These are a few extracts taken from old logbooks written up and outlining one or two backpacking trips taken a few years back. On this trip, map used was OS Land Ranger 40 1:50 000.
October 18. 2001. A long, tiring day, which involved a lot of travel. My day at 0:2AM to catch a 3:05AM bus to Stanstead airport. This was for a cheap, £10 flight to Glasgow, it departed at 06:05 Am. . A short train journey in to Glasgow and on to the 10:Am Fort William bus. The weather looked bad on the way up, heavy, driving rain, roads awash with water. Fortunately things had eased off by the time we reached FW. A quick dash to pick up gas and a few bits and it was on to the Mallaig bus. My intention had been to grab a meal before heading out again but the chippy had been busy, ditto the local supermarket. Bread rolls and cheese would have to suffice.
The bus driver was a local chap and knew precisely where I wanted get off the bus, a couple of miles before Lochailort. It was a relief to find that the path marked on the map actually existed. The rough path led me up by the Alt ne Criche. Thankfully the rain had stopped and the afternoon even had some sunshine. Unfortunately the path became increasingly difficult to follow. Stopping to check the map, I surmised I had missed the fork in the path. There ought to have been a divide with one going higher up the hill and a lower path leading down through woodland. After a quick nibble and a ponder, I decided to stick with the lower path, they both led to the track I was aiming for. Possibly this was a mistake! The wood was no planted block of sitka. Rather, it was akin to a segment of a more ancient wild wood. It was situated on the steep slope of a hill. Predominantly it consisted of ancient, twisted and gnarled Scots pines, there was juniper too and oaks that were clearly of a great age. It was obvious that few ever came this way. Uprooted trees, rotting logs, boulders coated in luxurious coats of verdant mosses, made the going very difficult. Also, the ground fell away steeply. Picking my way down made for difficult going. It was welcome relief to finally get down to Lochan Lon a Ghairt. Had to pause there for a wee breather. There is a small building by the loch, a hydro electric system by the look of it. The track that ran up to it made for easy going down toward Meoble, a small, isolated community, what a place to live! found the turning I wanted, initially a track that ran up by the Alt Slaite Coire. The track became more of a path and then faded away completely, A stream swollen by recent rain made for a tricky crossing. Once over I realised how tired I was getting. A further push up the hill to the Staite corrie, a wide, open bowl hemmed in by walls of high hills. It was a joy to find a camp spot surrounded by wonderful vistas. Tent up in fading light, supper and and I was soon asleep.
A heavy dew overnight meant a wet ten in the morning. The sun was shining on the surrounding tops but the corrie remained in the shade. There was no rush to be away and I was content to sit and gaze around the corrie over breakfast. It felt like a wild place, off the beaten track and I wondered how many gangrels had stravaiged this place? Packed up and away, heading up toward the bealach that would lead me over towards Gleann Taodnail. Ahead of me a magnificent stag appeared silhouetted briefly on the horizon. By the size of him and the spread of his antlers, a very mature chap indeed! It being the rutting season, the hills and glens echoed to the bellowing of the stags. It was steady going up on to the bealach. Off to my right a stream flowed down over rocky slabs, ahead of me was some very rough ground. A morass of bog, water everywhere, pools large and small, brimming peat hags, jumbled, semi submerged boulders, all hemmed in by the surrounding hills. It was somewhat disconcerting to find the ground undulating under my feet as I tentatively threaded my way over to a raised rocky shoulder, which led me down toward the upper reaches of Gleann Taodhall. A bit of tricky boulder hopping to get across the river and I was on to the path, clearly an old stalkers path.
stopping for a wee break, I looked around me, taking in the wonderful ruggedness of the area. Wild, though I hesitate in describing it as such. Looking at the map, it is clear that the surrounding glens at one time were populated by many small communities. The glens now empty, devoid of people, many forcibly removed, only crumbling ruins remain.
The morning had started with bright early morning sun but it had become cloudier, the sun coming and going. Autumn was well underway, the glen me a mixture of russet and gold. It was colder too and I did not linger long. The walk down the glen was a delight with the water of Loch Morar glistening below me. The river, river rushing ever downward, tumbling over waterfalls, cascading into deep pools, swirling around boulders and rocky slabs. Ancient, stunted trees, clung to the steep hillsides. The path appeared little used but the skill of those who had constructed it, still evident. Coming around by Oban bothy, padlocked, a note pinned on the door 'closed during stalking season' Fortunately I had already checked and was informed that there was no shooting in that area on the days I was passing through.
This was the one part of the trip I had most concerns about. My aim was to make my way over to Kinlochmorar. The one problem was that it was across on the other side of the loch. Initially I had hoped that I would be able to skirt around the edge of Sron A Choin. That was not possible, it had to be plan B. After a spot of lunch, cast about a bit and, although fairly wide, the river was flowing quite slowly. Boots off, strip to my undies and I went for it. not the easiest of crossings, at one point I was waist deep, however, I made it. A bit of a tussle getting up and over the hill, heather covered boulders and hidden holes made for caution. A drop down to the AbhainnCean Loch Morar. Almost as deep as the last river, steep banks made getting out a wee bit difficult.
Kinlochmorar appears to have been occupied until quite recently. One or two of the ruins appear to be fairly modern. The afternoon had turned out quite pleasant. It was an early stop, but there was no problem with that. A time to potter, drink tea and generally laze. There was a lovely flat area that looked ideal to pitch the tent. However, it was also well used by the deer. It being the rut, I decided prudence was best and pitched the tent close in to one of the ruined buildings. Sitting outside the tent with a brew, I listened to the roaring of the stags. There is something almost primordial in their bellowing. What was fascinating too, was the vocal variations of their roaring. Not too far from me, high on the hill, I had glimpsed a large stag with a wide spread of antlers, his bellowing was a deep throated full on roar, seemingly coming from deep within. In comparison the response from a stag on the far side of the loch was still a full on bellow, but somehow not quite the same quality. Somewhere behind me though, further up the glen that linked with the Morar glen, was another contender, he too had a very deep roar. There were several other stags about, but their roaring somehow lacked that that deep resonance. As I settled in for the night, I left the flysheet open and in the twilight dim, I could see the hinds making their way down the hill to graze on the grassy sward. With them came the large stag, he was keeping a close eye on his harem, quickly rounding up any of the hinds who wandered too far. There was an exciting moment when a young stag tried to make of with one of the hinds. A bellowing roar from the big stag, a quick charge and the youngster fled.
Despite the bellowing of the stags, I was soon asleep. Much later though I was woken up by an unearthly racket, gave me quite a start! Gingerly unzipping the inner tent, I peered out. What a sight, the moon was high in the sky, its soft light bathing the glen, across to where I had first thought of pitching, two stags were squaring up to each other. One was the big stag, challenging him was a slightly smaller stag. Big fella took the offensive, after a bit of posturing and sizing each other up, he lowered his head and charged the interloper. The two of them met head on with a mighty clash of antlers. Eyes bulging, antlers locked, they strained and heaved, big fella tried to throw down his opponent. It seemed to be touch and go as to who would break first. big fella dug deep and with a heave gradually forced his challenger back, suddenly the challenging stag broke free and turned to flee, big fella charged him, hitting him broadside, I winced at the almighty thump, the younger stag almost went down but somehow he kept moving. Big fella let him go, he stood there flanks heaving, his tongue hanging out. His harem, seemingly unconcerned by by all the rumpus, had wandered further down the glen, big fella was quick to round them up, but what a way to win the girls! Nature in the raw!
It felt quite chilly in the morning and it was overcast. . From the start it was uphill all the way. Having read somewhere that the ridge I was heading for was little frequented but offered a fine, high level walk. The hill grew steeper as I cut diagonally upwards. Rocky outcrops near the top called for care, it something of a scramble. The stunning view from Sgurr Breac was breath taking. Loch Nevis lay spread out far below. The high hills on the far side of the Loch stood in fine relief, low clouds scudding across their tops. It was a fine airy walk around to Sgurr nam Meileach and then across to Sgurr na Aide. With the dark clouds building up, it time to find a way down. The ground fell away steeply below me. Coire Dubh look daunting. keeping it to my left, I began to pick my way down. Picking my carefully around an outcrop of rock, focused on where I was placing my feet, I was startled by a rattle of falling stones. Glancing up, I was confronted by a stag just a few feet above me. Fortunately he took off, back up the slope. Stags can be feisty at this time of the year, but this one was only a youngster and and decided retreat was best. A pause for moment or two to let my pulse settle down a bit and I continued weaving my way downward. Finally I reached the glen floor by Finiskaig, just as it started to rain. A tricky river crossing, on with waterproofs and a stroll over to Sourlies bothy. A Spanish couple where making use of the bothy and they had the kettle on and offered me a welcome cuppa and biscuits. Once the rain eased off, I set up camp a short distance away.
Heavy showers during the night, rain had eased by morning. It remained damp though with low, brooding cloud on the hills. Headed directly up the hill behind the bothy. This was just an out and back, thus I left the tent where it was and travelled light.. Came by Druim a Ghoirtein, a lovely, broad twisted shoulder with a mixture of several small humps, dips and hollows. The hill I was aiming for was Sgurr na Ciche.. Wet swirling mist made it somewhat difficult to pick out a route and it became a scramble up through steep, rocky slopes. The mist lifted as I worked my way down to the bealach where I was relieved to get out of clammy waterproofs and then headed on up to Garbh Chioch Mhor. Again, steep scrambley stuff and I was glad to be only carrying a light pack. To cap things off, I took in Druim nan Uadhag before descending wet, boggy ground and picking my way down toward the bothy. The afternoon had turned out quite pleasant. The tent had dried out and to save the probability of packing a wet tent in the morning, I moved in to the now empty bothy.
Was up quite early in the morning but was in no rush, it was time to be heading out. The weather was overcast when I set out. but it remained dry. Cutting across the tidal flats, I came by the ruins of Carnoch. It always feels to me to be a sad place, another deserted community! It felt quite chilly as I came over Mam Meadail. Lovely views from the bealach. It was still grey and overcast, making Gleann Meadail look rather sombre but it is still lovely glen to walk through. There was a surprise further down, the last time I passed this way there had been a ruin close to the path. Someone had been busy, the building has been completely re built. According to the notice on the door it was now a private bothy, one had to pay to make use of it. By the looks of it, whatever machinery had been used to bring material in, had caused a lot of damage. The path had vanished, the area was a mess of churned up mud and deep water filled wheel ruts. Inverie look deserted when I arrived.
With time on my hands before catching the ferry, I went in to the pub for a bowl of home made soup and bread, most enjoyable. Wandering across to the jetty, I noticed a guy off loading boxes and crates from his boat on to the pier. He was really pleased when I offered to give him a hand. My reward was a free boat trip over to Mallaig. Picked up a few bits for supper and then caught the train up to Fort William. My intention was to book in somewhere, a hot shower and clean clothes where high on my agenda. Ringing one of the town's independent hostels, Calluna, I was assured that I could book in for the night. The person I spoke to on the phone, asked what means of transport I had? As soon as I mentioned that I was on foot, he insisted I stayed put and he would collect me immediately. Not only did I get a lift up to the hostel but I am getting a lift back to the station in the morning. It will be an early start, catching the seven o clock Glasgow bus. The beginning of the long journey south. The hostel is quite amazing, a series of buildings, I have one all to myself! there is a clean and tidy kitchen with all mod cons. Also there is a common room with a small library. A roomy drying room and there is a notice stating that if anyone wanted washing done it would cost £1:50. Impressive, especially since it cost me only nine pounds for the night.