18 – 22 Sep 2020
Fri 18 Sep
A hill along the way
Corbett: Beinn Mholach, from Dalnaspidal
6¾ hr / 23.2 km / 635m
It was nearly 10am by the time I set off. I wasn’t sure whether I’d actually make the summit; I struggle with late starts. At the very least, I’d have a nice walk along the loch, and perhaps have a wee recce of the bothy. It was a nice morning, although it was meant to get quite warm throughout the day.
march along the loch...
...where there are some nice colours starting to show
I’ve been a fair distance along the loch before, so I wasn’t onto new territory until I’d crossed the Allt Coire Easan; I thought the good track continued all the way through (I was wrong. Someday, I might start reading walk descriptions and/or maps a bit more closely), but after this crossing, things got very wet and muddy for the next couple of kms. Until, at first inexplicably, there’s a new hydro track and a new hydro building springing out of nowhere (technically, it has sprung from the other direction—NW-ish—but I still couldn’t figure out the access point—Loch Ericht, maybe?). I followed this excellent track for a short distance to reach the two bridges—old and new—across the Allt Shallain, and was hot and sweaty enough to contemplate that a wild swim just under the old bridge would be just the thing. I didn’t, of course; a swimming hole would need to be much more remote for me to contemplate getting my kit off. Usually when I find such a perfect spot, it’s either much too cold, or midgey to be an appealing prospect. I’d at least dip my tootsies on the way back, I promised myself.
twa bridges, old and new
Even now, after walking apace (well, apace to the end of the loch anyway) for more than an hour and a half, I could still see and hear the A9, and couldn’t decide whether that was comforting or depressing. A bit of both, perhaps.
All the while, the point at which I’d leave the good hydro track and the hard work would begin was drawing near. Although to be honest, the first part of the ascent didn’t look very prolonged. I knew that even once I reached it, I’d still be a fair distance from the summit, but I decided to go for it.
It’s a steady climb up to Creag nan Gabhar, and then some up and downing between there and Beinn Mholach. I kept a slow and steady pace, and it wasn’t too bad (although the gigantic cairn did look deceptively close). I think I reached the summit about 1pm. And had mountain views in all directions. As is often the case with me in central locations, I had a hard time discerning which hills were which—except Schiehallion. I knew I was looking at the Alder hills, and the Drumochters. There was a bobbly ridge that may have been the Aonach Eagach, but I was completely disorientated, and didn’t even know if I was looking in the right direction. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter all that much.
trig point and cairn; Schiehallion in the background
(OK, I'm not even going to *try* to label these...just enjoy...)
I did have a lengthy stop, and a wee paddle in the stream on the way back, just under the old bridge. The march along the loch was long and hot; I think I was back at the car around 4:30pm, and home (the northern one—I need to name them properly) about 6pm.
Sat 19 Sep
Graham: the elusive Meall Doire Faid
5¼ hrs / 11.15km / 716m
This hill has been one that got away, more than once. Rather than combining it with Beinn Enaiglair (again), I’d had my eye on the route as described in the SMC’s Graham/Donald book—what looking like a cracking round with a lot of ridge walking. And it lived up to expectation; it was a day / route to be savoured…if it weren’t for the effin’ keds.
As I set off from the layby, steeply along the Droma plantation, it was already warm. But there were no midges, and I felt almost deliriously happy that the wee beastie season is now behind us (hold yer horses, missy).
morning mist/inversion just clinging on above Loch Glascarnoch ...
...and a bit further afield as well...(although I was walking in bright sunshine)
...and An Teallach, and Fisherfields...
...and magnificent Beinn Dearg (my next target, Meallan Mhurchaich, is in the foreground
(there were many photos of all of these hills taken; I've tried to limit them to the best)
there was this wide swath of high light cloud that stretched as far as I could see in both directions...
As I neared the top of what I thought was Meall Leacachain, a delightful cool breeze kicked up. Perfect, perfect, perfect, thought I. However, it wasn’t Meall Leacachain; I was only about halfway between Leathad Leacachain and Meall Leacachain (I was fooled by the cairn). No matter, I wasn’t in a hurry today. I’d decide whether to extend my loop to include Beinn Enaiglair later, depending on how I felt when I reached the “ring road” stalker’s path.
I made my way down to the Bealach ha h-Imrich, all the while facing the steep ascent of Meallan Mhurchaich head on. Another sweat-inducing section, but the good thing about lesser hills is that the steep sections are much less sustained than for many Munros.
Beinn Dearg-in-yer-face from the top of Meallan Mhurchaich
zoom to AT
Such was the case here; it wasn’t long until I’d reached the top. There were lots of big rocks for sitting, and I had amazing and uninterrupted views of the massive in-yer-face Beinn Dearg, the Fannaichs, An Teallach, further afield into the Fisherfields, a lingering inversion over Lochs Glascarnoch and Droma, and more. I settled myself down to enjoy it all, and was immediately set upon by those foul creatures. I’m no’ having it—I packed up my things tout de suite, and carried on. But it was too late; they’d found me, decided that they liked me, and plagued me for the rest of the day. If anything positive, it probably made my ascent up MDF much quicker than usual.
The view from that summit was fab: Out to sea past Ullapool and the Summer Isles; Ben More Coigach and Stac Pollaidh; the Fannaichs were never out of the act throughout the entire day. I did stop for a few minutes, in spite of the loathsome blighters; I kept flicking them off my rucksack, but just knew that they were making their sneaky way into my things and onto my person. Bleurrrgh…shudder.
down on Ullapool, out to sea, over to Stac Pollaidh
one more of zoom to AT
me and some Fannaichs
The rest of the walk along the ridge was pleasant, except for feeling crawly. The descent was long and hot, and without a doubt the most miserable part of an otherwise excellent day. The ground was rough; long grass, thick heather, and the occasional deep hole. But again, as with ascents, the good news is that lesser hills also have less descent (duh…).
looking down on the Desolation road (is that what it's called? whatever...)
When I got back to the car, I actually took off my shirt to shake it out—although I’m not really in the habit of stripping down in a busy layby next to a busy road—because I just KNEW there were lurkers within. Within about three minutes of putting it back on, I picked one off my chest. EEEEEuuuuuuwwwwww… .and there were more, all the way home. They put a big crawly negative dent in an otherwise glorious day.
When I passed Ben Wyvis…the car park was heaving, as were the closest laybys on either side; there must have been at least dozens of people (if not more) on that hill. And yet I saw no one else all the livelong day, except one walker at a distance, on the path between Beinn Enaiglair and MFD. Just takes a little creativity to find the unbeaten paths. Thank heaven it's still possible to find them.
Postscript to the ked nightmare: Ten (TEN!!! ) days later, I was rummaging around for something in the bottom of my rucksack. When I pulled my arm out, there was one on my sleeve. It was very lethargic, and didn't put up much of a fight as it got flushed, but it was definitely still alive. I confess that I lifted the lid of the loo several times to make sure it hadn't crawled back up the pipe. Devils' spawn.
Sun 20 Sep
Nairn to Whiteness Head
4¼ hrs / 18.3 km / 76m
I couldn’t face the keds again. I know that I shouldn’t let such a small thing (really) put me off going to the hills, but I dreamt about them, and continued to feel crawly all night. I knew that today was going to be similar to yesterday—warm and mostly windless—so decided to set my sights on something other than a hill.
I wasn’t sure where I was headed even when I left the house. I had a vague notion of returning to Nairn to have another walk along the seafront, and after a leisurely drive through some beautiful countryside in lovely morning light (via Cawdor), I turned off when I saw a sign for Nairn. I parked up again by the swimming pool. It was still early, and there was plenty parking.
The tide was way out. There were a few people (and dogs) along the beach, but it’s a huge expanse, and there was plenty of room for everyone.
lovely day for a beach walk
the wee fishing hut
I walked all the way out to Whiteness Head; a place that had intrigued me ever since I’d first seen it on a map. The “end” wasn’t all that spectacular, but at least I can say I’ve been there. The tide was so low that my tracklog shows that I’d actually crossed over where the water usually is. I wasn’t very far from the “danger area” that comprises the Fort George firing / military exercises range.
the end of the road (looks much the same as the rest of the road
The tide had turned by the time I started back, but there was still plenty of beach, and I walked a very long way barefoot, and enjoyed a fair bit of paddling. The temperature was perfect; although the sun was warm, there was a refreshing cool breeze off the water.
I took a lot of arty sand and stone pics; I think I'll put some of them into a collage frame to hang in my new bedroom:
When I returned to Nairn, I thought I had it in me to join the hordes continuing along to the pier, perhaps picking some chips along the way. I was wrong; it was absolutely heaving, and I soon lost patience with trying to maintain distance between cyclists, dogs, kids, and zimmer frames. I scuttled back to the car, and then home, before it impacted my good mood too much. I can't imagine any problem that can't be made at least a little better by a three- or four-hour beach walk. Not that I really have any (problems, that is) at the moment. Other than the global and international ones that everyone has (RIP RBG).
Mon 21 Sep
Munro: Braeriach, from Whitewell
7½ hrs / 26.4km / 1176m
What a magnificent hill. And a magnificent day. I’ve yearned for a return visit here ever since Jimmy and I were practically blown off it a couple of years ago. I wanted to see “that” view down over the Lairig Ghru again, and look down on the lochan nestled in the bosom of Cairn Toul and Angel’s Peak, and visit the Wells of Dee. I wanted to do the WH round from Whitewell. And I did all of that, except actually visit the Wells of Dee—I saw them from a distance, and took a photo, but was somewhat stressed about the descent at that point, so decided to not spend the time/energy making my way over to them. I did cross a small stream that must have been related, on my way to the edge of Coire an Lochan.
But…backing up…I set off walking at 7:30; my drive had been less than an hour (yippee). It was a lovely morning, although a few degrees cooler than it was over the weekend, and it was also forecast to be rather blowy. We’d just see how it was once I got up high. The walk through the woods was really nice; I remembered parts of it from when Jimmy and I had walked through to Aviemore.
looking back over the forest toward Aviemore
I thought I was going to be able to say that I’d made it to the entrance of the Lairig Ghru in about an hour, but it looked deceptively close, and it was more like an hour and half. I tripped over a rock and went sprawling but wasn’t at all hurt, so just got up and had a quick look around to see if there’d been any witnesses. Nope, all’s good.
I crossed the stream where the path from the Chalamain Gap meets the Lairig Ghru. From there, it was just up, up, up. Somehow, this ascent just doesn’t seem that bad; I remembered that from the last time. Maybe it’s because much of the steeper parts are stepped, or maybe it’s just because there’s a good path the whole way. (Or maybe it's just always easier when there's no one (Jimmy) to complain to. )
looking across to Cairngorm
and to Ben MacDui
The only part that’s a bit operose (M-W word of the day! -- wearisome, tedious) are the several short sections where you can't avoid the boulders and have to go over them. But the reward is tremendous; THAT view all the way down through the Lairig Ghru:
And then it just keeps getting better and better:
I reached the summit at 11:15, and had it to myself. I’d seen a couple of walkers in front of me, but they’d disappeared by the time I got there. There was one behind me as well, but he (or she) hadn’t yet reached the summit by the time I was ready to leave. I spent a good 15-20 minutes there; the view is just incredible—across all of the “Lairig Ghru” peaks, directly down the gullies and pinnacles of Coire Bhrochain, over to Sgor Gaoith, down over the moors and forests to Aviemore.
I hadn’t decided for certain that I’d follow the descent route down into Glean Eanaich. I'd not read the entire walk description very carefully, and I was more worried about having to cross boulders on the steep than about route finding (visibility was very good, in spite of it being a bit hazy in the distance, and dark clouds encroaching). I debated back and forth as I sat on, and wandered about, the summit.
I finally decided to be brave, and started making my way toward Coire an Lochain, taking a photo of the distant Wells of Dee along the way:
The first part, down to the lochan, was steep but manageable.
coming down alongside the lochan
there's a stalker's path around here somewhere...
The next part, the stalker’s path that zigzagged down the next few hundred meters of ascent, was an absolute delight. Until it simply disappeared.
the last bit of the stalker's path; Loch Einich just coming into view, nestled in the bosom of Sgor Gaoith
The last bit of the descent, down to the track, which I’d been able to see from way high up, and didn't look that far away but took forever to get to, was a nightmare of deep heather, long grass, wet boggy sections, and holes. I picked my way carefully, and was greatly relieved to finally reach the track. It was still a long way back to the car. But the afternoon pleasant, and the walk through the forest along the river was beautiful—lots of lovely trees, and bracken changing colours into bright yellows, rusts, and browns.
big tree, nice colours
one last look back up much of the day's work
Best of all, I’d not seen a ked all day!!! I was shattered when I reached the car a few minutes after 3pm. But what a day!
Tues 22 Sep
I’m still tired. I’m taking a break, catching up on blog entries, washing four days worth of stinking laundry, and paying attention to my French, which was sadly neglected last week. I’m going to wrap up this entry, to keep it from getting horrendously long. To that end, the sunshine seems to have gone away as well, so it may well be time for a new title.
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