After my wash out and car issues on Wednesday on Braigh nan Uamhachan, I decided that discretion was the better part of valour on Thursday so after another stop in Fort William to regroup (and to switch the engine off in a built up location and make sure that it would start up again), I decided just to head up to the hostel at Ratagan and see who was kicking around. If I could get booked in a day early that would be great, otherwise I would pitch the tent nearby. And I could make good use of their drying room in the meantime.I experienced a few torrential downpous on the road up and a few more as I was settling in to the hostel and sorting all my stuff out. Perhaps a day just chilling at the hostel would be in order. As I sorted out my stuff in the back of the car, a former teaching colleague of mine, Bruce Fummey, now a well known Scottish stand up comedian (in fact, the "finest comedian on the Afro-Celtic comedy circuit") pulled into the car park. He was driving and guiding an older American couple on a tour of the Highlands and was on the way up to Skye. For a brief moment he seemed to think that I too had jacked in teaching and was now running the Ratagan hostel!
Slowly but surely, the advance guard started to filter in - Sue, Heather, Jonathan, Bod and Valerie, Jackie and Malky, Deborah and crew e.t.c. and we enjoyed a fine (albeit quiet and restrained by WH meet standards) evening over Jonathan's homemade veggie lasagne and a beer or ten.
The Friday morning saw Jonathan, Sue, Bod and myself drive the short distance around the head of Loch Duich to Morvich for the ascent of Beinn Fhada (or Ben Attow if you prefer! ). As a compleater, Bod had obviously done it before and Sue had at least done the initial part of the ascent on the way to doing A'Ghlas-bheinn with Heather a few days previously.
Being Purists, we parked at the official NTS car park and walked the extra distance along the tarmac to the Morvich bunkhouse (scene of two previous WH meets which Bod and I in particular remember well, or maybe not so well as the case may be! ) and then over the bridge and onto the path that leads up into Gleann Choinneachain.
Beinn Bhuidhe and the start of the Sgurr a'Choire Ghairbh ridge
A'Ghlas-bheinn with cloud filling the upper reaches of the cleft of the Allt Peighinn a'Chuirn
The second gate and forestry operations across the glen
Once through the second gate, we could see tree felling operations taking place on the hillside opposite, on the other side of the Abhainn Chonaig. A healthy timber stack was being held on the hillside a short way above the track by nothing more than a couple of rather puny looking unfelled trees. We all agreed that it would braver or more foolish people than us to saunter down that track at that particular spot! For her part, Sue seemed fascinated by the operation going on across the glen, although I suspect she just wanted to see the tiny speck on the far hillside which represented a forestry worker being accidentally snagged on the swinging hooks that were flying up the hillside towards him and being unceremoniously dragged back down towards the track! As for Bod, he speculated that it would not be entirely fanciful to imagine such clearing operations revealing the bodies of long lost hill walkers from the 70s or 80s. Whether he was merely indulging in idle speculation or whether he does know something about where the bodies are hidden, I know not!
Into upper Gleann Choinneachain
Mr Wilson getting carried away
Bod and the gate to nowhere
Approaching the crossing of the Allt a'Choire Chaoil - Sue preparing to film Jonathan falling in!
We stopped briefly to refuel before the crossing (during which Mr Wilson did not oblige by falling in on camera! ). The other three opted for the traditional method of crossing on stepping stones while I, being without poles, opted to avail myself of the two rusty old iron bars that were wedged between two boulders and suspended just above the water level. Steall Bridge it was not, but it served the purpose.
We picked our way up the zig-zags on the stalkers path to the cairn marking the Glas-bheinn/Fhada junction and up and around into Coire an Sgairne.
Bod and Jonathan notice that we have company - but is it Steve Smith?
Mein Host leads the way
Sue and Bod blethering their way up through the lower coire
The pace was nice and leisurely, with plenty blether time built in. It was around this point that myself and Jonathan, who had been leaving open the idea of carrying on to A'Ghlas-bheinn after Fhada, (Bod, Jonathan and myself had all brought our own vehicles to cover all eventualities) started to have our resolve tested by Bod and his talk of a pint of shandy in the Kintail Lodge Hotel.
Jonathan reaching the upper coire and trying not to obsess too much about the shandy
Upper Coire an Sgairne
Bod, Sue and a behatted A'Ghlas-bheinn
Bod, Sue and Sgurr a'Choire Ghairbh
The walk from the junction up into the upper reaches of the coire is truly wonderful, and the upper coire is a wild and beautiful place. Things did then deteriorate somewhat as we simultaneously entered the clag zone and a bog fest leading up onto the large plateau of the Plaide Mhor.
It's as if Gammy Leg Walker had just turned up!
Eventually we checked in to the summit trig point and large, heart-shaped shelter cairn where we did the obligatory group selfie shots and settled down for lunch. Our mystery follower had by this time caught up with us and he turned out to be another Yorkshireman, or as Mr Wilson likes to put it, a Scotsman with his sense of generosity removed!
Four on Fhada
Sue, Bod and Jonathan in the heart-shaped shelter
Farewell to Fhada. Where to now Mr Wilson?
Skirting the edge of Coire Thuill Sgailceich
Dropping into Coire an Sgairne
It was soon decision time for myself and Mr W. He decided that as official meet organiser, he should really report back to the hostel to meet and greet (but not before stopping off at the Kintail Lodge for a shandy - anything less would be tantamount to rudeness! ). I also decided to leave A'Ghlas-bheinn for another day (unaware still at this stage that that other day would be tomorrow! ). I am not saying whether my motivation was the shandy or something else!
Not the Steall Bridge!
A second chance for Mr Wilson to make an arse of it on camera!
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