Attempt No. 2 The approach
Tuesday 1 June 2004 Ring of Stones bivvi, Gars Bheinn
For this attempt we are going to try stationing ourselves on the top of the ridge ready to start moving as soon as it is light. We are going to bivvi as close to the top of Gars Bheinn as we can, where the ridge is very narrow but we will surely find somewhere. This involves taking all the bivvi gear up onto the ridge along with what we will need for the traverse and then leaving the overnight stuff for a couple of days until we can come back up to get it.
A long beautiful evening walk takes us up to Coir’ a Ghrundda where we are able to relax and relish seeing the last people on the hill melting away back to their homes while we remain, totally alone in the rocky wilderness. As we are scrambling across the Ghrunnda boiler plates, there is a bit of rain, and we find shelter beneath a great black slimy overhanging rock from which we are relieved to emerge when the shower passes. our evening meal is prepared on the beach of Loch Coir’ a Grunnda, taking water from the springs that feed the small lake, while we watch people up on the ridge. It is an interesting reversal of the normal state, where as evening approaches, if you still high up on the ridge you start to worry and hurry, afraid that you may be benighted. Here we are now, waiting for the night so that we can establish our bivvi.
After our meal, we continue up the steep spooky shaped boulders of peroditite, to the Belach Coir a Ghrunnda , and then turn South to make our way to Gars Bheinn, and make a very big mistake. We decide to avoid the summit of Sgurr nan Eag by using a path that goes round the back of the summit, to the north side of the ridge. The rationale for this is that we will be saving all our hill climbing energy for tomorrow, but is a path we had not reccied, and to be honest looking back now, I do no know who could use that path. The path peters out in a dark wasteland of giant boulders and stonefall, with yawning abysses to cross. We come to an impassable chasm that forces us to exit onto the ridge, via an unscheduled, difficult and risky scramble up black chossy chimneys. We have to make several unsuccessful attempts to get back onto the ridge and have visions of being stuck on the north side of Sgurr nan Eag all night. It is dusk when we get to Gars Bheinn (far too late – we should be in bed by now)
We find a most welcoming, round bivvi site next to the path, perched on a narrow ledge, with drop offs into the valley on either side, (a mere ring of stones to separate us from the surrounding hillside, but it’s home to us.) The circle is about 6 feet in diameter, and the walls are about a foot high, at one end there is a stone that can be used as a stove rest, and other stones that we use to shelter the stove from the wind. We cook noodles under a full moon, watching the beautiful last of the sunset. We get in our bags, and spend a sleepless night. What seems to keep me awake is the rank smell of the noodle powder that I spilt all over my sleeping bag. It is a foul odour redolent of monosodium glutamate and I dislike having to smell it all night while I am sleeping so out in the open. Jim is kept wake by me rattling and rustling in my plasticky bivvi bag.
At this time of the year and so high up on the ridge, it barely goes dark at all, and with the moon too, very soon there was a new strip of light in the sky on the other side, which was the sun starting to come up. All night I kept opening my eyes to marvel at the ring of spiky mountains all around lying so quiet beneath the stars, and to imagine and comprehend our total isolation.