Tuesday 20 May 2014

It's largely a question of timing and planning.

I had been listening very, very carefully to the arrangements that were made for a long-mooted trip to Assynt with the Airdrie Faculty Occasional Hardcore Hillwalkers Society. I'd even mentioned it to a couple of other folk in vague terms promising that I'd get back to them once the date had been firmed up.

This was, predictably, well after the date had been firmed up - I'd just forgotten - and subsequently also after the date when there was any bookable accommodation left in the Inchnadamph Hostel.

By lucky happenstance, I'd also forgotten the date that we were committed to going out in Glasgow for Avril's birthday tea. If you put all that idiocy-induced amnesia together...because all the arrangements were for the same weekend...it meant that after a pleasant meal (although there may have been a subsequent footnote to that) in The Italian Kitchen, I retired for the evening at 12:15. After a pleasant and refreshing sleep, the alarm went aff at 4:00am so that I could get packed, organised and pick Andy up about half five. Thereafter, the good news is that it's barely a four and a half hour drive to Inchnadamph, so I arrived in high spirits, invigorated and eager for an eight hour day on the hills. I should commend Andy for his presence of mind in sorting out insurance for him to share the driving, because left to my own weary devices I'd have totalled us in the spectacular Assynt countryside well before breakfast time.

Still - unscathed - we met Colin and Jim who, by virtue of not being hopelessly disorganised,  had been able to stick to the original plan and drive up to the hostel the previous evening. They proceeded to show us briefly round the accommodation, and regale us with the unfortunate tale of their somewhat less than warm welcome in the neighbouring (but entirely separate) Inchnadamph Hotel the night before. The two of them walked into the place before ten, to be peremptorily advised by the barman(?)/owner(?)/random local misanthrope(?) that the "bar was shut". To give you the full picture, this character was sitting at the bar himself, enjoying a pint with his pals.

I'm not going to labour the point about the Hotel - I'm not inclined to give them the publicity that this widely-read and hugely influential blog provides(!) - but me & Andy did decide to give it the benefit of the doubt later on Saturday night, and it is an unwelcoming, badly staffed shitehole of a place. They might not serve food at useful times, but they seem to be happy to decorate their tables with long forgotten chips.

Now, after listening to all this negative whining, you might be thinking the trip was no fun. You'd be wrong in that assumption though, because we got a right break with the weather (for half the walk anyway); some truly fantastic, memorable views; a refreshingly warm welcome and proper hospitality in The Culag Hotel in Lochinver that night; and a right good sightseeing trip round astonishing scenery on the Sunday morning.

I'm going to end part one at this point on that positive note. Because the other thing that I personally got on the hill was a frankly worrisome bout of - how can I put this - ah, yes, the skitters (on the ridge between Conival and Ben More Assynt). Which added a certain frisson to proceedings. I'll go into more detail and post some photies in the near future.

About all the good bits.


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