The Quest for Breakfast Above Loch Lochy

This is the best view of Meall na Teanga I have all day

ON the crest of a wet and desolate Cam Bealach, as rain streams in from the north and clouds engulf the ridge of Sron a’ Choire Gairbh, a desperate man wanders through the mire . . .

I’ve run out of ideas for breakfast. Bacon and eggs is unhealthy and far too weighty. Porridge is fine until the bloke in the next tent starts frying bacon and the aroma wafts under your flysheet. Muesli was invented by a Swiss physician for the old and infirm – and that’s as much as we need to know. Toast isn’t easy to make in a tent with one arm out of your sleeping bag and the other inside keeping warm.

In fact, is it possible to make toast in a tent? Going back more years than I am prepared to calculate (to a holiday in Cornwall and a campsite where half the women were traumatised by the news Jim Reeves had perished in a plane crash) my parents had a contraption for making toast under canvas. It consisted of a large lump of asbestos. You put the large lump of asbestos over a flame and placed your bread on top. Ah, those carefree camping days.

Sorry. I’m supposed to be writing about mountains here.

Looking down into Gleann Cia-aig from Cam Bealach before the next bank of rain-laden cloud rolls in

Early this morning I clanked along the north bank of Loch Lochy from Kilfinnan on my bike. I then headed up a neat little path that delivered me to Cam Bealach – a cold and windy gap between two mountains. And that’s more or less where I’m standing now, with the Munros of Sron a’ Choire Gairbh to the north and Meall na Teanga to the south. And I can’t see a thing because of mist and scything rain. So let’s talk about mountain breakfasts instead.

Poached eggs is the latest venture. One centimetre of water in a billy, brought to a simmer, and two eggs cracked gently into the bubbles. And there they were at 7am, staring up at me like the eyeballs in the sky from the Perishers strip cartoon. I was, for a while, the happiest man in Fort William – which is probably no great achievement.

But the joy was short-lived. By the time I’d cycled along Loch Lochy I was feeling decidedly peckish. The eggs had failed in their duty.

There is something sad about a man in a sleeping bag taking pictures of poached eggs in a wet field behind a comprehensive school in Fort William

Back to the walk. Low cloud cloaks the mountains. This is in stark contrast to the last time I was in this area – on the Cape Wrath Trail – when I traversed Gleann Cia-aig in shorts and T-shirt. Today, wind roars in from the north bringing stinging rain.

There is an excellent stalkers’ path that zigzags from Cam Bealach almost to the crown of Sron a’ Choire Gairbh. The view from the summit is non-existent today, but I am aware of crags plunging steeply just beyond the toes of my boots into deep and unseen corries.

I retrace my steps to Cam Bealach, from where a well-defined if somewhat boggy path leads to the summit of Meall na Teanga. Again, the views are choked by rain and mist.

By the way, while I’m typing this report I’ve stumbled upon an American camping website with instructions on how to make toast.

This one is even more simple than the grits. Making toast for breakfast is just a matter of holding the bread over the flames until it starts to harden and blacken.

I like the no nonsense, step-by-step approach. It’s kinda cute. Just in case you are wondering what sort of light-weight camping stove provides the flames – it’s a log fire. Here’s a recipe for bacon from the same site.

Grab your trusty pan again. Lay the bacon strips side by side. Hold the pan over the flame. Once the bacon starts popping and shrinking, use one of your utensils to flip the bacon over. Once the bacon is brown on both sides, you’re ready to eat it.

I meander back to the Loch Lochy forest road all cold, wet and wondering what adventures tomorrow might bring. And I’m not thinking mountains. I’m thinking breakfasts.

Early next morning I scour the campsite for timber and discover some larchlap fencing panels stuffed under a chalet. I make a big American-style campfire in front of my tent and cook some bacon and beans – a variation of the above bacon recipe only with beans added. But before I raise the first forkful to my lips, a bear comes charging out of the woods and chases me across the fields in the direction of Torlundy.

Sorry, sorry. That last paragraph is largely fictitious. I don’t light a fire and I don’t cook bacon and beans. I poach some more eggs and share them with the bear.


WRITING articles like this is usually a pretty enjoyable experience, but the version you see before you is the third attempt to salvage a story from a dull, wet, and uncomfortable day during which absolutely nothing of any consequence occurred. My first version had a lengthy paragraph dedicated to gassy beer, crimplene trousers, Vesta Beef Curry and Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies. I’m telling you this because I spent about an hour scouring the internet for a Fray Bentos steak and kidney pie tin and then cutting it out in a sort of semi-professional way. Having done it, I am not prepared to delete it without using it. So here it is. Bloody hell – Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies. The man who can freeze-dry one of those into a light-weight backpacking meal is the next Dragon’s Den winner.

About McFadzean

Alen McFadzean, journalist, formerly of the Northern Echo, in Darlington, and the North-West Evening Mail, Barrow. Former shipyard electrician. Former quarryman and tunneller. Climbs mountains and runs long distances to make life harder. Gravitates to the left in politics just to make life harder still. Now lives in Orgiva, Spain.
This entry was posted in Camping, Climbing, Cookery, Food, Hiking, Life, Mountains, Walking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to The Quest for Breakfast Above Loch Lochy

  1. Jenny says:

    If you happen to use Trangia pans the top of the Fray Bentos tin is an exact fit and makes an excellent and lightweight lid for boiling up water! Anyone who sees ours in the porch of the tent thinks we’ve managed to cook the whole thing in the wilds. Envious looks!


  2. I’d stick with the porridge, but you’ll have to let us know what your process steps are for making it. I must have a go at this wild camping some day! We are stopping in Glen Nevis in a few weeks time, so these two Munros might be on my “for not such a good day” list.


  3. Scott says:

    I’m pretty sure Robin Howie remarked in one of his articles in the Scotsman ages ago that he’d tried every conceivable combination of fancy hillfood possible over the years, but still couldn’t see past Scotch pies and Mars Bars. And he’s a professional, so if cooking’s not an option that’ll do for me.



    • McEff says:

      Now you’re talking, Scott. No finer morsel ever rolled about in the bottom of a rucksack than a Scotch pie. I’ll draw the line at one for breakfast, though. The old digestive system wouldn’t cope, especially with a Mars Bar for afters.
      While we’re on the subject, I was browsing through Old Mortality’s posts last night and came across one on the Scotch Pie World Championships.
      The judges get to wear a badge that says “SAY AYE TAE A PIE”. That’s cool.


  4. David says:

    I used to love those Fray Bentos pies when I was a kid. The only problem was I did not like the kidney so picked the bits out and gave them to the dog when no one was looking. When my mother put a pie in the oven the dog used to go daft and hang around the oven. I don’t think she ever worked out why. Ahhh memories


  5. Great read as always Alen, you’ve just envoked special memories of my Grandad who lived on Fray Bentos all is life, & I guess thats testiment to the fact its as good as it was then as it is now, he only opened the tin with his trusty WW2 Bayonet, the very same Bayonet he stoked the coal fire with.


  6. Kev says:

    Stoats Porridge Bars and Starbucks Via coffee. Breakfast of champions :o)
    Re Fray Bentos. One of my mates forgot to remove the lid one time. Hugely funny and as messy as you can imagine. Cost us the deposit on our student flat tho’ :o(


  7. Alistair says:

    Boiled eggs are great for breakfast. Pop a couple in boiling water for a few mins. Extract, eat and use the piping hot liquid for a coffee. If you leave the lid off while boiling the eggs you can use the steam to unfreeze boots in the winter. Of course, all that went oot the windae when I discovered M&S dried porridge and apple in a pot. Now I stock up on them whenever I reach civilisation.


    • McEff says:

      Ah, more good ideas. I like the boiled eggs/coffee/tea suggestion and I’ll try it next time I’m camping. It has a two-birds-with-one-stone environmentally sound appeal. My wife won’t shop at M&S so I’ll have to go there myself for the dried porridge and apple (the things we men have to put up with). I bet they do Scotch pies as well. Cheers Alistair.


  8. jcmurray1 says:

    I love a good breakfast before we set out. Fortunately the wife takes so long to get ready that it’s not usually a problem. Scotch pies and mars bars first thing in the morning sounds a wee bit scary though. Maybe it’s been too long since I had to cook in a tent with the rain pelting down outside. Loved the poached eggs but porridge, in any form, is the perfect send off!………J


    • McEff says:

      There seems to be a trend towards porridge in these comments, with Scotch pies and eggs (poached or boiled) coming in second. I think we have a firm basis for an expensive university study here, John.


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