Torchlights beaming through the fabric from two directions and people seeming desperate to get into my tent. I was petrified. "POLICE, DON'T PANIC!!" It was a bit bloody late for that.
I was unbespectacled (that's my word and I am sticking to it) at the time, so furiously struggling and stammering I fought blind in my tent looking for my glasses. In any normal situation my heart would not be leaping out of my chest, and I would simply roll to one side, pick up my specs and slip them on my face. I managed to restore my vision, and now had to open three zips, with adrenaline corrupting my every movement, it took a while. Throughout my battle with YKK (not KY, I promise) the
invaders keepers of the peace continued to reassure me not to panic, and began explaining their mission. I calmed slightly, and the zips began to cooperate. Onesuch = open. "Forgive me, but I am a bit startled" I offered. Twosuch = Open. "Where's the door?" Says PC No.1. "It's here" I replied, helpfully. Threesuch = open.
I was then confronted by PC No. 1 & PC No. 2. Both of whom began to tell me their mission - it was a quiet day in Highland policing - simultaneously. "We're looking for a missing person. A woman, aged 53, from Inverie. She's doing a challenge." They stopped their mission statement, allowing a reply "What? The TGO Challenge?" My turn for questions. "Yes" they became excited. "Where did she start? "What's her name?" I continued the interrogation. "Strathcarron, we don't know her name" PC No.1 responds to my techniques. "We've got problems with the radio, we haven't got all of the information. She was supposed to arrive at the Struy Inn before nightfall, but hasn't made it". He's spilling the beans now, I've got him where I want him.
"OK, she started at Strathcarron, is a lady, aged 53 from Inverie. I started there too. There's only one lady starting solo that fits the bill, and I think I know who it is you are looking for. I can't be 100% sure about it but I definitely haven't seen her." I put the evidence together, and have a hunch. "She's come the same way as me, more or less". My guess is that she started late, or became waylaid. She's done the challenge before, so running late is not really a cause for concern. "I'm sure she is OK - other challengers will have been with her at times today and she must have camped up the glen. We all have camping kit." I had this case nailed.
PC's No.1 & No.2 begin to agree and by now are sure that a drive up the Glen will find her safe and well, having a brew or snoozing. I guessed too, that Challenge Control would not have alerted the authorities just yet. "I hope whoever called you guys isn't too worried, she'll be right as rain". The rozzers beat a retreat to their car, waving their searchlights about before hopping into their get-away vehicle and driving up the glen.
They passed by again, down the glen a couple of hours later, still casting their lights about. I know this because I slept very lightly thereafter, I am still not sure why.
When I had finally, properly woken at 4am, I lazily began packing my gear after emptying my bowels in Mr Ostentatious's lovely glen. I was on the road to Cannich, via Struy by 6am. The bad weather that had been forecast (torrential rain, gusts to 115mph etc) had convinced me to alter my plans to camp up on Eskdale Moor in favour of a camping spot at Cannich. It was "Stormy Sunday" or whatever the rest of the TGOC community chose to call it.
For me, a lazy, dryish still walk along the road to Cannich was interrupted only once. At Struy, not far from the Inn, I watched as a couple got into their 4x4 in the distance. They came up the road towards me. Two yellow kayaks were packed neatly on the roof bars. As it drew nearer, the vehicle slowed. I readied myself with a smile. I am nice like that. Before the vehicle came to a halt, the passenger window was dropped, and out popped a head "Carl?". HUH? What? I'm in the middle of a tiny little village, nay hamlet in the Highlands, to whence I ne'er have been before. I strange vehicle pulls up and the passenger knows my name. "Was it you that the police woke up at midnight last night?" The missing walker, who shall remain nameless in my posts, was no longer missing. "Yes" I smiled wider. "I am so sorry, they were looking for me" said the runaway. "No problem, I am glad you are safe. Were you on the drag?" "Yes" was the reply.
"Thought so. As long as you are OK". The challenger passed on some info of the route she had ahead of her before closing the window. The 4x4 pulled away.
|The road from Struy to Cannich|
|A font/well (DRY) by the road from Struy to Cannich|
|The sign, welcoming me to Cannich, on the road from Struy to Cannich.|
I reached Cannich campsite to a very warm welcome from the owner, who's name I cannot remember, at around 10am. My walking was done for the day, and I was a little footsore from the road. I was urged to bring my pack inside the warm café and I plugged my phone in for a bit of a power boost. I ordered a pot of tea, and then another, followed by a large, big, huge breakfast. It was then that the rain began. 10:20h.
It continued to rain, and challengers continued to arrive in reasonable number. Dave Wishart, Dave Pickles, Shap McDonnell, Bryan Waddington, Koos (from Holland), Colin (?), Byron, I know there were more than this, but my memory and notes fail me here. I loitered and chatted to many folk, notably Bryan W - who I was not due to meet until possibly Tarfside for a beer - and was delighted to see him. He was too, and we shared a manly hug as though we'd been pals for years. In reality, we had never met before. Bryan is a top chap and you should all get over to www.secretmountain.co.uk for his hikes and related natter, and I think www.bryanwaddington.co.uk for his really nice images. He takes a good picture does our Bryan.
So, the day passed with much socialising and I took a stroll to the Slaters Arms for a beer on me tod. Dave Wishart joined me just as Man City won the league in a tense, last minute finish - I think (not really a footie follower, me). Challengers - Peter & Ursula - came into the pub (it was still tipping it down, by the way) and asked if we wanted to join them at their table when they ate. I was going to eat something soon, so I obliged, and Dave opted for the wander back to the campsite, via the other pub/hotel whose name escapes me.
A smashing couple are Peter and Ursula and I shared the tale of two coppers with them as we ate. Koos joined us too, having met P & U some challenges previously. Koos had a fine alternative to my road walk into Drumnadrochit, so I stored it in my beer soaked memory bank, hoping that I could retrieve the detail in the morning.
I looked outside, and at around 20:15h after more or less ten hours of constant heavy rain, the skies began to brighten. My coat and I had dried completely in the few hours I had spent at the pub. I left my company to their conversations and reminiscences and slipped outside for the stroll home to my tent.
On the return, the huge puddles were being disturbed by a strengthening wind. I'd ensconced myself in my tent by 9pm and hoped my pitch in the trees didn't spell out the end for me.
|Cosy in here.|
|Looks like a nice spot.|
|One or two challengers arrived.|
Being in bed by 9pm I knew I would be setting off early in the morning. I popped in my earplugs and wallowed smugly at my altered route. The storm-force winds continued to strengthen above the campsite, but the camping ground itself, remained well sheltered. I drifted off to sleep - on cloud 9.