It would seem that today was destined to be an epic day. Always going to be one of our harder days the Isle Mull lent a hand in making it even more gruesome. Overnight there had been the traditional downpour to make life wetter than before but we did manage to pack the bags in the dry before the rain came down again. This morning both groups were walking along the same track up and over the pass by Ben More, but we set off up the valley a few minutes ahead of the other group. We followed the valley with the river Glen-Clachaig on our left. After a couple of km we came across the Allt Beithe flowing down the hillside with a passion. The river split into three but each was very fast flowing and so we made our way uphill a little bit to look for somewhere to cross. Being expert river crossers we found a likely spot and made an inspirational, if not exactly text book, crossing. Further along however it became obvious that the next bit was unpassable. While scouting out the area the other group caught up with us so we could at least share our dilemma. After an extensive search and much scratching of chins later we could only conclude that we weren't going to get across safely. To rub salt into our woes a cow strolled up to the water, took one look at us and said 'moo' in a particularly amused voice and strolled across; the benefits of being 2 tonnes and having stick thin legs became apparent. The only choice we had was to go back down the valley, past where we had camped, to a bridge over the main river and try heading up on the other side of the valley and so we turned round with tails firmly between legs.
And so we arrive at what was for me the lowest point of the trip. Having walked for 4 km in two and a half hours we had got to a bridge that was half a km further back from where we had started, I already felt quite tired and as we sat there having a couple of sweets to revive flagging spirits I could only think of the famous quote from Robert Burns: 'The best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men Gang aft agley', indeed they do. Fortunately we weren't going to stay down for long and soon we were plodding up the hill laughing and joking at just how bad things were turning out for us. Going up the other side of the valley gave us a nice view of the river we were unable to cross.
To cut a long plod short we managed to hurdle all the rivers on this side of the valley and eventually came to the top of the pass and at least we felt we were back on track, if a few hours behind. It was nice that the two groups had the same route as we could all sit around and be jovial safe in the knowledge that at least the other group were having as bad a day as us. Coming down off the mountain should have been an easy case of following the path but as this soon disappeared we took a more flexible approach to the whole affair and aimed at a building we could see at the bottom. We were a bit concerned that being so late that people might be getting a bit worried about us when we spotted Jon's car at the bottom. The slight problem we had was to try and convey the message that we were alright without raising concerns, so standing and waving didn't seem like a good plan. A stroke of genius later and we were lined up on the edge of a crag in full view, performing a most enthusiastic mexican wave. So pleased with our efforts were we that we couldn't resist a repeat performance half way down just in case the first attempt wasn't seen. When we got to the bottom we were pleased that we hadn't waved in vain and mexican waving soon became a tradition for the rest of the trip.
We chatted to Jon and Helen while examining the rest of our route. It turns out that we were in fact at our first check point which should have been 11.30am but was actually 3.30pm, so we were clearly well behind with most of the day ahead; things weren't going splendidly but at least we were now making tracks in the right direction. We hadn't walked far when we came across our first deer fence. Since you average deer can jump 6 feet in the air these things are 8 feet high, making them quite a challenge to scale but we were soon to get into a routine as we were to have plenty of practice. The Team Egg method of deer fence crossing involves everyone shedding rucksacks, me scrambling over first. While the lasses were making their way over Timmey would throw the rucksacks over to me and then leap across himself. We traversed through the forest a short while before sitting down to contemplate a 300 hundred metre climb straight up the side of a very steep ridge. While there we did see some fine specimens of hairy horned cows for which we couldn't help but get the camera's out for.
After a short break we started to plod up the hill. The going was hard and it got steeper as we approached the top. We had chosen to follow the left side of the river because it looked easier but the going was still heavy. At the top of the first steep section were a few crags which we had to negotiate but a bit of scrambling saw us on the top and I have to say that Angela did a fine job of trail blazing her way to the top, she must have been at the orange jelly babies again. All of which was summed up by 'you don't get that in your summer ML'. A bit more plodding and we got to our check point.
With time marching on a bit faster than we were we had a look at our route and decided that rather than contour round and climb Beinn nan gobhar we would continue on to Loch Fuaran and straight down to the costal path from there, thus saving a bit of height climb and some distance. With this decision behind us we walked down to the Loch and found a bit of beach for our second lunch of the day. We had also decided that we wouldn't look at our watches so that we could pretend it was about 2pm, when we should have been here. I have to say that I needed this break to gather a bit of energy together and we had a great munch in fabulous surroundings. Spirits were soon high again as the food was eaten and all too soon we were off again.
Having decided to take a short cut we were a bit worried that someone might be on top of Beinn nan Gobhar waiting for us and it was with a sinking feeling that I listened to Timmey tell me that he thought he could see someone on top. We all turned and squinted at the hill, about 1 km away, and indeed there did appear to be someone there but it wasn't moving much. We followed tradition and gave it a mexican wave and received no reply. Hmmmm. We knew that Aidi was on this side of the hills waiting for us and it did seem like a good spot to wait, especially with the view all around, but the nagging doubt was that if it was Aidi then he was remarkably still for a normally hyperactive chap. After a bit of a natter and a 'No way am I going up there!' from Cerys we decided to leave the lasses with the bags while Timmey and myself jogged up to the top to make sure we weren't going to leave some poor chap up there waiting all night for us to pass by. Once the weight was off the shoulders we positively scampered across to the hill and charged up there with a burst of enthusiasm which only comes from people who know they are chasing a lost cause and just want to get it out the way. Approaching the top we saw a small pile of stones to mark the peak, which was odd because on our map it should have been a trig point. Strange. As we got to the top our error became obvious. Just down from the top was a cylindrical trig point, about 5 feet high with a stone balanced on top so that in silhouette it would look just like a bloke standing there. Later Jon would claim to have set it all up himself however we reserve judgment. Thankfully we could laugh at the wasted time and energy and sat down to enjoy the view while we were there, which more than made up for the extra effort. Jogging down to the lasses we thought how appropriate it was that we should be ending our day mexican waving to a trig point, I only hope it appreciated the effort.
The walk down to the costal track was thankfully uneventful and we were soon plodding along the road towards our campsite. Worried that we hadn't seen Aidi we stopped off at the phone box to leave messages on various mobile phones before plodding on. Despite aches and pains all round from a 14 hours day we finished in good spirits and found a fantastic campsite at the base of a wide valley on top of a rocky outcrop, by the Abhainn Chaiginn Mhoir. The only downside was there were a few midges hanging around waiting for a bite to eat and in the failing light the midge hats weren't much good as you couldn't see a thing through them! We soon ate our main course and looked forward to the rather posh crepes and chocolate sauce for dessert. The idea was sound, make some chocolate custard really thick and use it as a sauce, in practice we fell at the first hurdle. Using two packets of custard powder would have made it quite thick, had we not just added it to about 2 litres of water instead of half a litre. Chocolate drink anyone? By the time we finished our test for the evening it was about 1am and we weren't looking forward to the traditional 6.30am start the next day.