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Bike and Hike Easter Adventure

PostPosted: Tue Apr 18, 2017 8:24 pm
by MountainMiscreant

beinn-sgulaird.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

The plan for Easter was ambitious, but, I had felt optimistically, doable. I would take the sleeper from London, get the Oban-bound train from Crianlarich getting off at Connel, cycle to Glenure on Good Friday and do Beinn Sgulaird before camping for the night. Then on Saturday I'd do Beinn Fhionnlaidh, after that I'd cycle up to Ballachulish and on Easter Sunday do Beinn a Bheithir, and if I still had legs on Monday, Sgur na h Ulaidh before cycling up to Fort William and getting the sleeper train back to London. Ambitious, yes - impossible no. Ah but for one flaw in the plan. Or maybe two. It all went awry when, after waiting in Crianlarich for two and half hours from the arrival of the sleeper, there was no bike space on the Oban train and I couldn't board. Dumb mistake, not to reserve a bike space on Good Friday. The next train being in around another three hours, with no guarantee of getting on that one either, and the distance 36 miles, cycling to Connel seemed like a good option.

Now 36 miles on an unladen road bike is easy. I would expect to knock it off it in less than 3 hours. On a fully laden mountain bike with fat tyres it's another story. I couldn't believe how even slight inclines had me dropping 3 or 4 gears. By the time I reached Connel - after nearly 5 hours(!) I was struggling to even to turn the pedals on the flat. Continuing to Glenure was not an option and I started hunting for a B&B to rest my weary bones. Not easy on a Good Friday. But I did find one, with one room available. The most expensive place I've ever stayed for a night in my life - hello Oyster Inn. But I have to say the room was very comfortable, the staff were very friendly, and the food was very good too, which is worth mentioning being a vegetarian in an Oyster Inn :)

So the next day, on Saturday, I did my Good Friday plan and cycled up to Glenure and did Beinn Sgulaird. I actually did manage the ride in the time I'd expected to take. Now I have to say, regarding Beinn Sgulaird, that I would not recommend doing it the way I did. Access to the hill is made more awkward from the metalled track by not just one deer fence but two, the second about 50m higher up. Apparently due to an EU-funded (haha) forestry regeneration project. I found this out from a gate in the fence, which told me why the fence was there, but was rather unhelpfully locked. The fences had to be climbed, on the way up and down. Climbing pretty much straight up the North face was fairly relentless, negotiating a route through the minor crags but always conscious of the fact that a slip on steep slippery grass could have unpleasant consquences. On the way down I took a different route, descending more toward the East side first on grassy slopes and then northerly to return to my campsite. My GPS said batteries were low on the way up so I replaced them with new ones, and then it said those were low too, near the summit, so I turned it off for the descent.

Mystery man on the summit of Beinn Sgulaird :)

Sunday: Beinn Fhionnlaidh

beinn-fhionnlaidh.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

That meant Easter Sunday was for Beinn Fhionnlaidh. Now I have a couple of tips for anyone doing Beinn Fhionnlaidh from Glenure. Firstly, if you're camped on the Beinn Sgulaird side of the Creran river, don't be tempted to just start going up the hill as soon as you get over the bridge if you're planning to join the Walk Highlands route further along - you'll probably just go straight back down the other side. And up again. Secondly, follow the WH route closely. It will probably provide you with the most optimal route through the lumps and bumps that make up Beinn Fhionnlaidh's long elongated Western ridge. I varied from it, especially on the way down, and seemed to stay high longer and have steeper drops than I remembered going up. Once again, despite completely new batteries in the Garmin it said they were low again about half way into the walk so I just decided to turn it off (of course I had spares but couldn't be bothered) I turned it on again near the summit to record the fact that I got there, and off on the way down. The weather on the way varied from rain, to snow & low visibility, clearing nicely at the summit. The sun was shinning on the way down.

Beinn Fhionnlaidh's trig point - there should have been one of me standing beside it but it was totally blurred and I didn't notice until I was down!
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Sunny Sunday evening by the Creran:
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Already on Beinn Fhionnlaidh I'd decided my legs weren't going to accommodate any heroics on the Monday, I had further to go than I'd planned to have to reach Fort William on Monday night for the sleeper back to London, and there weren't going to be any more hills on this visit :( I spent another pleasant night camped by the Creran and cycled to Fort William on Monday.

About two miles out from Fort William - heavily laden bike!
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I should say a last word about cycle route 78, which runs from Oban to Fort William. Up to Ballachulish it's a nice traffic free route, sometimes running alongside the main road and sometimes away from it, a route that it's easy to feel comfortable cycling slowly along. From Ballachulish it's relentlessly alongside the A82 on shared use pavement and much less pleasant, until it joins the Corran ferry to head into Fort Bill via who knows how. I stayed on the A82 the main carriageway, as it weaved its narrow way around the headland which is not a route I shall wish to repeat :) But I lived to tell the tale and write it here so all is good. Great to get back into the hills :D Scotland, you are amazing :D