Wednesday 14 October 2015

Scottish wanderings

It was raining when I left Newcastle on the Monday morning. The tent was duly delivered to me at Dunblane and Mike was there to kindly drive me up to Killin. With heavy rain all the way up, it was an easy call to stop over in Killin for the night. One downside, the bunkhouse had closed down. Serendipity. I managed a b&b at a knockdown price.
Rain had continued all night and it was still raining steadily when I left in the morning. It was one of those mild, almost muggy days when, despite wearing waterproofs, or because of, one gets damp and clammy inside as well as out. Carrying a pack with a full seven days food, spare clothing and tent added to the sweaty conditions.
Heading up Glen Lochay, it very quickly became apparent that I may experience problems. Water was cascading off the hillsides in great foaming torrents. Further up the glen, the river, in roaring spate, had burst its banks in places. The tributary burns overflowed their normal channels.

Roads and fields became lakes and rivers. trying to negotiate around the floods was nigh on impossible. Above, a photo of the road ahead. At one point I was wading half way up to my knees. Even on the flooded road the current was, at times strong. Trying to divert around one deep looking bit of flood by scrambling around the bank I went knee deep down a hole. With a heavy pack, I was, at times struggling.

River Lochay.
By the time I reached the road end at Kenknock, the rain had eased, giving way to frequent heavy showers and brief spells of sunshine.
To my surprise, the track that runs up to Learg nan Lunn turned out to be a metalled road. On the map it is clearly marked as only a track. badly potholed in places but still tarmacked. The tracks running up through the upper reaches of the glen were totally inundated. Also, there were shooting parties supposed to be operating in the region at periods over the week.
.It was a steady climb as the track, come road, zigzagged upwards. Already I was tiring, having covered some eight miles plus from Killin. To my amazement, I saw a car heading down. The guy and his wife were sight seeing and stopped to confirm that they where heading down to the village. They seemed very nonchalant about the flooding in the glen.. Over the course of the next couple of hours three more cars came through. How they managed the floods I have no idea?
This was worrying, my intention had been to camp somewhere on the bealach, leave the tent the following day and head for one or two of the surrounding tops. Leaving the tent in full view of the road was not something I was prepared to do. With everything waterlogged, my options where very limited. In the end I was faced with little choice and descended down toward Loch Lyon, a mini bus passing me on the way. Camp for the night was beside a small dam above the main one. It had been a long hard  day. Too many miles with a full pack.
It rained again during the night. Wednesday morning started off damp but not actually raining. My camp spot though was heavily infested with slugs and the midges ensured I did not linger long. Worryingly the tops were sheathed in shrouds of leaden gray. Plan C was now in motion. The intention was to move around to Glen Lyon, pitch the tent and head up the hill. One more I was thwarted. The rain returned and only a few miles up the glen I pitched up, put the kettle on and waited out the weather. The rain eased off sometime after three in the afternoon, frustrating!
Thursday was an easier day, sort of. Vehicles over on the other side of the loch had been on the move very early and I had heard an engine running further down the track on my side. Thus I upped sticks and moved on. There was still an awful amount of water coming down off the hills and getting across several fords was tricky. Rocks and boulders at times proved lethal, they were incredibly slippery.
A shoogly bridge, Glen Lyon.

Something I had noticed further up the glen was the proliferation of brand new fences and large metal gates. The fences criss crossed much of the upper glen. There was evidence too that cattle had recently been in the area. Another thing that had been constantly niggling me was the track itself. Some years back I had been in the upper reaches of the glen and I had no recollection of there being any form of track on either side. Coming around by the Abhainn Ghlas, there was a large sheep shed and heavily padlocked bothy with signs warning of 'private property, keep out'! Cattle roamed the upper glen which was dissected by yet more fences.
The track around the head of the loch had recently been built. A bulldozed scar on the area. Finding a spot to camp proved difficult.

It being the rutting season, the stags were in fine voice, their roaring echoing through the hills.Friday morning broke dry and I was keen to get out and head for one of the tops. My suspicion was confirmed. Where once a vague path had wandered up the Strath Tarabhan, it was now a stone roadway. My goal was Beinn Mhanach. As far as I could remember, there was a way up via  Coire a' Chuirn. Well that was the plan and I almost made it as far as the top of the track. The growl of four fours heading up from  Gleann Achadh-Innis Challein had me hesitating. Scrambling up above the track, I sat and watched the posse heading past. The stopped a bit further down. Men all decked out in camouflage gear gathered around, spying out the hills with telescopes. They obviously were looking for the stags. Earlier I had been watching the beasts and had a fair idea where they where. However, I was saying nothing.
To be honest, I was in a dither. It was obvious stalking was taking place somewhere round about. Part of me wanted to push on, but I felt uncomfortable and uneasy. Not helped by the fact that the tent was close to the track. The cavalcade moved further down the north side of the loch and away from the tent.

Ok, so I worry too much, but as things stood, it was a return to the tent and a cup of tea. Working on the basis no one would attempt stalking in the proximity of a herd of cows, I went for an amble following the Abhainn Ghlas. The cows were pleased to see me but were no problem. The glen was all bog. Hard going trying to pick a dryish way up through. The remains of a few ancient shielings were to be seen and old dry stone walls were gradually being absorbed back in to the boggy landscape. At one time women and children would bring the cattle up here from the glens, pasturing them through the summer months. It looks very much that it is quite possible to continue on around and down Glen Corolan. The Allt Mhic Bhaiden also offers a viable route up over the bealach of the same name and in to Glen Lochay.

With water sloshing around in my boots, I finally headed back. Not the sort of day I had planned but it turned out ok.

Just after I returned to the tent, a shot rang out on the hill opposite and an hour or so later the traffic returned the way it had come. That night there was an unsettling incident. Around eleven I could hear an engine running and spotlights illuminating the hillsides. In all probability the estate stalkers trying to work out where the stags were located. However, the searchlight illuminated the tent, it paused, moved on and then swung back. This time the tent was lit up for a couple of minutes. That made me extremely uneasy. The pickup truck continued on down one side of the glen and eventually, over an hour later, returned up the other side.
Needless to say but I was up and away early Saturday morning. Possibly the memory plays tricks, however, as I came over on the stone road that had once been a vague path to the head of Strath Tarabhan, it was all very different. Certainly I can recall following an old  grassy track that meandered upwards following the river up through the glen from the railway viaduct. It had petered out at the bealach. There had been a nice grassy patch making an ideal spot for a wild camp.. There is no recollection of the pipelines and dams that now funnel all the water down the Alt Tarabahn and in to Lock Lyon. The ancient track is gone, now replaced by a bulldozed stone road that runs down the glen. For me, it feels as if something has been lost. The land somehow altered and tamed to suit those driven by the needs of commerce. It saddens me to see it so.
Later, checking earlier maps, it corroborates my suspicions, the track Lock Lyon is fairly recent. Older maps show no indication of tracks running up the glen.

 In a mad moment, rather than follow the track down and back up, I chose to follow roughly the course of the pipeline that contours around the hill. An interesting bit of fun! My aim was for the corrie that follow the Allt an Loin. An older track runs a fair way up the corrie. From there I continued on up to Lon na  Cailliche. Some lovely camping spots on the bealach. It was also evidently used a fair bit by the deer. Mindful of the rut, I dropped down a tad and off to one side out of the way.  A wander further down to where the infant burn had formed a few pools. Shallow, only knee deep but enough for a sluice off and a dunk.
Sunday morning was dry with low clouds drifting lazily across the tops. Working now on plan Y, or was it Z? My aim was to head up to Beinn Mhanach and Beinn a' Chuirn. There was nothing difficult as such heading upwards but, possibly due to the health issues, it was not that easy going for me. Mind, I had a big grin when I finally made the cairn. It transpires that Beinn Mhanach is actually a munro.' Beinn a' Chuirn was an easy wee top to wander up to. It was fun taking it easy and picking my way back down to the tent. The best bit of the trip really. It was early afternoon but Tyndrum was still a fair distance away and I had to be there by the evening.

A spot of bog trotting and then back down Corrie an Loin. The main glen did nothing for me. Gleann Achadh inis Challein has changed drastically. Stepping out a steady pace, I was in Tyndrum by late afternoon. Checked in to the hostel, a shower and a treat of fish and chips from the cafe.

Something that has got me rather enthusiastic about is the new Trekker tent. The Stealth 1.5. It is an enlarged version of the original Stealth. Marc has really hit a winner on this tent. It weighs in at approximately 800gms, has loads of room and  more height. Using it over five days I can honestly say I am happy with it. Marc was a little apologetic about the light green fabric inner but I have no problem with it. The inner sits quite taut and is ideal for the cooler months. Give it a few months and I will do a more comprehensive write up. In the short term I will say first impressions are good. A good, lightweight, UK made tent at a very reasonable price. No frills, knobs bells or whistles, a nice tent.
Mileage wise, not a lot, approximately sixty over the week. Tuesday was roughly fourteen miles and the Sunday a good fourteen and a half.

A few more photos .

Sunday 4 October 2015

Winging it!

Tomorrow, (Monday 5th) I shall be heading north to Scotland. Somewhere in the Glen Lochay, Glen Lyon area. If that sounds a tad vague, it is because plans are most likely going to be changed. The stalking season is in full swing at the moment.
Trying to gain information proved frustrating. One head stalker I e mailed, basically informed me he would prefer it if walkers etc kept off the hills between July and October. Also I was informed that there was a chance multiple groups may be out stalking in the area I was initially heading for. Further information ought to be gained from a notice board located in the car park at the end of the public road? Thus I have a plan A, B, and C! Hopefully I will not be dodging high velocity bullets??
To add to the fun, needing a slightly larger tent, I eventually opted for a Trekker tent, the Stealth 1.5. Due to ill health and other problems, Marc, the chap who manufactures them, was running way behind time. He was going to post it me the end of last week. Unfortunately he missed the post. The tent is now going to be hand delivered to me as I get off the train at Dunblane.
This could be an interesting trip??