Monday, 1 April 2013

White Easter - Assynt Holiday

The snowdrops are still going strong, the crocuses have pretty much frozen to death, and the daffodils wait, patiently, to bloom. Will spring happen all at once this year?

White Easter, 2013:

This year's white Easter takes me back to my student days and another white Easter. 1993. Harry, a Brazilian, Joe, a German, and I headed up north for a week's bothying in Joe's Trabant, even then a cult classic with papier mache bodywork, but a small, cramped, and drastically underpowered car for hilly Highland roads.

Trabbie in Glen Forsa:

"Snow on the beach!" gasped Harry as we penetrated the far north and saw the northwest coast. He couldn't get his head round it. Beaches were for beach football or posing in swimwear. Not making snowmen. "Snow on the beach!" he laughed. We passed a signpost. "Summer Isles!" he chortled gleefully. Finally we reached Lochinver, where I was relieved to get out and stretch my legs. Joe shouldered a sack of coal and took his sleeping bag under one arm and we walked in the gathering dusk to the bothy, with snowy, bullet-shaped Suilven drawing the eye like a magnet. Inside, we got a fire going in the cosy wood-panelled room.


Next day was beautiful, the snow down to sea-level, gleaming in morning sunshine against the black river. Hulllooooo! We approached Suilven, its long profile becoming apparent, and scrambled up the steep, snowy slopes. Is is better to see Suilven from another hill, strange, fascinating Suilven? Or is it better to be on Suilven? There and then we took the latter, revelling in the view of lochan-studded snowy knobland below us leading to the sea and Stac Pollaidh.

Sunbathing on Suilven, Easter 1993:

At the bothy we cooked and bantered and as we left, I wrote 'Today is worth a week of rain!' in the bothy book. And that is exactly what we got. After a first, glorious day, the rest of the holiday was a washout, a sodden, waking nightmare, traipsing from bothy to river-fording bothy, cabin fever mounting, growing increasingly crotchety in each other's company, Joe's sleeping bag falling into a river during one crossing.

Finally, I pulled out the ace I'd been keeping in my pocket. Intelligence from a friend about a bothy that could be driven to. We arrived full of anticipation - and it was locked. Joe cracked. He rummaged through the Trabbie's toolkit and attacked the lock with a screwdriver, managing to unscrew the lock's facing plate. It was clear once we got inside that the bothy had not been used in months. It had bunk beds but they were badly mildewed. We attempted to get a fire going but the damp walls sucked all the heat out of it. Sleep was difficult and unpleasant - next morning we discovered we had all dreamed of a warm roaring fire and good company. It was time to go home.

Breaking in after four nights of rain:

Aye, nothing like a week's bothying in winter to engender appreciation of home comforts!

1 comment:

blueskyscotland said...

A group of us used to go on a far north bothy tour every new year.
Often we'd have to break the ice in the rivers just to get down to the water at the bothies.I nearly lost a finger one particularly severe year to frostbite and being stupid.
What doesn't kill you just makes you miserable. Its character building stuff though. Great fun that builds memories you wouldn't trade afterwards.