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Glenfinnan to Corran Ferry traverse via Stob Mhic Bheathain
by Norman_Grieve » Sat Nov 26, 2011 10:49 am
Grahams included on this walk: Sgurr a'Chaorainn, Stob Mhic Bheathain
Date walked: 30/08/2011
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However, an hour later I gave up the wait, once again vowing never to risk another such early start & set off back hame for an hours kip in my pit. Rudely awakened by my alarm once again at 7am, I set off for another attempt at leaving the oppressive confines of the Granite City.
Just as I had decided that the newly blank bus timetable & Westburn Rd. roadworks signs, put together, could only mean one thing, that they'd changed the entire start of the route... the rather late 8am bus duly appeared. I had to share the back seat at first but my luck changed when my fellow traveller got off at Blackburn, not long after leaving the city. I then received a welcome txt fae the ferocious supervisor [not], expressing her thanks for my notifying her of my broad route plans.
I settled doon for a lie down for a snooze, interspersed with reading the odd page of SK's latest offering, Full Dark, No Stars. As we rolled into the HC nearly 4hrs later, I reflected that it was as well I hadn't missed the 8am, as the 9am would very likely have got me in too late for the next bus to The Fort. As this was due in only 40 mins I decided to try the station cafe, which displayed photos of itself every decade going back to 1950.
The bus tae the Fort departed very late after 1pm & I tried to snatch some kip, next poking my head above the parapet at Fort Augustus, just in time to see a large crowded cruiser heading out into the head of Loch Ness, out of the Caledonian Canal. I drifted off again at Invergarry, later waking to the sight of the huge cliffs of the Ben's North Face, complete with a solitary snow patch near the base of Tower Ridge, soaring above into the mist.
As we approached the bus station I saw the Jabobite Express was sitting in the station, thus I made sure I was first off the bus, setting off at a jog,thinking it may be about to leave. I was in a wee bit of a dilemma as a Shiel Bus passed me, marked Mallaig, thinking I might end up missing both but a quick check of the rail timetable revealed I'd got an hour before the next train. Thus I turned round & headed back the way I'd come, relieved to see the Mallaig bus still sitting there.
A few minutes after I climbed aboard it set off, heading into The Fort, where it picked up the first of numerous school kids behind the offices of the Oban Times. A short distance along the famous 'Road to the Isles', we turned off right for the high school, where many more, older school kids climbed aboard. Some failed to find seats & crouched down at the foot of their pals feet, towards the back of the bus, presumably to hide from a teacher who brought up the rear.
Our departure was delayed whilst one girl moved slowly up the bus trying vainly to find a seat. Eventually a boy volunteered to give up his for her, plonking his backside on the arm of the seat of another girl, then gasping in pain, having apparently bruised more than his pride. The teacher / monitor glared up the bus toward me, as if trying to recall if perhaps she had seen me on any registers?
Very gradually, as we drove west, the odd kid got off, so allowing all the remaining kids to actually get a seat, one noting perceptively that they needed a bigger bus. I got off behind a girl after passing under the railway, at the start of the track to Callop farm, a mile or so short of Glenfinnan. She crossed to another waiting Shiel bus, which then set off to who kens where, as I crossed a bridge over the Callop River, then turned right onto the start of the track towards Loch Shiel.
Checking my battered old Nokia - which had miraculously burst back into life a couple of days after finally getting back hame on my previous epic in South Morar - I found that it was now after 4pm & time was getting on if I wanted to avoid another night time shenanigans. Thus I ignored a tempting detour, following a nature trail type sign, indicating the way down to a River Callop viewpoint on the right.
After about a mile I rounded the NE spur of Meall na h-Airigh to the left, to arrive on the shore of Loch Sheil. Looking up to the head of the loch, beyond a large steamer to the right of a wooded island, I could see Bonnie Prince Charlie's Monument, backed by the Glenfinnan [Harry Potter], viaduct.
I had last walked along the track in the other direction, following the descent of Sgurr Ghiubhsachain's steep & rocky NE ridge with my dad some 11 years earlier. I took a snap of this passing the birchwoods 1/2 mile or so further down the excellent track, having passed a trio of touros, who had no doubt approached fae a newly surfaced path leading fae the monument.
A large bird of prey rose from the trees, which I speculated may have been the 'Englishman's Eagle', otherwise kent as a Buzzard. A middle aged mountainbiker mannie passed shortly afterwards, who was to be the last, non-motorised human I saw for the next 28 hours. Another mile or so doon the track, tight above shoreline, approaching the newly refurbished Guesachan cottage, the 2nd of a short procession of vehicles passed by.
The 1st was a landrover, with some well heeled, stalker looking types, including a middle-aged lady. Next was a smallish trademan's van, followed a couple of miles further on, just before entering the Glen Hurich Forest, by a large white Mercedes Sprinter van, travelling at the traditional high rate of knots, followed by a large trail of dust.
These intrusions of the infernal internal combustion engine, detracted rather from the overall growing sense of remoteness, as the circus at the head of the loch became ever more distant. The cliffs of Meall Doire na Mnatha SE of Guesachan cottage and across the loch the large crags on the twin SE spurs of Beinn Odhar Mhor, looked as if they would provide plenty of remote rock climbing possibilities.
Another mile or twa through the forest took me to a track branching off to the left, just short of a bridge over the Allt Scamodale. I thought about taking this but the steep rocky headwall rising up above the forest into the mist looked rather unpromising. Also I quite wanted to see Scamodale itself, envisioning some grand baronial mansion, set amongst fine lawns & gardens.
However, a short distance beyond the bridge I took a left up the narrow, rather overgrown track to Scamodale, soon being greeted by a 'Beware of the Dog', sign. I almost turned around but then remembering my readers & their thirst for blood, I continued through a gate, with some trepidation. Although there were no less than 3 vehicles parked either side of the modest cottage, there was no sign of any fierce barking dog, or even any lights in the windows.
It was now well after 6pm and the skies were already darkening, with drizzle & mist closing in, as I forced my way through the hedge & fence past the upper garage, out into the forest beside the stream running down from Coire Thormaid. This provided fairly steep & rough going, aided by several broken animal tracks, above a series of small falls down in the small stream. I found a fine specimen of a Boletus Edulis toadstool here, which I added to my sack as emergency rations.
After climbing through the edge of the forest for a few hundred feet, I crossed over the stream above the falls, to escape the forest, the going up the bank the other side being rather softer & more moist, through lush grass. A few more animal tracks were of limited use, mainly traversing the hillside, rather than climbing towards the ridge of Creag Dhubh, where I wished to be headed.
As I gained height I could see across the loch up lonely Glen Alladale & mist capped Croit Bheinn, which I'd traversed back in early July. The going gradually improved above a couple of isolated broad leaved trees & I moved diagonally leftwards to gain the left edge of the Creag Dhubh ridge. After following a short level section I then cut off on a shelf which traversed across the head of Coire nan Each, dropping down below into the head of the forest.
The shelf rose gently below slabby, low angle crags, as it angled round into the small stream valley at the head of Coire nan Allt Beithe. Here I entered the mist, as I crossed the stream, hoping that the consequences of the thick blanket would be rather less dire than on my previous trip. A few hundred feet up moderate grassy slopes into the grey shroud and I reached the Meall nan Allt Beithe, the long, undulating col between Loch Shiel & upper Glen Hurich, into which I now began my steep descent.
I didn't have to drop down far before I emerged fae the mist, with the steep, craggy spire of Meall Daimh prominent, rising above the forest over to my left. I soon reached a high deer fence, which I followed down to the left for a short distance, then balanced up a slippery wooden support, no hands. Questioning my own judgement I then grabbed the top of the fence & swung over, then began zig-zagging down between scattered outcrops and a few smallish pines.
It was now getting quite dark and my bad left knee was beginning to feel the strain, with a dull ache starting up. There was just enough daylight left to see that there was a forest ride over to the left side of the forest below the area of steep open hillside, known as Feith Salach, with higher forestry rising on either side. Not far down the narrow forest ride I thought I could make out a track at it's foot but after slipping & sliding down a particularly steep section, just to the left of a stream, I could see no further sign of this, reminding me of the dim light playing tricks on me on the previous night time traverse of upper Loch Morar.
Just to add to the fun challenge I then entered deep bracken, with the attendant problem of concealed holes, further testing my dodgy knee. Eventually, having descended 1300ft in 1/2 mile, I reached a steep gravel bank in the trees, 20ft or so above the elusive track. I nearly lowered myself over the edge in my eagerness to reach it, before deciding that the handy ledge half way down, dimly glimpsed through the gloom, was most probably the top of a dense thicket of high gorse bushes.
Thus I decided to traverse right along the rim of the bank, where I found I could descend stony ground to a low point in the bank, sans gorse bushes. I then descended the bank without mishap, emerging on the lovely firm gravel of the godsent track, a great feeling. Turning left I followed this finest of highways gently down to the left through the forest, crossing a couple of small streams, until I reached a sharp turn down to the right, with a narrower branch leading straight ahead.
Following the main track round to the right there then followed a gentle descent crossing a couple of pairs of stream branches, where I finally took out my twa trusty torches & packet of AA batteries. Inserting the first couple of batteries into the 1st cheap, plastic green torch, I then found I couldn't get it to screw back together in the darkness, despite a promising brief flicker of light. Switching to the other, rather more sturdy rubber torch, I soon had a decent beam, with which I finally managed to fit the other torch back together.
It was now raining steadily & very dark and I began to hope that there was a good path to the bothy, if not a track, leading through the dense, pitch dark woods. Beyond a rather steeper section of track it crossed another stream, which then ran close below to the left. I soon reached an old car seat & some twisted iron grill, just off the left hand side of the track, which I wondered could maybe marking the start of a path leading off through the forest?
Shining the torches into the side of the woods beyond revealed nothing promising but a few yards further down the track, Eureka! a small wooden sign pointing to the bothy! I eagerly staggered off down the path, promptly finding myself knee deep in mud, thence crossing over the stream beyond rather more circumspectly. A short distance beyond, another helpful sign pointed 'bothy', sharp left, whence a muddy, narrow path led onwards through the pitch-black forest.
There was little sign of boot marks in the mud, I soon noticed, which gave me concern that I might have missed the way by the feeble torchlights. The way soon led down more steeply to recross a couple of the wee streams, first crossed back up on the track, then suddenly, just as I was beginning to doubt it's existence, there lay the hidden bothy of Resourie! Checking my still functioning mobile [at least the screen still lit up], I saw that it was now 9.20pm, the 5 1/4hr walk-in having taken only slightly less than Achnasheen - Letterewe back in June.
Following my usual desperate fumbling with the catch, I lurched through the door, this time finding no fiendly fishermen inside the dark & empty rooms within. However, there was a fine library on the bookshelves of the left hand room, all of which had large wooden, alpine style bunks. I plumbed for the l.h. room, which also had a wood burning stove, which looked in good nick and plenty of logs & kindling in separate baskets.
There was also a sturdy wooden table, a single plastic chair, a roll of small plastic cups, a saucepan, a bottle of cooking oil and a tin of tuna. I grabbed the latter down off the shelf next to the bookcase, my hunger kicking in at the sight of it, only then realising that I had no tin opener. By this time I had become concerned at the squeeking noise I kept hearing, even shining my torch up into the rafters, convinced that there must be a colony of bats, a la Oban bothy, earlier that month.
However, I could see only thick spiders webs, so I thought I'd check the other rooms to see if the noise was coming from there, remarkably finding that the squeeking followed me there. It then belatedly clicked in my tired mind, that the noise was coming from my squelching trainers! I then lit a long candle, having this time remembered to take a lighter, moving it down in it's elegant holder from the mantlepiece behind the stove to place it on the table.
I then lit the broken halves of my very own Lidls long red candles, as used back in early April at Corrichoich, the rather delapidated, non MBA bothy near Maiden Pap, Scaraben, Sneem & Morven. Opening the heavy iron front door of the stove I then shoved in a bunch of kindling & added a couple of small pieces of my much travelled Spar firelighters. I soon had a good blaze going and started feeding in the smaller logs, which though many were rather wet & muddy, I was pleased to see didn't result in the room soon becoming filled with smoke, as had been the case back at Bendronaig bothy back in end May & Suardalan bothy, Glenelg, in late March [before I twiddled the right rear knob].
I then went back out into the very dark night & rain with the saucepan to wash it in the stream and half fill it with water. Diving back inside I then placed the pan on top of the stove & had a wee read of the bothy book whilst I waited for the water to come to the boil. This didn't take long as there had only been 8 entries in over 6 months, several of these by MBA parties fixing up the roof. This confirmed my impression, formed by the wee, narrow path leading to the bothy, that it is easily the least used of any I've stayed in, other than possibly the aforementioned, non MBA Corrichoich.
A couple of folk had bagged Carn na Nathrach fae here, a guy had cycled in fae my starting point at Glenfinnan, the long way round from the foot of Glen Hurich at Polloch, then back again. Someone else had walked to Ardgour, my destination the following day, then back again, not mentioning having climbed any hills en-route. I added a brief [for me], outline of my trip thus far & intended route for the morrow.
Checking the pan I found the water was still barely lukewarm, so I decided to take the teapot out to the stream, where I washed it & filled it with water, then back in fae the dark & wet, placed it next to the pan on the stove. I then had one of my [with the benefit of hindsight], less good ideas & hung up my wet trainers on a pair of hooks on the chimney leading up fae the stove, having earlier dried out my socks in quick time, rescueing them just before they melted / caught fire, when I put them on top of the stove, prior to replacing them with the saucepan.
As the water in the pan had finally heated up, I poured some into a plastic cup, into which I had dropped a teabag I'd found in a plastic bag, in a large tin, next to the bookshelf. To this I added a rather crushed KFC UHT milk sachet & some rather sticky sugar, both of which had been all the way to Oban bothy with me earlier in the month. Sipping this gratefully, I then decided to open a packet of the luxury lightweight out of code travelfare, which a colleague had given me back in the spring.
I had hoped that this would prove to be more tasty Beef Strogonoff, as had excited my tastebuds back on that wet & wild 1st June morning back at Bendronaig bothy, rather than the rather sickly blackcurrant yoghurt, a la Oban. However, even with my poor sense of smell, it was immediately apparent on ripping open the packet... that I was going to be treated to my distant 2nd choice once again this August. I can't have been quite so ravenous on this occasion, as I found it rather difficult to force down cup after plastic cup of the damned stuff, even being quite glad when I found that the last intended portion had boiled dry onto the pan.
I then scoffed some cheese, washed down with another few cups of tea, having chucked a teabag into the boiling teapot on the stove. I then started to feel pretty tired & lay down in my el cheapo lightweight sleeping bag, throwing over my heavy Lonsdale jacket, which I'd earlier hung up to dry on a handy washline over the stove, with wooden clothes pegs found in the big tin. Beneath me I lay on my light Helly Hansen jacket, still not having replaced the Staoineag karrimat lost on the Loch Morar night time traverse, following the overwhelming advice of pollsters of that TR not to waste any of my Tiso's prizewinning vouchers on any unnecessary & expensive gear.
Just as I started to doze off, the alarm bells started ringing as I noticed that the room was starting to fill up with smoke. I put this down to the teapot, which I'd left on the stove, dismissing the 'smoke' as steam but taking it off the hob & opening the door, just as a precaution. It was not 'til the morning 'til I found the real reason for the real smoke - can you guess what it was boys & girls?
I woke early, probably not long after first light at 5.45am but couldn't at first rouse myself for the long, taxing day ahead. Looking out the front door I was somewhat dismayed to find that it was raining out but it had stopped not long after when I went outside to attend to my ablutions. After some corned beef, once again simply opened with the still attached key & some more of the mixed nuts which had kept me going at Oban bothy, I finally got around to packing up my meagre possessions. This was when I at last discovered the source of the smoke fae the night before, as I took down the charred remains of my new trainers...
I counted myself lucky that I'd brought 2 pairs of footwear, pulling on instead my 'Chinese Built', ex-Bendronaig bothy cast-off boots. I then pulled on my ex-Poolewe car park Macpac rucksack & set off at 7.15am, first trying following the rather overgrown narrow continuation of the approach path. I soon lost all trace of this & decided it would be prudent to reverse my route of the night before back to the track & thence along this to the fork leading off right at the sharp left bend. I thought I'd seen this fork leading some way up the glen, through the darkening gloom on the previous evening's descent.
However, once I reached it I soon found that it rapidly became overgrown, with just a faint, rather wet, grassy trace of a path through the trees. I hadn't gone far along this when it reached the edge of the forest at a new high deer fence. Over this there was another fairly indistinct & boggy path leading down it's far side, past several sections which appeared to be still under construction, with new fencing still lying across stretches of wet bog, across which I gratefully bridged.
The fence angled back right towards the bothy where the hillside lay back & some way further down I reached a better path coming from it's direction from the forest, thinking I should have persisted when I'd left it in this direction earlier. There was not much sign of a path leading onwards from here up the valley and I toiled through rough, tussocky grass & heather, over a stream to the left. Remarkably I then reached the first of many green right of way signs, indicating a 'path' with an arrow, of which there was absolutely no sign whatsoever!
Indeed this was probably the roughest, slowest section of the entire traverse, the next landmark being an old stone enclosure, where a trace of a path appeared, cutting straight through it. Not far beyond the 'path' rose gently through more forest, passing along a narrow forest ride. The way led below a steep craggy nose above to the left and the river down to the right, marginally easier than before but still fairly hard, slow, boggy rough going.
Crossing over 3 wee streams the path passed several more of the handy row markers to emerge from the thicker forest, climbing more steeply up along the foot of the steep, rocky ridge leading up to Meall Daimh, the impressive spire which I'd seen well on my descent the previous evening. Here I heard vehicles passing along a track across the river and beyond the crossing of a wee saddle, where the valley turned to the left, I heard dogs barking.
Following a gradual, still slow rough descent from the crossing of the rocky wee spur, through more broken pine forest, close to the river, I saw some folk getting out of a landrover, pickup & a bog standard delivery van. One of them got on an ATV & went charging off into the forest, followed by the others with their dogs. I cast my mind back to Owdjockey's? report on Beinn Lair fae the end of August a year or twa back & his confrontation with some stalkers, arguing the toss about whether the stalking season had started...
However, by the time I'd crossed over a wee stream & traversed along the river bank past just a couple more of the ubiquitous green 'path' row signs, the shooting party? had a sufficient lead over me, such that no such potential flashpoints arose. Indeed I was rather grateful for their ATV tracks, which made the going much easier than before, along a soft grassy but fairly level track. Following the crossing of the sizeable Allt Meall Daimh, the track split, the ATV party evidently having followed the left branch up the hill to the left, parallel to the stream.
I bore right through a forest ride, which led to a larger clearing below an old sheepfold, beyond which I was tempted to follow a stream down to the river but plumbed for another forest ride, running up the valley, alongside a tributary. The trees were now becoming smaller & more scattered and I at last got a view of the summit of Stob Mhic Bheathain, peeping over the shoulder of it's western top Stob a' Chuir, rising up steep & craggily above the forest.
The path then veered to the right, rounding another bend in the valley, soon reaching a gate in a high deer fence at the upper edge of the forest. I was glad to have finally escaped it's confines, with it's problematical route finding, feeling that the way was now clear, if still very distant, to the Corran Ferry... Such path as there was then climbed steadily up to the left, soon reaching the outflow of narrow Lochan Dubh with it's several wee wooded islands.
I picked up an intermittent better old stalkers path as I passed along the foot of the concave, steepening slopes leading up to the undulating ridge of Stob a' Chuir, to the NE of the lochan. I could soon see over the watershed, down Gleann an Lochain Duibh into upper Glen Scaddle & the hills beyond. Checking my trusty mob. I found it had already taken me over 2 hours to reach this point & I still had the 2 Grahams & a lot of miles to cover.
Over the watershed I lost a couple of hundred feet of height before I decided to dump my pack on what I thought was a distinctive knoll just above the path & strike out lightweight up towards the col between the summit of Stob Mhic Bheathain and the next top along the ridge to it's left. Good views opened up as I gained height quickly once shod of my burden, closest at hand being the steep, craggy north face of the Corbett Carn na Nathrach, towering up to the left of Lochan Dubh.
The steepening lush grassy slopes were fairly firm and after 800ft of climbing I reached a wide gently sloping shelf with scattered boulders. I was some way left of the col I had initially intended aiming for, so I traversed some way right towards it 'til it petered out and I climbed up a steep, firm, shortish heather band, between scattered small outcrops above.
This led to a narrow grassy stream gully cutting through more substantial outcrops, the steepest section of which I took on the right, before crossing over the stream, nipping briefly out of the gully on the heathery rib to the left. Evidently this didn't look too promising, as I cut back right into the gully, the angle of which soon relented, as light rain started to fall.
Soon after emerging fae the top of the gully I got a text fae the ferocious supervisor, who said it was chucking it doon where she was by Loch Lomond, wishing me better luck with the weather. This promptly improved no end, as I moved right below the 706m top to the NW of the summit. I soon passed between small crags to reach the col which I'd originally been aiming for, where I joined a line of old iron fence posts.
There remained only a simple, easy angled stroll up the last 200ft to what appeared to be the summit at a small cairn, reached not long before 11am, over 3 1/2 hrs after leaving the bothy. Here I texted wee Norman, telling him I was about 10 miles west of Ben Nevis, before continuing along the gently undulating summit ridge to a much larger cairn, a couple of hundred yards further east.
As I carried on beside the fence posts over gentle, broadening, grassy slopes wee Lochan nan Stob appeared on the col 700ft below. Five Ptarmigan flew off down towards Cona Glen as I veered away to the right, away fae the fence, before zig-gagging down a steep step close to some wee crags. The ground levelled out above the deep ravine of the Allt nan Cnamh, where I continued in an arc to the right, now in a patch of sunshine.
Sgurr Dhomhnuill, highest Corbett in Ardgour, appeared across the glens to the SW, rapidly losing it's mist cap, with the SE summit slopes of my next objective, Sgurr a' Chaorainn, already lit up by the late morning sunshine. As I continued on my curving rightwards trajectory, back in the general direction of my pack, I crossed some wet slabs in a steep stream gully, thence passed below the lower edge of a large area of steeper slabs above.
I paused crossing the lower angled outliers of these slabs, enjoying the warm sunshine & the view back the way I'd come, the ridge I'd crossed the evening before, providing a now fairly distant backdrop. As I drew closer to Lochan Dubh, crossing a succession of small streams, I began to get concerned that I might have passed by my sack. There now seemed to be hundreds of similar looking wee knolls, as left by the retreating ice, possibly drumlins? and no sign of the faint path.
Then glancing down to the left I happened to spy it, much lower than I'd expected and with some relief made my way down to pick it up and began making my way back down the glen. I soon came across a wee lizard, not the last reptile I was to stumble across that day but much the least threatening. Further down the still faint, intermittent, fairly rough wet path, I was rather surprised to see large hoof prints appear, with the odd pile of pony droppings.
Beyond the Allt nan Cnamh and larger Allt a' Mhuchaidh draining Lochan nan Stob, the stalkers path improved somewhat and over to the right the Abhainn Gleann an Lochain Duibh fell over a fine waterfall into a wooded ravine. Below this I crossed it over a wide wooden bridge on the right, on a very fine, well maintained stalkers path. Just as I was enjoying some pleasant, easy going at last, I turned left off this down to the confluence of the Allt Gleann na Cloiche Sgoilite & Abhainn Ghleann Mhic Phail.
Evidently there had been far less rain in the west than back east over the past few days, where I'd seen fae the bus that the streams were in spate. Thus I crossed the Allt Gleann na Cloiche Sgoilite dryshod with a spot of easy boulder hopping. There was little sign of a path on the firm shortish grass over the far bank, which I followed a short distance to the left to the actual confluence, then turned right up the side of the Abhainn Ghleann Mhic Phail.
I soon saw more ponies' hoof marks & the odd pile of dung, which shortly took me back onto a stalkers path, which though far superior to that down Gleann an Lochain Duibh, was still no great shakes. After crossing the level stretch of firm good grass covering the flood plain between the streams, the path began to climb steadily up into Ghleann Mhic Phail. A couple of Red Deer hinds, the only ones I saw on the entire trip, trotted off over to the right up the flanks of Sail a' Bhuiridh, the NE ridge of Sgurr Dhomhnuill.
Having run out of Lidl's lemonade I was now feeling rather dehydrated in the warm sheltered glen & stopped at a wee stream to top up the empty bottle with the clear, cool stream water, to which I added a tablet of some fruit flavoured electrolyte, which a colleague had given me. Not much further up the glen the path petered out beside the Abhainn Ghleann Mhic Phail, below a fine, narrow wooded gorge, beautiful old Scots Pines overhanging it's craggy sides. Here I looked across the glen at the steep, craggy north face of Beinn na h-Uamha, the lowest Corbett, above which lay the connecting ridge to my next objective Sgurr a' Chaorainn, second highest Graham.
To the right of the very steep sided, narrow defile beyond, at the head of the glen, rose Sgurr na' h-Ighinn, over which I'd traversed with my dad en-route to Sgurr Dhomhnuill a decade earlier. Crossing the stream easily I then laboured up the lush grass of steepening slopes to the left of the gorge, rounding the right side of a steep outcrop higher up. A steep grassy headwall, above & left of a wee stream then took me to the col, at a height of over 1800ft.
A couple of hundred yards up an easy angled but rocky ridge to the right then led past a few wee lochans towards Sgurr a' Chaorainn. With some misgivings I then dumped my pack once again, admiring the view south over the steep rocky Graham Beinn Bheag to Garbh Bheinn, it's famous Great Ridge seen in profile. I could also see my escape route out down Glen Gour, past Loch nan Gabhar, just short of the coast road to the Corran Ferry. Beyond, across Loch Linnhe lay the Ballachullish bridge over the mouth of Loch Leven, backed by the Glencoe hills.
Cutting through shattered outcrops of angular grey quartzite along the left side of the steep nose above, I then crossed a short saddle. From here there remained a fairly steep, steady climb of 500ft, passing to the right of a vertiginous short rock band higher up, then left of a final shattered rocky crest on the right. On the final grassy stretch a wee path appeared, which soon led to the modest summit cairn, gained at 4pm, where the westwards view opened up over to a mist capped Beinn Resipol, the sun glinting on the narrow foot of Loch Sheil to it's right.
Closer at hand I had a good view over Sgurr na' h-Ighinn, over which I'd traversed with my dad en-route to the towering pyramid of Sgurr Dhomhnuill.
On the way back down to look for my pack, I cut through a break in the steep rock band, on the right side of the broad ridge going down. Once again locating my pack, without some difficulty, I then tacked back on a sharp right, southerly line, skirting the right edge of a horseshoe of broken crags around the head of Coire na Laire. I then followed an arc back left down surprisingly easy grassy slopes down between the Eas Choire na Laire down on the left and craggy Sgurr na Laire up to my right.
Despite the relatively docile long descent, my bad left knee was now aching and blisters had formed on both heels. Thus it was 5.30pm by the time I reached the floor of Glen Gour and any tentative plans I'd had to add Sgurr nan Cnamh, just a couple of miles away above the col at the head of Glen Gour seemed above & beyond the realms of common sense. I thought I was going to be struggling to catch the last ferry as it was, thinking this might be at sunset, or 9pm at the latest.
Added to that was that it's NE face looked off-puttingly very steep & craggy and the weather also seemed to be closing in. I knew there was a bunkhouse just across the ferry but having just £20 on me & never having owned a credit card, I thought it most unlikely I'd get a room at the Ardgour hotel. Thus, reluctantly I set off down the glen, crossing over an ATV track, almost without realising it was there. I veered back left to locate it once more, before deliberately cutting off down to the river to inspect a fabulous plunge pool, the river jetting out from the spout from the lip in a freestanding waterfall.
Above rose the impressive long, smooth slabs of Sron na Beinne Bige, rising directly towards the summit of Beinn Bheag, just crying out to be climbed - yet another must do, once I've bagged my last 20 Grahams. The rough, muddy track then followed the foot of the craggy flank of Beinn na h-Uamha, below the long SE ridge leading over Stob an Uillt Dharaich, which had stopped GC in a heatwave half a dozen years previous. I surprised a Snipe which rose from the long grass nearby, zig-zagging away in it's characteristic fast, low flight.
I then got another text from the unferocious supervisor who teld moi it was already getting dark down where she now was near Callander, where she'd spotted a Great Crested Grebe. I then crossed easily over the River Gour, where I took my penultimate exposure looking back up to Sgurr a' Chaorainn, which had just cleared of mist. I'd not long left the far bank when I almost walked right into a very aggressive, large Adder, which I just managed to pull my left leg away from as it made to strike, it's hooded head raised up in the air, hissing loudly.
I got my camera in position, getting as close as I dare, when it turned tail & began to slither away off the track, through the bracken & grass. I followed it for a few yards until it stopped & resumed it's previous pose, complete with more furious hissing. This formed the subject of my final photo, where it's raised head is clearly visible, just below the middle small back frond of the three at the lower left hand side of the ferns, followed up from it's more easily seen tail - vote now!
The next mile or so took me down the still very rough track, along the foot of the long slopes leading up to the summit of the Graham Sgorr Mhic Eacharna. Here I decided to try changing into what remained of my trainers, soon discovering that my left foot wouldn't fit into the badly charred shoe, which had largely disintegrated. I got eaten alive by a voracious cloud of midges, as I managed to pull on the right wan, over the worse blister on my right heel.
By now the light was fading, as I crossed over the Allt an Fhaing, passed a sheepfold & reached tom a' Phris, the broad leaved woods running along the foot of the north face of Beinn Leamhain, a high sub2000ft Marilyn. Once past these I walked past the ruins of Tigh Ghlinnegabhar cottage on my right, to finally reach Loch nan Gabhar, from which a Grey Heron arose, with it's lazy, huge wings flapping slowly. The going along the track at last became easier along the south shore of the loch, being sandy, with piles of straw & driftwood, showing that I'd have been up to my neck in water when the river was in flood.
Not far below the foot of the loch I passed some small outbuildings of some small garden centre, which I thought were a bit close to the main house for comfort, should I fail to make the ferry. It was now 8pm as I reached the minor road, which soon led right to reach the main coast road, where I turned left. There was a distinct lack of traffic & I thought if the last crossing was at sunset, I'd no doubt miss the boat. The rare vehicle which did pass, failed to respond to my outstretched thumb and I noted the 'No vacancies' sign at a B&B where I'd stayed with my dad 11 years earlier.
Passing the turn off to Clovullin I recalled walking to the pub & back fae here on that occasion & even broke into a stumbling jog, as I thought I could make out the red tail lights of the few motors which had heartlessly passed me by, queuing for the last? ferry. Rounding the lighthouse at Corran Point I was sure I could see cars loading onto the boat across the narrows, which I took as a hopeful sign. I then reached a wee red convertible queuing just ahead, behind a landrover which had passed me back down the road.
The driver looked at me sheepishly through his open window, saying 'I would have stopped but the back is full of dogs'! As it was now 8.45pm and the timetable said the last ferry was at 9.30pm, I said it was OK and I now saw I'd needlessly run to the jetty. The driver's wife said "You could have just had a gentle stroll", & I replied "Aye but noo I've got time for a pint!", before being directed aboard the ferry, first on, by the ferryman who'd just alighted.
As we sped across the narrows in the dark, I received yet more texts fae the very lovely ferocious supervisor [not], the 1st asking me where I was staying the night. I thought I'd better find out myself first before replying. Alighting just a few minutes later, again given the honour of being the 1st to disembark, I hobbled the short distance up the hill to follow the sign to the Corran Bunkhouse on the right, just to the left of a large illuminated static caravan.
I walked past the darkened reception to look into the spacious lighted dining-kitchen area where a couple of bods were scoffing some grub, then thought I'd try the caravan, where a guy was watching TV. I paused at the porch marked reception, noting an ominous sign, stating that the tariff was FROM £16, then noticed a wee white buzzer button, which I pressed a couple of times.
Seconds later a middle-aged woman appeared, looking none too pleased to see me. I teld her that I was looking to stay the night & that I was on my ownio. Looking down at my damp, muddy trousers, with some distain, she then informed me that it was £24 for single occupancy, apparently hoping that this would be enough to put me off. I checked my pockets with some reluctance, finding to my surprise that I could just meet this rather exorbitant demand.
She then led me through the dining room, where I nodded a greeting to the twa middle-aged diners and thence up some stairs and into a room. Again, glancing down at my dirty attire, she pointedly explained that there were showers, perhaps suggesting that I might like to make use of them as a matter of some urgency.
The woman then handed me the key and exited stage left, never to be seen again.
Looking around the rather characterless box room I noticed that I had a TV, so this really was a delux bunkhouse then, as I'd never had wan o' those before in such places. I never switched the damned thing on during my brief [if expensive], stay and would have much preferred a bothy book. The same proved true of the rather cramped bunkbed, of which I had a choice of twa, finding it rather too soft for my liking - give me an MBA alpine style bare free board any day.
I took off my muddy wet boots, threw off my rucksack and headed back downstairs, where I had soon made a brew on the modern hob. Still this was all very characterless, no match for the wood burning stove back at Resourie, even if it did cost me a pair of new trainers. Feasting on more cheese and Lidl's corned beef and I was soon feeling dog tired after the 13 1/2 hours on the go between the bothy and ferry.
I woke before 7am, thinking I'd have to hitch to the Fort, in the belief that I'd only got a wee bit of change left on me. Up at the bus stop I found that despite finding an unexpected fiver, there were no buses for another hour, other than the Glasgie bound bus which sped past just before I got there.
I then stuck out a thumb and broke my all-time hitch-hiking record for time spent trying for a lift, cursing my failure to ask the twa chaps who'd left the bunkhouse just before me, then sped off in the direction of the Fort. At last the remarkably late first Fort bound bus of the day arrived, the East European driver speeding past a schoolgirl who dejectedly stood across the other side of the busy A82, as we approached the Fort.
Well short of the bus station the driver stopped, got out of his cab and pointed to me, indicating that it was time for me to get oot! Hurrying on foot through the underpass, past a greying early busker, complete with a display of CDs of his ain stuff, I arrived at the stance to find the bus doon the Great Glen had just left, prompting a visit tae Auld McD's for a breakfast bagel, yum, yum...
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by Johnny Corbett » Sat Nov 26, 2011 11:04 am
by mrssanta » Sat Nov 26, 2011 11:50 am
but I still need pictures!
What a great story,just love this
Forgive my being thick but who's the ferocious supervisor? Is it your wife or girlfriend? The quine will nae like ti be cad that. I wouldna like tae be you when she finds oot
Enjoyed this so much I'm off to make a coffee and read your other reports
Ps You're taking the **** aren't you?
by Norman_Grieve » Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:18 pm
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by Norman_Grieve » Sat Nov 26, 2011 4:23 pm
Johnny Corbett wrote:Thats some report again Norman, 300 hits before the next one? Have you did all your hills with the use of public transport?
Ah hiv since ah wrote me auld charabang off oe'er a year ago.
If yon Joe Public keeps hittin' on us at this rate o' knots, ye might even get tae the TR where ah smashed it b4 the New Yaar.
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by mrssanta » Sat Nov 26, 2011 6:29 pm
by malky_c » Sun Nov 27, 2011 7:16 pm
by Norman_Grieve » Mon Nov 28, 2011 11:14 am
malky_c wrote:I think it's time for your epic exploration of the south side of Loch Morar. By the way, a friend mentioned the othe day that there is an open room at Meoble lodge if you know where to look - bet you wish you'd known that!
Malky, please tell - there's a lassie I ken who's intent on paddling the entire length o' Loch Morar by haund, lyin' on an airbed!
In the unlikely event that she backs out, it would also perhaps help avoid a reenactment when I gang back tae dee Druim a' Chuirn.
As for the epic Oban bothy TR - that will hiv tae wait & see if this dull as ditchwater follow-up ever reaches the trois hunnerd trigger pt. - at the risk o' bein' accused o' gettin' oot ma proverbial violin wance agin, it ain't lookin' guid.
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by mrssanta » Mon Nov 28, 2011 8:26 pm
by Norman_Grieve » Thu Dec 01, 2011 1:55 pm
mrssanta wrote:is it 300 views or 300 posts you are after?
Aye missysanta, it be jest the hits = views, so we're currently still 75 short after this wan.
P.S. Sorry for my tardy response but ah wiz awa having anither epic yesterday, which at this rate youse might hear aboot by 2013.
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by BoyVertiginous » Thu Dec 01, 2011 3:19 pm
Great stuff, a rivetting read. SK disnae have a look in.
Have oft admired many of those peaks on the road from Ardgour. That pool / waterfall looks like a stunning spot for cooling off.
by Norman_Grieve » Fri Dec 02, 2011 9:52 am
BoyVertiginous wrote:First of your TR's I've (knowingly) read, Norman. Wish I'd known, I'd have made a brew...or three.
Great stuff, a rivetting read. SK disnae have a look in.
Have oft admired many of those peaks on the road from Ardgour. That pool / waterfall looks like a stunning spot for cooling off.
Aye, but watch oot for the midges & giant Adders.
P.S. Ye can thank Missysanta fer hitting on me 4 the next epic TR in the series.
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