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Scotland's Watershed Part 8, Black Mount to A86 at Feagour

Scotland's Watershed Part 8, Black Mount to A86 at Feagour

Postby rohan » Sun Jun 03, 2018 4:46 pm

Date walked: 16/05/2018

Time taken: 4 days

Distance: 87 km

Ascent: 5320m

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Tuesday 15/05
I have learnt of 2 more people tackling the Watershed. Dave Edgar is walking North to South along the whole of the UK Watershed n stages. Unfortunately, we managed to miss each other when our paths crossed around Crianlarich (we were on the ’Shed on different days). Another North- South ‘Shedder is Sam Hewlings who is hoping to set off from Duncansby Head at the end of June and walk the whole of the UK Watershed in one continuous journey. We hope to co-ordinate passing each other on the route.
Munros and Grahams climbed on this trip
Stob a'Choire Odhair, Stob Gabhar, Meall a' Bhuiridh, Stob na Cruaiche (Graham) Carn Dearg, Stob Gaibhre, Ben Alder, Bheinn Bheoil

our_route.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

If April is the cruellest month, surely May is the sweetest. I still had a return ticket for my trip round Rannoch Moor and I was about to use it. First, I had to tackle the Black Mount hills, a group that I had previously climbed (including Creise) from Forest Lodge to Coupall Bridge at the end of May 2000. I packed for this outing to the ‘Shed with just a bivvy bag, sleeping bag and fleecy liner instead of a tent. This meant a lighter sack and room for 4 days’ food. I always have more than enough of the latter so I was determined to take just what I needed and pared it down accordingly. It is a day’s travel from Aberdeenshire to White Corries by public transport. My van would be no use this trip as I intended to end at Feagour on the A86. Something feels good about not driving over 100 miles to go for a walk, besides, as an over 60 I have a bus pass so it’s free. The walk up from the bus stop opposite the ski centre is beginning to feel familiar as is the West Highland Way to Lochan Mhic Pheadair Ruaidh. It crossed my mind that I could camp at the resort and leave my stuff there whilst I did my first day, walking with a light pack but I wasn’t sure that there would be anywhere secure to leave my stuff (loose) and what if I didn’t get over the whole of the Black Mount group in one day as I intended? No, I would carry my full pack and be done with it.
I camped almost where I left off the week before. Laying out a bivvy bag doesn’t take long. Clear skies and the expected a temperature drop, didn’t prevent me sleeping well. I occasionally woke through the night but there was still a lot of light in the sky and only the major constellations could be seen above me. Sleeping in a bivvy as opposed to a tent is a very lazy way of camping, quick to set up and clear away and easy to see the night sky without moving from a warm, cosy pod. I sound relaxed but in truth I was still anxious about the snow cover high up most particularly the descent off Creag Leathad to Meall a’ Bhuiridh. The descent off Meall a Bhuiridh had a significant amount of snow apparently encircling the Watershed route like a girdle but there were alternatives as far as I could see. In true Watershed style I would end up at the end of the first day’s just 4.5km (2.8 m) from the start of the Watershed route in the morning having covered 18km (11 miles) of Watershed and 1890 m of ascent with all but 140 m of similar descent.
Wednesday 16/05
ImageDawn, Lochan Mhic Pheadair Ruairdh by Seal54, on Flickr

The cuckoo was calling from early on. Anytime saved by bivvying was eaten up by the time it took to dry off the bivvy after brushing away the ice crystals of frost. My sleeping bag also had a surface layer of damp that would spread through it if packed away like that but the morning sun dried them off. I set off and reached the start of the watershed just after 7. I knew that I was in for one of those long haul ascents but the views were good down Loch Tulla, Bridge of Orchy and the hills above the A 82. Looking back over Loch Laidon towards Rannoch Station (would I be there or thereabouts tomorrow night?), one could see why Bill Murray had suggested swimming across the moor but hopefully it wouldn’t be too wet when I crossed it tomorrow. I am sure that there will be any number of kayakers who will have done it by kayak.

ImageLooking back to Meall Beag and Rannoch Moor beyond from shoulder of Beinn Toaig plus thumb by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSummit Bheinn Toaig looking to Ben Lui in distance by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageStob a'Choire Odhair (R) and Stob Ghabhar (L) from Beinn Toaig by Seal54, on Flickr

I spy a ring ouzel, my first on the Watershed and always special, shortly before reaching the summit of Ben Toaig (834m). There is a slight dip before the final pull of just over 140 m to the summit of Stob a Choire Odhar (943m, a Munro) This was both a 2nd ascent and a calendar Munro (I have not climbed a Munro on this day of the year before). It was a stunning morning, already warm but almost a quarter of today’s climb had been done.

ImagePanorama from summit from Stob a'Choire Odhair looking south by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama from summit of Stob Ghabhar facing north. by Seal54, on Flickr

At the bealach below, the main Munro motorway takes a route just under a slightly higher ridge of bumpy outcrops, where a fainter path takes not only the Watershed route but the aesthetically more pleasing way. The view down into Coirein Lochain is only visible from the true Watershed. Both paths come together (sort of) to climb up the steep slope to the Aonach Eagach ridge. My 18 yr old memory has no recall of this rather eroded route. My abiding memory of my previous outing was that between the summits the sun shone and it was a beautiful May day but each time we reached the final 50 metres to the summit the cloud blew in with sharp, hail showers and any views were blotted out until the descent when “normal service” was resumed. Not so today with sunshine all the way.

ImageCoirein Lochain by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageRoute up Stob Ghabhar by Seal54, on Flickr

I had no worries until I was nearing the ridge and approaching a very steep snow bank. The day was warm but it had not yet softened the snow significantly and I really felt unsure about starting up it. Plenty had gone before me, there were deep footprints but I was very conscious that If I slipped I would not stop for a long way. From Stob a Choire Odhar I had thought this snowbank thinned, slightly higher up the ridge. I contoured round and sure enough there was a section, just before it developed into a cornice over steeper ground, that was only a few feet high. I kicked out some steps, took a deep breath and sort of flung myself over the top of the bank and scrabbled up onto firm ground. Maybe not the most dignified but it worked.

ImageThe small snow obstacle from above by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView back down east ridge of Stob Ghabhar with small snow field by Seal54, on Flickr

Tha Aonach Eagach was over far too quickly and is a pussy cat compared to its namesake up the road. I heard a bee-like buzzing as I was crossing it but there was something mechanical (and no obvious food source up this high). It stopped, started then I saw a walker ahead of me and it clicked, it was a drone. The operator, his drone and dog disappeared up the mountain ahead of me and a short while later the noise stopped again. I wondered if the other walker would be at the summit when I arrived but the monotonous buzz sounded again and this time I saw the machine above me. I am afraid I then behaved rather childishly and made angry, rude gestures at it, something I immediately regretted. The young man and his dog appeared and I explained what I had done. He was so apologetic for disturbing my walk. He hadn’t expected to see anyone else up and hadn’t seen me coming. I also apologised and hope that I reassured him that he had done nothing wrong. I reflected that I enjoy watching drone footage so cannot complain when I meet them when I am out and about. He was so aware that it does disturb and had tried to minimise the bad effect. It was a perfect day for both walking and droning, with light winds, blue skies and dry, grippy rock under foot
Again I arrived at a summit cairn to find no-one there. I could see for miles and picked out significant landmarks. Dorain, Dothaidh, Achaladair and Creachan standing shoulder to shoulder above Rannoch Moor as if defending the land behind, Ben Lui, Cruachan, the hills of Glen Etive, The Buchaille, Glen Coe, Mamores, beyond Rannoch Moor, the hills around Loch Ossian and of course Ben Alder, the Drumochter hills and a glimpse of far white, snow clad Cairngorms, Then finally the unmistakeable shape of Schehallion. A veritable feast of hills all still retaining a paint spattered look with snow clinging to shaded, north-facing corries, along spines of ridges and on high bowl-like depressions. Below me there is plenty on my route to broad ridge of Aonaoch Mor where I stopped for lunch.

ImageSummit of Stob Ghabhar looking to Bridge of Orchy Hills by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking over to Clach Leathad and Meall a'Bhuiridhe on right, The Buchaille with Mamores and The Ben behind. by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBen Nevis over the top of Buchaille Etive Mor with Aonach Mor in the foreground by Seal54, on Flickr

The route from Stob a Choire Odhar round to Meall a' Bhuiridh , twists and turns above dramatic corries, with equally dramatic cornices perched precariously and looking ready to take the plunge. It rises and falls over some minor bumps before I turn off the shoulder, dropping down to Creag a Bhealach which bars the way to the bottom of the bealach below Clach Leathad. The wind has been light all day and the climb up to the latter's summit is hot and sweaty (I’m never satisfied, too much wind, too little wind) and above me rose a para glider who had no doubt launched from Meall a Bhuiridhe.
ImageThe crags of Stob Ghabhar above Coirean Lochain by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking to the Bridge of Orchy hills from NW shoulder of Stob Ghabhar by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBen Nevis between the 2 peaks of The Buchaille by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBen Starav with Meall nan Eun in front by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking over to Clach Leathad and Meall a'Bhuiridhe on right, The Buchaille with Mamores and The Ben behind. by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageApproaching summit of Clach Leathad by Seal54, on Flickr

Clach Leathad is a boulder field of weathered granite with a cairn perched near the edge of the flat summit. Each Munro summit has been successively higher and Meall a Bhuiridhe looked massive across the way. I can now see down Glen Etive and across to the mighty Bidean beyond the 2 Buchailles. The Aonach Eagach, looks snow free from this angle. Beinn a' Bheithir is also visible. I meet the 2nd walker of the day on the descent from Clach Leathad. He walked from the ski car park this morning, out to Creise and will be returning via Meall A Bhuiridhe. These were his first hills for 3 years and although I felt he would overtake me he was right when he told me that he wouldn’t. Maybe I am speeding up.

ImageLooking over ridge to Ben Nevis in the distance with the top of Buchaille Etive Mor just visible over the slope of the ridge. by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageCornicing on ridge between Clach Leathad and Creise by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageAnother cornice! by Seal54, on Flickr

The ridge between Meall a Bhuridhe and Creise and Clach Leathad is one of my favourite. I have only walked across (and back) once on a group outing to accompany my friend Cathy on her Compleation on Creise. That day was a miserable, wet, low cloud day, very like all our compleations and I remember her son joking that he was also on his first and last Munro as he wouldn’t be stepping foot on one again. Today was the perfect day to enjoy this ridge that is hung like a hammock between the 2 hills.. It has just the right amount of steepness to make an enjoyable walk. My worries about snow evaporated as had the snow (apart from one small crevice-full) . On the ascent to Meall a Bhuiridhe, the creaky door call of a ptarmigan drew my attention to one that scuttled through the rocks below me. It remained close enough for a photo but I didn’t linger, concerned that it was trying to lead me away from its nest.

ImagePtarmigan (heavily cropped) by Seal54, on Flickr

Nor did I linger on the summit of M a B. Once again time had played a dirty trick and had rushed along. The mess of ski paraphernalia is off-putting and I decided to avoid the north facing snow covered slopes with t-bars and snow fences and instead descended the east shoulder. I intended to contour round and join the watershed line further down but steep snow fields or crags barred my way until I was much lower. I contoured across to finally re-join the Watershed at the cairn just above the WHW, crossing the latter for the last time on the Watershed before heading out to Beinn Chaorach. The ground was very wet and boggy which scuppered my plans to camp near the lochans at the summit. I stopped instead at a rocky knoll just short of the summit, reflecting on an excellent day as I cooked my tea. The snow had been a minor footnote.

ImageCreise, The Buchaille aand The Mamores and The Ben from Meall a'Bhuiridhe by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageClach Leathad and Stob Ghabhar from Meall a'Bhuiridhe by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking back to route from Clach Leathad by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama from Summit of Meall a'Bhuiridhe (L-R) Rannoch Moor with Ben Alder behind, Bridge of Orvhy Hills ( centre) to Stob a'Chore Odhair and Stob Ghabhar by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama at summit of Meall a' Bhuiridhe from Creise (L) round to Rannoch Moor by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking down at route across Rannoch Moor (between the 2 lochs). Ben Alder visible in distance by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageMemorial to Charles Kennedy by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageMeall a'Bhuiridh by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageCairn at just above where WHW crosses the Watershed by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSunset by Seal54, on Flickr

Stats 11.7m 18.8km 1982 ascent 1821m descent and a 3 Munro day

Thursday 17/05

ImageEarly morning cloudbow above Stob na Cruaiche by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBeinn Toaig and Stob a'Choire Odhair from camp (Ben Lui in far distance to the left) by Seal54, on Flickr

I had my return ticket for the crossing of Rannoch Moor and today was the day to cash it in. The outward journey had been on slightly raised ground and that had been wet enough. Since then, however, we had enjoyed a spell of dry weather, so a good time for my “onward journey”. It was just over a mile to the road then another couple to Black Corries, I didn’t expect to come out with dry feet, putting my gaiters on to try and reduce the chance of getting a boot-full of bog. The surprise being the relatively dry crossing I had. All is relative of course but by following the Watershed I had the driest ground, the smallest mires to cross and the driest sections of peat hags. My walk was enhanced by the sighting of a merlin, 2 sightings of a short-eared owl, my first dragonfly this year, I think a 4 spot chaser. Pairs of geese rose up as I approached and I was concerned that I was disturbing nesting birds. On my right the water of Lochan Gaineamhach sparkled and danced in the morning light. Off to my left I could see the Buchaille and the Glen Coe hills.

ImageView south from Bein Chaorach (Dorain and Dothaidh plus Ben Lui group, Mealls Mor and Beag lower and nearer) by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLochan Gaineamhach by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageMeall a'Bhuiridh, Creise and The Buchaille from Rannoch Moor by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageStob a'Chiore Odhair (right) and Dorain and Dothaidh (left) from Rannoch Moor by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama on Rannoch Moor looking south by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama on Rannoch Moor looking towards Glen Coe by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageWatershed hills reflected in watershed lochan by Seal54, on Flickr

About a mile into the moor close to the lochans I came across a faint track, possibly a quad bike track to access fishing in the lochans. It stuck mainly to the watershed and drier ground and speeded my progress. I left it as I approached the deer fence protecting new planting around Black Corries lodge. In an echo of Dave Hewiits account, the dogs of the lodge started to bark on my approach, presumably not the same dogs that heralded his approach. A land-rover track skirts the base of Meall nan Ruadhag and I’m afraid I was tempted by the easier walking to short cut this bit of the route which runs up the side of this hill and down again without reaching the top, like a cyclist in a velodrome though with long, rough heather rather than a smooth surface. Even so I was horrified at how time was slipping by. I spent a little while tracking down water, the burns running very sluggishly with the lack of rain. The track skirts Lochan Meall Phuill and then over a slight bump of the same name. Views into Blackwater reservoir and surrounding hills distract as do the white landrover tracks but the latter not in a positive way. They must be fairly new as they are not marked on the map.

ImageLooking back across the moor from Black Corries by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageThe Buchaille peeking above the trees by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageVew to the Loch Ossian Hills by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView to the Grey Corries by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking back to the view down Glen Etive by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageThe Hills of the Black Mount, Glen Etive and the Buchaille across Rannoch Moor by Seal54, on Flickr

Somehow I had it in my head that the Graham, Stob na Cruaiche (739m) was halfway into today’s walk, as such I was determined to reach it before I had my lunch. It is in fact 2/3rds of the way, something I didn’t realise until I gave in to hunger and had my lunch on the subsidiary sumiit, Stob nan Losgann. By this time, it was well after lunch. Ben Nevis sat like a fat mother hen above her chicks, The Mamores. The Aonach Eagach ridge looks relatively benign from this angle and distance and I could still see Lui and my most recent hills on the Watershed.

ImageView west from Stob nan Losgann by Seal54, on Flickr

I decided to give my mobile phone (almost permanently on aeroplane mode to conserve battery) a charge and I used a new powerpack. It was charging fine so I put it in my pocket and continued to the summit. This Graham and trig point is fairly remote so I was taken by surprise when I saw 2 people reach the summit from the other side just minutes before me. If they were surprised that I was laughing, they didn’t show it. Mike and Fiona told me that they had taken the sleeper from London to Rannoch Station and were staying at the hotel to celebrate Mike’s 60th. They were delighted with the experience, waking up in the middle of the highlands with excellent weather to boot. They were having 3 days walking before returning by sleeper on Friday night. They weren’t on the hunt for Munros and were delighted that Stob na Cruaiche was such a wonderful view point. They appeared interested in what I was doing and I was able to point out so much of my walk from Tyndrum which showed the character of the Watershed as it wandered over high and low ground, north and south, east and west.

ImageSummit Stob na Cruaiche with a slightly splinched Mike and Fiona by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView west from Sobn na Cruaiche by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama Stob na Cruaiche west to east with the Blackwater reservoir dominant across the middle by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView over top of tp to high (Beinn Achaladair Beinn a' Creachain) and low (Meall a Ghortain etc) Waterrshed at edge of Rannoch Moor by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageThe waters of Rannoch (North sea bound) by Seal54, on Flickr

I went to check my phone for messages and forecast and was horrified to discover that instead of charging, it had drained and had 1% battery left. The power pack has no switches on it and I can’t understand how it happened. I didn’t dare use that power pack again and used another one I have that just gives 1.5 charges. Mike gave me the updated weather forecast, basically all fine except some rain to the west of Loch Linnhe. The wind was to strengthen, which will keep the midges off; so far I had seen very few of them but they were around in sheltered spots.
My route onwards is over a couple of smaller hills before dropping down to the railway line near a small lochan to the NW of the snow tunnel. Mike and Fiona were heading back down to the track they had followed through the plantation alongside Loch Laidon. I had picked their brains about whether the hotel was full. I had become worried about whether I had enough food and one option would be to stop and eat at the hotel. It sounded like I wouldn’t get anything at the hotel and the teashop would be closed by the time I got there. The way was now peat hag ridden with long heather catching and snagging me in between but I was becoming so worried about my food (should I finish my walk at Rannoch) it barely troubled me. Eventually I stopped, turned out my bag and satisfied myself that I had plenty of food. I am not sure where this worry had come from. Perhaps it was the knowledge that once past Rannoch Station, it was 2 days before I would reach a shop. Once I convinced myself, I was happy to carry on. On Meall a Bhuirich I found 3 cairns commemorating various members of the Pearson family, thus making the 3 rd memorial in 3 days of walking the Watershed. I do not know who the Pearsons were. Also out of place on this hill was a large lump pf rose quartz. There are plenty of glacier-born granite boulders but was this looks like it was recently emplaced with no growth around it.

ImagePearson familly memorials (who were they) with Schiehallion between by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePearson Memorial with Ben Nevis behind by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageA huge piece of rose quartz by Seal54, on Flickr

A southbound train passed shortly before I crossed the line and a northbound freight train shortly thereafter, having passed each other at Rannoch station I presume. I climbed on the drier to lower slopes of Sron Leachd a’ Chaorrain, finding a flat, comfortable spotto camp with views again to Black water reservoir. The London sleeper passed below me and I did not envy its passengers who will have a reverse of Mike and Fiona’s journey, waking up in dirty old London after falling asleep in the highlands. I had carried on beyond my target for today, my feet were dry (albeit a bit sweaty) and I had eaten well, so fell asleep worry free.

ImageTrain across Rannoch by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView to the Aonach Eagach over Rannoch Moor and the Blackwater reservoir. by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSunset by Seal54, on Flickr

Stats 13.3 miles 21.5 km 654m ascent, 750 descent

Friday 18/05
Northward bound. A good night’s sleep, both bivvy and sleeping bag needed no drying off so after replenishing my water from a peaty stream I headed off and up. After all the twists and turns between Crianlarich and Rannoch, I finally felt that I was heading north, at least for the time being. Into my mind popped an image that always excited me as a child and we headed off on our summer holidays, a road sign, simply saying “The North”. I had camped ¾ mile short of the Road to the Isles, another evocative phrase. I had heard that the former track had been obliterated and rebuilt into a track that could support the construction traffic for the new hydro scheme that the Corrour estate had built. Having worked (voluntarily with the John Muir Trust) on repairing the old track I was sorry to see the new machine-built alternative but presumably the hydro scheme will give “greener” power to the estate.

ImageView to Beinn a' Creachain and Achaladair over Rannoch Station by Seal54, on Flickr

Gaining height with fresh legs on easy ground (bye-bye peat hags and long heather for the by and by) the views to the North opened up as the ridge was reached. At last I could also see Loch Ossian which until now had remained elusive. Previously I had climbed Carn Dearg from Corrour (1st time) and from the north in a day trip round the 3 Loch Ossian Munros the 2nd time, so once again I was approaching from a different route and once again this would be a calendar Munro day. There are a number of minor bumps along the ridge and shortly after Sron Leachd a Chaorainn I came across a small lochan which appeared to have a bit of a firmer bottom than most I had seen around Rannoch Moor. The day was already warm and I didn’t take long to strip off and splash about. It was relatively shallow but I managed to get a good soaking. I reckon that there must have been something special in that water as I felt as though I was walking on air afterwards and time hung still.

ImageThe energy giving lochan by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView to the Mamores, the Road to the Isles stands out as it snakes round the base of Carn Dearg by Seal54, on Flickr

As I approached Carn Dearg I saw 2 figures sitting very still, almost frozen, looking at their hands. I fancifully imagined that they had been there all winter, only recently liberated from the snow that had engulfed them. In fact, they were catching up with the outside world on their mobiles. They were aunt and niece, staying at the YH. We chatted for a few minutes, mangling the Gaelic names of nearby hills but the cool stiff breeze had cooled them to the point of shivering so they headed off for Sgorr Gaibhre (after kindly giving me an update on the forecast and now there appeared to be a chance of rain, maybe).

ImageSummit of Carn Dearg looking to Ben Alder by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSummit of Carn Dearg looking to Glen Coe hills over the Blackwater reservoir by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama at summit of Carn Dearg. Blackwater reservoir centre, the end of Loch Ossian just visible on right. by Seal54, on Flickr

Another walker arrived just after they had left. He had been camping at Rannoch Station and was heading back there. The views from these hills are far reaching, from the Cairngorms to Ben Lawers, Ben Lui to GlenCoe ,The Mamores to the Loch Treig hills. It is the ”name the mountain” game from each summit (apart from Schiehallion , of course, which everyone gets). The 2 women were a good 5 minutes ahead of me and I didn’t think I would catch up but we played tortoise and hare over Sgorr Gaibhre and Sgorr Choinnich at which point I had drawn ahead and waved good bye as they descended to retrun to the hostel. Meantime we had shared tales of Knoydart and tricky snow packs. We didn’t exchange names but the niece shared that she hoped to finish her Munro round a year and week to the day, on Beinn Sgritheall. Her aunt (70 yrs old with many more hills in her) was just enjoying the hills that she does.

ImageSummit Sgorr Gaibhre by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama , summit Sgor Gaibhre. Schiehallion, Loch Ericht and Loch Rannoch on the left by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama summit Sgot Gaibhre, Ben Alder on left , Schiehallion beyond Loch Ericht on the right of centre by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSgorr Coinnich and Meall a' Bealaich with Benm Alder beyond by Seal54, on Flickr

I had been nursing a new worry. This time it was about snow on the descent from Beinn Bheoil, a north facing ridge. This had been brought on by seeing the amount of snow still present on the northern slopes of Sgorr Gaibhre and Sgorr Coinnich. Along with the worry was a much more optimistic thought. My plan had been to camp at Bealach Cumhann but at the rate I was going I would be there about 4 ish. I decided that I should aim for plateau of Ben Alder. The wind was now fairly boisterous but this wouldn’t matter too much in my bivvy and as there are lots of dips, there would be somewhere more sheltered. This would also mean that I would be ahead of my planned progress which would help if the route off Bheoil was barred by snow.

ImageView of Schiehallion over Loch Ericht, Loch Rannoch on the right by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSgorr Gaibhre from Sgorr Choinnich by Seal54, on Flickr

Leaving Sgorr Coinnich and looking to Beinn Eibhein and Aonach Beag on one side of the glen and he bulk of Ben Alder on the other I started to reminisce about previous trips to this part of the World. In particular,a memorable camping trip based at Loch Pattack when we had climbed 9 Munros in total over 3 days. Day 1 Carn Dearg, Geal Carn, Aonach Beag and Beinn Eibhein , day 2 Ben Alder (via the Long Leachas) and Beinn Bheoil, day 3 Beinn a Chlachairm , and Creag Pitridh and Geal Charn then cycled out in time to get to an evening wedding reception in Strathyre. It was magical and very different from my first time on Ben Alder in foul conditions.

ImageSgorr Gaibhre (L) Sgorr Choinnich (R) from Meall 'Bhealaich by Seal54, on Flickr

A mountain hare ran ahead of me on Meall a Bhealaich adding to the tally of wildlife seen on the ‘Shed. Lizards broke off from their basking and shimmied into the heather.

ImageSummit Meall a'Bhealaich looking towards Ben Alder by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView of Loch Ossian and hills covered today by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBen Alder by Seal54, on Flickr

Approaching Ben Alder this way it looks massive and a rather dull hill, hiding its best side from view but I still appeared to be benefitting from that morning dip in the Lochan and I felt full of energy. I was running low on water so stopped to top up at Bealach Cumhann for another peaty fill. I had seen a walker ahead of me, climbing Ben Alder and he/she seemed to be making fast progress which encouraged me further. I am glad that I had climbed this mountain previously via the Long Leachas previously because there is very little to recommend the Watershed route. The first 300m are a slog (but height gained quickly) and when the gradient levels off. the views ahead are of a grassy plateau stretching out to what I know is a false summit (or two). There were plenty of places to camp on comfy looking grassy vegetation but I could see clouds building from the west. I did not want to wake up in mist, so although it would have been my highest camp so far and with only one more mountain topping 1130 on the Watershed, possibly the highest of the whole watershed. I decided to go onto the summit then head down to the bealach below Beinn Bheoil. This would also let me see what snow there was on Bheoil.

ImagePlateau on Ben Alder. looking fine for a camp by Seal54, on Flickr

Reaching the summit accompanied by the plover’s mournful cry there is a visible change in character in the Watershed terrain ahead, with low-lying, boggy looking ground interspersed with slightly higher, rounded, heathery hills. The way looked rough but that is for tomorrow. For today, another worry had been vanquished; looking across to Beinn Bheoil there was not a smidgen of snow to be seen, in contrast to Ben Alder’s gullies. Back to Ben Alder’s summit. the poor trig is in a very sorry state. Maybe someone will undertake to bring in the heavy materials needed for its repair but it will have to be a very dedicated trigophile to undertake this task.

ImageDamaged trig point on Ben Alder by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBen Alder trig point by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView to Loch Pattack and Watershed for tomorrow by Seal54, on Flickr
ImageBen Alder summit, Loch Ossian on right by Seal54, on Flickr

I marvelled at the cornices and the cliffs as I danced around them and descended through rocks and grass dripping with snow melt to the bealach. I emptied out the brown peaty water and filled up with fresh snow melt as clear as glass. A few drops of rain had me worrying but I had a plan if it came to anything which it didn’t. My bivvy spot looked down Loch a Bhealaich Bheithe. Another excellent day on the Watershed. I had also had another “triple Munro day”, this is becoming a habit!

ImageEvening campsite above Loch Bhealach Beithe by Seal54, on Flickr

Stats 12.0 m 19.3 km 1741 ascent (1282 descent)

Saturday 19/05
I woke to overcast skies and there was a cloud cap on Ben Alder but was dry and eager to get going. In such a remote place and before 07.00 I didn’t worry too much about my modesty as I went about my morning preparations, including a good wash and brush up. I was horrified, therefore, when hoisting my sack onto my back to see on a head passing above me on the bealach heading for Ben Alder. Where had they been camping? Had they seen me? I am quite sensitive to be overlooked so hopefully I won’t appear in any walk reports in the near future. I did realise that of course I was more likely to meet early morning campers in remote but popular spots. This was the weekend after all. I was to meet further “weekenders” on the descent from Bhein Bheoil and all morning I could see little dots moving in fast along the track from Dalwhinnie as walkers on bikes arrived and the number of tents around Culra bothy increased.

ImageBeinn Bheoil and Loch Ericht by Seal54, on Flickr

Bheinn Bheoil is the slim, wee relative of the heavy weight Ben Alder but a fine mountain in itself. Whilst having climbed Ben Alder 3 times now, this would only be my 2nd ascent of Bheinn Bheoil (and it would be yet another calendar Munro day, 3rd on this trip). The first top is the most interesting with stunning views up and down Loch Ericht and I delayed there. The cloud was now clearing off the summit of Ben Alder and it was to be another fine day. Beinn Bheoil was also going to be the last hill of any real stature on this trip.

ImageSummit Sron Coire na h-lolaire by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama on ascent of Beinn Bheoil looking to Loch Ericht by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSummit Beinn Bheoil by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking south from Beinn Bheoil by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama on summit Beionn Bheoil by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama summit Beinn Bheoil by Seal54, on Flickr

The descent is easy and views very different from the preceding day with the mountains less crowded together. anmd moorland not rock being the predominant landscape. My way ahead was lower, the highest hill being Meall Leac na Sguabaich, (850m), not a hill in its own right but more of a shoulder of the ridge that extends from Ben Alder Lodge up the west side of Loch Ericht. This ridge culminates in The Fara, a Corbett at 904m, not on my route but a fine hill with a commanding view point. Enjoying the views, I stayed on Beinn Bheoil too long and had to cut back towards Loch a Bealaich Beithe before joining the good path down by the river that runs past Culra Bothy. I wanted to stick my feet in the cool fresh waters so stayed with the path until I was below the campers on the other bank. I had filled up with water higher. More cyclists/walkers were arriving every few minutes but across the river. I could have been in another world as everyone was intent on getting their tents up before heading off into the hills.

ImageBen Alder (L) Geal Charn (R) by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama Ben Alder, Geal Charn, Carn Dearg by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageBen Alder and Geal Charn above Alt a'Chaoil-reidhe by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageCulra Bothy by Seal54, on Flickr

All too soon I had to dry my feet off and head across the rough, peaty ground to Meall Mor. The going over to Meall Beag was equally rough but both hills good viewpoints and plenty of Munros to see and count off. At midday I reached a point which I reckoned was due east from my home at NN544771. I celebrated by taking a photo.

ImageBen Alder and Geal Charn by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLooking ahead to Meall Cruaidh and The Fara from Meall Mor by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama from Meall Mor L-R Drumochter Hills Loch Ericht, Beinn Bheoil, Ben Alder, Geal Charn, Carn Dearg by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageDue east to home by Seal54, on Flickr

Over Meall Beag the route crosses the track in from Ben Alder Lodge and Dalwhinnie, then up between an old plantation and a relatively new mixed planting. Fortunately, I didn’t have to go over the deer fence and I continued up towards Meall Leac na Sguabaich. The view I was leaving behind constantly called me to turn round. I reflected that Sam would have excellent views going in the opposite direction and I put in an advance plea for good weather for him. From the top of M L na S (marked by a small cluster of stones) I could now add the Creag Meagaidh range to the hills in view. The Tay is left behind and the Spey takes over as the river draining to the North Sea. After leaving the Clyde on Ben Lui the west draining water systems are shorter and change frequently. Orchy, Tulla, Etive, Blackwater (into the Leven) Pattack (into loch Laggan then to the Spean).

ImagePanorama from Meall Beag. L-R The Fara, Drumochter, Loch Ericht, Ben Alder by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageIMG_20180519_123647667 by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageView on way up Meall Leac na Sguabaich across to Creag Meagaidh hills by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageSummit Meall Leac na Sguabaich by Seal54, on Flickr

Imagelooking back from Meall leac na Sguabaich by Seal54, on Flickr

ImagePanorama from summit of Meall Leac na Sguabaich along watershed to Creag Meagaidh by Seal54, on Flickr

My route to the A86 could be seen ahead, it didn’t seem far but there was a fair amount of up and down and rough ground to be covered with mature and leggy heather, ready to trip me up on the 5 miles to my planned last camp at the edge of the forest. If I carried on to the road, I would have to find somewhere to stay the night as I would not be able to travel home, so late in the day. On my right was the long ridge of The Fara and further on I saw a bright blue sapphire jewel of a lochan, squeezed out of 2 rocky crags. The lochan is called Lochan na Doire-Uaine. I understand “doire” to be “door” and “Uaine” to be “green” but a Gaelic speaker will probably correct me.

ImageView onto Carn Liath from Beinn Eilde by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageLochan na Doire-uaine by Seal54, on Flickr

Over the final bump which has a cairn to something (I am not sure what) and I look for a campsite that is flat, not too sheltered (there are midges). I am too keen to stop and pick what turns out to be a poor site. Next morning, I find the perfect spot in the birch trees just above the Falls of Pattack. Ah well, anyone else walking the Watershed may want to camp there.

ImageCairn above Falls of Pattack by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageCreag Meagaidh and Carn Liath from above the Falls of Pattack by Seal54, on Flickr
Stats 15 miles 24 km 994 ascent, 1488 descent

Sunday 20/05/2018
I sleep badly, there are rocks under the bracken traces and I wriggle and squirm. The wind drops and I have to wear a claustrophobic midge net to avoid being eaten alive. I worry about the forest section ahead, I had seen clear-felled areas from higher up and there are visible wind-blown trees on my route. I also have to get over the deer fence. My previous 4 camps had been good and it wasn’t wet, so I eventually dozed off. Next morning, I read Peter Wright’s account (I have it on Kindle) of this section and discovered that there was stile over the deer fence next to the Falls, just a 100 m from where I was camped. I used the stile as a table to make and eat my breakfast on and also to have a good wash, bearing in mind that in a short while I would be looking for a lift to Newtonmore or Dalwhinnie. Due to the windblown trees and clear felling I used a feral-looking path clung to the precipitous bank above the river 20 metres below, there were beautiful swimming pools but no safe way down. Later I crossed to the forestry track that reached the road 300 m to the east of the carpark for the forest walks. I followed the track until I spied a campervan parked ahead. Using the trees as cover, I changed into clean clothes then continued but taking a foot path to the carpark rather than staying on the track. I could see that there was a route on a forestry track up the opposite side of the A86 towards the summit of Creag Ruadh which I will use when I return on my next trip. In some ways it would have made sense to carry on, finishing at Laggan Locks on the A82. There I could catch a bus to Inverness or Glasgow. However, I hadn’t brought food or maps for continuing and I only had enough battery in my phone to send my daughter a text wishing her happy birthday. As such I needed to rely on the good will of car drivers heading east. I started to walk along the A86 towards Newtonmore/Dalwhinnie. A number of cars passed me and I had walked just over 1 mile before I struck gold and a man, returning home to Holland, via Edinburgh Airport, stopped and took me all the way to Perth P&R from where I could catch a bus into Perth and from there a bus to my road end. Thank-you Jan, for the lift and interesting conversation!
A lovely end to a fantastic few day, I would say my best so far on the Watershed. I feel that I have just found my stride but I am aware that once I cross the Great Glen (and the half-way mark) the walk becomes much more serious, with few escape routes and limited access by public transport. . I really felt that I was shadowing Dave Hewitt on this section. Never before have I been able to keep up with his progress but I finished most days near where he had stopped, albeit taking a few hours longer to get there. He was a couple of days ahead of me. One thing I didn’t do but could have as it is my favourite Scottish book, is read Sunset Song on the way. I am over due to re-read it (I do every 5 years or so) so may include it in my next trip out. I have some exciting events happening at home so it will be a couple of weeks before I can get back but hopefully the good weather spell will hold on.
No photos from today as my battery needed conserved so here are 3 photos of plants seen yesterday
Imagecloudberry by Seal54, on Flickr

Imagemarsh marigold by Seal54, on Flickr

ImageWood sorrel by Seal54, on Flickr
Stats 2.00m 3.4 Km 65 m 115m

Trip stats 87km 54m 5320m ascent 5367 m descent

Total Watershed Stats from Peel Fell to A86 566.3 km 368.5 m
Last edited by rohan on Wed Jan 16, 2019 10:30 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Scotland's Watershed Part 8, Black Mount to A86 at Feago

Postby Alteknacker » Sat Sep 22, 2018 10:18 pm

Well, this also felt for me as a reader that these were the best days so far on the Watershed! But then: no surprise really - such a fabulous set of hills; and the weather played ball - more or less...

Your quotation: April may be the cruellest month for some folk (unexpected rain can mean that the pin-striped suit shrinks); but I really do wonder whether those such as TSE might not have had a more life-affirmative view of things if they'd got out of their offices...

I'm very interested in bivvying, but have so far only done it once (and then it was just sleeping under my jacket on Beinn nan Eag in perfect weather). As one would expect, it looks like it was quite cold when you were bivvying on this stretch. Can I ask: what sleeping bag did you use? I have a fine - from the temperature perspective - bag; but it weighs 1.5kg (and it's a down bag!!!), so I'm casting around for something a bit lighter for summer expeditions...

It's a real real pity about the Flickr issue - most of the pics you've taken look superb - but in many cases I can't even read the text (though I did see your thumb on one of them - but that's MY, PATENTED trademark...
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Re: Scotland's Watershed Part 8, Black Mount to A86 at Feago

Postby rohan » Sun Sep 23, 2018 12:52 pm

Thank-you again. Yes, this has been my best outing yet although I did enjoy my last few days in Knoydart for different reasons. Both my sleeping bag and bivvy bag are rather long in the tooth. The former I bought in Canada one trip when the the pound was strong against the Canadian dollar. It is a Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) down 3 season bag. When bivving on colder nights I use a fleece liner which adds bulk but not much weight. I'm not sure of the weight of the bag but it does me fine even though it is now almost 20 years old and has seen a lot of action. My bivvy is a 16 yr old Rab one but is giving issues now with dampness. Re proofing no longer has an effect so I am going to have to buy a new one. Everything fits into my 48 litre rucksack. I never weigh it but think it is in the region of 10kg, sans water.

Over the winter I am going to spend my evenings edting my posts using my restored Flickr account. This should help with the descriptions.
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Re: Scotland's Watershed Part 8, Black Mount to A86 at Feago

Postby Alteknacker » Sun Sep 23, 2018 3:36 pm

Thanks for the response on the kit.

BTW I've now got access to your Flickr account, so could look at the pics full size. But I think it would be great if you edited your reports to include Flickr links - this magnum opus will be a great resource for anyone thinking of emulating the feat, and full size pics will enhance it.
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