In early August 2015 we delved into our adventure jar and our son pulled out a walking and wild camping weekend which simply said ‘North from Rannoch Station’. We looked at the map a bit and came up with the basic plan that we would walk up Carn Dearg and its neighbouring Munro to the East, with an overnight stop probably just after the second top. The weather had been forecast to be dry, cloud free summits and just a small amount of wind to keep the midges off.
They were a bit off the mark with that – we actually got quite a bit of rain on the first afternoon and overnight, with low cloud for our entire second day. This is where flexibility is important, and it is one of the joys of wild camping if you take the leap to embrace the unknown. We ended up walking an amazing long ridge, reaching the top of one Munro, and sleeping by the ruins of Corrour Old Lodge, which was once apparently used as a sanatorium. We got one of our moodiest camp spots to date, with dark clouds scuttling overhead, green grass in front and quite a few deer dotted around.
The weekend started off with us heading along what we had expected to be a Landover track, heading north from the road to Rannoch Station, about a mile or so away from the station itself. It turned out that there was quite a lot of work being done to install a new hydroelectric scheme in the valley, so the nice Landover track had been remade, and graded with quite sizeable gravel, making the initial walking quite tough on even adult feet. It quickly became clear that this was challenging our son, making his legs ache, particularly the one he had broken in late spring, and so I ended up carrying him quite a bit of the way, when we had expected he would walk.
After quite a walk in, we reached the main climb up to the ridge. We knew this would be a pathless slog through deep heather and bog, so got our heads down and started to climb. Eventually we started to pull onto the ridge and flatter ground, with shorter grass and easier going. Quickly the wind started to bite, and let itself be known that it would not be warm and lovely. We searched around for a sheltered spot, and found one just a short walk off the ridge on the down wind side. This made a great lunch spot, and we were almost tempted to set up camp there and just kick back. Here we talked about how we were all doing and moved onto plan C, to best match what we thought we could do and would enjoy – to make it to the summit of Carn Dearg and then descend left towards Corrour old lodge, instead of continuing on with our initial plan.
After some much needed energy from our food, we decided it was still early and we were not done yet, so began making our way up the broad ridge. Our son actually enjoyed this section, leading the way until the final pull to the top of Carn Dearg. As we got closer to the top, so the wind picked up and it was getting difficult for out son to walk against it, so he decided to hit the carrier again.
Once we reached the top we took shelter behind the summit cairn and munched some sweets and celebrated with a game of Batman and baddies (we were the baddies obviously). We would have lingered longer, but it became clear that the wind was driving quite a lot of rain our way, so we decided to start our descent, first following the main ridge, passing a couple of snow patches, an then continuing down towards Corrour for a short time, before cutting off any semblance of a path to head straight towards the ruins of the lodge. Our son really enjoyed the descent, until we hit the off path bog part again, where he did an excellent job being my frog and lizard spotter before taking a nap. I really didn’t believe Stacey when she said I ‘floated’ over rough terrain, but our son must have thought so too, or at least found the rhythmic stumbling soothing or something.
On reaching the ruins we looked round to find a camp spot – it quickly became clear that inside the ruins was quite waterlogged, but more sheltered from the wind, but there was a great flat and dry bit just out the front of the ruin- so long as we didn’t mind chancing the wind. We decided to leave this decision to our son, as either way was a bit of a risk. He chose the great view and dry but more exposed spot – and what a good choice it was. We were treated to really moody skies and some flashes of sunlight in between the rain showers as we set up our tent and cooked our dinner.
It quickly clouded over more, and began to rain with some persistence, so we retreated into the tent early and were very glad for the ‘Hey Duggee’ magazine we had brought along for our son for entertainment.
After a pretty good night sleep, apart from the occasional footstep sounding noise, and our son telling me he could see spooky eyes looking in under the tent side (so glad I didn’t know it is rumoured to be haunted until afterwards), we awoke to a thick drizzle laden fog (or maybe just a very low cloud base?) so we had a slow breakfast in the tent before packing up and heading off on our route back. The track was initially excellent, a proper Landover track which was pretty easy underfoot. This continued, with our son walking too until we hit the new track again, with its much rougher surface. From there it was a straightforward, if laborious pull back to the car and on to civilisation again.
Overall this trip was a great experience and one of our more memorable wild camping trips. It did really need us to embrace flexibility, as we changed from plan A, to B, to C via plan X, and our son in particular found the new track at the start and end of the walk tiresome. We also came back much more tired than we had expected having not expected to be carrying him much at all when we planned the trip but sometimes it is the trips where you all get challenged, and embrace those challenges that are the most memorable in hindsight, even if it needed some redefinition at the time!