Sat 21st Feb - Sun 22nd Feb, 1998
Early intelligence reports of no snow and high rainfall did not entice many heroes to take the high road, but the weekend turned out much better than the Met office forecast, despite driving rain all the way up the M6. The hostel, our advance base, is situated directly behind the 'Tipsy Laird' which was ideally suited as campaign headquarters.
Spirits were downed and later rose with the prospect of a fine day ahead. The advance guard of Tony, Harold and the meet leader conspired to manoeuvre our depleted forces in the direction of the Monadhliath via a camouflaged track, masquerading as a drivable road on the map. So began a forced route march in excess of 25Km with Carn Dearg as our opening shot. The assault was carried across peat hags, dense heather entanglements and fetid bog with our intrepid troops storming the rocky ramparts which guard the summit of Carn Dearg.
Position and altitude was quickly confirmed on the leaders 'Protrek', and new plans formulated to propel the attack with renewed endeavour towards the next 'manoeuvre' Carn Sgulain. However, its defences are well guarded by the vast expanse of the Monadhliath. So a line of attack was formulated and executed via the tops of Carn Ban, Carn, Ballach, Meall na Creahaich, Meall a Bhothain and minor top to gain our objective (in times of hostilities, place names will of necessity have to be codes and scrambled (Ed - Too true))
The overnight snow, much like the Corinthian League, soon dispersed in the morning sun excepting the odd old snow patch cunningly concealed in some defile or hollow. As we progressed towards our target, a blinking red flash disguised as an enormous anorak out of control, but on closer inspection revealed as an emergency shelter screening a detachment of Kinloss M.R. personnel. We quietly slipped past unnoticed to locate the true top of Carn Sgulain and briefly rest to take on refreshments and fresh supplies.
For the final assault on A'Chailleach we were supported by the newly arrived Lancasters and with tactics imitating Alexander at Arbela contrived to take the peak in a twin flank attack across the narrow defile of the Allt Cuil ea Callich, to gain the cairn at 930m. The obvious way ahead was along the ridge, but prospects of walking headlong into a biting wind forces a retreat into the Allt na Beinne, a tactical mistake of the first magnitude (A number of cases of trench foot was noted by the M.O. that night.)
Harold's APC appeared at the end of a very wet and taxing descent along the stream bed, a descent enlightened by Tony's account of his first foray into these hills when he was swept away by the Chaorainn in spate. Fate was kinder on this occasion. We returned to the 'Laird' to lick our wounds excepting Tony who partied into the early hours, when all fit squadies are in their 'bashies'.
Sunday's dawn heralded another fine day so a decision was made to launch a sortie into the Drumochter Hills in the vicinity of Dalwinnie, and Meall Chaich in particular. Our way was barred by a dyke, the water feeding the distillery below. The track disappeared above the dam and progress was hampered by the more difficult round churned up by the countless feet that has passed over. The light dusting of new snow masked the unseen obstacles, the more height we gained. By now the steepness of the terrain was causing problems to the knees which had waged one battle too many, but with gritted teeth pte. Kelly collapsed into the sanger of the summit cairn, battered by swirling wind and spindrift. The decent was almost a non event except for a surprise ambush of four hinds grazing peacefully just below the snow line, and abundant alpine wildlife resplendent in winter camouflage.
Mentioned in dispatches :- Lcpl. A. Gask (rtd), Bdr. H. Jepson 2nd Bn 'Stockport pals', A.W.O.L. pte S.Kelly (court-martial pending)
The Lairds Bothy Bunk house accommodation over seen by Sean. The cost is £8.00 per night per person and Sean has 10 places booked. Cough up and be there. Strut your stuff in the whiteouts of the Cairngorms, or perhaps torque your way out of the gullies on Creag Meaghaidh. Give your £16.00 to Sean right now and sleep tight.
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