Friday, 15 June 2007

These will just a few details of a few times on the hill. None in chronical order

Sat. January.2005. camped OS map lr19 grid. 017652. Well roughly. Had travelled up to Inverness on the night sleeper. Picked up a few bits of food in Inverness. Took the train down to Achnasheen. My intention had been to catch the post bus from there down to Kinlochewe. However, the train was running late and the post could not wait. Started walking but managed to hitch a lift.
Walked in and managed to find a spot up the hill out of sight among the trees. My sack feels darned heavy, I am carrying full winter kit and a weeks food and fuel. One problem, the weather is mild.

Sunday. Camped in same spot. Not such a bad day, not being in a hurry meant I was away rather latish this morning. My intention was to head up Slioch. Followed the path around to the bridge over Abhainn an Fhasaigh. An impressive series of waterfalls and deep pools. Everything underfoot was decidedly wet. Made my way up to the bealach between Meall Each and Sgurr Dubh, a distinct path. From there headed into Coire na Sleaghaich. Deep, frowning cliff, imposing walls and with the cloud base down the place reeked of gloom and menace. The wind had picked up a tad accompanied by a thin, cold drizzle. All very atmospheric. The path as such had now vanished only appearing very briefly. Basically from the corrie floor it was a case of bearing left and heading directly up. Oh my, it was steep ground. I could faintly discern a notch in the ridge high above and headed for that. The last section was a hands on scramble. The rock was also very greasy which made things interesting. A small cairn on the ridge indicated I had come the right way. Picked my way over wet, soggy snow with the consistency of glutinous porridge. made the cairn in thick clag and abruptly did an about turn and hurried back the way I had come. I just wanted out of there. It was getting colder and wetter with the wind picking up as well. Coming off the ridge was daunting. As I tried to pick a route down through wet, slippery rocks, at one one point I could look almost straight down between my boots. Edged over to slightly less steep ground. A fall here could have been bad for my health. The Corrie by now was a scene of utter desolation, with low scudding, grey black clouds and thin drizzling rain. Picking my way down down from the bealach and out of the clag, Loch Maree looked quite atmospheric.
Passed very close to a group of hinds grazing, heads raised, ears twitching, inquisitive but otherwise quite unconcerned, I was no threat to them.. Back at the tent by four. Tired and already my boots are soaked. Thankfully I have some inner bootee things thus still have dry feet.

Monday Camped 041696. A wee bit of a heavy day. Picked up a weather forecast of light drizzle. (Umph!) Packed up and retraced my route of yesterday to just beyond the bridge and then swung up the stalkers path heading in to Gleann Bianasdail. Overnight rain had made things very wet. The hills where running with water. Great plunging, white ribbons, cascading in foaming torrents to the main river, adding yet more volume to its thunderous, roaring tumult. rain began to drive up the glen behind me. I had been constantly looking for anywhere to get the tent up but no joy. Had difficulty in crossing a stream that was in full spate. Picked my way up the hill to a point where it braided in to three. A tricky manoeuvre and I was across the first bit. On the next bit water was sluicing through a narrow gully. Very gingerly I eased out out on to a large boulder, the thunder of water battering my ears. Water plucked at my boots. A lunge, hands grasping heather on the opposite bank, feet scrabbling for purchase, a scramble and I was across. Not something I would want to repeat. The rain was becoming yet more persistent as I continued upwards. Another tricky crossing and the a tedious descent down towards lochan Fadda. A horrible, desolate wet and bleak area. Everything was bog and water, yuch.The stalkers path discernible. However, the stepping stones across the head of the river where at least three feet under a roaring millrace. Absolutely a no go area.I did tentatively place a foot on the first boulder. No way, the force was quite awesome. The wind by now was coming in two directions, up the glen and also sweeping across the lochan. I had to stop, and soon; by now I was feeling damp and getting shivery. For nigh on an hour I quartered back and forth trying desperately trying to find somewhere to put the tent. Finally settled on a less boggy bit(???) Came across the remains of a tent pole, some material, a few bent and mangled tent pegs and amazingly, a leki pole in good condition. Mute testimony that some else had run in to difficulties here, very sobering.
Had an awful tussle getting the tent up. The driving rain was now lashing down, driven almost horizontal by the gusting wind. Used the trekking poles, including the one I had found, plus the ice axe, as anchors for the tent. Rammed in deep to the boggy ground they provided a better anchorage for the tent. The few pegs used where weighted down with large boulders from the waters edge. At least the tent is secure.
Slipped the sleeping bag in the bivi bag, shed the wet outer shell gear and crawled, shivering and damp inside. Hot drinks, soup and a meal where the order of the day. The rain now is drumming hard on the tent. Things are either damp or else wet. Probably I will remain put tomorrow.

Tuesday.Same place as last night. Not a comfortable night, driving rain and strong gusts of wind. Also had some difficulty keeping warm. the cold had seeped in to my bones from yesterday. Weather was not good, thus stayed put for the day. Had a scout around the area. Water levels remain high and fast flowing. tent was in a bit of a muddle, sorted gear out. later in the day it cleared for a while and I managed to air things a wee bit. Boots remain soaking though. Checked out map and planned the escape route for tomorrow. The rain is back with a vengeance but I. do not intend to stay here another day.

Wednesday. A hard day on the hill. More rain during the night. The wind has swung around from NW. to W. Stowed everything and bundled up the soaking tent at the last minute. Intermittent rain and heavy squalls. Picked my up along the shore of Lochan Fada. Rough, rough ground, all bog and water. Deep peat hags.; balance on the edge, a lurch, a slither, land in the bottom with a squelch, slathered in deep brown mud; launch at the other side, a desperate scramble up to land gasping on the tussocks that surround the area. All to be continuously repeated. Gradually I inched higher to areas where the soil had washed away, leaving just bare rocky ribs. Turned up toward Meall Daimh, following a foaming stream. The rain just kept on, sometimes gusting across, hammering off the waterproofs.. Gained the ridges above loch Garbaig. it was hard to constantly focus on the navigation; regularly checking map and compass. Possibly I should have followed the ridge line to eventually pick up the old stalkers path at the far end of the Lochan. It would have meant a lot of up and down walking. Instead, dropped down to Loch Garbaig. Not a good idea. The rain eased slightly; but the thick, dark clouds scudding across promised more to come. A dark, foreboding , grey, water laden mass trailing its skirts across the low tops. I stopped by a burn, sinking down in the soaking heather to have a drink and force some chocolate down my throat. Cloying, sticking in the mouth; however, I needed the energy boost. The fuel tank was empty, my energy levels at zero. Followed deer trails down the length of the loch. It seemed to be endless. Stopped by the fishing hut at the far end of the loch. All securely padlocked. it was so tempting to camp there but it would have meant a longish push to Letterewe tomorrow. At least I had now finally joined the stalkers path. Now it was a case of head down and plod on. A pity really, in good weather the scenery would have been awesome. High frowning crags, deep gorges, thundering cataracts, it would have been lovely. Almost walked in to a stag further down. With the hood up and head pointing to the floor I never saw him until the last minute. He was standing with his back to me, quickly he spun, we where almost with touching distance. He stared at me, nostrils flared, nose twitching; his big brown eyes soulful, we gazed at each other, eyeball to eyeball. He stepped a couple of paces back and then turned and slowly ambled off, white rump flashing. No doubt he was muttering under his breath about crazy humans disturbing his grazing?? Only then did I realise that there was a whole group of stags grazing close by. As I came down lower and out of the clag, loch Maree lay below me, dark and sombre but beautiful. Made my way down towards the Letterewe estate. A group of garrons came thundering towards me. I stood my ground, they where only being inquisitive. Big, shaggy coated beasts, rough coated. they milled around me, probably hoping for some handouts but I had no nibbles for them. Speaking to them softly, I pushed my way through and picked up the path that skirts the north shore and camped here in the last of the light. (GR971699)

Thursday. More rain during the night. This was my last day out and despite the rain, it was quite a pleasant amble. The path follows the north shore of Loch Maree. Old oak trees, rowans, silver birch and lush vegetation. Crumbling ruins and tumbled down dry stone walls offer mute evidence of a once thriving community along these shores. There is an air of sadness, who where these people? Simple folk, a tight knit community, Gaelic their mother tongue. How would they have viewed me wandering through? In all probability I would have been treated with the traditional hospitality the old highland people where renowned for. Made Kinlochewe by mid afternoon. Headed straight for the hotel. As I stepped inside, water dripping off my waterproofs, a voice yelled, "The bunkhouse is next door!" A guy came hurrying from behind the bar with a bunch of keys, ushering me back out of the door. Fortunately the bunkhouse was empty otherwise I would have asked for a room for the night. In this period of transition sharing a bunkhouse could have awkward. Mind, I probably looked a tad scary, dishevelled, smelly and wild eyed. What a luxury a hot shower and a clean change of clothes make. Almost human again. The heating in the bunkhouse was not working but the tent at least had a chance to dry out a bit. A good meal in the evening and an early night.

Friday, still raining. reported the finding of the leki pole and stuff and was informed that someone had vanished in that area three years ago. Left all my details just in case. Went over to the post office, come shop, come cafe to wait for the post bus. was informed that it had broken down and was running late. Although the cafe was officially closed I managed to buy a pot of tea and some scones while I waited. The couple running the place finally decided the post bus was going to be very late, if it got going at all. They had stuff to go down to Achnasheen and gave me a lift down. Now I have an afternoon to spare waiting for the night train in Inverness. Ah well, I know where the gear shops are and the bookshops are.
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September. Friday. Lairig Leachach bothy. A long day. travelled up from London last night on the night coach, changing buses at Glasgow. The sky bus dropped me at Spean Bridge. Picked a few bits up at Fort Bill, where the bus stops for a twenty minute break. With a full pack the walk in was quite long. The bothy is tiny and basic, even for a bothy. A small single room with a ladder leading up to a sleeping area. Beautiful scenery, lofty hills, shattered and weathered rock faces.

Saturday. An excellent day on the hill. Was up fairly early and away by eight. I had deliberately brought a small day sack with as well as the bigger one.Thus allowing me to stash the rest of my gear out of the way not far from the bothy.. A couple of guys had stuck head in on the way past. Like me they where heading for the Grey Corries and where eager to get going. Followed the faint path at the back of the bothy. It was a stiffish haul up via the bealach below Stob Ban (Coire Rath) and then directly up to Stob Chorie Claurigh. An airy walk out to Stob Coirie na Ceannain and then back again to follow the long, undulating ridge along the backbone of the Grey Corries. In places narrow but never difficult. The main ridge never drops below 3000ft. Stunning views all around, weather excellent. Times like this are to be savoured, like an excellent meal, they must not be rushed. Dropped off Sgurr Choinnich Beag to head north down a ridge that was to lead me towards a dam marked on the map by the Alt Choimhidh; (Defunct now) A long descent. Managed to find an old trackway that led me back to the land rover track that leads up to the bothy. Have been on the go for nigh on twelve hours and am very tired; bone weary, but wow, what a day.

Sunday. A mixed day, again was away by around eight. Climbed up on to the saddle and then picked my way around and up to a spot directly below Stob Coire Easain. The way up looked steep but doable, thereabouts. One problem was some awful scree that made it all a bit of a scramble. Sheep directly above me did not help. They actually managed to to send some stuff rattling down towards me. I could imagine the headlines, ' hill walker killed by rock throwing sheep!'. Navigation was not bad although I needed to keep an eye on the compass. The cloud base was dropping rapidly. Wisps of cloud at first and then thicker heavier stuff until I was enveloped in thick, damp clag. Very disorientating.. decided not to do the second top but to head back down. Thus with a careful eye on compass swung sw and w to drop down and eventually pick up the path that comes up from Loch Treig. A steady amble back to the bothy, picking up some bog wood on the way for a fire in the evening. Although the weather remained thick on the tops it remained quite pleasant lower down. In fact, quite warm in the afternoon. Sitting outside the bothyi was amazed to see three people heading up the track. What was surprising was the fact that it was a group of three people. two young lasses and a guy. he was dressed in singlet and running shorts and trainers. the two girls where both in halter tops and skimpy shorts. None had anything else with them; no spare clothing, zilch. Obviously I was curious, but then horrified to think this lad was casually thinking of leading the girls up the Easain. A few heated words followed, I obviously had damaged his inflated macho image when I strongly pointed out to them that the top was still covered in thick clag, that where not equipped and that the time factor was against them and that I would eventually have to make my way out to the nearest telephone box to call the rescue team. The temperature is dropping fast tonight.

Monday. An easy enough day; leaving the bothy early, followed the ridge up to Stob Ban and back. Superb views, Deeply riven rocks, deep gullies, long, distance views. A bank of low cloud was heading rapidly in. It seems I had timed it right. A quick check of the compass and and the straight back to the bothy to pick up the rest of my gear and then the walkout to Spean Bridge. Of course the weather became clearer further down. In fact I dallied by the river for a while just enjoying the peace and tranquility. Was actually in S.B. by not long after two PM. The bus was not due through until twenty past five. Bought an ice cream and soft drink, found something to read and ambled of to find a nice sunny spot to waste a bit of time. Was back at the bus stop in plenty of time but no bus. This was worrying. had a quick word with the bus driver coming up from Fort William he assured me the Skye bus had not gone through but was obviously running late. he eventually turned up at five forty five. To cap it all the bus got a puncture at the head of Glen Coe. Right on a bend. To every ones amazement the bus driver calmly got out, flagged a car down and vanished. No explanation, nothing. It seems he had muttered something to someone about heading back to Fort W. for another bus. We where all left sitting. Someone had to actually switch on the lights as it grew dark. A few people actually managed to hitch lifts. the rest of just sat and waited until the driver got back with another bus. just as well I had a bit of gas left. A few other walkers and climbers also got stoves out and we had a brew up, passing around tea in all manner of containers. Just made the night bus with no time to spare. Normally I pick up some fish and chips in Glasgow. This time it meant travelling on an empty stomach. Otherwise a good, long weekend .

August. Friday. Scotland. OS Map LR50. Camped GR 142418. Quite a busy day and pretty hard too. Did my usual stint on the night coach from the smoke. These night buses can be pretty awful at times. Sitting next to someone who snacks continually on crisps, fidgets and then snores for the rest of the journey makes for a stressed out me. I hate the cramped confines of sitting next to a stranger, it makes me so uncomfortable. At best I manage a half awake doze. Thus, time I had changed buses at Glasgow and got off the bus at Kingshouse. I was feeling rather jaded, stiff and none too ready for a longish road walk. The Glen Etive road offers a wonderful vista of scenery, high, brooding crags, a lovely winding river, corries and glens. Nobody was willing to offer a lift. It was some 11 miles down the Glen. What with carrying food and fuel for four days, plus tent etc; not such easy going. Stopped at Coiletir for a break. The weather was holding up pretty well, pretty cool with a few showers but not that bad. Dug a squashed pasty out of the sack; a much needed snack though. Sat there for a while, the temptation was to have a snooze but I had my eye on Ben Starav. A long haul from sea level thereabouts to 1078 mtres. The N.E ridge is not bad though although thick clouds where drifting across the top. A plod through a boulder field a bit of a narrow ridge . Onwards from Starav to Stob Coire Dheir and then a descent to the bealach. Glorious scenery glimpsed through the swirling clouds,. Corrie na Caime falling steeply down behind me. Steep, frowning crags all around. Loch Dochard can be seen away in the distance. It was almost 7pm when I stopped. Am camping high. Now that I have gained height I have no intention of losing it. Had just got the tent up when I heard a loud buzzing. I had inadvertently trapped a bumble bee under the tent. Rescued her ok, she was most indignant but otherwise fine, she sat for a moment in the palm of my hand and then took of down the hill.
Saturday. Camped GR 163438. A lazy day, rain during the night and woke to low cloud and myriads of midges. Nipped up Beinn nan Aighenan. Back down and packed up despite rain; I was determined to get out of that midge ridden spot. Continued along the ridge line up to Glas Bheinn Mhor. thick cloud, swirling, parting, closing again and then opening once more. It offered glimpse of corries far below, other tops appearing and then vanishing. This is wonderful, rugged scenery, grey, weather worn crags, deep riven corries, worn by ancient glaciers and the action of water. The streams and rivers now winding there way through thread like, tiny in comparison to the mighty ice rivers that once flowed and shaped the landscape. Much of the rock is granite with all manner of lovely pink hues but coarse on the boots and skin. rain had been intermittent all day and coming down the steep prow of Beinn Mhor, it was an easy decision to stop on the bealach. Found a nice flat spot for the tent and got it up in a hurry. I was actually starting to feel quite chilled and a tad shivery. a good, stiff breeze is keeping the ravishing hoards of midges at bay.
Sunday. Camped GR 222475 on the Aonach Mor ridge. A good day out. it rained again during the night but when I woke this morning it was crystal clear with no sign of rain. Thus was up by six thirty. It was chilly and and so it proved an incentive to get moving and was away by around seven thirty. Tent was soaking and was just rolled up and stowed loose under the lid of the sack. Had actually managed to pick up Radio Scotland last night and the forecast was for dry early with rain and lowering cloud later.Saw a stag silloetted on the horizon, magnificiant. Went straight up from the bealach, steep at first but gradually eased to just a steady uphill pull to Stob Coir an Albannaich. Stunning, panoramic all round views. Wild, untamed country, rock, lochan, frowning crags and far horizons. A drop down the east flank and then swung off down a gulley to cross a soggy bealach and then back up to Meall Tarsuinn and then another up hill plod to Meall nan Eun. Left the sack half way down because I would be returning back down the same way. Gosh, such a strange feeling, heading up the hill without the weight of a sack. Wow, bliss. The way across to Meall Odhar looked tricky. It meant a steep drop to the bealach and an even steeper ascent on the other side. It proved to be the case too. Basically I dropped straight down,; having to pick my way through steep, slippery rocks and loose boulders. Across the bealach and an undignified scramble up. There was no easy line and I took a diagonal course through very steep, grassy slopes. It invloved much use of hands, clinging to tufts of grass. Wet grass on such steep areas is much worse than rock. Was mighty relieved to get on to the actual ridge where there was some indication of a path. from there it was a lovely, undulating walk along a high, grassy plateau. Along the way I took in Bhruaich Leith and then up to Stob Ghabhar. This was a much more frequented area than I had been in previousl. The first time I had bumped in to other people since starting out. There is a road not that far away and that does allow easier access for folk. Nipped across to the top of Aonach Eagach, (the other one.) From there it was an amble to where I am now camped. Fortunately the forecast rain did not happen, only some thick clouds scudding across with a a few bursts of sunshine. It at least I have a chance to air things out a tad. When I bought them I thought my KSB's where wonderful; light, comfy and able to cope with harsh terrain. However, the are hopeless in wet conditions. Once wet they refuse to dry out. As a result, my feet are suffering. There is another interesting descent below me with what looks like a tricky ascent. Ah well, that is for tomorrow. Have seen buzzards, ptarmigan and loads of deer over the last few days.
Monday. heading out. this tent, ( the phoenix) can be prone to condisation. This was the case this morning. I deliberately wanted to be on the move early and packing away a soaking tent is a nuisance. The moring was dry and quite clear but some thick cloud was starting to gather. Some wispy thin stuff was drifting through the glens below, swirling like plumes of smoke over the lip of the corries and creeping tenuously up the sides of the hills. Packed tent up last, wiping it with my baby towel to rremove the last of the moisture. A movement caught my eye. On the ridge opposite a magnificant stag was picking his way along the ridge line with several hinds in attendance. He had a full set of antlers and was obviously a mature beast. The rut has only begun and as yet there is little roaring as yet. Turned down off the ridge to the bealach below me. The imposing hillside opposite relented. Steep, invloving a scamble up through grass, rock and scree but not that bad. The ridge was rock strewn which involoved me picking my way up through a boulder field to the summit Clach Leathad. The top was cloud covered, the whole area devoid of vegitation, a featureless, high, stony desert. a check of the compass and map. it would have been too easy to have made a mistake and gone wandering off in the wrong direction. there where some steep drops around. A bit further on and the cloud lifted enough for me to confirm my position. a A pleasant walk to an unamed top marked as just 1100m. from there a deliberate backtrack to a steep spine of rock that fell awaysharply but provided a way down and across. An amazing beautiful geological feature. Aspine, bow shaped, leading down off the cliffs above, a deep cirque on either side and then another rocky crescent leading upwards again to another high summit, Meall a'Buirdidh. What a lofty eyrie, to the east the flat, daunting bogland of Rannoch. Beams of light glistening on its many lochs and lochans. To the north serried ranks of high hills rolling in to the far distance. Directly below, thin ribbons, the river Etive and the river Coupall and their many feeder streams. A time to pause, to sit quietly, to just drink in the wonderful vistas. All too soon it was time to move. It was akin to sacrilidge to allow time to intrude. With a bit of a push there was a chance that I could make the earlier, 15 25 hrs bus that stops at Kingshouse road end. the next one was at 19 45hrs. being the back holiday, traffic would probably mean delays. Further down the crest and the harsh realities of commercialism; the ski tows and all the accompanying detritus. Yes, it does provide employment etc but it is still an ugly intrusion; a blighted scar on the landscape. Followed a rough path that went down by the tows. The bottom section was working, ferrying tourists up the hill. it seems i was an object of fascination and ribald comments floated across the hillside. Made the White Corries car park. Quite chuffed really. A round of the high tops from Starav had feasible on the map. Certainly there had been a few tricky bits and it had been strenuous too in places. Good though. just as well I caught the earlier bus. traffic is bad and the bus was late. Still managed my fish and chips in Glasgow. Extra coachs are being laid on, boarding has started early, now the long run back.

1 comment:

Frank and Sue said...

Hi Dawn,read your entries with great interest and really enjoyed them. One has to ask ones self sometimes , why I am doing this??? Keep up the great writing, I felt I was there with you!
Frank