Indeed the weather was perfect, clear sunny and no wind at all. I had packed two jumpers as I was expecting to be freezing at the summit. In fact, it was the opposite, and we all took off our tops, as much to try and dry the damp backs! It's not often on any day of the year that you can do this, but it is practically unheard of for October. Whilst on the summit, we partook of a few sifters of whisky and a little of Doug's homegrown leaf. nothing too extreme mind, as we were on top of a hill in the middle of absolutely nowhere!
It was now 4pm and we set off and were trying to work out when it would get dark and whether we'd get back to the bothy in time. Doug managed to persuade us that instead of walking down the valley on the way back, we should walk down the ridge opposite, thus conquering another Munro. I was a little concerned about the light but was too tired to argue.
One Munro, Two Munro, Three Munros, Four!
The greatest problem this presented was getting down from the Alder ridge. We didn't have much time to waste and so took the most direct route; down. This meant that every footstep was one foot forward and two feet down, all done facing sideways. Not great for the ankles.
Thankfully, the other ridge had a pretty gradual gradient and was very grassy. For a while we even had a path to follow! However, by the time we reached the summit, the sun was disappearing behind Ben Alder. The temperature duly plummeted, especially in the valleys where cloud started to form. The wind picked up and started pushing the air over the ridge cooling it as it rose. Thus it got foggy quick! Soon, we were looking at a visiblilty of about 15m.
All the way, we were having little debates about whether Neil had made it ok to the bothy. This was doubly important as he had most of the food! As we were in the middle of nowhere, there was no signal for the mobiles but amazingly whilst on the second ridge, Mark received a text message!! Unfortunately, it wasn't Neil, but some girl inviting Mark to a party that night. Mark called her back and explained he wouldn't be able to make it as he was currently on top of a mountain and it was 20 miles back to the car. Apparently "that's just not good enough!"
The end would have been in sight
The light was fading quite rapidly now, so we again had to resort to the most direct path home, down again, but at least this got us out of the mist. By this point I had lost most control of my legs and my steps were very heavy, meaning that I was completely unprepared for loose stones or unseen dips and so on. Luckily, I escaped without any problems and we soon hit the path and followed it back towards the bothy.
All throughout the walk we had seen plenty of deer and had been hearing stags calling to each other. On the path back we came across two stags fighting! It's pretty incredible seeing them throw themselves at each other. Unfortunately, it was too dark to really see what was going on, and at this point we were just wanting to see the inside of the bothy.
One of the problems is that we were now on the wrong side of the burn and by this point we couldn't see much more than a few metres in front of us due to the approaching dusk. This meant that it was very tricky to cross the burn. I was sure that I'd seen a bridge on the ride in, but it meant we had to walk past bothy to find it, and I wasn't sure where it was, and it couldn't be seen. Since we were all exhausted, we wanted to walk no more than was necessary and eventually just crossed the burn at the first remotely crossable section.
Thankfully, Neil was at the bothy and had started the fire going. He told us that he'd found the bothy no problem but had checked every room except the one we'd put our stuff in and thus wasn't sure it was the correct place. He thus continued down the track for another couple of miles before turning back and checking out the final room. Sacre Neil!
Party at the bothy?
So, we fired up the BBQ, munched down all our burgers before moving indoors and firing up the stove. We had gotten back to the bothy at around 7 and by 9:30 I was ready to hit the sack. It was pretty surpsrising but we were all so knackered that we didn't even drink any of the whisky we'd brought.
Sleeping was a bit of a problem; firstly Neil started snoring and you have no idea how loud this boy is, then I couldn't get comfy because my legs would start cramping, then the sleeping platform was slightly too short for me, meaning I couldn't quite stretch out; also sleeping in one position for too long just meant that the bone that you were leaning on would soon be sore.
I slept fitfully, but amazingly we 'slept' for 12 hours! It was 9h30 before any of us got up! There was no real sense of morning as there were only 2 small windows so there was no light to wake us up.
A quick breakfast, a quick tidy-up and we were off back towards the car. Although the ride was easier in terms of gradient, my legs were not thrilled by another day of effort and protested heartily. It was a fairly uneventful ride back, except that Mark decided to try and ford the burn instead of taking the bridge. Everything was going fine until he reached the middle where it became obvious it was slightly too deep and upon pedalling he had to put his feet in the water. Another quality comedy moment.
We all got back to car no problem, there was one nasty moment when Doug's car battery threatened to be dead, but all proved to be OK. We then drove back, stopped in Pitlochry for some nosh before getting back to Edinburgh at around 4pm.