Petestack Blog

16 January 2011

First rule of river crossings

Filed under: Running — admin @ 5:03 pm

The first rule of river crossings (as any mountaineer should know) is don’t! Which is why, when running a wild, wet and windy Lairig Eilde from Glen Coe to Dalness and back yesterday, I took the pathless east side of the Allt Lairig Eilde on finding the lower ford (see map, 1) under deep running water and only regained the path (constantly visible across the torrent) where it crosses back (map, 2) more than a mile higher. Then took that upper crossing (acceptable at a calf-deep splash) on my way back with a view to staying west all the way down, which everyone (including my forgetful self!) who knows how difficult it is to get to the road from that side will recognise as a mistake. So there I was, standing just above the road looking at the camera-toting motorists on the bridge with my starting point just round the corner, but facing the probability of a three-mile detour to the top crossing and back to get there. At which point I resignedly set off back up the river hoping to find a viable crossing without retracing my steps the whole way and, after backing off from a tentative foray or two, managed to find a place about halfway up (map, 3) that would go. But still broke the first rule of river crossings (don’t) as well as my own second (never, never, never enter fast running water above knee-depth on your own) and one or two more, and know I was lucky not to bite off more than I could chew. Didn’t get knocked off my feet, but could have been. Didn’t get swept away, but could have been. Didn’t get pinned against or under that tempting tree (another no-no if you know the rules), but could have been.

So, just to reiterate the first rule of river crossings, don’t! It’s the only one you really need to know if you stick to it. And don’t think knowing that (or any of the other rules) gives you any real leeway for creative interpretation when nature has no respect for ‘experience’ in misjudgement. The crossing might seem more tempting than that detour, but better detouring than dead. Although I’d still recommend the Lairig Eilde to everyone when the rivers and burns aren’t raging because it’s quite possibly the finest short trail run in the area when you can stay with the path. :-)

PS Ran up to Penstock this afternoon (all I could face on another grotty day) and the track’s been literally torn apart by water on the Z-bends above the wee dam… worst damage I’ve ever seen to it, with a trough a couple of feet deep running down the upper bends and a strategically placed digger looking like it’s up there to do some work!

1 Comment

  1. I’m always very respectful of river crossing scenarios, especially when on my own. I had some seriously sobering crossings in very remote Perthshire on 1st October. The memory still brings me out a cold sweat! I suspect that most of the raging torrents that day are usually virtually non-existent trickles.

    Good that we both survived to tell our tales; hopefully a bit wiser for next time………….


    Comment by Murdo — 16 January 2011 @ 7:38 pm

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