The Angry Corrie 2: Jul-Aug 1991
Fear and loathing on the Tarmachan Ridge
A matter of some substance
by Dr G.W. McSharkie
It started where we'd parked the car at the beginning of the track that wends west to the quarry in the corrie. Certainly the acid was coming on nicely and engendering a vagueness that rendered the management of vocabulary into a slippery and cumbersome business not eminently suited to the establishment of new social relationships. I don't know if I spotted him first; certainly I was the first to sense his ghostly and parasitic intent. That bastard is going to move in on us, I said, and indeed he did, making spurious enquiries as to whether we were going up the hill. (Aye, he was English.) Now, I've nothing against folk looking healthy, but this Munroist radiated and exuded such a glowingly smug miasma of stultifying and enervating physical wellbeing that the hackles on my neck prickled as I realised with growing horror that we had become locked in a deadly pirouette of survival with a hill vampire. I knew unquestioningly that within the framework of ordinary manners and humanity a drama of self-preservation was about to take place, and it was likely our very souls were on the line. I glanced at my companions. Although obviously both were seriously addled with psychedelics, I sensed some glimmer of insight in their marginally rational eyes.
I haven't mentioned the dog yet. The dog was big. The dog had an amiable teddy bear face. The dog was utterly silent. The dog was bound in an elaborate homemade rope harness. The dog seemed venerable. The dog was with the man. The dog's eyes troubled me, they looked as if great intelligence had recently shone in them. In a later conference, we agreed the dog had been called Kim or M or Emma. However, I digress. Let us return to the man, who was illuminating us regarding his hillwalking, sorry Munrobagging, history. In unison my two companions and I began timewasting in a determined way, and as our replies grew ever terser he moved off, already scanning the visible part of the hill in an expert manner, identifying suitable ambush sites en route. After he left there was a flurry of pathetic mindbuggering nonsense, e.g. Bolivian fruit bat glands, dried, powdered and sniffed, plus the resin of the Tinnabim to be heated and the ensuing healing vapours inhaled. We were effectively hoist by our own psychedelic petard. Either we twiddled our thumbs for six hours or we developed a new plan (ha ha!) or we followed this fiend upwards into the weather.
I haven't mentioned the weather yet, have I? Think of a giant mass of very thick cloud. Think of the Tarmachan ridge. Now in your mind's eye imagine everything above 2000 feet on the Tarmachan ridge sharing the same bit of space as the giant mass of very thick cloud. Have you done this? Well, if you'd been there all that palaver would have been quite redundant. Obviously we didn't manage a new plan. No, instead we set off in the wake of one man and his dog, driven by chemicals, folly and perhaps fate.
Leaving the track to the quarry in the corrie we headed NW up a spur onto the hill, and soon after this discovered a total lack of free fluid in our happy little band. This situation was no doubt exacerbated by the Crianlarich station tearoom brunch, the heat and the drugs. Hysteria was mounting as accusations of incompetence flew thick and fast, whilst the millions of gallons of water in plain view around us seemed to underline a basic lack of readiness in the party to cope with the ordinary rigours of a hill, never mind doing battle with the leech creature who lurked ahead. We knew that it would be waiting for us and we knew only great cunning and resolve would see us through. We topped every rise in the spur like skulking curs. The strain was beginning to tell and the novice of the party retreated from the reality of our situation behind an inane grin and occasional giggles. Yet another element to be managed grimly and competently as we diced with dark forces.
Of course Vlad managed to ambush us, lurking as he did in a hidden dip in the immediate approach to the vigorous wee burn that was as welcome to us as finding the Man-thing was not. We hummed and hawed past him at speed, babbling of dehydration and infectious diseases, and were briefly freed of the growing terror in the group as we slaked our drooth.
Inasmuch as we could cogitate at all, the plan arrived at lacked many valuable qualities. These included reality, hope, wisdom and maturity. The plan was as follows. Using our unnaturally prevalent propensities for activity, we would go very quickly up into the void and do the ridge. We would run away from Leacho. And so it came to pass that we stood on Meall nan Tarmachan, the first top of the ridge, with no real notion of where we were in philosophical terms and even less concern about this ignorance. However, concern remained intact that the soulsucker and familiar in the guise of one man and his dog pursued us. So we dithered onwards despite a communal awareness that our route led chillingly back towards Leacho. We stopped not much further on, prior to any loss of height, to consult map and compass. (Map: coloured paper thing covered in squiggles. Compass: attractive dangly plastic neck thing.) This is where they caught us again and it became apparent that their agenda had enlarged. Not only did this Hell creature from Kent seek to drain us of essence with his hideously disguised incantations (Of course I was in this area ten years ago and I blah... blah...), but he also wanted us to unlose him and his Dog-Dog in the bondage gear.
It was an important discovery that such an awesome predator could be as pitifully inept at finding its way around as ourselves. Perhaps we had a chance. Indeed, after chatting to us for about five minutes on navigational matters, it became apparent that our lack of coherence was reducing his hope that we were to be of any use to him whatsoever. To drain the three of us would have been a headier hit than anticipated for this tedious ghoul, and neither was there any consensus about the best direction to proceed. We determined to head SW for the ridge, whilst this symbiotic ghastliness opted for a return to its motor car by the route ascended. So we parted. It didn't matter there was nothing to see, and it didn't matter it was going to stay that way.
With some combination of luck and coincidence our compass and map work seemed effective, and we continued on with a confidence that seemed undeserved. After about half an hour we stopped to inhale some altitude balsam and instruct the novice about the good bit in the ridge. Can you imagine our horror as a yodelling in the rnist grew louder and louder, until eventually there it was, the banshee bastard! This eventuality was even less desirable than, say, a blonde harpie swooping and clattering out of the clouds in a helicopter and poking a camera up your jacksy. He was lost.
And so, in the end, we trailed the spook and its dug over the hill. We dropped out of the cloud into the corrie with the quarry, and after pointing out the track to Vlad, let him edge ahead, whereupon we sat down and each ate a Bounty. At least one man and his dog had a use: we now knew exactly how long it would take to reach the easy track from the quarry in the corrie.
There are three important lessons to be learned from this encounter: