Remote Hostelling Trip – Loch Ossian SYHA

28 06 2013

Sun 9 – Tue 11 June 2013
I thought I was going to be sleeping all alone in the wilderness at the remote Scottish Youth Hostel of Loch Ossian (apart from the wardeness who was sleeping in another building) but I had no need to feel lonely… a handsome male was on his way to keep me company! πŸ™‚

On the Sunday afternoon I left the glorious Cumbrian sunshine to head up north – I’d booked in for one night at the SYHA’s Loch Ossian hostel to start my Scottish trip. That meant I had to catch a train across Rannoch Moor to Corrour station as there are no roads to the hostel. The last train, which I was aiming to get, was at 19:44.

Loch Ossian Youth Hostel to Bealach Dubh
Loch Ossian Youth Hostel

I wasn’t really sure how long the drive would take and, when you have a deadline to meet, you can never be sure nothing will go wrong on the journey, like a puncture or something. Consequently I set off at the early hour (for me) of 10:30. Nothing did go wrong so I arrived at Tulloch Station in Glen Spean at 15:30 – unless there was an earlier train, I had a little over 4 hours to wait! I’d chosen this particular station as it was on a very quiet road and so I would feel safe leaving my car unattended overnight.

I unpacked my bags and my fold-up bike and hauled everything onto the platform and went to check the timetable. There was an earlier train but it was 18:09 – not a lot earlier. Oh well, before settling down to wait I decided to check out the bunkhouse in the station buildings…

Brave Bike Waiting at Tulloch Station
My fold-up bike at the station with the bunkhouse behind
Brave Bike waiting at Tulloch with Flowers

The male proprietor was a very nice man and, after showing me round and telling me the rate was Β£19 per night, he offered to make me a coffee to sit in the sun on the platform with. I said I’d like to stay at the bunkhouse on my return from Loch Ossian but may not make the last train back out so may not turn up. I promised to try to ring if that was the case but wasn’t sure whether there’d be a mobile signal in such a remote spot – he was fine with that (it turned out that, if you’re on Vodafone like me, there is a signal at Loch Ossian SYHA).

As I sat sipping my coffee in the warm sunshine, the bunkhouse cat, a large fluffy black beauty, came out to sit with me. The cat kept me company for an hour or so while we played with grass stalks – I was amazed it didn’t take a leap at the small songbirds who were pecking amongst the gravel on the platforms but, despite some of them being inches from its nose, it never did.

Somehow the 3 hours passed quickly and soon it was time to take leave of my beloved Sunny (I hate leaving my cars) and take the little bike off on the train… A perk of using fold-up bikes on the trains is that, if the guard says they don’t want any more bikes on the train and that you haven’t booked, you can quickly fold it up and then it only counts as luggage. Anyway, the lady guard was quite happy for my unbooked bike to get on, especially as it was only one stop and 15 minutes from there.

Soon I was getting off at Corrour station for the mile or so cycle to Loch Ossian and the Youth Hostel. I noticed it was starting to rain… oh dear, it had seen me! Whenever I go to Scotland, somehow the weather notices I’ve arrived and goes off 😦

I was soon installed in the hostel and making my tea. After tea I amused myself by playing both hands of various multi-player card games. The warden-ess came in at one point to check on the fire and asked whether I wanted someone to play the other hand but I assured her that I’m quite used to playing solo. To be honest, my mind is so shot nowadays, I can’t remember what each hand has anyway, nor what has been laid down!

After several rounds of cards and some rounds of dominoes, I wandered off to bed in the corner by the window of the empty dormitory. The fire had heated the room radiator and it was pretty cosy and comfortable. The peace and solitude of this place has to be experienced… The wind turbine outside the building was whizzing away but couldn’t be heard – the only sound was coming from the nearby heronry on an island in the loch – quite some strange noises coming from that!

After I’d been in bed around an hour, I woke to hear something or someone clomping around – surely I was alone in the building? I got up to investigate and, seeing no-one inside, looked out of the window to see if it was something outside. Sure enough, right outside the window was a stag just wandering up. He reached the spot outside my window, stood for a few moments and then decided this was just the spot to settle down for the night! He was so close that, if the window had been open, I could have reached out and touched him! I was really chuffed as I love deer.

Unfortunately, believing that it would upset the stag if he heard me moving around, I felt I couldn’t really turn over at all and felt I had to lay completely still in case I scared him from his peaceful repose. Had I done my research beforehand, I’d have known that I needn’t have bothered – I’m pretty sure my night-time companion was ‘Windswept’ the tame stag which haunts the hostel and even comes inside for tit-bits!

Windswept the stag!
Β© Copyright Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Now, at this hostel, the toilets are outside around the back of the building so, during the night I had to pop out. I put the washroom light on to light my way as I didn’t have a torch handy and opened the door to step out into the rain to find my way was barred by something truly terrifying (to me at least)! Just outside the door, on every flagstone, was a long and horrifying worm! Now I really can’t cope with worms and didn’t want to step out in my bothy slippers amongst this group of horrors so stood wondering what to do – there was no way I would last the night without a pee. In the end, I managed, by getting the light to shine on them or banging the flagstones, to get most of them to go back down their holes – all except the foot-long one which was the one scaring me the most! Oh well, I stepped over it but have to admit I didn’t risk the journey round to the toilets but stepped briefly onto the grass and quickly went there then rushed back to bed.

I’d asked the warden to give me a shout before she set off for her day’s walking at 08:00 and she duly did. I got up and looked out of the window to… very low cloud, rain and clag – typical! 😦

I breakfasted and loaded up the little bike and was off down the track by about nine. As I hadn’t used the bike (or the tyre pump) for ages, I had a few spells of having to get off and faff as I had a soft back tyre and couldn’t really remember how the pump worked. After a couple of stops I figured it out and continued down the, at this stage very rough, stony estate track into the forest. Luckily, around half a mile or so after entering the forest, the track became smoother and had areas of tarmac – much better!

After four miles to the end of the loch I reached the estate buildings and found a nice out-of-the-way fence to cable the bike to. I checked my bag and found, to my dismay, that my microspikes (and the tomato I’d placed with them) had fallen out of the side pocket of my bag. Oh well, I couldn’t go looking for them now as I had a 15 mile walk to do over several hills – I just hoped all the snow had gone from my route. It turned out that the only snow left was on the northern slopes which I didn’t have to do.

I guessed that the track I could see heading towards a footbridge over the first burn and round the forest was my track and headed off on it. This was a landrover track and it led, in about another half a mile, to another bridge over the main river coming from the area of the Bealach Dubh at the far end of my walk. I then made a fortunate mistake and missed the walkers’ path which heads up the glen towards the bealach and ended up following a quad bike track across grass.

Beinn Eibhinn Ascent Ridge
My ascent ridge (taken later in the day)

The quad bike track soon started heading off up the ridge at the start of my hills and happily led me all the way up to the highest point of the ridge (Sron nan Nead). All the way up I’d been looking across to where my hills were shrouded in thick mist but I got no views of them at all. As I was ‘top-collecting’ that meant I had some definitely pathless summits to bag first before I started on my 3 Munros. As I’m not the world’s best navigator this didn’t make me happy! It made me even less happy that the Creag Meagaidh range to the north was in bright sunshine as were all the peaks to the south of my range (except Ben Alder).

Just before I had to head across to my first top (Mullach Coire nan Nead) the cloud cleared from it and I could see where I needed to go. The rest were still well hidden though… I puffed my way up to the first top feeling pretty unfit – it seemed quite a slog. From there I knew I had to head east and find two decent-sized lochans in order to locate the rest of my walk.

I very soon arrived at the two lochans and, from there, spent a few minutes working out a strategy to find the second top (Meall Glas Choire) in the murk using my altimeter and compass. I eventually managed to locate it – not an easy job on such a wide and grassy dome – and also managed to find a path crossing a deep nick in the ridge which would help me when I turned back towards the main summit.

I followed my newly-discovered path and it took me in the right direction sightlessly up through the murk to where I’d marked an ‘M’ (for Munro) on the map. I reached the highest point and checked my altimeter – yep, that was the height marked under my ‘M’ – however, there was no sign of a cairn. I knew there would be one on the summit of the Munro. I hunted around in all directions for confirmation of where I was – I was correct in my position but this wasn’t the summit.

After a while of puzzling and a hunt further east, I located the two further tiny lochans and studied the map some more. I knew I had to head to the escarpment edge for the rest of the route and suddenly noticed that the heights marked over there were way higher than where I’d just been. I’d marked the Munro at the wrong point on the map!

Now happier about my onward route, I headed off quickly uphill towards the escarpment edge which I followed upwards until the cairn finally hove into view – phew – the first Munro was in the bag. It being cold, murky and windy, I decided I wasn’t going to bother stopping anywhere until I got back down to the valley later so ploughed on still following the escarpment.

The route down from the escarpment to the col between this Munro, Beinn Eibhinn, and the next, Aonach Beag (not sure why it’s ‘Beag’ as it certainly isn’t little!) was surprisingly steep and narrow. I followed the loose rocky path down the arete carefully and was really pleased I’d left it until the snow had gone as I really wouldn’t have been happy on snow on such a narrow edge! The route to Aonach Beag was even steeper and just as narrow…

I’d now changed from heading east to heading more or less due north and I chugged steadily upwards to the summit cairn where I actually met several people sat around in portable shelter bags. I sat very briefly to chat to them and peered into the mist for my onward route. I found this top quite confusing as I felt the ridge I was looking at was the onward route but, on checking it, found it was still heading north which was completely wrong as I needed to head east. I checked with the others at the cairn that it really wasn’t my onward ridge (as the compass was insisting it wasn’t) and they confirmed it wasn’t.

I set my compass up to point me east and stood up peering into the mist – it looked like the way I’d come up! Very uncertainly I set off in that direction but headed to the escarpment edge. I noticed there was snow below the edge which there definitely hadn’t been on my ascent ridge so deduced it must be the right way. Soon a path appeared and it became obvious I was on a different ridge. There was a gentle dip to a col and then a gentle re-ascent up a pleasant easy ridge to Geal Charn, my third and final Munro for the day (I still had another top to do though).

Very soon I was at the cairn but again didn’t stop. I was disconcerted to note the vastness of the flat plateau heading away into the mist in all directions. I knew I’d have to be accurate with my next bearing and hit the right escarpment otherwise I could head off into completely the wrong glen! My next bearing was still more or less east but I had to pay much more attention to the compass direction arrow as I noticed I kept veering off when I stopped looking at it.

After a long eastern walk across the plateau, I finally met the escarpment and the mist cleared slightly to show the corrie loch. Luckily it was a very distinctive shape and had a mini-lochan of the same shape at its point – I checked it against the map – yep, that was quite correct, I was exactly where I should be. I peered down my descent route and saw it was full of boulders but not scarily steep. I also briefly got a glance of Lancet Edge/Sgor Iutharn – my final top to bag – it looked grassy and gentle from this side.

As I headed downwards I kept looking behind and noticing that Geal Charn was attempting to exit the thick mists. There was nothing really photogenic as it was still very cloud-bound but I fired off a couple of shots.

Geal Charn Descent

Geal Charn trying to clear

Geal Charn Cornices

Geal Charn Corrie from Lancet Edge

I soon reached a snowy slot on the col which proved to be firm underfoot and crossed to start my grassy ascent of the back of Lancet Edge. By the time I reached the summit it was sunny (on that peak at least) and I went to have a peer at the start of the famous edge – it looked pretty scary and I didn’t venture far – perhaps another time…

Lancet Edge Top

Lancet Edge

I had a quick break and then descended the back of the hill down towards the Bealach Dubh – I stuck to the edge as Ben Alder with its fabulous Long Leachas ridge was trying to clear the mist.

Long Leachas Trying to Clear
Trying to clear (above) and fully out (below)
Ben Alder Clears

I soon reached the valley where I eventually found a little path alongside the right-hand side of the burn to follow for the five mile or so walk back to the bike.

Bealach Dubh
The Bealach Dubh

Snow 'hole'
Still a few snow bridges over the burn

Ben Alder came further out of the cloud and so did Geal Charn. Pretty soon I was annoyed to see the whole range gradually come out of the clag and sit in the sun mocking me! Hills always do that to me 😦

Leaving Bealach Dubh1

Leaving Bealach Dubh2

Leaving Bealach Dubh4
Long way from the Bealach Dubh (above) and quite a way to go (below)
Heading Down to Loch Ossian

It was a long, long walk back down the valley in the heat and the sun and I had a few good cupfuls of water out of the burns coming down to the main river to supplement my coffee flask. Eventually, much footsore and feeling hot and tired, I reached my little bike and uncabled it.

I cycled back carefully to keep an eye out for my microspikes and, although I found where the accompanying tomato had fallen out and smashed on the track, there was no sign of my spikes 😦

Back at the hostel, where the warden had said that I could make my tea even though I wasn’t staying another night, I heated my veggie hotdog sausages and chatted to the various Scots staying there and bemoaned the loss of my microspikes. Very luckily, it turned out that some of the group staying there had taken a walk around the loch due to the low cloud putting them off doing the Munro of Beinn na Lap and one of them had picked them up!

I had four hours to wait for my outward train back to Tulloch so stayed chatting with them while we sat outside in the glorious sunshine and bathed our feet in the lovely warm loch – no sign of my friend Windswept the stag though. Typical male – sleeps with you just to be gone in the morning and no further sign of him! πŸ˜‰

Loch Ossian Shore below Hostel
Needless to say, these 3 are my favourite photos of the trip
Loch Ossian Old Pier & Heronry
Old Pier and island heronry
Loch Ossian to Leum Uilleum, Evening
My star photo πŸ™‚

Then I cycled back to Corrour station where the little bike let out a sigh of relief!

Brave Bike at Corrour Station

Again I had no trouble getting my bike on the train and was glad to also be let off the train fare. I’d felt fine up to this point but, as I tied the bike up and sat down, I suddenly felt completely dead and just sat stupified on my seat staring at the 2 guys next to me – luckily they were unfazed by this πŸ˜‰ I looked out of the window to see where the landslip took the freight train down the big drop to the loch last year and was amazed to see that they haven’t managed to remove it yet but have just sheeted it up in plastic – presumably so as not to terrify passing train passengers. It was obvious what was under the sheeting though – bet that poor guy’s never recovered from a scare like that!

Loch Treig fm train
Loch Treig from the train
Loch Treig head fm train

I got cleaned up in the bunkhouse and was in bed by 2230 – completely unheard of for me but I was totally wiped out. Good job too as, this being a station bunkhouse with an early-morning train, folks started banging about by 0710 and, even though I had a room to myself, I could still hear doors etc. and didn’t get back to sleep. It was a lovely bunkhouse though.

On leaving the bunkhouse, I set off for the short drive down Glen Garry to Loch Quoich where I needed to start on the Munros there. As I drove that way it got brighter and sunnier – I decided to do the pair of Gleouraich (my friend Yvonne’s favourite Munro) and Spidean Mhialach.

I parked up and was on my way by midday for the short (by Munro standards) walk over the two hills. There is an excellent stalkers’ path up the steep shoulder to start and then along the narrow ridge above an arm of the loch. As I ascended in the lovely warm sun, I noticed that the end of Spidean Mhialach was starting to disappear from view into mist – oh no! Oh yes, it was starting to clag in yet again and, when it hit my hill, I noticed it was also starting to rain 😦

I managed to keep the views in that I could see the hills but they became totally unphotogenic. I was hugely disappointed as I knew these were really scenic hills – both the hills themselves and also the views from them – but there certainly wasn’t anything worth pointing my camera at now 😦

I took a few half-hearted shots as I went along but knew they’d be rubbish. At one point I had to stop and change a film and wondered whether it was really worth it but did so anyway.

I was amazed at the horrifically steep descent down from Gleouraich and the big drops each side – fine in normal conditions but I was again glad I’d waited until there was no snow or ice.

Gleouraich Descent

I was also dismayed at the height loss – by the time I’d descended to the col I had more than 800 feet to re-ascend to Spidean Mhialach – it looked a complete slog.

To my surprise, the climb up the second peak was both pleasant and easy. I just loved Spidean Mhialach. There were a succession of summits, each higher than the last, along a scalloped ridgeline with beautiful ridges heading north either side of rough corries. It would be superb on a good day and I wished I could get some good photos but I couldn’t.

Spidean Mhialaich 1st Peak

There was another craggy mini-peak after the main summit and I decided it would be a sin not to include it so continued along the ridge to it. It was a complete beauty and gave great views back to the main summit.

Spidean Mhialaich Summit from my peak

I had a quick break there for a coffee (didn’t bother with the biscuits) and then headed off down the gentle grassy slope for the corrie loch below.

Loch Quoich under the mist

I traversed to another stalkers’ path leaving the corrie and was soon back at the road… where the sun once again came out along with my hills – grrrr! This seems to be setting the pattern for my Munroing this year 😦

Nearing Road Above Loch Quoich
Floral final section down stalkers’ path to the loch
Loch Quoich Rhodies

Stats:
Beinn Eibhinn Munros: 8 miles cycling, 15 miles walking, 3792 feet of ascent, 8 hours 20 minutes – 3 Munros & 3 Tops

Day 2 Loch Quoich Pair: 7 miles, 3500 feet of ascent, about 5 hours, 2 Munros

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22 responses

22 04 2015
Sadnews

Tom Rigg retired in 1995 to Roy Bridge where he spent time with his black lab. Three years ago he was unable to look after himself and was cared for by Abbeyfied Nursing Home in Ballachulish.

Sadly Tom Rigg passed away on Sunday, 19th April 2015 in Abbeyfield Nursing Home.

His funeral will be held on Monday, 27th April 2015 at 2 pm in John McLellans Funeral Home, Dudley Road, Fort William.

If anyone has information that could be shared at his funeral please could you email the Funeral Directors,
enquiries@johnmclellanfunerals.co.uk

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4 07 2013
Scotlands Mountains

Nice to see you back in some Scottish action Carol πŸ™‚
I sometimes stayed in Ossian many years ago when the SYHA left the building open over the winter.Tom Rigg was the warden then and he had tamed a few stags to feed from the hand.Sadly,I believe one of them was shot by some so called “sportsman” despite Tom having marked it ,to make it obvious that it was tame,in the stalking season.Hard to credit ,isnt it ?
Always nice to have a handsome young male along.Unfortunately I have to make do with Bob πŸ™‚

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4 07 2013
mountaincoward

That’s awful that someone shot the tame (marked) stag 😦 I had a similar thing when I lived on a caravan site. We all had a pet pheasant which we used to hand feed and then the hotel up the road managed to catch it and put pheasant soup on the menu that night 😦 We were all pretty upset.

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4 07 2013
Scotlands Mountains

Pheasants seem to be pretty dim but all the more likeable for that …..

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5 07 2013
mountaincoward

Our pheasant was a lovely bird (quite possibly dim though) – he used to call outside my bedroom window at 5am every day and I’d open the door and feed him sugar puffs… one day I opened the door and he’d brought all his girlfriends with him!

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2 07 2013
LensScaper

Great story Carol. And some lovely images despite the mist early on.

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2 07 2013
mountaincoward

Yeah, it certainly came out very nice indeed… when I got OFF the hill!

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1 07 2013
Dan Hudson (aka icemandan)

Nice report of an area with many happy memories. I stayed at Ossian in the late 1990s unsuccessfully laying siege to Ben Alder. At that time, the hostel was very basic. There was a door marked ‘bathroom’ which led directly onto the Loch. There was a visiting stag then as well. The then warden was a bit chaotic (I don’t think he lasted long) and having messed up his bookings directed a hapless French girl into a dorm full of sweaty blokes. I also remember a loud but inexperienced yuppie hillwalker who, having regaled the company with tales of how many ‘K’ he’d climbed, left his plastic boots by the fire overnight.

I don’t know if you got to the restaurant at the station but it’s well worth a visit. On a cold day it almost feels like a mirage – you’re sitting by a log fire with a pint and an excellent dinner – you keep thinking that you’ll wake up and find yourself out on the moor again.

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2 07 2013
mountaincoward

I’ve been in the old cafe by the station before it changed hands – dripping wet after a walk on Leum Uilleum. There were people foolishly sat at the counter instead of the tables so we dripped all over them as they didn’t move so we could place our order.

The wardenesses are very efficient now (2 of them). But one did say that, if I wanted to stay the next night the ladies dorm was full and did I mind sleeping in the blokes. I said I didn’t really care – better than sleeping out on the moor without a bivvy bag – even if you do all snore! πŸ˜‰

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1 07 2013
McEff

That was great. Loch Ossian is a special place. I camped at the western end of the loch a couple of years ago and did the three Munros in the immediate area. I didn’t see any tame stags though. Not even a wild one!
Cheers, Alen

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2 07 2013
mountaincoward

Did you have carrots? I think Windswept likes carrots πŸ˜‰

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2 07 2013
McEff

I can honestly say I didn’t have any carrots. I’ll put them on my list of things to take backpacking.

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29 06 2013
chrissiedixie

Never been there myself, but many moons ago in a previous life, Geoff and his mates used to go to that Youth Hostel every spring for a few days. He has no photos of it though, so it was lovely to see yours! He always said he’d take me sometime, but we’ve not got there yet πŸ™‚

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29 06 2013
mountaincoward

You really need to go – it’s truly beautiful and I don’t think I’ve been anywhere so peaceful. You’d have to pick a day when there isn’t a big group staying at the hostel though – it’s full every weekend – you’d need to go in the week. Although I was alone that night, the next night it was completely full up with a big group (a Glaswegian club) and quite a few other walkers – they were quite a lively group too.

There’s an availability chart on their website and they do have a phone so you could always check to get the quietest night…

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29 06 2013
fedupofuserids

Another interesting report Carol, plenty of useful information too πŸ˜€

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29 06 2013
mountaincoward

I just wish I had some photos from along the ridge – the views would have been superb!

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29 06 2013
Paul Shorrock

Well done Carol – another five ticked off!!

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29 06 2013
mountaincoward

Yeah, at least it was a productive trip πŸ™‚

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29 06 2013
jackie sowrey

What another brilliant adventure. I love the first photograph of such an beautiful location and my other favourites are the peaks with snow and rolling mist. Windswept, how sweet! Jackie

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29 06 2013
mountaincoward

Windswept the stag is worth a google (probably best to just put ‘Loch Ossian stag’) as there’s some great photos of him in the kitchen being hand-fed carrots and suchlike πŸ™‚

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29 06 2013
bob

I liked the worm story Carol. Remember those hills well though I also bagged them in murky weather. Loch Ossian is a great hostel and sits in a fantastic area. Well done on your five Munros and three tops.

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29 06 2013
mountaincoward

Thanks Bob. I was pretty upset to do those in clag, and the ones the next day, as the scenery should have been so stupendous from the ridges and I’d been looking forward to them for a long time…

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