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Fellowship of the Glen

Fellowship of the Glen


Postby LordoftheGlen » Sun Jun 10, 2018 2:29 pm

Route description: Affric Kintail Way

Date walked: 10/06/2018

Time taken: 3.5 days

Distance: 71 km

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THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE GLEN
(The Affric Kintail Way – Kinda)

DAY 1 – LEAVING THE SHIRE

Our journey began early on the Monday morning in the sleepy village of Drumnadrochit on the banks of the mighty Loch Ness, some 30min ride from the town of the man-folk in Inverness. It was to prove somewhat of a false beginning, for no sooner had we stepped onto the village green, beside what I took to be their party-tree, my companion Lotta discovered that she was without armour for our long voyage!

We stayed just long enough to hear a few locals mutter about “bloody adventurers”, and “must be Tooks!” before we turned tail and headed straight back for Inverness to fit Lotta for our journey. Our preference was of course Mithril, for we had heard it was light to wear and offered superlative protection against the beasties of the Highlands, however we ultimately settled for some magical material called Goretex.

Properly attired, we decided to ride straight for Cannich, to arrive shortly after noon. We had heard other adventurers complain that the Drumnadrochit-Cannich hike was fairly non-descript, and for true adventure we had to press forward, further away from the realms of men. Cannich proved to be little more than an outpost, its Inn deserted and derelict, perhaps a victim to time, or to more sinister forces, though no sign of battle could be seen. We immediately left the highways and found a trail towards Affric.

The remainder of the day saw us wind our way through the Old Forest of tall, proud trees, rustling and seeming to murmur to themselves. On many an occasion from the corner of my eye I caught movement amongst the dense canopies – could there be creatures following our passage, or – as the ancient stories hint at – could the trees themselves be alive? As dusk approached we scouted for camp ground. At first we were delighted to find some flat green pasture on the banks of what was now Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin, but as we excitedly stepped forth, our spirits were dashed as our feet were engulfed in what was now evidently a swamp – the pasture was actually a host of tough grassy hillocks, like green-shaded troll’s heads poking from the sodden ground, and murky water betwixt. I dared not look down, for I had heard of the Dead Marshes and the unsleeping ghosts that waited for unwary travellers like ourselves. We retreated to high ground and made camp by the trail.

It was at this camp, that the first attack came. Not orcs, trolls or goblins, or even the famed and untamed wild Haggis! No, the attackers were much smaller, yet legion! Midges, thousands of them, encouraged by the failing light, emerged to gleefully dance around us like ravenous willow-the-whisps, darting in to nibble on flesh like a host of miniature Nazgul, biting with their witch-blades! Fortunately, the apothecaries had prepared us for this assault, and I applied their citrusy ointments liberally, which seemed to deter my assailants. We soon discovered that eating close to camp was impossible, but that the lakeside seemed free of midges, so we ate there on the shores of the deep and motionless water. Why were the midges so afraid of the lake, I pondered? I had heard tale of lurkers in the deep, and massive monsters from an earlier age, so ate quickly with eyes never far from the almost-too-tranquil waters.

DAY 2 – Wizards and Wetlands

After breaking our fast with some hearty oats and berries, we strode out, away from the midge-infested woodlands and out to the end of the Loch, where the river ran out gurgling and cavorting through a short pass into the next Loch, named for the Glen in which we found ourselves: Loch Affric. It was here we found a small waystation, perhaps used by the ranger of old, and it is hear we left the official Affric Kintail way for the first of our many diversions. The true path crosses the river here at the start of the Loch and then runs along the south bank, yet the path seemed to wide, and had an ill countenance to it, so we instead took a smaller path along the North banks which would re-connect at the end of that day.
It proved to be a fascinating diversion – after an hour of hugging the lake’s shores, we came across a most strange place, an ancient tower or hall surrounded by smaller buildings, and encircled by high, well-kept fencing and warning signs. Though no people could be seen, the air sat heavy around, and we felt that we were being watched. We made no attempt to breach the perimeter of this foreboding place, marked on our map as Affric Lodge, but surely the seat of some wizard of great and fearful power. Instead we skirted around to the North, taking us through a landscape of coarse heathers and moorland, with the occasional scattering of trees, under which we took our midday meal.

By late afternoon, with the Lodge a comfortable distance away, we found a smaller lake, Loch Coulavie, and a patch of almost-dry ground amongst the persistently moist swamp-like fields, for us to pitch our tent.

DAY THREE – THE LAST HOMELY HOUSE

Having made our way back to the formal Affric Kintail Way, we trudged along, accompanying the River Affric West towards the mountain ranges of the fabled Kintail region. As the river bent and undulated through the base of the Glen, we saw many a grassy mound pressing upwards from the valley floor, and mist seemed to sit on them. I wondered whether these were curiosities of nature, or ancient burial mounds from a bygone era. The latter notion allowed dread to seep into my now-weary heart, for I knew that the dead in the mounds rest only lightly, and Barrow Wights are no friends to the living.

Beyond the mounds as the valley widened, we at last came upon a most welcome sight – the Last Homely House of Glen Affric, known to some as Hostel of Alltbeithe. Almost hidden, it’s walls and roof blending into the glen around it, this last bastion of refuge before the mountain ranges was a mecca for adventurers. Despite arriving at an unorthodox hour, we found the door unlocked, and entered to be met swiftly by the lady of the glen herself. A kindly smile set below knowledgeable and wise eyes met us, and upon payment of some coin, we were provided with refreshment, and with it some advice. Take the North Pass, she said, the rains have not come, and it will offer better passage than the official route through the gorge towards Morvich.

We looked at our map, and agreed. Both routes were beset with peril for the unwitting traveller. The southern route goes down deep into the gorge of the River Croe, a passage hewn into living rock – perhaps by the river itself, and perhaps by olden clans of mining Dwarves. It is said, the Dwarves delved too deep here, and awoke an ancient evil…. The North Pass wound higher up into the misty mountains, their peaks still clad with snow despite the season. Tales abound of danger in these peaks too, but fortunately the Frost Giants had packed their bags, and were this moment in America, playing the New York Giants, and beating them – often literally, to the horror of the referees and sports insurance industry.

Northwards we went, and then West up and across a high saddle above Loch A’ Bhealaich and into the foothills of the might Ben Attow / Beinn Fhada, one of the tallest peaks around. Here the path forked, and rather than take the lower path on towards Morvich, with the light failing we decided to climb a short distance to a plateau where several burns met beneath the ridge of the mountain. There we camped for our third night, and ate, read and sang songs which echoed around the mountains, calling back to us with our own voices, with scant regard for who – or what – may be listening.

DAY FOUR – NOT ALL WHO WANDER ARE LOST. BUT SOME ARE.

Our final day of our trek was to be simple. Ascend to the peak of Ben Attow, then track West along the ridge-line, making our descent down the western banks down to the settlement of Morvich, and from there a ride back to Inverness. But it was not to be. The first climb went as planned – we flung our generous-sized packs back onto our weary backs, and walked up and up until we finally broke onto the ridge. With no compass (ours had snapped the previous day), we first made for what we thought was the peak of Ben Attow, but as we looked close at the map, turned out to a sister peak, Meall a’Bhealaich. Lotta insisted on conquering the correct peak, and did so in very little time, before our fellowship continued on towards the ridges that would take us over the mountain to Morvich.

The ridge itself was rocky and narrow, with dizzying drops and precipices on both sides, sometimes just a single meter in diameter. This was both terrifying and elating in equal measure, and at times we felt that if we weren’t unfeasibly attacked by giant talking eagles, it might be a single miss-step that took us hurtling to our ends. Yet, we persisted, sometimes leaving our packs behind to scout ahead for safe paths, and sometimes gingerly scrambling, tiptoeing and even climbing our way forward. There was a path, and previous testimony to give us hope, but eventually this hope was dashed by a ridge simply too high, too inaccessible. It rose up in front of us like an unassailable slab of rock, a giant Gandalf if you will, screaming wordlessly at us “YOU SHALL NOT PASS!”.

And pass we did not. Rather than entirely retrace our steps, we cautiously descended the northern slope, zig-zagging repeatedly to avoid slipping and sliding down the steep slope, and after scrambling across and along mountain streams which seemed to want to race us to the bottom, we finally came back to what resembled a path. Now late in the afternoon, and with no hope of riding to Inverness that night, we trudged onwards towards Morvich, our legs leaden and heavy from our trek. At time, I must confess, I must have daydreamed about a faintly homo-erotic gardener to lift me onto his shoulders and carry me to my final destination – whether it was Morvich or Mount Doom at that time I cared not.
Finally, shortly before dusk, we stumbled into Morvich, which in truth was a handful of buildings and a camp ground. Inquiring at the camp ground, we learnt of an Inn a mere 2.5 miles onwards, and elected to walk further for what must surely have been the best tasting beer I have every drunk, and the finest feast of a meal. No more would I survive on rice, way-bread and cured meat sausages.

Our tale, dear reader, ends at the point, but perhaps shall be continued in our sequels: The Two Tors, and the Return of the Glen!

EPILOGUE
It is a day after our triumphant return, and other than the complains of a myriad muscles I was hitherto unaware of, it could be that we never made our epic journey. I pick absent-mindedly over the emptied pack I had worn, and suddenly realise there is still something lingering within – a glint of a foil package, could it be? Excited, I reach in and grasp for it – and as my hand withdraws I see in its palm a final beef original peperami! My eyes widen in delight, and without bidding, I exclaim two single words….

“…my…precious.”
LordoftheGlen
Munro compleatist
 
Posts: 1
Joined: Jun 10, 2018

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