Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Gangrel on the Minigaig







Allt Mharcaidh
Allt Mharcaidh

Heading up the Minigaig


Looking down Glen Bruar




Scheicheachan bothy
Thursday 28th October. OS Explorer map 394 835737 Allt Scheicheachan bothy.
Did the usual shuffle up last night; this time around though there was an extra twist. My intention was to head for Blair Athol, the one problem is that there is little in the way of direct public transport in. A local bus service runs from Pitlochry and a few trains stop there. Thus I got off the coach in Aviemore with the intention of heading back to Blair on the train. With some two hours to kill for my train connection I sauntered around Aviemore, had a couple cups of coffee and wandered in to Tesco for a few nibbles and lunch break food. It is peculiar and I wonder if others do the same sort of thing? After picking up a few bread rolls and some fillings, threw a couple bars of chocolate in the basket, then though things get silly, the 'just in case' bits that get picked up as well, that extra bar of chocolate, or, in my case a Selkirk bannock that weighed a ton; odd little snack things to stow away in obscure corners of the rucksack, just in case they may be needed? Train back down to Blair Athol and by now time was getting late; it being near three o clock when I left there. However, being very aware that my intended route for the following day was a long one I wanted to push on. The day was damp and grey but mild. Working my way around to Old Blair I found the track I wanted that would lead to the bothy It climbed up through the woods and everything was dank and dripping and my enthusiasm fizzled away like a damp squib. Once clear of the woods and on to open moorland things picked up as I settled in to a steady, slow plod following the track higher and higher up the rolling moor. Stags where roaring on the hill and I smiled to myself; it was good to hear their gutteral bellowing. A black grouse gave me momentary start as it as it exploded from almost under my feet, clattering away on stubby wings with it's manic 'go back, go back' cry; saw snipe as well. This, way back in the 18th century had been the route of a military road heading for Ruthven barracks before the lower Drumochter, which is now the main A9 road, came in to being. Today, this section is just an estate track. Darkness was coming in rapidly and the cloud base was settling lower and lower, sort of spooky! At first I resisted using the head torch in the growing murk and stuck with focusing on the outline of the track. Eventually though there was little option and the beam of light stabbed out in to the inky blackness. Drizzle and light rain was falling, rain drops glistening in the glare of the torch; wisps and tendrils of thick mist swirled around me, all very atmospheric. The track began to descend and eventually the outline of the tiny bothy loomed hazily ahead, a welcome haven on a dreich night and I was thrilled to find it. With a great sigh of relief I thrust open the door and stumbled wearily inside, letting the rucksack fall to the floor with a thud. A long haul of some eight to ten miles and after a night of travelling and a late start not an easy one; however, my intended route for the morrow dictated I needed to get these few miles out of the way first. No camping tonight, soup, supper and the sleeping bag.
Friday 29th October. Glen Feshie. OS map Explorer 403. Camped GR 848941.
A very hard and difficult day, certainly I was aware that with my lack of fitness that the day would not be easy but it proved more difficult than I wanted. Was away from the bothy before nine. The morning had a dampness to it but it was not raining. Underfoot though things where very wet and in many places greasy. Followed the path that contours around Druim Dubh and dropped down to Bruar lodge. Met a lady out walking from the lodge; she invited me in for tea and toast. Oh sacrilege, shame upon me, I had to refuse, time was against me, rain was forecast for early evening and I hoped to be in glen Feshie by then. Following the track up glen Bruar was a plod and I found it a tad uninspiring. Stopping for a quick break at the head of the glen where the track ended, I was well aware of the dark, bruised, blue, black clouds ominously building up from the west and edging ever closer. A stiffish climb up the hill by Uchd na h-Analach following a fairly discernible path; care map reading was still required and the white quartzite markers where an added aid to navigation. Obviously at one time there must have a well defined track, troop movement across such open moor would have demanded it. It is hard to imagine how it must have been for those soldiers laden with all their gear, intimidating at least. The question then arises as to who first began using this high level way across the hills? Glen Feshie was one of the old drove route through the hills, this route though went up and over, shorter, but a lot more exposed to bad weather. Possibly ancient tribes and local people used it as summer route? These regions, now a lot less populated, where home to many tribes and peoples and would have been very familiar to them. The wind was beginning to rise and the rain came with it. By the time I got to the Minigaig the wind was buffeting me and the rain was sluicing down. Estate buggies had been operating in the area and they had churned the ground to a muddy mess in places. What there was left of the path was a slick, slippery morass; and it became increasingly clear that much of the actual path had disappeared. Trying to follow the buggy tracks was not a real option as they ran every which way possible. With no certainty of where the actual path was the best option was to follow its rough line by map and compass. As I descended the hill the rougher the ground became, quaking bog, peat hags, hidden hollows full of water; awful stuff to navigate through. my intention was to follow a path across and up to Cnapan Cuilce. If there was a path I never found it, the Alt na Cuilce was well up, its dark water swirling ominously. After much scouting back and forward I found a likely spot that might not be too difficult to get across, easing across to a few submerged boulders, I paused for a moment and then using the trekking poles to stabilise me I lunged for the far bank. Fortunately the water was only just above knee deep and the current not too strong, but oh my, it was cold. Following deer trails I headed up the hill and around the edge of the forestry, putting up a large stag and a few hinds that ambled off as I approached them. At least the track marked on the map above the forestry was there, however, there was no immediate sign of the lower path that led down through the forestry. By now it was getting late and darkness was not far away, the weather too was quite bad with driving rain and a strong wind. Taking stock of the situation I decided it would be quicker and easier to stick with the main track although it was longer, higher and more exposed. Following what may have been a fire break down through what looked a tangled mass of undergrowth was not really a viable option. Put up a mountain hare on the way down, it appeared to be in the transitional stage of changing from summer coat to winter; not yet white but a mottled grey. It was pitch black by the time I got down to glen Feshie; the beam of my head torch, a tiny shaft of light stabbing the darkness of the rain lashed night. By now I was running on auto pilot, one weary foot placed in front of the other, just plodding on. With the Carnachuin bridge gone it was obvious that there was no way I was going to make it down to the other bridge and back up the other side. In my mind I had a plan, being fairly familiar with the area, I had mentally marked an area suitable for an emergency camping place. Now was the time to make use of it; although not far below the houses, it was close down by the river and hidden by the trees. The tent was thrown up with no finesse and everything thrown inside. Wet gear off and in to a dry sleeping bag; just as I was about to light the stove though my legs severely cramped up. In agony I got back out of the tent and in a state of semi undress and shivering violently, I tried to ease the cramp out of my hurting legs. Tentatively easing bag in to the sleeping bag, still shivering, it is not easy to strike a match when one is shaking so; however, finally got the stove going, hot fluids, food and more hot fluids. Wearied, that is the hardest thing I have done for a while.
Saturday 30th October, camped OS explorer map 403 GR849019.
Not wanting to be hanging around too late in the morning, tiptoed quietly away from my overnight camp spot. The rain had stopped and the weather was not too bad but I was undecided as to what to do of the day. it had been in my mind to make my way back up toward the bothy and camp, allowing myself a rest day. Mulling it over I decided against it, with the amount of recent rain the possibility of yet more coming back out may have proven interesting getting out. Instead I wandered on down the glen. Followed a path around toward Allt Ruadh, everything very wet. With the rain starting again and wearied from yesterdays long day, it was an easy decision to stop early. This is not the best of places to stop, however, it will suffice for tonight. Rain is still falling, trousers and footwear still wet, wringing out wet socks and putting on wet trousers is never pleasant.
Sunday 1st November. Camped, OS explorer map 403. GR 878053.
Woke to thin, drizzly rain, insidious stuff that seems to creep in everywhere, one feels there is hardly any need for full waterproofs and yet and yet without them clothes would be soon soaked. Even though I had camped in a clear area, camping in forestry is not me favourite ideal and I was glad to be up and away. Once more a fairly easy day was in mind, making my way over to glen Mharcaidh, setting up camp and heading up Geall Charn. That had been the original plan anyway. By the time I got over to glen Mharcaidh the rain was getting steadily heavier; higher up the glen the hillside was running with water. Coming back down to the footbridge I decided to continue on lower down the glen. Although there is a path marked on the map I have never found it in the lower part of the glen. Normally I can pick my way down fairly ok, this time though the whole area was totally saturated and in places flooded. Trying to make my way over toward the trees meant wading knee deep through bog and it was actually easier to stick closer to the river, the water there only came up over my ankles and lower legs and also was not as boggy. As I was heading out in the morning I did not want to get too far in towards Aviemore. My coach was not until the early evening and I did not want to be in Aviemore much before mid afternoon. Despite all the bog and water I had a plan in mind, the big old Scots pines normally offer a haven of firm dry ground and so it proved this time. This afternoon I am comfortably camped on an island surrounded by bog and water with the rain now hammering down, curtains of it. It is colder too, I was glad to put on an extra layer when I stopped.
Monday.
Was in Aviemore by mid afternoon, managed a hot shower in the public loo, oh my, the luxury of a hot shower and clean dry clothes, putting on saturated boots and trousers this morning was unpleasant. Now the long wait for the coach. One can only drink so many cups of coffee and spend so much time in the coffee shops. As it is I have snuck in to the rail station waiting room and hoping no one pays me any mind.

4 comments:

Gayle said...

Sounds like it was a good, even if slightly-more-than-soggy, trip.

Chris Townsend said...

Rough weather to be out in. November 1 was the wettest day this year. I'll bet the Minigaig was interesting! You have some lovely atmospheric photos. And it sounds an exciting adventure, which is one advantage of stormy weather, especially afterwards.

Anonymous said...

Damn Dawn, I'd like to see you enjoy some sunshine some time. Then again that's me projecting; you seem to enjoy yourself irrespective of all the wet. Nice read, as always.

J.

Martin Rye said...

Wet indeed but still a trip that had so much in it. The photos have that atmospheric feel about them.