of rolling around in the mud, with guns that if you called 'accurate' would have you in front of a trades description panel.
It was soon learned that a charge leading to a killing distance of 4 feet was the most suitable tactic.
Also, should you wish to cheat...god forbid...it is possible to stick your target sensor under your hat, thus giving you Superman-like death defying qualities.
Another bit of advice here, and this is important........no matter how cunning your camouflage, the excellence of your choice of hiding place or the ninja-like qualities of your stalking skills...do not take your dog along to this game...
Blaze led the opposing team to my location each and every time, resulting in my sensors lighting up and buzzing more than a Las Vegas million dollar slot machine on steroids paying out...as I took multiple killing hits from my adversaries.
Next came the archery. Let's just say I never needed Maid Marion blowing in my ear to make a complete and utter ass of myself. Personally, I think I was given a rubbish bow, with rubbish arrows and a smaller target than everyone else. Heck, even the kids whupped me at this game. (shamed)...
Looking good...until the 'letting go of the arrow' bit.
Then I glanced down to my feet....
This event finished up with me having a visitor strolling passed me. It must have seen my archery abilities, and decided that it was safe to wander by, after correctly assuming that I couldn't hit a full grown python at 3 paces even if my life depended on it....
Next was my favourite, the wall climbing. As I was the only one of our group doing this, I got stuck in along with the kids, so there was no chance of showing myself up by shaking with fear. As it turned out, this was as enjoyable as I had imagined, and I even did the zip-wire down, and later the leap of faith, which basically means climbing up a rather high 'telegraph pole' and launching yourself into space to hit a ball suspended in front of you. Great fun.
Then, after a paddle around the loch in a Canadian canoe, it was sadly time to pack the gear and head home.
The plans for the rest of the week were to head North, to visit the Hobbits at Glencoe Ski Centre, then onwards to Blackwater Hostel in Kinlochleven. Gary was returning back to Fife, but I'm never one for passing up any chance to head off to the hills for a few days climbing. With that in mind, I collected Blazes pal Digger, and proceeded to our first visit.
Blaze & Digger carry out Hobbit inspection at the ski centre
The external lighting is now in and looking good.
We arrived in Kinlochleven on the Friday, with still time to walk, so I took the dogs along the Ciaran trail, which is a lovely wooded walk heading up to Blackwater reservoir which set us up nicely for a few beers in the Bothan Bar at the Ice Factor.
We didn't stay in the bar for too many, as tomorrow was to be a long awaited return match with a mountain that for varying reasons, I have missed time and time again...Sgurr Eilde Mor, that sits on the Easternmost side of the Mamores.
After a good nights sleep in a mini-hobbit, we drove up as far as Mamore lodge, parked up and got on our boots, with the first leg taking us to above Kinlochleven with wonderful views all the way down to Glencoe, with Garbh Bheinn to our left, The Pap of Glencoe and Beinn na Caillich dead ahead and the Mamores to our right. Absolutely beautiful.
Resting the dogs....(or me)???
From a bench someone has erected on the trail.
We then skirted the flanks of Na Graugaichean, went up and around the Southern end of Sgor Elide Beag and into Coire an Lochan where we stopped for lunch. Again, the scenery was amazing, although you could 'feel' the change in weather coming in.
Eilde Mor looking inviting...for a while...
A chance for the boys to have a swim.
Then it was nothing less than a rocky scramble to the summit, easier said than done as the cloud just suddenly scooted in and the wind picked up to around 35 knots. We got some views from the other side for a few minutes before it closed in completely. It mattered not a jot....at last, I had made the summit and could now sleep easy at nights.
Then it was a swift retreat back down..and the rather long walkout back to the village. What could spoil this glorious day???? I'll tell you...we watched the Scotland footie game...shame on us.
Arriving back at the hostel, with great dismay, I found that all the Hobbits had been booked out for the night, but luckily, I had left a very small tent there from my previous visit...just in case. Unluckily, I never had a foam roll or my mattress with me.
Still, making the best of a poor situation, I pitched the tent. I also started eyeing the dogs with regards to their size which seemed to have increased in relation to the tent size, which oddly enough seemed to have decreased.
Imagine if you can, sleeping between Mike Tyson and Smoking Joe, who are both having nightmares and lashing out....this was my night.... Then Digger deemed that my head was a wonderful substitute for a pillow, and Blaze not to be outdone, decided the same... so I now had 2 dogs on my face.
Then.....came the noises..... As any dog owner will attest to, at some point in the night, usually as you are just managing to fall off to sleep..it starts.... The noise is a licking/slurping, that sounds like sucking blamange through a pillow case...with burping in between the sucking... It drives you crazy. The dogs however awake next morning, fully refreshed and with pristine testicles....
Next day, we were to meet up with Cathy in the car park at the base of Buachaille Etive Mor, to climb our favourite mountain. I have never yet had good enough visibility to get views from these climbs, so today was going to be the day, but only if we could skelp on and get to the summit of Stob Dearg by 1 o'clock as the weather was to close in...again.
Therefore, with no time to lose, we headed off up into the gully that breaches the defenses of this formidable lump of rock..munching banana breakfast on the hoof. It's a bit of a slog, but keeping on eye on the route, and the other on the lowering cloud base, we made the bealach in good time, and headed for the summit. Hurrah...a view down.
The view down to the road...at last
With little time to waste, we retraced our steps to the bealach and headed along to the 2nd Munro of the day, Stob na Brioge. We passed the point where I stupidly managed to fall off the ridge, but this time safely negotiating the change of course required. Unfortunately, the weather had now turned vicious, lashing rain and high wind which turned the rock into unpredictable mini skating rinks. We made the summit, and the plan was to continue along the ridge and drop down into the glen below, but after 5 minutes, we realised we were getting disorientated, and I didn't relish making an idiot of myself by cascading off the same mountain twice, so we turned and headed back along the same route we arrived on.
All good..well no, as we veered off course, and the map and compass was of no help without any visible points of reference. Luckily, we had excellent backup with the Satmap, and it told us where we were, and most importantly, where to go. It turns out, we had missed the turn off cairn by only 50 yards, but it was like walking with a wet blanket over our heads, so an easy mistake to make. Our only other option would have been to have fished out the survival bags and sit and wait on some visibility to appear.
At least Cathy was happy having added 2 more Munros to her tally, Digger was up to his 84th and Blaze to his 9th, so although very wet, very tired and getting hungry, we were 4 happy bunnies.
I wonder where next week will take us?