From the Cairn Ban Archives... 

The Mullardoch Ring Bearers

Ian Collinson, 6 December 2003

The Fellowship consisted of:-

  • Alan Forsyth - as a slimline Frodo Baggins

  • Kenny Lowe - as (Sm)Elrond

  • Ian Collinson - as a (sp)Ent (force)

  • Brian Wallace - as Gimli/Porn Star

  • Steve o' Brien - as Borromir

‘The Summer is here and the time is right for dancing in the streets...’ ...well they certainly were in Fort William where hundreds thronged the main street on Friday evening watching participants of the World Mountain Biking championships cycle down a ski jump type slope and perform acrobatic stunts before plunging into the less than Mediterranean brine of Loch Linnhe... an entertaining spectacle whilst waiting for pie suppers at one of the Fort's Greasy Spoons.

An 11.30pm arrival at Glen Affric Backpackers saw plenty of time to meander up to the Affric Hotel for a libation or twa' prior to closing time at, well, sometime after 1am... someone must surely put this hotel out of its misery soon, or at least buy a can or two of paint!!

The morning brought bad news... ’I'm not going’ croaked Borromir O'Brien... apparently an attack of the revenge of the plague of the Killer Pie Suppers had seen him endure a night of barffdom. However, the Quest of the Ring (Piece) Bearers has too strong an allure and after a dozen Weetabix he was ready once more to do battle for the Fellowship.

A mystical voice in the ether urged him on... perhaps Gandalf the Grey (Bob G.), willed him on from afar.

Not for the bagging purists amongst us perhaps but the good ship SS Von Bismark motored through the mists up Loch Mullardoch to Benula Lodge West where the Fellowship gladly touched foot on soil once more. Discouragingly, El Capitan Von Miss-the Mark was noted by the passengers to have sailed in a circle through the mists shortly having departed ‘hey, haven’t we passed that island already?’ - it seems only the climbers on board had compasses and had any idea of where we were going! Frodo's GPS showed the circular route off to good effect. This brought about an impromptu version of Barry Manilow's ‘Bermuda Triangle’ - entitled ’Mullardoch Triangle’. El Capitan did not join in with the merryness. He was thereafter considered to have been a Mist-Wraith intent on stopping The Quest.

Benula Lodge West was once hailed in FHM as one of the world's 10 most romantic places - well, anyone taking their other half to this joint would certainly not wish to leave the Lodge given the feasting frenzy of the local insect population!!

The Quest now began in earnest and quickly a slight breeze was on hand to defeat the Mullardoch Midge-Orcs.

But the fellowship was broken after only 30 minutes walk when Borromir bought it. A return of the attack of the revenge of the plague of the Killer Pie Suppers finally won the day and with pride held high he trudged back along Mullardoch-side to the Boathouse where sleep overcame him. He eventually awoke to find his fizog and arms a redder shade of crimson given the heat of the day.

Meanwhile back on An Socach, Womack & Womack’s ‘Footsteps on the Dancefloor’ was getting big licks but then the joviality and general Lording-of-the-rings-stuff came to an abrupt end as the terrain became steeper and the fellowship concentrated on breathing rather than fantasy.

Frodo, who is slimline and 2 stones lighter these days following a strict diet of steamed vegetables and fruit smoothies, entered into a bout of ‘The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music’ and became, momentarily, Von Trapp. Kenny SmElrond meanwhile borrowed Andrex to become Von Crap, Borromir O'Brien had been... Von Taway.

An Socach is a fine peak where terrific views of Affric, Monar, Strathcarron hills were to be seen.

A brisk stroll along the fine level(ish) ridge of An Riabhachan was ground breaking in that as the mist and haze of the day cleared my first ever glimpse of Lurgh Mor and Bidean Coire Cheescake was had and a sight of further adventures to come.

Even with the remoteness of the Mullardoch peaks there were many other parties met and spied along the ridges.

Looking up from the col towards Sgur na Lapaich is a bit like looking up Ben More From Crianlarich - uniformly steep and the day’s 3rd Munro began to takes its toll.

The final and 4th peak of the day - Carn nan Gobher rewarded us with views of the Bog Trott back to Mullardoch Dam and on return it was fair to say that on a hot day, everyone was completely knackered!

The Fellowship was re-united. The ring bearers had been successful. A stop at Fort Augustus’ Highland Tandoori proved to be a brilliant way to end a superb wee trip... great food, cold beer, bizarre service (‘Are you enjoying your meal boys?’ ‘Yes!’ ‘Good, there will be no complaint from you lot later then!’). A real sea shanty of a restaurant with a nautical theme and a boat for a bar... traditional in India I am sure!

The Ring Bearers warmed their Rings on a hearty dish of Baltis & Bahjis before setting off into the sunset.

Further Cairn Ban summer adventures will unfold... watch this space and clean up your boots!

With apologies to Tolkien.

Cheers

Ian