Lost on the Hills – A Confession


hill walking

A frosty morning

I wasn’t going to tell you about this but, after giving the matter some thought, I decided that, in the interests of honesty and blogging honour I should come clean and confess.  I’m not someone who frequently makes many mistakes.  Especially when I’m on the hills, I am pretty well prepared and normally get where I’m going and arrive roughly when I thought I would.  Not so last Tuesday.   Often though, when I do make mistakes however, they are whoppers. On Tuesday my brain had a serious malfunction and I combined a serious number of mistakes to turn my day into complete foul up.

I had decided to spend the night in Bearness Bothy, just south of Loch Carron.  The day was cold and still as I pulled up beside the small group of houses huddled on the hillside just at the start of the track into the bothy.  The temperature gauge in my car read minus seven and, as I pulled on my plastic boots, the grass and trees sparkled in the low sun with hoar frost.  I could feel the cold seeping into my body even as I hauled my overweight sack onto my back.  I was carrying in a supply of coal as it seemed pretty clear that the night would be a cold one and a bothy can be pretty grim if there isn’t enough wood about for a decent fire.

Trudging away up the track I tied to recall when I’d last carried such a heavy pack and decided it must have been a very, very long time ago, Perhaps on Mount Kenya.  The first problem I encountered was that the track near the houses didn’t go where the map said it did.  The reason for this was that the local residents clearly tired of hordes of walkers passing by their front door had kindly moved the track a few hundred yards south of where it used to be.

Soon I was lumbering up the path and sweating gently, despite the cold, under my heavy load thinking that maybe I should have left a little of the coal at home.  The route seemed obvious and I was walking under a clear blue sky when I began to follow the path up a steep section beside a waterfall.  Twenty minutes later I was lost.  On examining the map I released that I should have taken what appeared to be the lesser path at the foot of the waterfall and headed off down the glen.  Mistake number one.  I’d made the schoolboy error of not looking at the map and just heading off up the obvious route.  Having made one mistake I then made things ten times worse by pulling out my compass, confusing East and West and setting off in the wrong direction expecting to re-join the path which of course never happened as I was going the wrong way.  Soon the path I shouldn’t have been on faded away and I was left amongst a maze of Lochans unable to decide which one I was stood beside.

Then the next disaster occurred.  My trusty Pertex fleece that I’ve worn for years on the hills managed to fall off my pack and get lost in the heather.  By the time I realised this it was nowhere to be seen.  By this time I was in a rage with myself and then, when I looked at the map, everything fell into place and I understood the magnitude of my several mistakes.  I looked around for something to blame for my predicament but no, there was nothing and no one, leading to the inevitable conclusion that it was all my fault.  I was unable to believe that I’d got the navigation so wrong but the evidence was plain to see and I’d just have to accept the fact that I was an idiot.  Worse than that, the loss of my jacket, on what was bound to be a very cold night probably followed by an equally cold day, meant that I was no longer equipped to spend the night out and would have to head home my tail between my legs.  At least that’s where I think it was, I’m really not too sure I know where anything is right now.

Hopefully that’s my series of mistakes out of the way for a while.  Next time I go on the hill I’ll be sure to pay proper attention to the navigation and, hopefully, won’t end up wandering in circles again.  I do hope my little bag of coal enjoyed the walk as I returned it later in the day to my car.  I’ll take that bag of coal for a walk again although next time I have the feeling it won’t end so well for it.


6 responses to “Lost on the Hills – A Confession

  1. I was thinking it was a bit like my day on Ben Vorlich last December (my ‘Ample Snow on Our Vorlich’ post) where, due to my not doing winter-walking often enough, I was dithering and fumbling and making mistakes and having mishaps all day. But your day was far, far worse! 😦

    If you’re ever turning back around there again and don’t fancy heading straight back home (not sure how far that was for you), the Strathcarron Hotel just down the road is really great – welcoming, not expensive and no daft add-ons for single travellers 🙂

    Better luck with your next trip – we’ve all made series of daft mistakes though…

  2. John I’m not sure how old you are but I’ve had more than 50 years wandering the hills and my most recent bit of navigational confusion was earlier this year when I headed out from the top of Lochnagar for Meall Coire na Saobhaidhe and ended up going out to Meall an Tionail. I’d been out and back to Saobhaidhe from Lochnagar quite a few times before so it was familiar ground. Good weather, GPS glanced at and off I went. It’s amazing how long you can go rationalising what you see to convince yourself you’re going where you intended. I’ve posted on UKC a list of some of my confusions but there are a load more. Almost invariably it’s due to being too casual – quick glance at the map and away you go. When it matters, such as the map blowing away out my pocket when going up Macdui on a cloudy winter’s day then you just have to concentrate and get it right.

    Don’t think it’s necessarily a matter of competence it’s just that like the rest of us you’re sometimes a bit casual when it seems straightforward.

  3. I’m sure you are right Jim. Sounds like I really haven’t changed since primary school when I frequently got comments in my reports like, “Must pay attention in class.” I guess it was just how angry it made me feel for being so stupid. Although I’ve noticed before that the hills have a way of pointing out how fallible you are every now and again.

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