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Loch Lyon High Level Circuit - Day 3 - ABORT!
by Graeme D » Thu Jul 08, 2010 2:20 pm
Date walked: 04/07/2010
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STOP! REWIND! GO BACK TO SLEEP! I DON’T WANT THAT DREAM TO END!
The reality of my situation was somewhat different………
It had been a truly awful night of fitful sleep, spent listening to the sound of the howling wind and driving rain battering the tent around me. Thank goodness for what little protection seemed to have been offered by the dam wall immediately behind me – I’d hate to think what it would have been like wild camping at on the tops. I think I’d have found myself taking unscheduled flying lessons!
I was fully awake around 8am and stuck my head outside the tent for a weather check (as if I really needed to use my eyes for this – my ears were giving me a pretty full and frank account of the situation). First bad mistake of the day – to say it was a grim scene would be like saying that a swarm of midges descending upon you would be a mild inconvenience.
I quickly withdrew my bonce back into the shelter of the tent and decided it was time for a strong brew. I just about managed to keep the deluge out as I got the water on to boil in the little open awning area to the side of my tent. Sadly however, my cunning plan of having a cuppa and a couple of breakfast bars whilst waiting for the floods to subside had not worked, as the rain continued to come down in buckets.
There was nothing for it but to have another brew while I took stock. I had already decided to scratch Meall nan Subh and Sron a’ Coire Cnapanaich from the route, and Meall Buidhe now bit the bullet as well. Looking at the maps, I decided to follow the north shore of the loch westwards back towards the distant A82. Once at the far western end of the loch, it would probably be as quick and easy going over Beinn nam Fuaran and Beinn a’ Chasteil as it would be going round them, and I could make a judgement call on Beinn Mhanach as I approached it’s eastern shoulder.
It was only Sunday morning, and I had told my wife that I would probably be back some time late on Monday afternoon or into the evening, so I still had a good 36 hours or so left before I was overdue. As usual, my mobile had proved worse than useless for picking up reception in the hills, so I had no way of contacting her to keep her up to speed.
The second cuppa hadn’t sparked any improvement in the weather either. In fact all it had done was make me need to go outside to answer a call of nature. I got well and truly togged up and ventured outside. The wind had eased considerably but the rain was still coming down like arrows. The whole world just seemed grey, cold and wet. In a word, miserable.
I really didn’t fancy this for a game of soldiers to be honest, but I was a good 20km away from my car AS THE CROW FLIES (not that he’d be flying on a day like this) and there was the gnawing worry in the back of my mind about what the streams and rivers would be like. Whichever course of action I chose, there’d be potentially tricky river crossings involved.
By 11 o’clock, with no sign of the rain abating, I decided I was just going to have to go for it. Reluctantly, I gathered my stuff together and made a desperate bid to get packed up while keeping my stuff as dry as possible, although I could tell it was a pretty hopeless task.
I made my way down to the power station building and past another sign warning me on the imminent risk of drowning, before heading up the tarmac road towards Pubil and veering left onto the landrover track which climbs up above the other side of the dam and along the north shore of Loch Lyon.
Although I was very glad to be on a track rather than tramping across open hillside, it offered only scant respite from the water. Huge pools had formed in places right across the track and the water was cascading down off the hills and over the track into the loch. In many places, it was clear that there was not normally a stream where there was one today. My worries about river crossings still to come continued to gnaw away at the back of my mind.
A couple of times the rain seemed to slacken off and the skies lighten a bit, and there was even the odd flash of sunshine, but each time it proved a false dawn as another band of lashing rain came sweeping eastwards down the loch, slapping me full force in the face.
I trudged on, face down, eyes focussed on the track at my feet, past the spot where I could have headed up onto Meall Buidhe. I didn’t even think twice about it. Rounding the foot of Meall Daill, the map shows the track ending but, as I suspected, it continues onwards up into Gleann Meurain and around the little inlet on the north side of the loch. Despite the torrential overnight rain, most of the area of the inlet arm of the loch was still exposed mud flats and sand banks, with the Allt Cailliche flowing down through the centre and into the loch.
As I approached the point where the track fords the river, the extent of my predicament became shockingly clear – I was faced with what looked like an uncrossable river. The solution seemed straightforward enough – walk upstream until I find a safe place to cross before looping back and continuing along the lochside track around Beinn Mhanach. To be honest, by this stage I had lost any interest in continuing to attempt Beinn Mhanach, or any other summit for that matter.
Before setting out, I had used Memory Map to print off four A4 pages that between them covered my entire proposed route and could each be easily put in a polypocket and folded up into the chest pocket of my gilet. I was aware that depending on how things went from now on, I could well be off these maps and would need one of the two OS Landrangers which they were taken from. Delving into my pack to find them, I discovered that they were not there! I hadn’t had them out at all during the previous two days, so I could only assume that I had left them in the car. Undaunted I ploughed on up the eastern side of the Allt Cailliche but before long I found myself being pushed further and further off track as I was forced to turn and follow swollen tributaries and tributaries of tributaries. I kept telling myself that the important thing was to stay focused and calm, and not to do anything stupid, but this became harder and harder to do as I got further and further into bleak, remote terrain and began to lose sight of the point I was trying to get back to.
Eventually I managed to get across one stream, then another, and another, and began to loop back around towards Loch Lyon. However, one thing was clear – I was NOT going to get across the Allt Cailliche. I tried desperately to recall the geography of the OS sheet I was missing, and to recall what I had read of this area in reports. Beinn Mhanach was to my left across the raging torrent, Beinn a’ Chreachan to my right and Beinn Achaladair somewhere up ahead.
The track up Gleann Cailliche soon ran out and I was back to tramping across open moor that was really just one big bog littered with hidden sink holes. The wind had got back up too and there were a few times where I literally could not walk into it, and simply had to stand with my back to it for a few minutes while I caught my breath. By the time the Allt Cailliche looked like it could be crossed, I was so far up the glen that I thought I might as well carry on over the watershed and see what transpired. I knew that if the worst came to the worst I could now get back along the south side of the Allt Cailliche and back to the point I was originally trying to cross, although the thought of tramping back through that bog again filled me with despair.
Before long I picked up a decent looking track again but it soon ran straight into another swollen river. My heart sank. I had just about had enough of this. There was nothing else for it but to try to wade across. My feet were already soaked anyway, so there would be no great loss there. Taking a deep breath and gripping my poles for support like a man possessed, I planted a size 9 Scarpa boot firmly into the current and started to wade. The water only came up to just below my knee so there was not nearly enough force in it to trouble me, and I managed to walk quite steadily through it to the other side.
By now I had entirely given up any notion of anything other than trying to get myself out of here safely and in one piece under my own steam. I had stopped taking pictures as well - somehow it just didn't seem right. However, just at 369396 where the track passed a sign for the Auch Estate and over a little wooden bridge, the volume of water being channelled down off Beinn Mhanach just beggared belief and cried out for a photo to be taken.
I could go on, and recount the trials of the rest of the day until I eventually emerged out onto the WHW for the straightforward limp back down to Tyndrum, but it doesn't make very pleasant reading (or writing).
To cut a long story short, I emerged at the corner of Loch Lyon at Strath Tarabhan and at a second attempt, managed to get across the Allt a' Chuirn (almost waist deep and probably more in the loch than the river to tell the truth). From there I followed the Abhainn Ghlas south west and around and between the long ridges of Cam Chreag and Beinn a' Chasteil before walking out along Glen Coralan and under the viaduct, with a final twist in the tail in the shape of a final wade across the Allt Coralan just before reaching the WHW.
With the benefit of hindsight, maybe I should simply have waded across the Allt Cailliche at the first opportunity and saved myself all the grief behind Beinn Mhanach, but then hindsight is a wonderful thing!
I cannot honestly say what my exact route was, or what distance I covered, but I would say it was something like this:
I arrived back at Tyndrum at 9pm, a bedraggled and exhausted shell of a man, but alive and in one piece. I phoned my wife to tell her I was alive (not knowing how the weather had been in Perth and whether she would be worried or blissfully unaware) and that I would be home in the morning. I was too exhausted both physically and mentally to face the drive tonight. Fortunately I had dry clothes in the car so I got changed and curled up on the back seat for a night of dreaming about Carribean beaches and coconut sellers.......
Pretty gripping stuff. Like you say hindsight is a wonderful thing. Bit of a nightmare to finish off 3 days in the hills well done.
by Graeme D » Thu Jul 08, 2010 3:10 pm
- mountain coward
by kevsbald » Thu Jul 08, 2010 3:38 pm
And how long did you sleep for, when you eventually got back home and in to your bed proper?
kevsbald wrote:Jeezo. Coupled with the Bynack More trek, I am officially not walking with you again!
- mountain coward
by Graeme D » Thu Jul 08, 2010 3:43 pm
Glad it has made your week MC. Good to know my suffering was not in vain!
- mountain coward
by malky_c » Thu Jul 08, 2010 3:54 pm
by Graeme D » Thu Jul 08, 2010 3:55 pm
At the time I initially came to the Allt Cailliche, my thoughts were to avoid having to wade at all costs. Had I known then what I later found out, you're right, I would have been better just wading over it and continuing along the loch. It still wouldn't have avoided the scariest bit of all - the wade across the corner of the loch and the outflow of the Allt a' Chuirn at Strath Tarabhan.
- mountain coward
by fedupofuserids » Thu Jul 08, 2010 5:56 pm
I bet it was a weight lifted of your shoulders once you reached your car. Day 1 & 2 I had been following on a map, but I'll think I'll try to give your day 3 a miss.
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- Joined: Mar 24, 2010
by gaffr » Thu Jul 08, 2010 6:14 pm
In an earlier section of your walk report, amongst the many Corbetts in this area, you made me recall the old electric fence for keeping pigmy sheep in their place? curious.
by LeithySuburbs » Thu Jul 08, 2010 6:57 pm
by Jock McJock » Thu Jul 08, 2010 7:49 pm