Beinn Talaidh,Beinn Fhada & Sgurr Dearg fae Tomsleibhe bothy
by Norman_Grieve » Wed Nov 23, 2011 6:36 pm
Grahams included on this walk: Beinn Fhada, Beinn Talaidh, Sgurr Dearg
Date walked: 29/09/2011
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Noting my sack he asked where I was off to & asked how long it would take me by bike, to which I replied 2-3 days. He then asked me why I didnae hike wan when I got there & I explained I was planning to save some dosh by getting it onto the bus, of which he looked rather dubious aboot me chances.
A coupla mins later I was wrapping my steed up in a £1 El Cheapo Emergency Shelter fae Poondland whilst an equally dubious bus mannie looked on. Evidently he then went tae get the portly Ulsterman driver, who thankfully professed himself satisfied with my work & I shoved it in the cavernous hold as he collared a long haired laddie who was trying to sneak on the bus without a ticket.
There were a fair few folk on the 1st Glasgie-London bound Megabus o' the day and not much over an hour later most of the rest o' the seats filled up at Dundee, where we stopped at what looked like a glorified layby, rather than a bus station. The 1st signs of daylight were starting to appear as we reached the large Park & Ride close to the huge Broxden roundabout just outside Perth.
From here it was non-stop, straight through all the way along the dual carraigeway tae Glasgie, a rare luxury indeed after many months of passing through most of the many wee towns along the slowly winding twa lane A96. So swift was our seamless progress, despite the rush hour traffic, that we arrived 20 mins early at Buchanan St., where I had made my way to the front to be 1st off.
Before alighting I checked with the driver the stance for the Oban bus, which was just loading right next to us & then quickly transferred my green plastic wrapped, bike-shaped package into the West Coast Motor's hold, right under the new driver's nose, sans a whimper of protest. We departed shortly thereafter, before the Aberdeen Megabus I'd just got off should even hae got in and I settled doon for a snooze, next lifting my sleepy head alongside the Bonnie Banks, having takken the low road.
I stayed upright long enough to admire the Rest & Be Thankful, Loch Fyne and it's kipper factory, then put my head doon again as we were leaving behind the smart old whitewashed houses, shops & hotels of Inveraray. The mist was well down on the slopes of Ben Cruachan, as we passed the foot of Loch Awe and through the Pass of Brander, following a wee detour round the backstreets of Dalmally.
A final highlight was across the powerful Falls of Lora, under the fine steel bridge across the narrow mouth of Loch Etive and not long thereafter I was getting off on the esplanade in Oban town centre well before 11am. This gave me an hour before the ferry, just before noon, most of which I spent cycling around in the light rain, trying to get a disposable camera, having first nipped into Subway for a Foot Long Sub & a Cappuchino.
Having finally managed to get a camera at Tesco, I then followed the signs for the ferry parallel to the front & then back to the centre, right back where I'd got off the bus. I then saw a sign to the ferry for pedestrians, which took me past the rail station & I finally reached the terminal, thinking it was just as well I hadn't been in a rush to catch the boat.
After buying my return ticket to Craignure on Mull, for the princely sum of £8 odd, I then sat down to finally drink what was left of my remaining unspilled Subway cappuchino & munch my tasty sub. I then noticed it was getting perilously close to sailing time & went outside to stand beside the yellow notice for embarking cyclists. I got a bit uneasy when I saw the last of a queue of cars driving onto a nearby ship, then went over to speak to a guy in a hi-vis vest beside a wee cabin at the corner of the carpark.
He took my ticket & directed me 100 yds or so towards another couple of more hi-vis clad bods, who urged me onwards down into the jaws of the gaping cardeck down the ramp to the right. No sooner had I wheeled on my trusty steed then the bow door closed behind me, as another hi-vis bod tied my bike to a rail with a length of old hemp rope. I then climbed up the steep steps, checked that the shop didn't sell disposable cameras, so I hadn't wasted my travels around Oban, thence went out on deck & took my 1st snap of the receding town, after we'd cast off.
The small handful of other intrepid touros who had braved the elements out on deck, soon headed back inside, just the odd solitary smoker popping their heads outside on the remainder of the crossing. The rain had relented, with the odd patch of brightness & it was very mild as we passed out through the narrow straight out of Oban Bay, the large Kerrera island to the left and wee Maiden Island to the right.
After a good stretch of open water, crossing some racing tidal rapids we then passed between wee Lady's rock on the left & Eilean Musdile, with it's fine lighthouse, at the SW end of long Lismore Island, stretching away up Loch Linnhe to the right. Another couple of miles and we were passing the impressive Duart Castle up on Duart Point on Mull to the left, with Craignure just another couple of miles beyond, where we disembarked at 12.45pm.
As I cycled slowly up the steepish ramp & slip road beyond, my chain came off, then as I got off to change it, an evidently impatient hi-vis bod waved on the long line of traffic waiting to embark, twa motorcycles leading the way, swerving either side of me. After this rather inauspicious start to my time on the island, things went smoothly enough at first, as I cycled past a shop on the left, then the oddly named Java Hotel on the right.
A road cutting then led to a fast descent down to the bridge over the Scallastle River, with the Craignure Golf Course clubhouse on the right. I soon passed the start & finish point for my ascent of Mull's only Corbett, Dun da Ghaoithe, on the left then the Scallastle Bay fish farm on the right. A couple of guys, probably father & son, were wandering along the road here, towards the Isle of Mull avowed world's 'friendliest' rugby sevens ground, to the left of Garmony Point.
There followed the longest climb of the road to Salen, up to nearly 40m, which took me to the turn-off to the Fishnish Ferry, the reward for which was then a free-wheeling fast descent down to Fishnish Bay. Rounding the headland of Rubha na Leitreach beyond, there was even some sunshine lighting up the wee islands of Eileanan Glasa in the middle of the Sound of Mull up ahead.
The last few miles along the road took me past the ruins of a wee chapel, in front of which stood several tall impressive carved crosses, reminiscent of those on Iona. A final speedy descent then took me to the bridge over the River Forsa, just beyond which I turned left up the Glen Forsa track, reached in little over an hour fae the ferry, now 10 miles distant.
A sign indicated that walkers were welcome, except when stalking was in progress between August and Oct. 20th, which I rather hoped it wasnae after my 10hr journey to get thus far... I soon passed a farmhouse on the left, complete with dogs barking in both high pitched yaps & deep throaty rumbles, it being left to my imagination as to the size & sharpness of teeth of their owners.
Shortly thereafter I took my 1st snap after leaving the ferry, as a patch of sunlight lit up the cowfield to the right of the track, with a distant Beinn Talaidh, my first objective, peering through the dark misty skies at the head of the glen. There was rather too much gravel on the track for comfortable progress along the long straight, leading to a gate just beyond whitewashed Killbeg house on the right.
The track then led along the side of a plantation to the left, past another up to the right, passing along the foot of the slopes of the sub2k Marilyn Beinn nan Lus for the next couple of miles.
As the track drew close to the swollen river, across which lay yet another plantation, a young lad appeared on his bike, burdened with a tall bulging rucksack, complete with a red rain cover on top. He was evidently in too much of a rush to catch a ferry to halt for a blether & we passed with just a nodded greeting.
Just beyond the start of another of the ubiquitous Glen Forsa plantations, I passed Gaodhail cottage up to the right, over a bridge, with a track leading off over a nother bridge over the river to another cottage on the left. I took my 2nd snap of the swirling mists circling the sunlit, steep craggy slopes of Beinn Chreagach Mhor beyond the latter cottage.
Not far beyond I passed a ford on the left leading over to some large metal cowsheds, surrounded by several sheep pens. There were a series of boulder dams along the last straight stretch of the river, close beside which the track ran, before turning sharp right.
Here it soon steepened alongside a sizeable stream, flowing between twa plantations before turning sharp left at a ford, where I just managed to pedal through a foot or so of water over concrete sleepers, without falling into the drink. Up a short rise there was a large propellor from a WWII aircraft which had crashed into Beinn Talaidh, killing 4 of the crew, one of the survivors hadving managed to descend to the glen to raise the alarm.
This memorial, erected in 2005, was located at the junction of 2 tracks, a sign indicating that Tomsleibhe bothy lay 0.25 miles up that to the right. Helpfully for dinosaurs like moi, the sign also stated that this was 1/4 mile in brackets! The track became decidedly steeper, wetter & rougher over this final wee stretch but I managed to cycle the whole way by making judicious use of my steed's lowest gear.
Arriving at the bothy at 2.30pm, 1 3/4hr after leaving the ferry, I entered to find smart new MBA bunks in two spacious rooms, plonking down my gear in that to the left. Here I was dismayed to find that yon young laddie had left nae firewood behind and also that there didn't appear to be any cooking pot, only a frying pan.
Both rooms sported a sturdy table with wooden benches & impressive wide, long wooden park bench style seats. There was also a bookcase with a library which was not quite up to the Resourie standard but included no less than twa slender copies of Hemingway's 'To Have & Have Not'.
After a quick bite to eat I was on my way by 2.45pm ish and headed out the door & up the wet, rough continuation of the track, past the low ruins of a cottage on the left & a few broad leaved trees on the right. This soon narrowed into a wet, grassy path which shortly led to the swollen Allt nan Clar, coming doon fae the col between Beinn Talaidh & Beinn Bheag, just to it's NE. I followed this up to a fence crossing over the stream, where I balanced along a slippery horizontal rounded thick wooden pole.
I then slanted rightwards at an oblique angle, climbing half way between the stream & the steep, rocky nose at the foot of the narrow, staight NNW ridge of Beinn Talaidh. Above a waterfall in a tributary to the Allt nan Clar, cascading down the opposite side of the stream valley, I cut back right to join the ridge where it's angle had laid back. From here I had a good view down Glen Forsa to the Sound of Mull, back the way I'd come but the mist level seemed to be dropping somewhat.
Following a fairly gentle section of ridge, on shortening grass and increasingly stony ground, the disc of the sun appeared through the mist up to my right, the stiff wind blowing the mist over & down to my left. I though the conditions were ripe for a Brokken Spectre, which I hadn't seen for a year or so but although I kept looking round for wan, it never materialised...
As the ground became steeper and rockier higher up I was hoping that I'd break through the clouds but my luck was out, the mist thickening up again & the sun disappearing once more. Still it was an easy enough ascent and I arrived at the substantial summit cairn in just under 2hrs fae the bothy, at a 1/4 to 5pm, exactly 12hrs after leaving the GC. The cairn was a short distance beyond the dirty white trig point, of roughly equal height, which I then mounted in traditional Brucie style.
My feet were now at Corbett height, the base apparently now being deemed the highest Graham. I texted my kid bruvver in Auld Reekie 2c if he fancied coming over but he teld moi he was tied doon. The ferocious super reported that she'd been lava caving on her Icelandic odyssey - longest in the world apparently.
To make a day of it, I thought I'd check for a continuation of the track leading through the woods from Glen Forsa towards the A839 road fae Craignure through Glen More towards Iona. Thus I dropped off left down the steep scree slopes through the crags, the mist being much thicker in Coire Ghaibhre than it had been up on the ridge of my ascent.
I eventually emerged fae the mist to find that I was on a steep tongue of grass between the Allt Coire Ghaibhre to my right & a stream on the left coming down fae the other side of the col with Beinn Bheag, from that of the stream crossed on my ascent.
Below I could see that the combined streams united to pass through a wide forest ride leading down into the forest but as I now had only an hour of daylight left, I though it prudent to keep out of the trees at this point.
Thus I crossed the swollen stream on the left below some waterfalls, then traversed across increasingly boggy, tussocky ground towards the fence leading along the top edge of the forest. Here I thought I might find a path leading between main road to the south & bothy to the north. However, I found nothing but what were either partly flooded broken animal tracks or planned forestry ditches, or both.
Whatever they were they made for very hard, slow, rough going and I soon decided to traverse on a rising line back up the hillside to gain scattered areas of dying bracken, which at least indicated rather drier going. After half a mile or so of this I passed above a wide break between twa plantations below, with the very steep craggy slopes of Beinn Bheag up to my left.
A very large bird of prey soared above, crossing Coire Ghaibhre from the Beinn Bheag cliffs to those of Maol nan Fiadh, the SE enclosing arm of Beinn Talaidh. It seemed to be hunting from just inside the cloud base, as if using this as cover from the eyes of potential prey below, perhaps including flagging hillwalkers? It briefly disappeared round the crags to the south, then came back with several more of it's bretheren, which flapped their huge wings purposefully, as if concentrating on a big job in hand.
I began to wonder if they might be Sea Eagles, which I knew were resident on Mull and which I'd always hoped for a sighting. I passed above a stile at the corner of the northern plantation, which looked like it was covered in lichen & had had very little use if any since it was built. However, as I carried on through more never used forestry ditches & big tussocks I began to wish I'd given it a try.
I decided that at least I had established that this was a route only to be considered for World Champion mountain biking masochists, following pre-trip discussion with Malky on a possible approach to Tomsleibhe bothy by bike fae the south. After a mile or so of fairly purgatorial going, even on foot, I cut through a short forest ride after the forest boundary fence started to climb gradually up towards me.
This soon reached a boggy narrow path following another narrow forest ride crossing at right angles, along which I turned sharp left. This was still fairly rough going on foot, although I could see a few foot prints in the mud, suggesting some fellow bothymongers may indeed have used this approach. It wasnae long before this 'path', reached the end of the blessed track, which led effortlessly onward through the darkening forest toward the bothy.
The excellent firm, well drained, raised surface, with very little loose gravel, took a direct line down the glen, with only the odd gentle rise & fall and slight bends. Interest was maintained however, as I caught up with the posse of Sea Eagles, now circling overhead, as if they'd cited their unfortunate prey, which hopefully was not Yours Truly. I then heard screeching off to the left, not far ahead and shortly thereafter a large Sea Eagle flew across the track, just a few feet above it, 20 yards ahead, closely pursuing a smaller eagle, perhaps a female or juvenile? The big bird had a whitish thick ruff of feathers around it's longish neck, making it unmistakeable as a Sea Eagle.
A lifetime's ambition fullfilled I carried on down the darkening track, soon passing a branch to the right, then turning off left at a break in the trees on the left, at the top of a bend down to the right. This soon led to a fence at the forest edge and here i picked up a long, thick section of partly rotted fencepost which was lying in the bog, having failed to break off some of the lower springy branches of a pine tree.
I then had only a short distance across the boggy rough ground to cover before reaching the track to the bothy 100 yards or so above the propellor aircraft crash monument & ford. Following the track up left I arrived at the bothy once again at 7.20pm, a mere 15 hrs after setting off on my journey. Inside I found I couldn't be bothered to go back outside into the near darkness with the saw to get more readily combustible fuel, settling for lighting a few candles, including the last of my long red Lidls candles, first used back in early April on my Morven - Scaraben trip up to Caithness.
Hanging up my wet gear over the doors & sides of the top bunk I soon climbed up the ladder & got into my ultra lightweight, ultra cheap sleeping bag, having chomped most of a large block of Emmantel cheese. I read some of my latest SK, The Green Mile, which I'd brought along for the occasion, not even bothering with the very musty smelling collection of old bothy books which I'd found in a shopping bag on the bookshelf in the other room. Having got up at 3.10am, I guess I must have dropped off to sleep fairly early, to the sound of the wind howling around the bothy and rain pattering against the windows.
I awoke very early, before 6am but dozed on until after 7am, being rather lethargic after my long journey the previous day. I finally got my stuff together, changing into thick dry socks a colleague had donated to the cause, then squeezing my feet into my dryish trainers, rather than put back on my muddy, wet boots. After scoffing most of a can of Lidls budget corned beef, I then untethered my steed, sniffing the air, which was remarkably mild for the last day of September, later discovering it was almost 30 degs in the shade doon south.
I took a snap of Beinn Talaidh, which was now in the clear, rising steeply behind the ruins of the nearby cottage, with only high broken cloud above it's pointy summit. It was now 10 to 8am and I thought I'd better get cracking, as I knew the fine weather was no doubt on it's way out, the forecast being for rain turning heavier, with a rising wind. I was soon splashing back through the ford, then racing back down the glen, reaching the road in under half an hour. Turning left I soon passed the drive to the Glen Forsa Hotel and airstrip, then narrowly avoided getting mown down by a 4X4, as I wove out into the road, whilst reading the sign beside a building, which turned out to be the Mull Abattoir!
A mile or so down the road I reached Salen, which turned out to be a fair sized village, complete with many touro amenities, including a Mediteranean restaurant, Sea Eagle boat trips, cycle hire, hotel, B&Bs, PO and shop. Turning steeply down to the left onto the B8035 towards Gruline, I soon passed a wee hospital on the left, of which I made a mental note, thinking it could come in handy...
Not long after leaving the village the narrow road turned right over a hump-backed bridge, then climbed steeply
past woods on the left. A more gentle climb round a left bend then led to a long straight, mostly flat or slightly descending through Feith Bhan plantation. A final descent then led past a junction with the B8073 leading off right, close to a bus shelter. Another flattish mile or so into a stiff sou' westerly wind then took me past a sign to Gruline Mausoleum, over a bridge over the deep, wide River Ba, to the start of the track up large Loch Ba at a sharp bend to the right.
I reached the loch after following the track along the foot of the steepening craggy slopes of the high sub2k Marilyn Beinn a' Ghraig, which was towering up above to the right. I stopped to snap the loch across the bay beside Benmore Lodge then carried on over a rougher, stony section, alongside a lochside construction site, possibly of another fish farm? Easier going around the steep wooded headland of Coille na Sroine then led past a track branching off left towards the head of the loch.
The track then became rougher, with a couple of short, steep climbs, where I was reduced to cycling slowly in lowest gear and I dumped my steed near the foot of wan o' these, just across a wee ford beside the stream flowing down fae the restored Clachaig cottage.
I soon turned off the new gravel track, keeping left along the old stalkers path up Glen Clachaig, which leads over to Glen More at the main road. Although rather wet in places this had a pretty good surface at first, leading along between the birchwoods of Coille na Creige Duibhe clothing the steep hillside above to my right and the River Clachaig down to the left.
Ahead I snapped the very steep concave slopes leading straight up to the slender cone of Cruachan Dearg, twin peak of the hidden Graham Corra-bheinn behind it. After a mile or so of mostly level going the path ran into fairly extensive reed beds just short of the Allt Beithe, which was cascading down impressively up to the right beyond a wee herd of red-brown shaggy coos. I lost the boggy 'path' completely not far beyond where I'd hopped across the boulders to reach the far side of the high running stream.
Thus I turned up the hillside after a few hundred yards of more wet, reedy going, heading diagonally back up right to gain the nose of the east ridge of An Cruachan, the steep sided, rocky forepeak of the Graham Beinn Fhada, which I'd now decided was to be my next objective. I soon reached the ridge well above the cascades, traversing much drier ground, with scattered dying bracken. As I climbed, turning left up the ridge, overlooking the upper gorge & hidden valley of the Allt Beithe, the views began to open up across Loch Ba towards now distant Beinn Talaidh and it's satellites.
I began to get a mob. signal here and let my remote Safety Officer ken my latest whereabouts & immediate plans. Higher up I kept just to the right of the steep, rocky upper nose of An Cruachan, thus keeping out of the worst of the near gale which had blown up. Having finished my juice I kept looking for a wee high spring for to top up my water bottle but despite crossing numerous wee gravel flood channels, my search was in vain.
Over to the right the aforementioned Marilyn Beinn a' Ghraig appeared to the right of the closer, slightly lower, Beinn nan Gabhar, which doesn't even quite make Hump status. The steep, rocky final summit cone of Beinn Fhada was now only a mile away along a fairly gentle, spacious ridge, misting over & then clearing again briefly as I advanced towards it, through the gathering tempest.
The afore-mentioned Graham Corra-bheinn appeared from behind the shoulder of Cruachan Dearg, back across the deep trough of the Clachaig Glen, fae which I had just emerged, with right again the distant Graham Ben Buie also still clear across Glen More. Closer at hand Ben More was shrouded in a thick blanket of mist and I was thankful my Munro bagging days were behind me. Beyond a slight drop to the col, I again kept to the right of the broader gentle slopes, which twisted first left, then back right where they narrowed towards the final summit cone.
I entered the swirling mist, cutting right along a wee path along a narrow shelf, passing through the summit rocks, to arrive on the top at 11.45am, almost 4hrs after leaving the bothy and 2 1/2 since leaving my steed. There wasnae much tae see fae the modest cairn and with the wind blowing a gale I soon cut off down to the left, beyond the right side of an outcrop, dropping down stony slopes, above and left of a wee lochan.
Across a grassy shelf I then descended a steep twisting route down scree, negotiating the odd small rock step, with traces of a path in places. This took me out of the mist at another grassy easing, which soon led to the top of a steep rock band. I followed the top of this rightwards, where I got a dim view down Gleann na Beinne Fada to Eorsa island in Loch na Keal. I surprised a 2nd Brown Hare of the day, nearly treading on it, as I descended steepish grassy slopes, then cut back left round the foot of the rock band to reach the col with Ben More.
As I dropped leftwards off the col, back down into the head of Glen Clachaig, I sighted a couple of small, sharp winged birds of prey flying high above, which looked too small for Kestrels and wren't hovering in their characteristic manner - any ideas? Slanting diagonally leftwards down the steep, grassy hillside, I soon discovered what they were after, as I was amazed to see numerous sizeable Voles, which ran into a network of wee holes between my feet. At one point, an almost surreal half dozen of the furry, dark brown, plump wee creatures scattered just a few feet ahead of me.
By now the rain had set in and the mist was rapidly descending the hillside above me, the col already being obscured. The rain got heavier, blown by a strong wind, which thankfully blew from behind me, as I turned right down a narrowing steep, grassy tongue between twa streams, crossing over the larger wan to the left, just above where it dropped into a wee gorge. I kept fairly well up the hillside, as I traversed below the steep, rocky southern flank rising up to the ridge leading to An Cruachan, along which I'd made my ascent.
I thereby avoided the broad flattish valley floor, which I'd found to be marshy lower down below the fine cascades of the Allt Beithe. Any thoughts I may have had about crossing over to the right to follow the path up to the col with Cruachan Dearg, thence onwards to the Grahams Corra-bheinn & Cruach Choireadail, were rapidly dispelled when I saw that the mist had dropped to below the col, at little over 1000ft. I was already slipping & sliding in the wet in my trainers, as I crossed the numerous wee burns along the side of the glen and didn't want to risk reactivating the pain in my dodgy left knee - I have other excuses...
Once I'd got a mile or so past the col I could see that the ridge above it rising to Cruachan Dearg had largely cleared but in view of the forecast I ploughed on regardless, contenting myself with a couple of close-up snaps of the Allt Beithe cascades & the coos below, wan o' which rod fae Asda later presented me with a free enlargement. Crossing back over the stream was not quite so straightforward as on the ascent, the water level having already risen considerably and I knew there were several much bigger streams to cross on the descent, above the head of Loch Ba, probably in the dark by then, had I decided to attempt the twa further Grahams.
As I walked back down the old track to my steed down lower Glen Clachaig, the brighter skies ahead, in the direction of the bothy soon disappeared, as did the ridge looking back over my shoulder up to Cruachan Dearg. Thus I felt I'd probably done the right thing for once, as it was c.2pm as I mounted my steed below the cottage and headed back down the loch to the road and thence along back through Gruline.
The only indication of a settlement here is the church, where a couple of workmen were taking advantage of a break in the rain, wandering around the churchyard, presumably sizing the place up for conversion to Mull's latest nightspot.
As I rode up the long but fairly gentle incline back up the hill, bearing right at the junction towards Salen, I was passed by a succession of vehicles, some which gingerly slipped past on the narrow single track road. Others waited patiently until I reached the next passing place but then someone honked their horn before racing past, which turned out to be the aforementioned workmen. I stopped in Salen to take the rare opportunity when staying in a bothy, to top up my messages at the local Ye Olde Spar Shoppe.
Mindful of the lack of a cooking pot, I bought 3 half price filled rolls & some mixed nuts, a bag of which had kept me going a couple of months earlier at Oban bothy. Optimistically, I also bought half a pint of milk, in case I managed to find a container which would hold enough water for a cuppa. Leaving the shop I remembered I was just awa tae run oot o' credit on ma mobile but then saw a big queue had already formed at the checkout. Thus I thought I'd try the Post Office, outside which I'd tethered my steed, finding that this was empty & even sported a cash machine, which I teld the assistant I was nae desperate enough tae use, given it's £1.99 fee.
I next paused just after the start of the Glen Forsa track, getting very limited shelter fae the rain which had resumed with increased intensity, under some pine trees, where I replied tae texts fae my Iceland based Safety Officer & her back-ups. Following a dreich cycle back up the glen, I noted a sizeable, largely dead tree beside the ford, just short of the aircraft crash monument, as potential firewood, although unfortunately it was the wrong side of the water fae the bothy.
Thus, once inside, arriving back before 5pm, I spent a fruitless couple of hours trying to get a fire going, having just half a dozen logs, created from the rotted fence post gathered the previous evening, which I sawed up.
This used up most of my firelighters, thus with little daylight remaining and the rain having slackened off, sans wet trousers I went out with the saw to search for wood along the banks of the swollen Allt nan Clar. After sawing off a smallish dead branch on a tree poised on the edge of a wee ravine, I then spotted a much larger dead tree lying on the steep bank below.
Climbing down I had soon cut through the birch trunk, hauled it back up on top of the steep bank and dragged my spoils back tae the bothy in near darkness. Here I soon thought I'd got a good blaze going & decided to check the other room once more to make sure I hadn't missed any potential cooking pot the previous evening. Sure enough I soon found what I was looking for, a deep round pot with a long handle and set out into the dark, wet night for the stream once more to fill it with water.
This turned ot to be easier said than done, as the water came shooting out of a hole in the side of it's flat bottom, which I plugged with my thumb, like Peter & his dyke. Back in the bothy I found the fire had gone out & could only pour the water into a frying pan, which I then decanted to an empty water bottle using my new plastic Tiso's cup, spilling a fair bit of it in the process. I then used my penultimate lump of firelighter to try to get the fire going yet again, which I thought had failed 'til I used a Ray Mears style fierce blowing of the embers, resulting in ultimate success.
After a couple of hours of sawing up progressively thicker sticks, then logs from my twa branches and feeding them to the hungry fire, I then steadily added the fence post logs. These seemed to provide a level enough fiery platform for the frying pan half full of water, which soon came to the boil. I didn't like the look of the oily liquid which resulted, complete with white blobs of what looked like lard, so thre this out the outside door into the very dark night.
The pan by now looked rather cleaner, so I added some more of my precious water & again placed the frying pan on the burning fence post hob. Some of this spilt when a log shifted but after 5 hours or so I finally had enough hot water to make a little over half a small mug of tea. After another slightly deeper cup, produced rather more quickly, I decided to call it a day and retreated to my pit, which was made more comfy by the karrimat & partly inflated airbed, which I'd found insitu on the top bunk the previous evening. This left my newly prizewinning Shills TR, come Tiso's gift voucher obtained karrimat still neatly rolled up, unused in it's pack.
By now I was too tired to be bothered even reading or writing in the bothy book, for the 1st time this year and after a fitful sleep, rose in the morning to find that I'd hung my wet gear too far fae the fire to dry out, mindful of my wanton destruction of a pair of new trainers at Resourie bothy on the previous trip. I was away at 1/4 to 8am, slightly earlier than the previous day, heading for Beinn Dearg but just short of the propellor WWII monument realised I'd left my camera behind, dumped my steed, of which I'd just discovered the brakes had stopped working and headed back on foot tae the bothy.
Cursing my folly at the wasted time, given that I needed to catch the last ferry at 5pm, to have any chance of making it back to work the following day, I hot foot back down the rough, wet track back tae my faithful steed. I then splashed once again through the ford and whizzed doon the track below at rather less than full throttle, given that being left out in the rain the night before had evidently done for my mount's brakes. I turned right over the bridge just before Gaodhail cottage, pulling up at the cottage over the river, which I noticed was sans padlock on the door.
I opened the stiff catch with some difficulty and had a most around inside, finding no less than 3 double beds, stove, plenty of crockery and pots & pans. Back outside I tethered my steed to a gate beside the spacious cow sheds & set off along rough pasture close to the river. There were fairly continuous muddy tracks, either created by fishermen or animals or both, which eased progress somewhat. I soon had a distant view of my objective, which was wreathed in multiple layers of mist but the summit ridge was clear for now.
I cut off a bend in the river, moving leftwards towards the lower fence of a large field, to the left of the corner of the forest. There was the odd spot of bog hopping but the going was mostly far better than it had been close to the forest after descending fae Beinn Talaidh, a couple of days earlier. Still I kept well left of the boundary fence, fearing more networks of waterlogged drainage ditches.
The only networks I stumbled on however, were yet more made by the same race of sizeable furry brown voles of which I'd seen a couple of dozen the previous day. Here they weren't quite so numerous but the half dozen or so I saw was probably similar to the total I'd seen in the previous few decades of wandering the hills. More discontinuous animal tracks eased progress, crossing several wee streams then the larger Allt Sloc Eoghainn, where there was a low ruined building, which I thought at first might be that of Rhoail.
Just a few hundred yards further across the gently rising moorland led to about a dozen more old ruined buildings, which no doubt was a bustling wee village before the clearances, less than a couple of centuries earlier. Not far beyond these, close to the tumbling Allt Coire Fraoich, I finally reached Rhoail, a much larger, higher, more recently deserted ruin, one large room of which I entered through an old doorway. Here I picked up an old track, which ran some way left of the rising edge of the forest.
This had clearly been a fine highway back in the day, short sections of it still being in good repair but others having disappeared completely into the bog. Still this eased progress for about a mile until I reached the larger Allt Achadh Luirginn, which was crossed at a wide, bouldery, probable old ford. Beyond the stream the next stretch to the wide torrent of the Abhainn an t-Sratha Bhain, was much rougher and boggier and I again kept well to the left of the forest edge, on the higher, drier slopes, clad largely in dead & dying bracken.
Thankfully it was less than a mile between the twa streams and I followed a well defined deer track down to wade through the powerful flow of the latter large stream, just above where it dived into the forest. I was now close to the steep craggy nose of the NW ridge leading up to Beinn Bhearnach and Sgurr Dearg beyond. The mist was by now well down the slopes and having taken just the wan photo in the past couple of hours, I was starting to wonder if I need have bothered going back for the camera earlier.
I followed more animal tracks to the left of a wee stream, parallel to the edge of the forest to the right, then crossed the stream and climbed the steepening slopes, skirting below and right of the crags rising up into the mist. A steeper section was taken on small stones and shorter, firmer grass leading up to the left of a large boulder, perched on a wee grassy platform. Following short diagonal rising traverse to the right, I then cut back left, having rounded the end of the steep craggy nose.
Stretches of low angled slabs, interspersed with short sections of scree and more fairly firm, shortish grass then led up into the mist, fairly steeply at first but with the angle falling back towards the ridge crest. This was fairly broad and I kept to it's right, bypassing several rocky outcrops, where I disturbed a few hinds, the first deer I'd seen since a solitary large stag, seen close to the road when cycling back towards Salen the previous afternoon. After some distance passing up through the damp mist, over the odd wee level stretch linked by short steeper climbing, I moved left, negotiating a couple of patches of scree, to reach a longer stretch of slightly dipping ridge crest, where nestled a couple of wee lochans.
Here the mist seemed to be thinning and then the disc of the sun appeared high up above to the right, giving me some hope that I might break through the clouds this time, having been unlucky in similar conditions a couple of days earlier on Beinn Talaidh. However, as on that occasion the mist closed in again, as the ground started rising again, close to cliffs dropping away on the left of the narrowing crest, with traces of a path starting to appear. I'd just resigned myself to my third summit of the trip with no summit views, when I happened to turn around, being gobsmacked to see distant Ben More sticking out of a sea of cloud, appearing over the shoulder of Beinn Talaidh just across the glen.
As I climbed the easy summit slopes on short, firm grass, I reentered the cloud, following the rising line of cliffs on the left, dropping into the head of Coire nan Clach. It was only a short distance below the top that I finally broke through the clouds once more, the distant views opening up all round. Eastwards was clear right across the Firth of Lorne towards Oban and the mouth of Loch Etive, with Lismore island to it's left again.
The summit of Mull's sole Corbett Dun da Ghaoithe just rose above the cloud blanket, to the left of it's neighbouring top Mainnir nam Fiadh, whilst in the other direction the Grahams Ben Buie & Creach Beinn had only a wreath of mist stretching around their midsections. In the far distance, back over a vast sea of cloud stretching to the west, a twin topped wee chain of hills appeared, which I thought might be Hecla & Beinn Mhor on South Uist, the latter wan o' the furthest flung of my remaining 17 Grahams.
It was now quarter past eleven in the morning, having taken 3 1/2hrs for the ascent fae the bothy, thus I thought I might well make the 5pm ferry, barring mishaps... Plunging back into the sea of cloud, soon after leaving the summit, having treated myself to the LUNA bar [pour la femmes], which I'd got fae my generous Tiso's winnings, I at took a line further left of my ROA.
Here I saw a medium sized bird of prey, which I thought may have been an Osprey but on later reading of Cuillin's recent Glen Tarken TR, I thought might rather have been a male Hen Harrier. Not wanting to chance losing time by dropping down into the forest at the head of Glen Forsa, I then veered back to join my ROA lower down.
Once below the mist, left of the steep, craggy toe of the ridge I saw a score or so of deer queuing up to enter the forest well to the left of the Abhainn an t-Sratha Bhain. Looking across the forest over to my left I had a good view of my steep descent route from Beinn Talaidh down Coire Ghaibhre, which I'd come down largely in the mist a couple of days earlier. Once down the rapidly easing slopes on the left side of the steep rocky nose at the toe of the ridge, I found that the deer had been taking advantage of a smashed gate in the deer fence, perhaps as a result of their own actions.
I followed the line of old fence posts, largely on deer tracks, along a forest ride, to reach the tumbling Abhainn an t-Sratha Bhain after a few hundred yards with some increasingly tussocky & boggy going where the deer tracks ran out. I followed the large stream for a couple of hundred yards down to the left along Strath Ban, with better, firmer going with some dead & dying bracken. I then crossed over the stream easily enough above some fine rapids with slabby rocks to either side.
Below a wide area of shingle at a bend to the right, then back left along traces of a path through a narrow strip of bracken between trees & burn, I crossed over the stream once more just above the confluence with the even wider, stronger flowing river running down the head of Glen Forsa. Following the true left bank of the combined flow round a bend to the right, then back left, I then cut sharply left up a forest ride. After a couple of hundred yards of fairly boggy, tussocky ground, I then reached a tall, thick wooden pole, no far below the edge of the forest.
Here I joined the very good firm track which I'd followed after descending from Beinn Talaidh a couple of days earlier. I only saw a couple more Sea Eagles hereabouts, which was relatively disappointing, after the glut I'd sighted on my previous time along here. I was soon cutting back through the trees to the left a mile or so down the track, thence the short distance across to the rough track back up to the bothy, which I reached at 2pm, having shaved 45 mins off my outward ascent time.
I thought this gave me plenty of leighway to get to the last ferry in time but I managed to use up half an hour changing into dry socks & my trainers then packing up my gear. Nearly an hour had passed by the time I'd carried my sack down to the bridge over the river to the cottage across fae Gaodhail, where I dumped it and carried on to pick up my faithful steed, still tethered at the cowsheds. It was 3.30pm by the time I reached the main road back down the glen and I felt precious time was slipping away all too rapidly.
Following a minor hill up to the ruined chapel on the left, the first half of the ride went easily enough for 4 miles round the coast to Fishnish Bay. The road then climbed over 100ft in the next mile to the Fishnish ferry turn off, which slowed progress down to a crawl but was rewarded with a mostly freewheeling run back down the other side of the hill over the next mile to the rugby sevens ground.
Having had a brief chance to rest my sore ar*e, by standing up in the pedals coming doon the hill, it was then back in the saddle for the next couple of miles round Scallastle Bay, with another smaller hill past the fish farm.
Here I could see a Calmac ferry boat, at first being unsure if it was coming in or departing, 'til I realised that it was doing neither, passing by, presumably on the way to South Uist. Past Scallastle, from where I'd scaled Mull's sole Corbett Dun da Ghaoithe c. 4 years ago, I then had wan last pull past the Craignure Golf Clubhouse, once over the bridge over the River Scallastle, thence down the hill into Craignure.
With some relief I saw the Oban ferry just coming in and cycled past the lines of waiting cars to present my ticket to Mr Hi-vis, soon being joined at the yellow cyclists' sign by a couple of racers. The vessel soon tied up and after disgorging it's full load, we twa wheelers were then waved aboard ahead of the lazy motorised 4 wheelers. After tethering my steed tae the central stagepost, I then made my way tae the cafeteria, where I extravagently splashed out £1.15 on a wee cuppa.
I then sat at a table beside the window next tae a half Dutch - half Scots foursome, the male Scot attempting to persuade the Dutch Quinie tae take an interest in the passing lighthouses, Gannets etc, with very limited success. Off the ferry first, I was then overtaken by the stream of disembarking cars as I followed the road up the hill and round left to the bus stops on the seafront, close to the town centre.
Whilst I was studying the signs, vainly looking for wan which didnae say 'Local Buses Only', a portly guy across the road asked me if I was lost, to which I asked him if he kent where the bus tae Glasgie left fae. He said I was in the right place but helpfully added that I'd nae chance o' getting on it 'cos it was Parks of Hamilton, who wouldnae let me on with a bike, saying that I'd have tae get the train.
Reluctant tae waste my return ticket I decided to take my chances with the bus, which arrived 10 mins later, as the last train was just leaving. Having so burnt my bridges, I desperately tried tae squeeze on my steed into a low luggage compartment, positioned half way doon the bus, whilst a long queue boarded the bus, many having left suitcases in a higher compartment near the front. Having cut my hand trying tae close the blasted door of yon compartment, which wouldn't quite fit the handlebars, no matter how I twisted them, I then gave up and tried the boot.
Here there was an enormous high, empty compartment, into which I threw my poor steed, with some relief, then rushed round to the left front steps, where the last of the queue was just boarding. When I presented my ticket the driver teld moi tae get back off and put my rucksack in the hold, which I did with no fuss, after waiting for some late arriving lassies to reluctantly climb back doon out of my way. As I was rummaging around outside in my rucksack for my book & waterbottle, the driver appeared and asked me if I'd been the one who'd shut the hold door earlier, stopping me when I made to close this wan, stating that passengers wasnae allowed tae touch them.
I climbed back aboard, found a seat near the back, then cringed as the driver soon appeared, stalking his way up the aisle.
'Whose bike is that in back?' says he.
'It's mine', I sheepishly admitted.
'Well, when were you going to tell me about it?' says he.
'I didnae ken I needed to', I replied.
'Well what if it had been drugs?', he questioned.
'Then I definitely wouldnae have teld ye', I opined, hoping he had a SOH.
'It's supposed tae be in a box', said the driver.
'Well it's in the same cover I've used before', says I.
'That's not a proper bag', the driver stated, unimpressed.
'Citylink said it's OK', I tried, having noted the wee notice by the front steps, stating that the coach was on hire tae Citylink.
This seemed to give Mr Jobsworth pause for thought, then he reluctantly conceded a wee bit o' ground, saying 'I'll only take it on the understanding that if anyone gets on with excess baggage, you'll have tae get off!'
Not wanting tae tempt fate, I readily agreed, given that I thought this most unlikely, given the biggest place we would be passing through en-route tae Glasgie was that well known metropolis Inveraray.
Once we arrived at that fine wee toun, the driver got off, announcing that we'd 6 mins, no more or less, tae have a fag, one of which he then proceeded to smoke with fierce intensity. Consequently, I just missed the 9pm bus tae the GC, once we arrived back at Buchanan St., where the driver recruited a Station Master to his cause, to explain the error of my ways. After I recounted the black bag incident at Inverness bus station last May, when the girl in the office had given me trois o' 'em, so I could get the bus tae The Fort, the SM teld moi that was just a wan off emergency.
I assured him that this was far fae the case as I'd reached Oban via Megabus & West Coast Motors with nae bother, saying that Citylink had informed me that it was OK to take a bike as long as it was covered up, which it clearly was. The SM then asked 'Well what's the problem then?', to which I replied 'My point exactly!', at which juncture the balshy youngish driver sloped off in disgust...
By this time I had a raging toothache, no doubt due to munching the mixed nuts which I'd bought at Salen Ye Olde Spar Shoppe the previous afternoon, having starting crunching them on the ferry. I'd been careful to avoid using the left side of my mouth, which had flared up in an abscess the previous July. However, this had only succeeded in creating what appeared to be a similar problem on the right side o' yon bouche, thus I locked my steed to a tethering post, then headed off to look for a shop which sold painkillers.
I first tried Queen St. rail station, where I noted that the last train tae the GC was just awa tae depart, thence I located a wee Sainsbury's, where I also bought a mob. topup voucher. I made a point of entering the 16 digit no. without delay as I walked back up the hill tae Buchanan St., weaving betwixt the weaving Sat. night drunks. The previous voucher, which I'd purchased fae Salen Ye Olde PO, had caused me much vexation, as I'd spent much time examining numerous wee soggy bits o' paper in the bothy the previous night trying tae find it, without any success.
This had been followed by close examination of every scrap which I'd spotted cycling back doon Glen Forsa earlier that afternoon, risking missing the last ferry as a result. Consequently, my bruvver & Icelandic Safety Officer had had to endure a day of unanswered texts, although neither was apparently sufficiently worried to actually phone moi!
I arrived back at the bus station tae find that Mr Hi-vis was just awa tae cut off ma bike lock, presumably to be followed by a controlled explosion. After reassuring the guy - presumably a cousin of Mr Jobsworth Oban bus driver - I then had a wee read o' The Green Mile, whilst the polis charged past tae apprehend some alleged wrong doer. I then txt my bruvver, safety officer & assorted other associates, wan o' whom helpfully suggested kipping in a building site, should I fail to smuggle my steed upon the last GC bound Megabus.
As the 11pm departure time o' the last bus back tae base approached, there was a surprisingly sizeable queue building up, which the driver began letting board with 1/4hr still to go. Despite the near disastrous failure o' my modus operandi earlier at Oban, I decided to stick with the devil I know and whilst the driver was occupied with issuing / examining passengers tickets, I furtively smuggled my illicit contraband into the rear r.h.s hold, closing the door as quietly as I could...
I then slipped round tae the front lh side steps and climbed somewhat apprehensively aboard, then with trembling hauns presented my rather damp & faded, flimsy scrap of paper, to whit, a £46.50 period return tae Glasgie. Unable to meet yon driver's eyes, as he queried what exactly it was that I'd given him, I assured the fine fellow that it was indeed a bona fide wee ticket. There followed what seemed an interminable wait as I steeled myself for his next move...
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by kevsbald » Thu Nov 24, 2011 10:37 am
by Norman_Grieve » Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:38 am
kevsbald wrote:Loved that!
Kev, glad at least wan bod did, although it ain't looking gud tae reach the 300 hits trigger pt. to generate anither TR.
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by Johnny Corbett » Fri Nov 25, 2011 11:07 am
kevsbald wrote:Loved that!
I'd second that though i have to confess i do need a translator at times with me not being a northener and i have come to the conclusion that you appear to be stark raving mad
by mrssanta » Fri Nov 25, 2011 11:36 am
by Norman_Grieve » Fri Nov 25, 2011 7:56 pm
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by daveh » Fri Nov 25, 2011 8:22 pm
by mrssanta » Fri Nov 25, 2011 10:33 pm
by Norman_Grieve » Sat Nov 26, 2011 7:16 pm
daveh wrote:What a great report and who needs pics pmsl at this and a really good read and adventure
If we ever get that far, I am reliably informed that the next TR but twa be the funniest.
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by mrssanta » Sat Nov 26, 2011 11:14 pm
by Steve B » Mon Nov 28, 2011 8:36 pm
Luckily my visit earlier this year to Burns' birthplace and museum helped me with some of the vernacular!
It took me 3 goes to get to the end and loved it.
Please post some more. I don't mind the lack of pictures, in some ways better without, the words are great.
by Norman_Grieve » Tue Nov 29, 2011 12:51 pm
Steve B wrote:What a great report.
Luckily my visit earlier this year to Burns' birthplace and museum helped me with some of the vernacular!
It took me 3 goes to get to the end and loved it.
Please post some more. I don't mind the lack of pictures, in some ways better without, the words are great.
Aye, you're not the 1st tae nae be bowled over by me pics - at least Rod fae Asda likes 'em, or so he says.
As for more TR's, we'll hive tae see if the latest diatribe gets anither 92 hits but the next wan should be a wee cracker, if ah dee say so mesen - more lowlights than a flat oot crawl.
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