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Beinn Fhada and a 'Ghlas Bheinn: Another cow story

Beinn Fhada and a 'Ghlas Bheinn: Another cow story

Postby Emmanuelle » Thu Oct 09, 2014 12:41 am

Munros included on this walk: A' Ghlas-bheinn, Beinn Fhada

Date walked: 14/09/2014

Time taken: 9 hours

Distance: 18.6 km

Ascent: 1900m

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As I wanted to test out my new sleeping bag and have a go at solo wild camping, I drove up to Morvich in the afternoon of Saturday 13th September, in superb weather, to camp on the route up to Beinn Fhada. As I was also planning to go up a'Ghlas Bheinn and do a circuit I had to select a camping spot which would be on the return route. The map showed an area of flat land in a break in the woods in Gleann Coinneachain. I parked the car by the Mountain rescue post, chatted to a chap who had just come off the hills, hoisted my heavy rucksack onto my back and set off down the tarmacked road. I was about to get through the gate into the woodlands, I saw an ominous sign which I decided to ignore: something to do with a bull, cows and calves. pfft! The track was muddy and splattered with cow dung, which gave me food for though. Oliver Sacks' book [i]A Leg to Stand On[i] popped into my head at that point and I was hoping that if I came face to face with the bull, I wouldn't flee in a panic and break my femur, far from help. But the stroll through the woodlands passed without a hitch and without a single bovine in sight. As I came out of the woods, through a gate, the landscape opened out to a beautiful, green field, soft underfoot, which corresponded precisely to the area I'd identified as potential camping ground. At that point all i cared about was having easy access to water. So I put my bag down and followed the sign to the Falls of Glomach which led to a footbridge and gave access to the river. Perfect. I chatted to another chap who had just come off Beinn Fhada. I asked him if he had noticed any other potential camping areas further up the path. He hadn't and agreed with me that this was a good spot! pfft :crazy: As we stood chatting I did notice the blue bucket that lay on the grass but I ignored it... After the chap left I chose a nice flat spot near the path to the footbridge as it also happens to be the return from a'Ghlas Bheinn and set about pitching my tent. The midges were bothersome but the temperature was balmy, the sky hazy but clear. I got my stuff all nicely sorted out, stood back and admired my campground. But consternation soon followed... :( Out of nowhere, in the distance, I saw a cow and three calves, including a young bull, enter the field. Where they came from exactly, I am still not quite sure. They must have been higher on the flanks of Beinn Buidhe and therefore not in the enclosure, unless there is a gap in the fence that they breached. Suddenly that blue bucket took on all its meaning - salt for the cows! harrumph. To be fair they looked placid enough and didn't pay me any attention. They were staying well away from me. But nagged by doubt, I decided to explore the other side of the footbridge and emerged onto a recently mowed field or meadow, overlooked by a majestic tree and in the distance stood the abandoned house. Just at that moment, a couple of guys (where are the women on these hills?) approached, just down from a'Ghlas Bheinn, and we had a chat about my predicament. They didn't seem too concerned on my behalf :lol: (that's nice!) and we crossed the bridge together towards my tent and their return route back to their car. After bidding me good luck they disappeared, leaving me to my continuing doubts. Quite a few years ago now, I was almost hustled by heifers when attempting to run through a field and I was forced to evade their attention by jumping over a fence. So I don't really trust cows. And recently I heard of a guy who was killed by a cow, although I don't know what the circumstances were. However after much reflexion, I decided to stay put. They kept their distance whilst I cooked some food, made some notes in my diary. I retired for the night as the light faded. I was just about to go to sleep when suddenly they were right by the tent! For the next few hours these four beasts proceeded to eat, breathe heavily, :? and :? in the close vicinity of my tent! My greatest fear was that one of them would get snagged in one of the guy ropes, fall on top of the tent and squish me. I fell into an uneasy sleep punctuated by dreams of rabid dogs and violent men! Eventually, they decided to get some kip, just as I was despairing that they were insomniac cows... Salutory lesson: if there is a sign saying there are cows and a bull, don't camp there!

Unscathed but underslept, I set off the next morning at 8.10am, just behind a striding man who entered the second enclosure with great determination. And guess what I came upon? the bull, the real, big, adult bull, Mr Bull, chief of the cows and calves. Mr Bull stood on the path and decided to stare me down. There was no way I could get past him and his flock. Shouting in a farmerly way was out of the question. Patience was not repaid so I had to climb up the slope through the low canopy in a large arc to avoid all these brown animals. They were everybloodywhere!!! There were dozens of them! At last I was clear of them. I strode up this very good path, giving lovely views further up glen Choinneachean where the burn sinks into a gorge with nice waterfalls and pools. I met a couple coming back from Loch Gaorsaich where they'd spent the night. They'd had nothing but clag and clammy weather the day before (a recurrent theme among all the walkers I met) but today looked really promising - a breeze clearing the clouds off the summit and some blue sky. I knew there was a small cairn where the path to Bealach an Sgairne meets the stalker's path that leads to the ridge. The walk up the stalker's path is easy enough and I soon got onto the ridge. I turned south there and encountered a fork in the path. I took a compass bearing, as although the left fork seemed intuitively to be going in the right direction, I've learnt to be wary of intuition on the hills, especially as the cloud cover towards the summit was quite thick. I think I got a glimpse of the summit but it didn't seem far enough for the roughly 2km left to cover. the compass said right and I soon found myself on Plaide Mhor. I adjusted my bearing and followed that. Oddly, that took me past the summit and I wondered why. I had assumed I hadn't covered enough distance as I was well ahead of my time estimation so I walked on. There was also a good track underfoot. So although I was constantly interrogating myself, I was also comforted by the path. A few yards on I found myself in clag. A rise in the distance gave me hope that I was going to start climbing but instead I was actually going down. I also lost boot marks. Time to rethink :wink: . Rather than rely on the scan of the map I had used until then, I took out the full OS map and ascertained that I was heading south towards Gleann Lichd. Cue to turn back. So I returned by taking a new bearing and within 10 minutes I was on the summit, precisely the rise I had seen 20 minutes before! Whilst on the Plaide Mhor I had got hazy views of the Five Sisters, but on the summit of Fhada, there was nothing to be seen although I could tell the cloud was thinning and the summit could clear any minute. However, I decided to press on and that was a good decision as I soon as I lost height, the views returned. I also returned to the bealach by the path I should've taken and was there very quickly. I then had to make a decision about how to get to a'Ghlas Bheinn. Option 1: going over Meall a'Bhealaich and negotiate its steep slopes to Bealach na Sgairne. On the other hand this would be quicker than Option 2: go back down the stalker's path and catch the path that links Gleann Choinneachean and Gleann Gaorsaic. I went for Option 1. Everyone I met described Option 2, so I thought I'd be different. :?

The Bennet route description suggested staying east. There was some kind of trail which seemed to be going east, so I thought I'd follow that and advise. :? I didn't go east enough and ended up, unwittingly, right above the bealach. But of course I didn't yet know that. So I decided to be even more different than everybody else and headed down a steep grassy slope with soon sank into an even steeper gully - not for the faint-hearted. I needed to keep my wits about me for the last 50 metres, but after 30 minutes of hard graft I was by the pile of stones which marks the top point of the bealach! From there the walk up to a'Ghlas Bheinn was like a walk in the park - clear path, steep but levelling out to reveal cute wee lochans. By then the weather had cleared completely and the views down Gleann Sgaorsaic and over Sgurr nan Ceathramnhan were wonderful. The wind whipped up and it was quite cold. It took me about an hour to walk up to the summit from the bealach and I got 360 degree views there (although no view of the Cuillin today). I had lunch and took photos, taking in the views and enjoying the solitude. After 30 minutes, I started descending on a compass bearing towards the eastern edge of the Dorusduain forrest. I didn't see much of a path until the last slope overlooking the forest and the bridge that leads to the Falls of Glomach. I soon reached the large forest track and sauntered down. I got to the ruined house and then had leisure to look at the nice quiet spot I could have chosen to pitch my tent, which I reached barely 90 minutes after I came off the summit of a'Ghlas Bheinn. Good pace! I unpitched my tent, watched over by the cows sitting in the sun, and repacked by rucksack. Just then a couple who had been behind me and had come from the direction of the Falls stopped to chat. The woman asked: did you camp by yourself? Yes. Were you not scared? In principle no. But the cows... At which point the guy said to me: we saw your tent earlier today and I said 'who puts their tent up in a field full of cows?'. I replied: Me! We had a good laugh about it. I set off back to my car in the warm afternoon sunshine, stopping to pick juicy brambles. My close encounter with wildlife wasn't over however - over the course of the next 36 hours I removed 12 ticks from my person!

2014-09-14 08.18.09.jpg
The cows!
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Hey Mrs Cow
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Morning clouds clearing in Coire an Sgairne

2014-09-14 10.00.33.jpg
Looking up to Meall an Fhurain Mhor
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Gleann Gniomhaidh

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a' Ghlas Bheinn from Meall a Bhealaich
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I climbed straight down this!

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Bealach an'Sgairne - the safer route!
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Loch Duich, looking south west, towards Skye?
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Heading for a'GB
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Sgurr nan Ceathramhnan
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Loch a'Bealaich

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Summit cairn of a'GB
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2014-09-14 17.41.03.jpg
Evening sun
2014-09-14 14.01.36.jpg
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Re: Beinn Fhada and a 'Ghlas Bheinn: Another cow story

Postby AnnieMacD » Thu Oct 09, 2014 9:18 pm

Great report. Good for you, Emmanuelle, camping amongst the cows. Other than the bull, they are usually pretty docile animals but also very inquisitive so you could have had them investigate the tent! Glad it worked out for you and you enjoyed the hills. Are you planning on wild camping again?
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Re: Beinn Fhada and a 'Ghlas Bheinn: Another cow story

Postby Emmanuelle » Fri Oct 10, 2014 10:23 pm

I would like to yes, but perhaps next spring, depending on weather conditions. the cows didn't put me off!
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Re: Beinn Fhada and a 'Ghlas Bheinn: Another cow story

Postby spiderwebb » Wed Oct 15, 2014 7:48 am

:lol: remember the cow signs too, but no sign walking in, bit 'messy' on the path out, and they were all waiting for me near the exit from the hill, reluctantly moving out the way....thankfully without bull.
Was told by a great uncle bulls are fine if they have their ladies with them....not sure about that one :lol:
Great report :D
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Re: Beinn Fhada and a 'Ghlas Bheinn: Another cow story

Postby jonny616 » Thu Oct 16, 2014 10:32 pm

:lol: I did these with two friends and the bull was right on the path and we had to carefully detour around it. It kept looking at us and breathing heavily out its nose. Cheers for reminding me 8)
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