Village Inn, Arrochar
In the run up to this outing there had been much concern about the drought that was afflicting Swamp Skiing in Scotland - three weeks without rain, would it be worth the 11p (17cents in Eur/USD) in flour? All thoughts of this were assuaged after several pints of Houston's "peters well" during the traditional pre MASS Friday Night session (in this case at Babbity Bowsers).
The intrepid pack arrived in Arrochar well in time for the off (this is probably another MASS first) and properly used the surplus time to park cars in a site remote from the Off, Inn and On, partake of some scotch and gammaldansk tasting, yummie!
Some members (Ditched, Kipper (and 3 issue) ) took the train up. This was seen as a sensible but peculiar option. Ditched having asked only the previous Monday "Regarding Arrochar this weekend - which station do I take the train to?" Having safely arrived at Arrochar station our intrepid railwaynauts hitched a lift from a dodgy local (James the Engineer) who happened to be passing in his rural bedraggled Landy. They had tried to hitch a lift from Oink and Mimi (who had missed the train due to the previous nights excesses) but two seaters do not offer much scope for such options.
The pack soon pulled itself together once and daundered towards the Village Inn - where the trail had be advertised to start. The Village Inns role as the On On had been torpedoed. This in itself is not unusual for buildings in Arrochar though in this case the damage was attributed to a wedding that day.
The pack (without Mimi who headed north with newspaper in hand and scone and tea in mind) continued to daunder south along the lochside road searching the shoreline and the piers of the old torpedo testing station for signs of interference by the hare. Alas there efforts were in vain. For the trail commenced behind the Inn and soon had the pack clambering up a gully on the mountains to the south east of the village.
Much altitude was gained from the original sea level start, however, the dry conditions meant a smart time could be made by most of the pack - with disgrace being avoided as Kipper + Issue were left to trail behind!
Soon a viaduct for the West Highland Railway was reached and a check. This spilt the pack in all directions and general melee. Tight Beaver headed straight into the maelstrom of the river, James the Eng climbed up to survey the permanent way, Bodypump kept on the dry upper north side and Hughiee scampered through fences and wire to the south.
Soon Tight Beaver could be heard, just, above the sound of the roaring falls "On On, On On" and the pack - Tubthumper , Ditched and Oink having made use of the check to catch up - pursued Tight Beaver further up the Mountain.
After some further scrambling - no wonder the hare damaged his ankle during the recce (be that a warning to anyone who feels MASS trails should be recced) another check was reached and agin the pack spilt. Hughiee trying several trails to the south and most others heading further up hill. Through loops and turns and after some false starts the pack found trail to the North.
Some of the pack at this point stopped and rescued Kipper (and Issue). before proceeding along an old tote road.
Soon couple of checks were manoeuvred and then the pack found a check that confused them.
The pack were well spilt with Tight and Body Pump no where to be seen. The rest of the pack were ahead or further up the mountain. Oink and Hughiee sacrificed themselves by checking downhill. They soon found a culvert leading under the permanent way and much flour. "On On" was again called and the pack (minus the Missing Tight Beaver and Body Pump).
At last - our first real chance to swamp ski and the first good mud of the trail was navigated. An excellent 60 yard (Mtr/ Yard) slope of shiggy. brought the path to a clearing where the hare was to be found. Another good bit of bog bashing was followed by the pack finding themselves in a clearing and the end of the trail.
"An excellent trail but why does it end so soon?" the pack was heard to ask the hare. This drew out the confession from Muff Diver something regarding setting the trail in reverse and not connecting it up etc etc. (I am actually fairly sure that the reason was quite reasonable (eh!) but never let the truth get in the way of a good story ) this should also stand as a warning to those who recce MASS trails - and also to "live haring in reverse" !
James the Engineer gave a lift to those who could make it no further (i.e. Kipper+Issue) but some old hands (Ditched, Oink and Hughiee) and Tubthumper demanded that the hare point them towards the unfollowed flour. "There's a trail out there" was heard to be cried. So off into tick filled fields and unkempt bog and so soon more trail was found and followed. After a few minutes the intrepid Heroes of MASS - and the hare in sweeper mode - came across Tight Beaver and Bodypump "sunbathing" (in March!). Apparently their excessive zeal in checking had yielded the missing trail.
Heading towards Tarbet the pack headed uphill and under the railway and along east toward Loch Lomond before heading down hill to the On On at the Black Sheep in Tarbet to sup on Loch Fyne "maverick" and "rebellion".
Splendid trail (bearing in mind it had been recce'd), though unfortunately very sunny and short on mud.
Learning point for hare - good first time solo effort, suggest set your next MASS trail in summer in order to ensure rain and mud.
Hughiee "Patronising B'd" Blaaaghrr