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Ardtornish Day 12

Day 12 dawned with a chilled, grey sky delivering thick drops of rain swept in by a spiteful on-shore wind. With the tide high, I decided to seek the cover of the wildlife hide, down where the River Aline meets the beautiful Loch of the same name. I watched for two hours in the hope of seeing the patrolling dog otter that we’d spotted on a number of occasions from afar. However, he wasn’t playing ball, neither were the Sea Eagles - or even herons would do - so I gave it up as a bad job and went back to the bunk-house for breakfast. I wasn’t too upset as I could see the snow on Mull had deepened overnight and I was looking forward to heading up into the mountains to check out if the previous evening’s weather forecast was right.

At 10.00am we loaded the car and set off in search of snowy stuff. We found it scraped thin on the high slopes of mountain passes and I managed to get a few shots between driving sleet and howling wind. We spotted a Sea Eagle perched on a distant fence post and pulled-over to check it out through the binoculars. It soon took flight and disappeared over the crest of a hill into a distant valley. And I wondered if we might try and locate it by stealthily driving up a track I could see that wound in zig-zags up the hillside.

Now people who know me well might grudgingly agree that, on a rare occasion, I can be a little impetuous. Well this proved to be one such occasion. For as we proceeded, so the track got steeper and rougher. I engaged low-ratio, set the 'loose rock' drive setting, raised the suspension and carried on. I noticed Allen had gone rather quiet, yet yours truly was set on getting up above the snow line where the slush would be falling as snow.

Led on by this thought, I failed to notice just how much the car was slipping and sliding on the basically made-up track - that was perhaps intended for vehicles (or drivers) better-suited to such rugged, rocky terrain. We reached a particularly steep section and just below the crest, where through the windscreen we could see only sky, the car decided to grind to a halt and dig in. At a precariously steep angle, half-way up a mountain, with no room to manoeuvre and the risk of sliding off the crumbling track and tumbling down and down to the river below, for some reason Allen decided to get out with Charlie.

To cut a long, cold, dirty and hair-raising story short, it proved well worth packing a shovel for such an event. For I had to get my hands dirty and dig the car out before reversing back down the track with adrenaline coursing through me and making my clutch leg shake like a jelly. I found a place where I could achieve an eight-point turn and, with my finger pressing the descent button and my tail between my legs, we skidded and crunched our way back down to the road.

With that done, we opened a flask of soup and warmed-up before deciding on curtailing our snowy excursion and heading back for the warmth, and safety, of the bothy.