It was my first time venturing along to the Loch Ossian weekend that I had heard so much about and so I was given the label of Loch Ossian virgin alongside other adventurous newbies: Owen, Leyra and Roddy. Some of us drove up from Glasgow to catch the train at Bridge of Ochry while others had already jumped on at Glasgow and so it was a big meet and greet on the train while the rest of the passengers looked on and tried to ignore the hyper brunch that just got on. Already a few drinks had been had at Bridge of Orchy and after the panic of disembarking from the train with all ours bags we merrily made our way along the twilight track to Loch Ossian with Dave blaring out the occasional tune to heralded in the start of the weekend. After settling into the hut and with the help of a few more drinks and cake, discussions where had and plans were made about what to do the next day and then without much ado most of us went off to bed, as Loch Ossian is not all fun and games you know and there were plans of epic walks and runs to be tackled the next day despite the crummy weather forecast.
Waking up in the morning and seeing the surroundings of the hut for the first time, denied to us by the dark, was like opening up a present and finding out that you had got exactly what you had asked for. The loch was surrounded by rusty brown moorland and steep sided hills and Munros. The moorland was displaying its fine autumn colors and had never looked better. What a beautiful place! Groups formed from discussions the night before and it seemed like the Westies fanned out, to cover the entire hillside like an invading army. We all had the same objective that day, which was to get some hills and perhaps a Munro or two into the legs. I set out with John Hamer and Karine and we ran along the loch side and deep into the valley to tackle the western or eastern slopes – weather dependent. As cloud was low we opted for the east and at the summit of Ben Alder we enjoyed the view of cloud upon more cloud, until we descended under the expert navigation of John, only to see the cloud lift and a ray of sunshine poke through from the heavens. The clouds parted like the red sea and we could now see the hill tops… hmm if only that had happen when we were at the top – typical! While we were making our way down and along the burn Niall and his fast paced gang (Roddy, Steffen & Owen) had already conquered pretty much all of the Munros to the west and had made it back to the hut. Inspired by their great run and the sunshine, they stripping off to enjoy the waters of the Loch (we should do a LO calendar…?!) and were the only brave souls that weekend that went for a swim. Still making our way back, Karine heard strange Spanish whistles and we turned to see John Hutch and his gang (Leyre, Paula, Doug, Claire) descending from the hillside. After a wee chat, discussing our adventurous day thus far, we set off again and almost six hours, over 18 miles and probably 900m later we made it back to the hut – not particularly fast but we talk too much and eat cake ;-). Soon enough everyone was safely back off the hills and Colin had joined us after arriving later that day. Not wanting to wash in the freezing loch now that the sun was setting, I opted for the only other option which was a quick wash in the sink and then it was time to start the Saturday shenanigans of food, booze, dress up, quiz, booze, food, booze and dance. As we prepared for the party I soon realized why Christine had so many bags, as she did a Cinderella on the place and decorated the hut with lights, place mats and banners which had the place looking amazing and ready for a party. The dress up theme this year was your inner self and everyone made a great effort. In particular John Hutch as Dora the Explorer, Fiona as a hippy, Paula as Pippi long stockings, Christine as a fallen angel, Pat as a skeleton and Colin as a bottle of whiskey which was imagined there and then and constructed in less than 5 mins – good effort! I was dressed up as a banana! The quiz I think was fixed which could be another Loch Ossian tradition. The party continued for me until 130 but for others ended at 230. The next day I was feeling tired and hungover. However, wanting the full Ossian experience, I had opted to run the time trail around the loch the night before, but now, the morning after I was feeling a bit sorry for myself as I peeked outside the window to see the hurricane style weather that was brewing. I started after everyone else and faced into the driving rain and the howling wind which was with me on the way out but against me on the way back. I raced clockwise around the loch thinking that this was the better option. After feeling sick, faint, tired and experiencing not just a second wind but a third and a forth I made it around the loch. I didn’t make it around in under an hour but I did give it my best on the day. I stood in the loch to help the legs cool off which actually felt warmer in the water that my upper body did in the wind. Back in the hut I warmed up with cake, pizza and cups of tea. Sadly the time came to pack up and still a merry bunch, even in the gale force winds against us, we made our way back to the platform. I won’t go into any details about what happened on the platform, as I don’t want to spoil it for the LO virgin/s to come. But let’s just say it was great fun, bonkers and it kept us very warm. Looking like wild men and women we embarked onto the train and again had a panic about the bags and said farewell to a memorable weekend.
A big thanks to Fiona for organizing and to my fellow Westies for making it such a great weekend.
PS: Niall suggested a new LO tradition. Prize for the first to complete the time trail on Sunday. Interesting……………..