With some very last minute rota changes in my weekend-work I ended up with Saturday off. This was the next day. Mike had been wanting a little overnighter and the weather was strangely dry, so we agreed at this sudden chance and he picked me up after work on Friday about 21:00.
We planned to bivvy on the summit of Doan and do a big walk the next day hitting various summits and ridges. The route had many variations so we could take in as much or as little as we felt like.
Leaving the car-park about 22:30, we headed up the Ott Track by red and green head-torches, chatting and admiring the amazing stars. After a while we saw a body of water and some lights. It should have been Lough Shannon, perhaps with somebody camped at the end of it; but we hadn’t hit the wall yet. ‘Hang on’… glancing up at the Big Dipper confirmed it: ‘that’s a car and that’s Spelga Dam’. In an absentminded effort to stay high we had contoured 180 degrees around the shoulder of the mountain.
We tracked back the right way, soon picking up the large peat hags and boggy land that led to the wall. There was more bog-hopping to get onto Doan’s alien white shoulder before the clear path and quick scramble to the top. There are a few grassy terraces just off the main rock summit and we deliberated over where to sleep. Despite some wet muddy puddle around it, a nice sheltering rock that would double as a back support got the vote: after all, a neo-air floats…
With the micro-tarp pitched as extra wind break and hot chocolate warming on the pocket rocket, we sat in our sleeping bags drinking a bottle of stout and eating Jammy Joey’s snowballs. The ‘city stars’ twinkled warm in far plains and valleys, while shooting stars escaped their steady brethren farther yet, above our heads.
A busy week and the rushed organisation soon overtook us and we drifted into slumber. I woke only a few times, briefly admiring the stars, and later a hazy sliver of moon rising over Binnian, before drifting back to sleep. It was maybe 4 degrees down at sea level, but at nearly 600m I awoke to a frosty covering on bivvies and boots at dawn. Mike slept on a while but I fired up the stove for delicious gammon and scrambled eggs. It was glorious. After that, a big pot of tea would have been great, but it turned out I had only brought my ‘sleep-easy’ tea-bags… not the best first thing in the morning! Hot chocolate made a fair substitute as I smoked my pipe and enjoyed the warmth of the sun on my face. Mike was also enjoying this most scenic of lie-ins, so we ended up lazying until after 11:00! We were tired, and rarely do you get such wonderful conditions in the hills, so why not just recuperate in the fresh air? Great trails and training can be any other time.
Two walkers hung around on the summit for a while but never came to say hello. Eventually, we got up, packed up, and descended towards Ben Crom reservoir before climbing up Lamagan to a lunch break and following the ridge over Cove and Beg to pick up the Brandy Pad. We’d invested much of the day in rest, so followed the trails around the mountains until we picked up the Ott Track back to the car for 17:30. Home in time for dinner, it was a great escape into nature for a peaceful battery charge: you don’t always need an objective or destination.