With the onset of Autumn I felt it was time to reminisce about the many other things that have occurred during my wanderings amongst mountains. Memories are like falling leaves – write them down before they curl up and are forgotten!
My first mountain adventure was and ascent of Skiddaw when I was six years old. Adolf Hitler had been the German national leader for one year, of which I knew absolutely nothing. My only memory of that day was running down to the ‘White Hut’ for a bottle of lemonade – cost 6d 2 1/2p. This refreshment hut was halfway up Jenkin Hill.
Leaping forward to the early 1950s saw the formation of the Keswick Mountaineering Club and the acquisition of Dubs Hut on Fleetwith Pike. The first job was the removal of a mass of sheep droppings that covered the floor! Windows, doors and bunks were installed, all of which had to be carried up from Honister on ‘pack frames. I wandered far and wide while the club existed and owned the hut.
Transport to our ‘Mecca’ of Seathwaite Farm, Borrowdale was either by push bike or the local bus service (once I was ordered off Youngs bus for sticking my ice axe point through the roof lining). Many’s the time we had to run along the mile road from the farm to Seatoller to catch the last bus home.
My first trip to Skye, with three friends, was in 1951. Our transport was a Morgan three-wheeler and a 350cc motorbike. The Morgan had one passenger seat and the motorbike NO pillion (sorted by fastening a 6-inch sponge to the rear mudguard!). The journey to Glen Brittle took three days with various ‘ups and downs’, the Morgan broke down at Fort William and the bike blew a tyre at Fort Augustus. On the island the Morgan engine gave up near Sligachan Hotel and was abandoned; on returning a few days later we found the roof canopy and passenger seat cover gone, apparently eaten by the ‘Highland Beasties’ (they occasionally ate tents too!). To start the engine the plugs were placed in the Aga oven at Sligachan Hotel until hot, then dropped into the cylinders to start the engine – it worked!
In the early 1950s food rationing was still in force and to get supplies at Glen Brittle Hostel we had to present our Ration Books. What we purchased was dumped into a single large pot, along with some oatmeal and water and, when cooked, resembled a crude porridge – we christened it Glen Brittle Broth and along with tinned rhubarb for pudding, also did wonders for ‘internal combustion’…
I had camped in Glencoe the previous year near Coupal Bridge and in the evening went to the Kings House Hotel for a drink, which was only served when I had proved my name was not Campbell – yes it’s true!
- Des Oliver
Further ‘falling leaves’ tales in future issues of The Update.