Adventuring through extreme terrain first requires spirit and a taste for adrenaline. To outlast the conditions, though, a certain situational awareness is required. Tactical preparedness can be just as crucial as emotional preparedness, thus a survey of what to include in your arsenal is crucial before setting foot in the wilderness.
Every adventurer has a story of how something in their pack came in handy during a moment of difficulty, maybe even saved their life. Alec Dunbar, the hero of The Vanishing Game, is one of those adventurers. These examples of how gear served him while trekking the Scottish Highlands are emblematic of how essential the tools can be.
“I woke up with a lurch, my heart thudding, timpanically. Funny how your unconscious mind still remains on watch while you sleep. There had been a noise, an unusual noise—no night bird calling, no sudden rain patter, or wind rush. A pebble-fall, something stepping nearby.
I groped for my big metal LED torch. With three fat A-batteries inside, this thing could not only send its 750-lumen beam some two hundred metres, it could also do duty as a lethal club. I stepped out into the darkness, my eyes wide, trying to see but seeing nothing. Of all my senses my ears were going to be most useful. And my nose—I could smell something–like gasoline, something rank. I strained to hear. Breaths. Someone panting, someone who’d climbed as high as I’d driven. Something living, as if I could feel the hot blood pulsing in it. I pointed the torch…”
“First I set up the gas stove. Beside it I placed the roasting pan and filled it with white blocks of firelighters. Then I took my bent pieces of wire coat hanger and, pushing them into the fissures of the rock outcrop, managed to suspend three of the distress flares that I’d bought in the ship’s chandler’s above the roasting pan, fixed in my rudimentary wire armatures.
I had bought half a dozen of these flares. If I’d had a neat bit of turf I could have fixed the lot of them over the pan, but three was all I could manage now.
I looked at my watch. Hurry up, Dunbar, they’ll be coming after you.”
“I put the flask away and unfolded one of the ordnance survey maps Stella Devereaux had given me: two and a half inches to one mile, every rutted track and landscape feature of any tiny notable significance delineated. I didn’t need to take the main Oban-Fort William-Mallaig road to reach St. Mungo’s–I was driving a Land Rover Defender, for heaven’s sake, so let’s go cross-country.
Ah yes, Stella Devereaux, I thought: maybe she could throw some light on my unexpected and unwelcome companions. I took out my mobile phone—showing a weak signal that would probably weaken as I drove into the Scottish wilderness—now was the time to phone her.
I punched out her number. It rang and rang—no voicemail.
I took the first single lane road as I left Inverary and drove on through increasingly rugged and hilly countryside. There were great tracks of industrially planted pine forest on these lower slopes of the hills and a whole network of dirt roadways that connected them. As the day went on I bumped along rutted dirt lanes, forded small rushing streams and maneuvered myself northwards, pausing every now and then to consult the map. Such precise, loving detail, I thought—it was a thing of beauty.”
“I lay up in some wind-battered gorse bushes on the rocks above the small beach by St. Mungo’s, studying the church through my binoculars.
It looked more like an isolated village hall than a church: a basic, solid whitewashed pebble-dashed rectangle with a steeply pitched slate roof and a small bell set in a wooden belfry on the end of the ridge of the façade’s gable end. It had been built about a hundred yards from the sea and in winter must have to take a fair battering from the Atlantic gales.”
Experience the fully immersive version of Alec’s Scottish adventure here.
Read more from The Vanishing Game
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