Sunday 8 July 2007

October. Camped O.S Map LR40. GR 814881.
A very long day. Managed a cheap flight from Stanstead at 0640am. That entailed an early start indeed, having to leave my place at 0200am; catch a 0305 bus from Victoria to ensure I arrived in time to check in. Thus was in Glasgow shortly after nine in the morning to catch the ten o clock bus to Fort William. The weather was bad all the way up with torrential rain and flooding. A quick run around FW to pick up fuel and a couple of bits and then away again on the afternoon bus to Mallaig. Had been hoping to have a meal in FW but time was against me. A pity, I was suffering from the lack of food. My aim was to head down towards Lochailort. The bus driver was excellent, he knew precisely the path I wanted and dropped me right on the exact spot. Amazingly the rain had stopped. A quick change of clothes, a much needed bar of chocolate and a drink and away up the rough path by the Allt na Criche. Lovely scenery and even a glimpse of the sun. Tiredness can lead to mistakes. I swung off down the hill above Lochan Lon a'Ghairt too early, having lost the path. This meant a very steep scramble down through tangled woods and moss covered boulders. Made it in the end and picked up the track that led down to Meoble turning off to head up the Allt Slaite Coire. A steady plod up the hill. tiredness was now starting to kick in. A slip that almost landed me in the burn was enough of a warning. A tricky crossing over a much swollen stream and a little bit of casting around found me a lovely little bit of firm ground, high enough to stay above any water from the stream close by. Just sat there for a while in the fast fading light, drinking in the wonderfull scenery. Am shattered though and need my bed.

Friday. Camped GR OS map LR33 GR864912. A Lovely day on the hill. The breeze dropped during the night and I woke up to a clear, still morning with a heavy dew. Daylight was not until 0730am and it was really nice to just sit there with a mug of tea watching the soft early morning light carressing the hill tops. As I set off, sunshine began to illuminate the tops all around. Slaite Coire remained in deep shadow though; giving it a wild and sombre look. Followed a semblance of a path which probably was a deer path up towards the bealach. The bealach itself was a desolate looking place; a large, boggy basin, with deep water filled hollows and channels, big, ancient boulders and strange shaped hillocks. Followed a broad shoulder down close to a fast, foaming burn. Paused to watch a large magnificant stag with a full rack of antlers. Made it down to the head of Gleann Taodhail. there was a path marked on the map. However, I had to get across what was quite a substantial river. There was a beautiful waterfall and below it a place that looked possible. A shuffle across a narrow bit of rock, a tentative stretch out over the water, one foot balanced on a slimy boulder, a lunge, a slither and presto, across with almost dry boots. Picked up the semblance of a path leading down the glen. it was obvious it has been little used for a long time. Such a wonderful glen complete with some natural woodland and so wild and yet so scenic. Loch Morar looked post card pretty in the sunlight. Followed the path around to Oban bothy. Closed for the stalking. However, I had checked beforehand and knew that is was ok to be in the area. Sitting outside the bothy having a nibble I could see across to where I wanted to get to. Getting there was to prove interesting.
Firstly I had to get around the head of the loch which involved another tricky river crossing. From there it was a case of heading up towards Sron a'Choin. A steep scramble up over and through rock and boulders to gain the shoulder. From there it was an easy drop down towards Kinlockmorar. Yet another river, the Abhainn Ceann Loch Morar. Did that one in bare feet, only knee deep in most places, the middle came up to my thighs. The water was fairly slow moving so no problems. Invigorating though and made for cold feet. Kinlockmorar is a group of derelict uildings, although a couple look quite modern. Another of those, small, isolated communities that once populated so much of Scotland. Access here would have been by boat down the loch. Ok in summer, in winter, a very different story. People have obviously found the living easier else where, because these houses have been used untill very recently.
Stopped fairly early in the afternoon. It allows me time time to just chill, and air things out. There is a strong wind picking up from the SE and some thick cloud as well. It being the rutting season the hills are echoing with the bellowing roars of randy stags. Each striving for dominance of the hinds as they come into their once yearly season. it is the only time of the year they mate and so the stags have to be very busy. Poor beasts, they are shadows of their former selves by the end of the season. There was lovely spot to put the tent but it looks like the stags use it for a jousting ground. Put the tent up in a nice little spot protected by some large boulders. A large group of hinds are grazing close by.

Saturday. Camped GR868959. OS mapLR33. Close to Sourlies bothy. A shortish day. was woken by stags roaring close by, some heavy thuds, a massive crack as antlers tangled with antlers. Again early this morning another couple where sparring. My hunch was right, the bit of ground I looked at last night is a favourite spot for the stags to prove there worth. Awesome, sitting there, mug of tea in hand, the grey light of morning just seeping in and just across from me two stags challenging each other. A few bellowing roars, some huffing and puffing, a couple of steps back and then bang, a mighty coming together. Heads down, antlers locked. there was no real contest though. The challenger was a youngster whereas the defender was a massive beast. He stood there, flanks heaving, steam rising off him, giving a mighty triumhant bellow as the young challenger fled.
The wind had been steady during the night and come morning a mass of thick cloud was scudding across the sky. Thus it was I was away early. I wanted to be at least up on to the ridge before the rain started. Angled across and up the hill towards Sgurr Mor. only a small top but it was still a relentless scamble getting there. Some very steep ground and some scrambling made things interesting. As I made the ridge the expected rain began. I was glad that it had not started as I made my way up, it would have been hot work in waterproofs.. despite the rain and some low cloud brushing the tops there was still some fine views. A lovely airy walk following the ridge along towards Sgurr nah Aide. from the ridge it was difficult to find a way down off it. Finally turned down by Bealach nan Daoine. it proved to be a very tricky descent too. Further along the ridge it had been almost sheer; here it was just hidiously steep. At first mainly over wet and greasy rock, lower down, steep, wet bog that clung to the hillside by what means I am unsure. As I descended I almost had a run in with a stag. Picking my way round a spur of rock and trying to ignore the steep drop below I came to face with this beast. One has to be careful at this time of the year, if they think they are being challenged stags will attack humans. This one was only a youngster though and I had the high ground. He tried a half hearted roar, but obviously had not been practising his bellowing, it was more a weezy bleat than anything. he backed off and angled around the other side of the outcrop and up the hill. Finally made my way down and across to Finiskaig for another deep river crossing, knee deep but cold. Said hi! to a Spanish couple staying at Sourlies bothy and found a lovely spot right by the edge of the loch. Oyster catchers and curlews patter around the low tide water line feeding. it is so peaceful here. Just natural noise, birds, mainly, but the primeaval roaring of the stags adds another dimension to things. Some heavy showers drifting across from the SE.

Saturday. Have moved into Sourlies bothy for tonight.
Although I much prefer the tent it will be handy to have it dry when I head out tomorrow. It has been a leisurely day. Woke to a calm, still morning. The tide was in and the hills where reflected in the mirror like surface of the water.. The Spanish couple came by as I dawdled over breakfast and another two guys where heading through to Glen Dessary.
My intention was to head up the hill behind the bothy. Making my way up Druim a' Ghoirtein. A pleasant broad, twisted shoulder with many small tops, dips and hollows. My aim was for Sgurr na Ciche. (the rocky peak of the breast). It was a top I had seen several times before in my travels around this area but had never got around to doing. Had a tad of dificulty finding a way up. Thick mist swirling around made it difficult to find a route. Finally scrambled up a loose gulley and then through steep grass grass and rock and finally a narrow cleft. Just kept heading upwards untill there was no more up. Touched the small cairn and did not linger. It was damp and cold and visibility was about nil.
Was going to head down in to Coire na Ciche and make my way across to the stalkers path. However, had a good look at it as popped out of the thick mist and decided it meant a long drop down and crossing a lot of wet, boggy ground. Instead just ambled back down. The mists drew back leaving some stunning views and I see across to the Isle of Skye. there was sunshine in that direction. By the time I got back to the bothy it was becoming quite overcast. Am heading out tomorrow via Inverie. My intention is to pick up the afternoon ferry to Mallaig and then the train to FW. Thus having dry gear to pack is handy.
Lit a small fire in the bothy. It is a smoky affair. Possibly the chimney needs a sweep. Being almost out of gas having a fire allowed me to cook supper and have enough for a brew in the morning. There is a smattering of rain this evening and it feels positively chilly.
Sunday. Fort William. Was awake early but was in no real hurry to get going. The weather, although overcast, remained dry. made my way around andacross the tidal flats to Carnach. Some more abandoned buildings. made my way up to the Mam Meadail bealach. There is a good path all the way. The path leads down Gleann Meadail towards Inverie. Further down the glen I was surprised to see what had been an old ruin converted into a rather up market bothy by the local estate. One has to pay to use it and it was securely locked. Unfortunately the track leading up to it has suffered in the process. Really churned up with deep, water filled ruts and glutinous, thick mud. Got in to Inverie fairly early at around 1300hrs. Popped in to the local pub for a bowl of homemade soup and fresh bread. Struck it lucky. Noticed a guy unloading someones baggage off a boat and gave him a hand. In return he gave me a lift back to Mallaig. Getting a lift back by boat meant I made it an hour before the ferry. thus managed to get the train to Fort William. Rang a local private hostel. They promptly came and collected me from the station. the hostel is actually a group of several houses. I have one all to my self. It is clean, tidy, with a well equipped kitchen. A coomon rooom with a wide range of reading aterial, videos etc and everything is so clean and tidy. Am away on the first bus in the moring. a good few days on the hill.

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