Will and I Joined Bill on the 1st leg ; Glen Nevis to Loch Treig Dam.
20 miles and 10,500 feet
Hindsight tells me this round is very tough when done in the later months of the year, when there is less daylight. Bill admits it was a speculative attempt based on the fact that he could have completed all 3 rounds (B.G. P.B and RR) in a 12 month period. Remembering how tough the lack of light was on his BG – done at the same time of last year – this was always going to be a big ask.
Will and I steeled ourselves for supporting Bill on his first leg out of Glen Nevis, on a cold September night. At midnight we set off with Bill on the toughest leg of the round from Glen Nevis to Ferseit Dam. Will and I felt a bit loaded down for the long journey ahead, and by Red Burn Will agreed that we should have set off earlier and let Bill catch up at Red Burn to make it easier for us. No matter we were off and it felt good to be on the highest of Scotlands hills in the night and looking down on the surrounding lights. We traversed the Ben and Carn Mor Dearg without incident. However travelling on this rough ground at night a bit loaded down was more wearing than I had imagined. Bill was navigating as he was the most experienced on these hills (Will and I had never been on them at night). We took a line to far to the left off CMD and ended up lined up on a very steep grassy way up Aonoch Mor. This felt like torture – Bill has since apologised – Will and I felt beasted by this torturous ascent. By the top and the start of the out and back to the summit we were tired, we let Bill go and do the out and back and took a break on the wind swept plateau. Will and I hugged the ground to keep warmer out of the chilly wind.
All too soon Bill was back and we headed off over Aonoch Beag then a good line onto Sgurr chonich Mor. I felt we were moving fast, but as I recorded the times I noted that by now we were 20 minutes down on schedule (this schedule was based on daylight at this point). I think the combination of having a weight on your back and not being able to spring from rock to rock because of the weight in conjunction with the lack of light, made it feal like we were moving much faster than we were. Most of the route from the Ben to Stob coirie claurie we were trying to catch Bill.
As we took the summit of Stob coirie claurie and headed for Stob coirie an laugh Will began to fall back on the long undulating ridge so I made an effort to catch Bill and at the same time I was explaining out plan to miss out Stob Ban he suggested it. It would, in theory, give Will and I breather. Well that was the theory antyway. I waved Bill off. Little did I realise at the time that I would not see Bill for another 2 h 20 mins and Will wouldn’t see him again until meeting back at the climbers hut (the teams base).
In the still dark morning 5:40 I think, we made an error and ended up way to the left of Stob Ban on a really rough decent line to Stob Coire Essain. We realised that catching Bill anytime soon was going to be tough in our knackered state; the night had took its toll on Will and I wasn’t too great either. We made our way down and across to start a chase for Bill. Will soon told me to carry on and go on my own. I made my way for the col between Stob coire Easain and Stob a Choire Mheadhoin. When I got on the side of Easain I realised that I had to scramble up and over, going around was not possible, far too steep. As I crawled up and over the top I looked down to the col (my original target) and there was Bill just starting up Stob a Choire Mheadhoin. Renewed with energy I chased him as if in a fell race and caught him the top, I have never felt more wiped out. I gasped a few sorries and gave him some water and food. We were off for the dam now, and Bills first proper break.
Embarrassed by my foolish error I made every effort to encourage Bill for the next section. He was 1 hour down but had done the toughest part. The weather looked iffy. By the time Bill left the dam with his fresh supporters the wind had got stronger and was blowing white horses down loch treig.
Behind Will had bonked and was in a bit of a bad way. I had shouted from a scrambling position on the side of Stob coire Easain not to follow me. Luckily he didn’t. But whilst descending Stob coire Easain he felt worn out and rested at the col before re grouping and eventually getting to the dam 1 hour after we had left. Rob waited for him.
After re-fueling and sleeping at the Climbers hut, at 5 pm we heard the disappointing news that on the 2 hills into the Mamores Bill had called it a day. The weather had worsened to a point were it was knocking Bill around. With another set of darkness ahead and a long way to go, it was the right decision.
It was a brave effort but this is a tough round, and to have less light makes it very tough. I think it would have been a big ask even in perfect weather. Given a good day around the middle of next year I am sure Bill will tick the last of his big 3 rounds off.
Thanks to Ian Charters for the use of his photos (Ians Blog http://justusandafewfriends.blogspot.com/), taken on leg 2, When the weather varied between lovely sunshine and heavy showers.