Petestack Blog

4 June 2017

Hail, thunder and unfazed deer

Filed under: Running — admin @ 12:24 pm

I was looking for a long trail run yesterday and nearly went for a double Lairig Mòr thinking I could probably squeeze that out to 30 miles by running right into town rather than stopping at the Leisure Centre. But then I thought of something more interesting…

What we have here is a 25-miler on mostly rougher trail with a Graham Top and Graham to make me work (and slow me down!) in the middle. I needed both Creagan a’ Chaise and Creag Ghuanach (bar Cnap Cruinn and Beinn Chlianaig, my last listed summits of Graham height or above in the northern ‘enclosure’ of the A82 and West Highland Line), so just went and got them! And, while it was surprisingly bright and sunny (after waiting an hour or so for torrential rain to clear before setting out) in the middle of the day, I did eventually run into the predicted afternoon downpours and thunder. In the worst possible place, which is to say on my hills! So I was just on my way up Creagan a’ Chaise when the hills to the east started to get dark, grey and distantly rumbly, but (while wondering what had become of Ian Loombe on his Ramsay’s Round attempt) things still seemed OK on my relatively lowly peak the other side of Loch Treig. But then the hail (giant hailstones, which strangely pinged the arms of my specs while being too solid to soak me!) and a few visible flashes with louder/closer rumbles, and I was considering whether to retreat while there was still plenty of ‘attractive’ higher ground above me. But then things quietened down and more or less passed for a bit, so I felt justified in making a dash for the summit, though I didn’t hang about on the little rocky ridge/outcrop (giant spark plug?) that forms the highest point.

Then it stayed quiet for some time with brightness restored, so I crossed the Allt na Lairige to start up Creag Ghuanach only for the whole process (hail, thunder, the works…) to start again. And once again I considered it OK to go so far and see with plenty above me while the hail came down and the thunder briefly rumbled, and it was just at the loudest crack of the day that I saw a group of deer running on the ridge line above! So thought, ‘do they have absolutely no electrical storm sense?’ At least I knew the risks and was trying (while preferring neither to skip my peaks nor to die for them!) to manage them, but what do deer know or think? I really don’t know…

And that was it… the thunder had gone and the conditions properly cleared/brightened as I emerged onto the highest ground, so was able to enjoy a carefree topping out and good, dry run (no more thunder even when it eventually rained again along Loch Eilde Mòr) most of the way home.

Nearly forty years ago (I think I was about 14) I did my first Munro (Ben Lomond) with a group from the Scottish Schoolboys’ Club led by adults hindsight tells me should never have taken us up there that day. So, quite apart from taking three hours up and one hour down in deep snow with not an axe, pair of crampons or possibly hint of avalanche awareness in the party, the thing I remember vividly was watching the lightning forking over the Loch from our viewpoint(s) high above! Exciting but, well, you get my drift? So how many times have I been on hills of any description in a thunderstorm since? I’m not 100% sure, but think yesterday (on my wee hills surrounded by bigger ones) could be the first. Would I take a group up in those conditions? Absolutely not! For me, on my own… managed risk or headstrong desire? I’d like to think the former, but wouldn’t care to find myself caught out anywhere significantly more exposed or committing!

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