Easter Monday: a bank holiday. I normally stick to the rule that if you are not already there, stay at home to avoid the traffic.
But, there were going to be two good days before the weather would break. Surely Scotland’s big enough to escape the crowds if you leave early.
For the first day, the pair of Innse (wincy) Corbetts, alongside the Lairig Leacach, leapt from the page as I pondered how to occupy the time and get some more hill miles into my legs.
With options a-plenty nearby for the second day, the tent was thrown into the car and I headed north.
And I braved the track beyond Corriechoille this time.
I was confident that my car had sufficient clearance to cope with the ruts and potholes. The last time I had walked up the Lairg Leacach, before tackling the Grey Corries a good few years ago, poor preparation meant that I was unaware of the parking possibilities by the course of the old railway. Having parked at the Cour Bridge, it proved to be a draining walk out after a tiring day, one I wasn’t keen on repeating.
In the end, scraping out my sump was the least of my worries: ten other cars were already squeezed into the limited space. Should I drive halfway back to parking spaces nearer the road or risk the softer ground to either side? It had been dry recently so I took my chances.
Once parked, it’s a fairly straightforward outing.
Follow the track into the Lairig Leacach, acknowledge the Wee Minister then, after crossing the bridge, decide when you want to begin the hard work of slogging up the rounded north west ridge of the day’s first objective.
And ninety minutes later you can be sitting, sheltered from the wind by the summit cairn, admiring the remnants of snow clinging to the corrie rims and gullies of the Grey Corries.
A convoluted path twists its way south down to the bealach below and the craggier prospect of Sgurr Innse can be tackled.
To say it was breezy would have been an understatement. My plans for a high camp between another pair of Corbetts further north that night were already on the infamous shoogly nail. The luxury of a campsite, a shower and a decent meal at the Stronlossit Inn were already going to easily win the day.
Unfortunately, the views of distant hills were lost in a haze. I unsuccessfully scanned the ridges across the glen for a glimpse of people silhouetted against the sky, but had to make do with watching the slow progress of a couple of groups making their way northwards through the Lairig below. Until getting close to the car, these were the only people I saw all day, such are the busy perils of a bank holiday on the hills.
After a bite of lunch, all that remained was to descend.
On my way up the path I’d followed had taken me round to the north east. On my way down I shunned that in favour of another clear track that headed to the north west, leading to a scramble down to what I assumed would be the screes I’d seen from below. But the gully I found myself in got narrower, looser and more unstable. Edging, leaning and a bit of slithering brought me to the conclusion that, while there was evidence of previous passage, it was not one I was prepared to continue.
Making a delicate about turn, I scrambled back up and rejoined another clear track heading down. When this emerged at the base of a sizeable chunk of vertical crag below where I’d been heading, I was relieved to have made the right decision; the only hitch of the day.
In sweltering weather, the walk out over the watershed and back along the Allt Leacach might have been a dispiritingly tiring end to the day. Instead, it proved to be a gentle wander, seeing the bloom of fresh green shoots beginning to emerge from the persistent autumnal browns and evidence of fresh planting in the woodlands, the natural birches being given a chance to show themselves rather than being hidden by the dominant conifers.
Back at the parking space a few cars had gone and a family were contemplating the pain of a the walk back all the way to the road. I offered a lift. All power to the younger generation: the two teenage daughters were determined to see their trip through on foot, all the way from Corrour. Mind you, Dad was carrying the tent.
Off to Roy Bridge and a spot of comfort to restore some energy for the following day.
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