The world’s most stupid navigational error

After a promising start to the day, the clouds moved in and the rain started pounding against them as they ascended the south ridge of Stob Choire Claurigh, the highest point in the Grey Corries, a ridge of quartz-laden peaks due east of Ben Nevis. Four of the peaks are Munros, a defined list of Scottish mountains over 3,000ft in height.

‘That was a beast of a mountain,’ the idiot said to Edita as they crested the final rise and spied the pile of rubble that marked the summit.

They were standing on a small plateau about 50m in each direction – a mix of wet grass and piles of the rectangular blocks of quartz that give the mountains of the Grey Corries their distinctive colour when viewed from a distance.

The summit of Stob Choire Claurigh (1,177m), the highest point in the Grey Corries, is no place for fools on a rainy day, yet here is one with a silly orange camera
The summit of Stob Choire Claurigh (1,177m), the highest point in the Grey Corries, is no place for fools on a rainy day, yet here is one with a silly orange camera

They couldn’t see very far now that they were standing in the clouds. Fortunately, navigating a ridge isn’t difficult as long as you keep to the crest. You just need to make sure you leave the summits in the right direction.

‘I think it’s this way,’ the idiot said. ‘We’ll just walk a few metres down the hill, and then I’ll check my GPS to confirm that we’re going in the right direction.’

The ridge was broad and sloped gently to the left of the summit from the point where they arrived. They walked for about a minute. Then they stopped and the idiot pulled out his phone. He opened the OS Maps App and waited for it to locate their coordinates and update their position on the map. After a few seconds, the pointer moved along the ridge in the direction of Stob a’ Choire Leith, the next peak along.

‘Yup, all good. We’re going the right way,’ the idiot said.

At that moment, a large blob of rainwater landed on the screen and the map moved a little northwards. The idiot tried to move it back again, but only succeeding in rubbing water across the surface of the phone.

‘It’s not so easy to use when it’s raining,’ he said.

‘Do you want me to put your phone in the inside pocket of my trousers,’ Edita said, ‘to keep it dry?

‘But you’ve got your waterproof trousers on over the top. It’ll take you ages to fish the phone out of your pocket, and we don’t want to be waiting for too long in this crappy weather. Here, I’ll dry the screen and put it back in my jacket pocket. The jacket’s waterproof, so the phone should be alright. It’s not raining that heavily.’

And so it wasn’t. But the trouble with Scottish rainstorms is that they creep up on you, gradually increasing in intensity until you don’t realise you might as well be walking beneath the Niagara Falls. And once the intensity’s been turned up to 11, it continues like that for the rest of the day. In much the same way that a fish probably doesn’t feel wet because it’s constantly immersed in water, so it is for people who go hillwalking in Scotland.

By a miracle, the idiot’s phone continued to work for the whole day. A few metres after each summit, he checked the OS Maps App to check they were going in the right direction. He even used it when they were back down in the valley to help them find a ford across the river and get back to their tent.

Back in the tent later that evening, however, the idiot decided to use his phone to check the weather forecast. But the phone had breathed its last. It was completely dead, drowned by misadventure.

There was a positive side to the story. For the next week and a half, while the idiot and his wife travelled across Scotland, he remained blissfully offline, unaware not only of weather forecasts, but of disturbing world events, such as the COVID-19 ‘R’ number rocketing up towards 2, or world governments missing all of their UN climate targets, or the president poised to secure a second term (I’ll leave you to argue among yourselves about which of these is most disturbing). They say that ignorance is bliss, and in this particular respect it was certainly true for this idiot.

Anyway, I’m sure you’ve guessed that the idiot in question is yours truly. This is the reason there was no blog post last week.

A soggy phone wasn’t the only misadventure I suffered on an eventful trip north to Scotland. More annoyingly, I’ve returned home with an injured knee that is going to require a scan. There were some other failures too, but also some extraordinary high points, including possibly the finest view I’ve ever had from a mountaintop in Scotland.

Further instalments of this caper in the land of kilts and hairy cows will follow in later posts

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3 thoughts on “The world’s most stupid navigational error

  • September 23, 2020 at 7:34 pm

    To be fair, I don’t actually see a navigational error there, just a phone that doesn’t like rain. I use the same OS App and I love it, no more fighting paper maps in gale force winds, no more maps getting ruined by rain. I still take paper maps but only as a back up.

    It’s amazing how hill walking in Scotland finds my weaknesses (blindness and stupidity mostly). I’ve been up a remote Corbett today aided by a bike I hauled over a high fence at the entrance to the estate. A couple of miles further along an estate worker told me about the open gate I’d failed to see. On the way back down I got a bit over exuberant and couldn’t brake in time to avoid a load of loose chippings, resulting inevitably in a flat tyre. And I’m the only cyclist in the world who is too cack handed to be able to fix a puncture. This sort of hopelessness never happens to me outside Scotland.

    Good luck with the knee scan.

  • September 24, 2020 at 6:23 pm

    Haha, thanks for the encouragement, Owen. I can confirm that you’re not the only cyclist in the world who is too cack-handed to fix a puncture (although, it’s probably a bit generous to describe myself as a cyclist).

  • October 10, 2020 at 4:46 pm

    Havn’t laughed as much in writing all year – ( apart from the very wierd and wonderful online bbc radio drama ‘the wooden overcoat’ – when you get down from your next mountain and your phone is finally dry give it a try ! Thanks for all your stories and pictures and definately the best laugh recently Mr Idiot!!!

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