Fiona Duncan, Ella Grant, Drummond Beattie, Ray Harron, Evelyn Droege Heavy Whalley, Bob MacDonald, Brian Jones, Fiona Cuninghame, Joe Glennie, Sheila Patel, Adrian Marsay, Carol Jack, Cate Bulmer, Brad Doswell, Bea Chater, Ben Watson, Al Dennis, Miriam Duncan, Jake Lee
The above revellers and miscreants travelled to the Blackwater Outdoor Centre for the annual and wonderfully conceived Hogmanay meet. I only half apologise if any names have been left out, as folk don’t write in the Book of Climbs and some of this happened last year for goodness sake!
For such a great gathering there is also scant record of what went on, and this befuddled author is the very last person to recall events. And despite the bad weather and heavy emphasis on a sociable time, there were deeds performed that were not written down. Here however follows the scribblings from those good souls who dashed off a few lines.
Evelyne and Uncle Ray, ever the early birds in for a worm, arrived in time on the 30th to go up what looks like Creag mam Gablar. A fine but blustery ascent in the company of many mountain hares, some grouse and a couple of monarchs of the glen. Most folk however, made the trek from North and South to gather for what was essentially the purpose of the weekend – Jake’s birthday. That dispensed with, the might of the MMC launched into full culinary mode. More of which. Later.
Sheila and Joe present Jake with his birthday cake
31st December. Uncle Ray took Heavy out for a short, but brisk walk up the mighty Mount Blair – all 744m of it – and then, against his secret orders, brought Heavy back again. Next time Ray.
Fiona C, Bob, Sheila, Joe, Drummond, Ella, Cate, Bea, Ben, Brad and Carol, taking heed of a dreadful forecast that never really arrived, set off from the entrance to Pitcarmick Estate and went on an excellent loop up to Pitcarmick Loch. Lunch was taken in a very conveniently placed air-raid shelter and the walk was made fascinating by a quantity of cairns and stone circles, remnants of far earlier times. The club often ends up in some spectacularly remote places, where the hand of man is light (if often tragic) and it is always fascinating to walk in more southerly locations where there are more obvious and numerous reminders of our past.
Evelyne, Fiona D and Jake also opted to eschew the heights and went from the hut to Blacklunas to pick up the Cateran Trail. Following the Blackwater river, it was a beautiful walk, with lovely views and jam-packed with history. Although low in altitude, it was a high decibel route and so as Evelyne and Fiona turned back, Jake headed up into the clag to ascend Mealna Letter and return via Folder. His late return in what was becoming more inclement weather, greatly worried Fiona, but once telephone contact was made and the whereabouts of the gin established he was quickly forgotten.
1st of January 2017. Heavy went to Glen Isla again – Monamenach 807m. He was early away and on the icy drive to Glen Isla. Strong winds and frequent snow showers saw a quick return to the car, leaving Heavy asking himself why no-one wanted to go with him again! We did Heavy, but most folk were in their Pjs rather than crampons at that time on New Year’s Day.
Fiona C, Bob, Ella, Drummond, Sheila, Fiona D and Jake made a blustery start to the hillwalking year by ascending Mount Blair. The quality of the light between showers was translucently beautiful and the views from the top could have been wonderful. But they weren’t. And 5 minutes cowering inside the small ring cairn at the top was all they managed. The return, though brief was fully into the fierce wind that had blown them up. Jake having taken the obvious precaution of removing his goggles out of his bag for the first time in 6 years, mentioned several times how his recent eye surgery made the descent incredibly painful, but to the credit of everyone else who was well equipped, they ignored him. We passed another party making the same route, but as they haven’t written in the book and the author was by now blind, their ascent will remain un-chronicled.
Evelyne once again left from the hut and went via Blacklunas to Drumore Loch for a beautiful walk in bright sunshine. Something was seen in a field, but Evelyne’s Germanic script keeps what it was as a mystery.
Brad had great plan of a mountain bike route. However, after spending 10 minutes getting about 30m into the wind, that idea was left for another day and he discovered some mtb trails nearby. Here, he was able to whoop and holler to his heart’s content, flying over jumps and acting like some baggy-trousered hoodlum.
Ben and Joe had commendable ambitions. Made more commendable in view of the poor weather and more ambitious once they set off close to midday. A lift to the ski centre of Glenshee and then a looong walk back to the bunkhouse taking in Glas Maol and the ridge of Creag Leacach before lowering onto the tracks and eventually road home. A fine concept and achieved with elan due to Joe’s mountaineering skills (only lost twice according to Ben) and Ben’s youthful vigour (only moaned three times according to Joe).
Fiona clears the room
Al, Cate, Bea, Sarah and Jake first footing on the A93
But of course the Hogmanay meet is a little bit different from other meets in that for many, there is not even the pretence of bagging multiple peaks and enduring long days in the hills. This is a more gregarious, although often as not, more exhausting affair! The success of it, and it’s always been very successful is the absolute refusal by anyone to do anything other than what is best for the group. It would be unfair to single out any of the chefs, although some performances were stellar and everyone did their part. Also, I expect that we had different favourite dishes. Suffice to say Babette’s feast would be a margarine sarnie in comparison to the THREE days of feasting we had. As well as the efforts people had made to contribute to the jamboree, it should also be noted what lengths folk had gone to to even attend. Doctor Cate had to shorten her stay, but revelled all the same; Brian was ill, though soldiered on best he could; Joe and Sheila travelled 3500 miles whilst cuddling babies and herding together extended families, only to pitch up when required; Big Al and Miraim came all that way just for one evening and Bea, Brad and Ben travelled up from PLYMOUTH in a oner in a van that had already broken down. Some wonderful entertainment was provided by fiddlers Fiona D and Dr Jack, but an even more spectacular sensory delight was given to us by the crystal clear skies that happily coincided with ‘the bells’. Few things finer than a clear night under a billion stars with your pals. Happy New Year to all you wonderful people!
Words: Jake Lee
Photos: Carol, Ray and Heavy