Sorry for the absence, I’ve been away for the last few weeks getting eaten alive by midges.
I’ve been in back in Edinburgh for nearly a week after time at the Bothy, Arisaig, Skye, and Torridon. It’s been just enough time to take multiple showers, postpone my laundry until I physically couldn’t stand to have it in my room, read not one! but two! trashy teen medieval fantasy novels, get the photos from the trip developed, take part in the Processions to celebrate 100 Years of women having the vote in the UK, and teach young children about worms.
A lot has happened so I’ll try to summarize it the best I can without boring you.
As per my last blog post, I stated I would be returning to the club Bothy in Kintail to do some final fixings before I officially retired from my post as EUMC Bothy Secretary. With great pride, I can say the EUMC Bothy is now fitted with a fully working gas kitchen. We cooked a group meal on Saturday night and I spent another weekend in one of my favorite places in Scotland.
Then it was quickly back to Edinburgh to repack for the following two weeks of Roadtrip. Gregor arrived back to the flat with his dad’s orange jeep and the four of us (being Gregor, myself, Tuva, and Erling) drove to Arisaig for the kick off of the annual EUMC Roadtrip and the 75th Anniversary Dinner. This year was special in that the event was attended by not only current Yummicks but past club members as well. I spoke with a few members from the 1970s and 1980s. We arrived on the Friday night and had a BBQ on the beach. On the Saturday, we went cragging to a nearby sport crag. That evening we had a hog roast, a ceilidh, bottles of committee wine, and I got to meet not one! but two! very fluffy cats.
That Sunday, Gregor drove back to see his parents and I along with Alven and Tuva packed out kit into Ellie B’s car. Erling, Oonagh, and Ben packed with Ellie Leigh. The eight of us went to the beach near Arisaig were we discovered how quickly the Scottish tide can come in and that apparently, gin bottles explode in hot cars (?). Then it was off to Mallaig to catch the ferry to Skye were the weather was the nicest. No one really starts the Roadtrip with any concrete plans, we just check the weather and go.
I had never been to Skye before this week. I had been close, multiple times. The Bothy is just south of Kyle of Lochalsh, which if you wanted to drive to Skye over taking a car ferry is where you would find a very steep bridge linking the island to the mainland. And the weather was incredible. On average Skye gets about three sunny days a year, the rest of the time it’s known to be clouded in mist and rain. The week we were there, it did not rain a single day. Clear skies, hot weather to the point I was still sweating in just a sleeping bag liner… and midges.
The Scottish midge is a beast known only to itself. While I pride myself for never getting ticks or mosquito bits… holy living Hell I was eaten alive. I looked like a pox victim. Actually, probably worse. And since we wild camped most nights, the midges had no mercy.
But anyway, here’s what we got up to on Skye. Ellie B and I had a nice walk from Elgol to Kilmarie. It was along the coast and we stopped for ice cream and met a nice dog. We ordered way too many plates of sweet potato fries from the pub in Sligachan and probably ate all their mayo as well, sorry. All of us had the bright idea of wild camping at the Fairy Pools so that we could wake up early and see them without all the tourists, which was great and we all went for a swim until the tourists showed up… with their mechanical, whizzing drones. I really hope when they rewatch the footage they see my kind, respectful one finger salute while I’m trying to bathe for the first time in a week.
In a stroke of ingenuity, we sat cooking dinner in a layby with cars speeding past. We were all well beside ourselves having realized the speed of the cars kept the midges at bay (it’s hadn’t occurred to us how low our standards had gotten that were were excited about cooking on a layby)… that was until I woke up the next morning to see the yellow roof of my tent covered in black patches. In a speedy departure I thought I was home free until I fell into a bog up to my waist. Pinned down by the weight of my base bag, my friends abandoned me to the midges while I pulled myself (and about a metric ton of bog crap) out and stumbled to the car.
That afternoon, everyone was just a little tired and split up to do different things. Some went climbing, a few ran errands to get missing kit, and I went for a run. Despite falling in a bog that morning the day evened out and I ran a solid 18km down Sligachan Glen at the base of the Cullins. The sun was out, the trail was amazing, and I honestly haven’t felt that happy running in a long, long, long time. I could have kept going… in fact I sort of did. I only planed on maybe 7/8km max… but it was just one of those days were nothing hurt and the surrounding were beautiful.
Then it was off to Neist Point for climbing by the coast. I’m normally not scared of heights, but, ouch, did I think I was going to fall into the ocean. But, I mean it didn’t help that the path to the crag neared about three inches to the cliff with horrid, cackling birds below. But, the climbing at Neist was great. The sun did not set until nearly 11 pm so we stayed out late AND! we had our first midge free night!
The next day, Ellie B and I met up with Sophie, Caitlin, and Urte who were all on their own roadtrip around Scotland. However, before we went to Dunvegan Castle because tbh is it a trip if you don’t see a castle? That evening we pitched our tents on a dubious beach spot and got a bit of a fright when we thought the tide would wash us out again. But, it didn’t and we had a BBQ and celebrated the week as the sunset on Skye with a bottle of cinnamon schnappes.
We were all brutally awoken by Ali shouting, ‘CAN EVERYONE GET UP SO WE CAN LEAVE THIS HELL HOLE!’ at 7 am. My eyes snapped open it was wasn’t even patches of black this time, no my tent was entirely blackened with midges. Not wanting to even think about moving I shouted back, ‘Have you tried asking them (the midges) nicely to leave?’ No one thought that was funny and with panicked screeching we packed up and got the heck outta Dodge. However, this was not before Erling became the next victim and if it wasn’t for his socially acceptable male leg hair, he would have looked like not just a pox victim but Patient 0.
Ellie B drove in silence back to the pub carpark and I didn’t blame her in the slightest. I even forgave her a bit for almost murdering me in my sleep. *Apparently* I snore and the only way to stop it was to hold my nose until I woke up.
That afternoon, Ellie B drove Tuva, Erling, and Alven back to Edinburgh and Ali returned to Aberdeen. I swapped into Ellie Leigh’s car with Oonagh and Ben and we all drove to Torridon. We spend the rest of the time in Torridon before Ellie Leigh dropped me in Inverness and I caught the train back Wednesday night, just in time to go to the pub and see friends again before they all left for the summer.
But back to Torridon, it was finally windy and the midges met their rightful demise. The highlight of my time in Torridon was scrambling across the Liathach Ridge. With just the four of us in Torridon and with limited rack and ropes Ellie and Oonagh split off to do an eight pitch route while Ben and I completed the ridge. (I’ve linked the route description above if you want to check it out because I’m a little too lazy to retype it here.) But basically, at a few points, while clinging to the side of a rock I cried to Ben (he offered no sympathy, mind you!), why I, a meager Kansas farm child, had ever thought leaving the flat of the valley floor below was a good idea. Jokes aside, it was actually fine and I’m glad for this view.
The next day all four of us drove to Diabaig for some climbing but after a while we bailed and went for a swim instead. Then it was off to Inverness to drop me at the train station for my train back to Edinburgh. I left early so that I could make it to the RBGE Volunteer BBQ on the Thursday.
And that’s the trip. I’m back now and I spent today at the gardens helping the education team with school groups aged 5-6. I need to start some research, pay a few bills, and answer a few emails before heading off on excavation in July. I keep telling myself to do things and I probably should get started.