Thursday, 28 February 2008


Maybe I am a wee bit odd, however, sitting here in my dog kennel size flat, re, shoe box mk 1, I have been sorting gear out. This is stuff that was used on my last trip away. The flat, being so tiny, affords little room for hanging equipment up to dry and air. This may sound terribly untidy but everything gets sorted right in the middle of my room. A by product of this is bits of grass leaves, twigs etc all over the floor. They hold memories though, reminders of a wild camp. Those bits of grass and pine needles of a camp under a friendly old Scots pine. The leaves from when I pitched, bone weary, in a small copse, glad to get the tent up and sink down on the soft floor of grass and leaves with a welcombe mug of hot soup. Pheasants cackling around me, the wind soughing in the trees, water lapping on the loch shore. With a smile I gently hold a leaf and remember. These are places I came quietly to, a traveller moving through, stopping briefly overnight and moving on. No one knows of my passing, there is no sign, no trace that I have ever been that way. Only I know and they remain in my memories.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Wet and wild

Thursday 21st 02, GR OS LR34 382029 Blackburn bothy.
Did what is becoming a familiar shuffle, train up to Inverness, an overnight stay and
travel on in the morning. Took the bus down to fort Augustus. The weather was deteriorating all the while. By the time I got off the bus it was raining heavily. Made my way around to the start of the Corrieyairack track. Initially it was a steepish pull up the first bit. Stopped to admire two fine white bulls standing on the path; one limping a tad. If the weather had been good it would have meant fine views but that was not to be. One or two stiffish sections but otherwise a steady uphill plod. As I climbed higher it was in to the teeth of a gale and driving rain. Made the bothy ok, everything is streaming with water though. The blackburn itself is a foaming torrent and the water is up close to the bothy. Everything is at least damp and it was a case of getting the stove going pdq and getting hot fluids down me. The storm is still roaring outside and the bothy is creaking and groaning it also leaks a bit.
Friday camped gr OS LR35 584 930.
Quite a day. The storm had eased during the night. Sleet and hail was bouncing off the bothy roof but the water level had dropped a bit, as had the temperature. Dithered for a while, but there was little choice accept to push on. Yuch, dressing in cold, damp clothing is no fun. Spent some time trying to find somewhere to cross the blackburn. In the end I decided it had to be the ford or nothing. Took a deep breath and plunged in. The water was just over knee deep and the force of it meant I had to brace heavily with the trekking poles. Once across things where not too bad. A steady uphill walk for the next couple of hours. Sleet and snow showers coming and going. Made the bealach in poor visibility and a heavy snow shower. Comimg off the bealach the drop is much steeper and the zig-zags where banked in snow. Down in the corrie the track had gone completely, washed out and replaced by deep, water filled gullies and bog. A great pity, it would be good to see this ancient bit of history preserved. Just below Melgarve the track gives way to tarmac. All I can say is that it is a long plod down some seven miles of road. The strath is wide and open. probably doing it in company and with dry feet it will be easier. Mind, I am going to ensure some heavier shock absorbing insoles are in my footwear. Sleeting at present. Stopping at last light, I just pulled off the road on to the track I want tomorrow and camped under an old Scots pine. A good day, a lot of miles, hard, but ok.
Saturday. Gr OS LR35 712949. to the ridge
Wow, what a day. Followed the track I was camped on through to Achdruchil. My aim was to head up the forestry tracks opposite. So much for my plans. Working off the 1 50 000 map there was no indication that the wood had been sculpted by a myriad of cycle trails. Mountain bikers you will love it, steep swoops and banking curves for the adventures, gentler trailsfor those less inclined. it made the map reading extremely interesting though. Doable, ie, just keep following a succesion of trails that headed in the right direction. Came out on the ridge to be confronted by a deer fence. These things are eight feet tall and not easy to cross. From there dropped down towards the Alt na cubbhaige. That was a very unwise move. It was bog and water, even the climb back up to Creag Doire Duibhe was over boggy ground. What followed was worse. A steepish drop down and across toward loch Glas choire, meant some really nasty bog. At one point, teetering across wobbly tussocks I stepped on to a boulder; horror, the thing began to sink underneath me. To make things even more fun the whole area was intersperced with a further three separate deer fences. One thing I am not is some form of champion hurdler. It was obvious I was not prepared to tackle the third ridge across the other side of the road. Caked in mud, damp and a mite dispirited; I took to the road. Down to Catlodge and then down to Glen Truim. Followed the cycle trail that runs beside, but separate from the trunk road down to were a track runs up to Glen Fernisdale and the lodge. Again stopping late in the day. Pheasants are bred around where I camped and I have an evening chorus of mad pheasant cackling. Maybe they are laughing at me? Mind, some look as if they would make nice tasty eating??. There have been sleet showers on and off all day. Tonight though the temperature is rising, as is the wind. My concern is that I am well short of where I need to be tomorrow. People are expecting me over in the outdoor centre close to loch Morlich. That looks like a lot of miles to cover.

Sunday Badaguish outdoor centre.
Temperature dropped again in the early hours and I packed up and got underway with a blustery wind blowing and sleet and hail showers. The way on from where I had camped was a delight. Open, rolling moorland. No steep bits and a good track. my feet where a bit sore after a few days in wet socks and foot wear, that, and compiled with a lot of road walking meant achy feet. made good time over toward Kingussie. The map had to be checked to ensure that I stayed on the right track. Other tracks led off in differing directions and where not always marked on the map. had a mile of trunk road by Kingussie and then turned off toward Ruthven barracks. Stayed on the road to Tromie bridge. From there it meant constant map reading through the forestry trails to Feshiebridge. From there even more close map reading to Loch an Eilein. By then light was fast fading. Somewhere along the way a long walk had turned in to a hard route march. To be honest, I am not proud of that. there where miles to cover and cover them I did. My phone, which I had switched on that afternoon, rang; It was Jules, one of the people I was meeting. As soon as I spoke to her she insisted I made my way to a point where she could pick me up. A quick check of the map and I suggested Blackpark cottage. it was only a few miles further on and knowing the area meant I could make that last push to get there with no difficulty. As soon as I made the car in a steady, snow fall, Jules made drink some sugary soft drink. It seems I had sounded quite drunk on the phone; hypoglycaemia had been setting. my sugar levels had gone through the floor. Feet and ankles are quite swollen. (Checking later on, my mileage for the day works out on average 24 miles.)

One of the aims of this trip had been to check part of the route Darren and I are covering on the TGOc. The Corrieyairack and the section beyond had been niggling me. My concern had been both terrain and distance. Ok, lessons learned. Firstly, From Fort Augustus to the bothy is some 2/3 hours of uphill walking. From the bothy to the bealach is another 2 hours or so of uphill walking. These are conservative times, we may well cover the ground quicker than this. Over the bealach and down to the tarmac an hour or so. from there it means some 7 seven mile of road walking. There are few places to wild camp. Also, if we do we compound the problem. The following day is across country. Ok, I have a slightly different approach, having studied been there, the terrain and consulted a 1 25 000 map, we can swing around on higher ground. it does mean a lengthy day. Camping near, or a bit beyond where I stopped on Saturday means if put the miles in, Glen Feshie can be reached ok. A good point is that although we have a few miles to cover the terrain is good. Thus, on average, some three days from Blackburn to Glen Feshie. In all honesty I think they are going to be some of our hardest days but doable.

it is how difficult the weather has been over the last few months. There have few settled periods. Weather front after weather front. A constant succesion of storms and fluctuating temperatures. For me personally I find it tiring trying to adjust to these conditions. it becomes frustrating.

Saturday, 9 February 2008


Headed north once more Tuesday last, (5thFeb.) To be honest, I was a little uncertain. When I got up early Tuesday morning I felt a bit under the weather. However, having booked b&b for that night in Inverness and also rung Kinlochewe post office to let the post bus driver be aware that I would be wanting to catch it from Achnasheen; I travelled up. Wednesday morning, ate the cooked breakfast provided, mainly because I knew I would eat little for the rest of the day. Caught the post bus ok; there is only a three minute time gap between the train arriving and it leaving. was in Kinlochewe by 12 30. my intention was the straight forward walk up by the heights of Kinlochewe and up through Gleann na Muice. There is a massive re forestation programme going on. Miles and miles of hill deer fenced off and planted up with native Scots pine, aspen and rowen. Commendable, what I was, and am uncomfortable with is the path building that is taking place in the glen. Mini diggers building a wide path, burns being bridged and so forth. Speaking with the estate workers they informed me that the path will eventually go all the way up to Lochan Fada and the overall aim is to have another path linking it from the other side, up Gleann Bannisdail. There are already stalkers paths there which are adequate. Maybe I am being selfish but I cannot help but feel it will detract the very real wilderness feel of the Fisherfield area. Unfit as I am, there was something wrong beyond that; I was starting to feel ill, hot, sweaty and a tad wobbly. made it up to Lochan Fada, trying to find a place to pitch the tent was difficult. Set it up in the end on a slight knoll that was a lot more exposed than I wanted. By now it was obvious I was running a temperature, also I was having severe stomach cramps and and felt nauseas. Just rolled in to the sleeping bag, running hot and cold. Dozed off, but soon woke up to be sick. By around midnight I had been sick a few times, the wind was rapidly rising and buffetting the tent. Somewhere around three it was obvious the pegs where coming loose in the boggy ground. By now it was a full gale with driving rain. Had to get out and dump rocks on the tent pegs to anchor them; yuch. At about six am the wind was really hammering the tent. In an odd, detached sort of way, I lay in the sleeping bag wondering if the tent was going to take off or not. Decided it best to pack everything just in case I had to bail out. At first glimmer of light, stowed away the sleeping bag and stumbled out in to the storm. The wind caught the rucksack which started rolling away. Anchored it by ramming the ice axe through the carry handle and into the wet, boggy ground. Whipped the tent pole out and rapidly sat on the tent to prevent it heading away across the hill With tent bundled uncerimoniously in to the sack, I paused for a few moments to try and collect my wits. It had been crossing my mind to carry on around the loch, there where one or two bays that may have offered enough shelter to camp up. Not having eaten since the previous morning, although I had managed a cup of tea earlier, still feeling rough there was little choice but to head back down. The burns where in full spate and I went in a few times knee deep. Booked in to Kinlochewe bunkhouse for the Thursday night. From what I was told when I booked in, wind speeds had been averaging sixty miles an hour. Ah well, the hex managed well enough. managed some soup later on Thursday but still had little to eat. Friday morning it was still blowing a storm and with a lousy forecast for the rest of the weekend I bailed out. Ok, so I am chicken, but I had nothing to prove. An interesting sitution waiting for the train at Achnasheen, wheely bins bouncing across the road. Another woman was also catching the train, we stood well back against the building as the train pulled in. The pair of us then staggered across to the train, propelled by the wind, clutching each other like a pair of drunks. There a couple of photos, however I still do not know how to get them over to the blog pages.