The Club Meet in September 2021 was slightly different from normal. It would take the form of a celebration: the sequel – “Norrie’s Last Munro II – This Time He Means It”. Norrie compleated his 1st Munro round on Sgùrr Mhic Chòinnich, Skye in June 1999 and had no intention of ever doing a second round but retirement and the formation of the 45 Degrees MC saw him gradually repeat more and more summits until he bowed to the inevitable and decided he had to go for it. The last Munro this time round would be Sgùrr Èilde Mòr, the magnificently located outlier to the east of the Mamores range.
Kinlochleven was the ideal base for this expedition and the West Highland Lodge bunkhouse, situated on the hillside above the village was taken over for the weekend. The Club had previously enjoyed a Burns Night meet in the Lodge’s sister accommodation, Blackwater Hostel further down in the village. The West Highland slept 32 people in 8 four-bed rooms. Mostly used by West Highland Way walkers as a stop over, the bunkhouse is very comfortable, but the kitchen and social areas are probably not intended to accommodate all the occupants at once! A rearrangement of the furniture though made it possible for everyone to congregate. Parking outside was also pretty limited, and great care was taken not to block the access to and incur the wrath of the Hostel proprietor who lived next door. Vehicles would not be required the next day so blocking people in was fine.
Jim Aire, Wallace Booth, John Calder, Bill Dallas, Deb Dallas, Raymond Evenden, James Fraser, George Henderson, Susan Henderson, Jim Linden, Duncan McLeod, Tina McLeod, Alan Orr, Mike Partington, Norrie Shand, Lorn Smith, Gerry Weir
Fran Nicol, Jackie Monaghan, Jackie Monaghan
Sandra Anderson, Grace Andrews, Donna Fraser, Mike Gray, Joyce Kettles, Mikey Lewis, Rowena Lewis, Tanya Anne Mackenzie, Tom Ross, Debbie Shand, Elizabeth Smith,
Ania Borg, Adrian Mowat
– Plus, numerous four legged companions (all sleeping in vehicles)
The weather on Friday was, as they say, “changeable”. On their way north, Norrie, Debbie and Slioch stopped off at Victoria Bridge and had a wander into the infamous Clashgour Hut, where several club members spent an enjoyable (mostly) evening back in December 2015. Nobody had to be fished out the ditch this time.
Raymond took the opportunity for a wee run from Kinlochleven up to the Blackwater Dam where he visited the navvies graveyard, a poignant spot, the last resting place of workers who died during the construction of the dam in the early 1900s. The massive dam, 27m in height was built by the navvies using hand tools, without the benefit of mechanical earth moving machinery.
George, Susan, Wallace and Jim Aire had loftier plans. Wallace had been nagging anyone who would listen that Curved Ridge on Buachaille Etive Mòr was high on his “to do” list and persuaded the others to give it a try on their way up. Unfortunately, conditions were not good with poor visibility and greasy rock. A sensible decision was taken to leave it for another day, and they settled for a retreat and a scoot up the conventional route to the Buachaille’s summit Stob Dearg to sate their appetites.
Tanya-Anne, not content with bagging Munros and Corbetts was also trying to have a swim in as many of Scotland’s lochs as she could (there are a lot!) and took off for an early evening dook in Loch Leven.
During the course of the evening, guests started to arrive. Most were Norrie’s friends and club members, some he was meeting for the first time – and one (Joyce) he hadn’t seen for over 40 years!
A few got cracking in the kitchen making their supper, but many took advantage of the Riverside Chippy conveniently situated a few hundred yards away in the village.
Before long the room was being filled with the familiar sound of corks popping, cans scooshing and rapid-fire repartee.
When the majority of the people were in situ there was a brief lull in proceedings as James was presented with a commemorative T-shirt recognising his own 2nd round compleation a few weeks earlier. Many baggers leave an easier Munro as their last one – but as ever, James does things his own way! Accompanied by his younger laddie, Blair (thanks, Dad !) he endured a round of the Fisherfield Five in some fairly grim weather before collapsing in the Torridon camp site for two days sleep.
The banter soon re-ignited and inevitably guitar and mandolin made an appearance as Gerry and Norrie churned out a few songs – a rehearsal for what would surely be a more raucous evening on Saturday. Nobody burnt too much late-night oil – there was a task to be completed the next day.
A start time for the walk of 9.30 am from the St Paul’s churchyard had been established. Adrian and Ania were travelling round from their new home in Caol, Fort William to meet the posse. Confusion is never too far away in these situations and the Hostel clock being 15 minutes fast was all it took! There was a slightly staggered start with George, Susan and Jim Aire hanging fire for Lorn who had driven up that morning.
Lorn had deposited Elizabeth back at the Hostel and she along with Debbie, Donna and Jackie were left “in charge” whilst everyone else tackled the hill.
The weather wasn’t horrendous, but it wasn’t great either. Whilst most of the group were very experienced, a few weren’t and for some this would be their first attempt at a Munro. It is a long trek in across the moor to the gorgeous Coire an Lochain which sits below the Munro.
Unfortunately, not everyone who started for the hill was able to make it up to the summit but great credit to those less experienced walkers who gave it good attempt before being forced to retreat back to the village.
In a well-planned pincer movement (actually a shambolic lack of communication) some of the group headed north of the Lochain and ascended the mountain by its scree covered west ridge.
The majority of the group took a more direct route below the Lochain and tackled the grass and boulder strewn south ridge.
Even the dogs didn’t seem too impressed with their outing.
Eventually they all arrived on the summit – all except Tom and Fran that is. It was Fran’s first Munro and Tom was acting as a human shunt to get her through the boulder field and finally up to the cairn.
In the meantime, Norrie gratefully if clumsily kissed the summit cairn and posed, together with the others for a few photos.
Of course, the Blue Brigade had their own separate celebration –
The conditions meant it wasn’t a time to be hanging around too long and a number headed off back down the west ridge to extend their day on the neighbouring hills.
The majority were content with their day’s work and proceeded to reverse their route back to the village. Unfortunately for Fran her shunter and mentor Tom had headed off with the A team. The ascent had taken a lot out of her, and she had a wee slip at the top of the boulders on the descent. Fortunately, it was not too serious, and Gerry was on hand to guide her slowly but carefully back down through the protruding rocks. Once down through the boulders, Jim Linden helped walk her back to civilisation.
Tanya-Anne managed to get another tick on the way down with a splash around in Coire an Lochain. Not surprisingly, nobody joined her.
Meanwhile, the westward heading battalion consisting of George, Susan, Raymond, John, James, Jim Aire, Tom, Mike and the pie-pachling Lorn took a north-westerly turn at the Lochain and headed for the other Mamores outlier, the splendidly remote Binnein Beag.
A splinter group formed following the descent from Binnein Beag . John and Lorn opted for a fine scramble up Sron a Garbh Choire to the summit of Binnein Mor, the highest summit in the Mamores.
Raymond had his wee Jack Russells with him, and the reminder of the group opted for a more dog-friendly ascent meeting up with John and Lorn on the summit.
Another parting of the ways saw John head out to the Top of Sgor Eilde Beag and an easier descent via the stalkers path while the others tramped south then southwest to another fine peak, Na Gruagaichean where they took a steeper route down into Coire na Ba and back via the Gray Mare’s Tail.
James and Tom also descend from Binnein Mor, following in John’s footsteps. Tom hadn’t been on the hills for quite some time and his mature limbs reminded him of that as the pair strolled out in the dying of the day.
One or two may have stopped by to give the Tailrace Inn in Kinlochleven a bit of support but by early evening everyone was back in the hut, showered, changed and ready to take on some more refreshment and sustenance.
Debbie and Norrie had pre-cooked a mash tun of chilli can carne, complete with tacos, rice, and a separate batch of their secret recipe Woofti Sauce. The Woman’s Land Army, after their wander into the village earlier in the day, made a great job of preparing the meal and serving it up to the calorie-starved hillwalkers. Several of the guests had brought with them some amazing desserts which were irresistible even after a humongous bowl of chilli.
Thankfully, there was no rambling speech, but Norrie expressed his gratitude to all those who had come along, and he was presented with several mementos, including one from the members in NW England who were unable to attend, for which he was eternally grateful.
It wasn’t long before the hills were alive with the sound of music – or at least Gerry and Norrie’s playing and singing. There were several rumbustious anthems belted out by the extended 45 Degrees choir – Mama certainly rocked ‘em like a southbound train! Later on, Raymond did a turn or two and then Tom also grabbed a guitar and entertained the throng.
Things eventually quietened down as gradually the revellers made their way to their bunks.
The Sunday morning hangovers weren’t too severe and after breakfast a major operation was unleashed to get the Tables, chairs etc all back in their original spots before departing the scene.
Raymond and Lorn eased their hangovers with a quick dook in Loch Leven, swimming round Eilean nam Ban, sometimes known as Seagull’s Island (or even Sea Eagle’s island by some members of the club!).
All in all, despite the less than perfect conditions a superb weekend was enjoyed, and bets are now being taken on who will be next to compleat a round.