Last week of Calum's summer holidays, with Duncan away grouse beating and Neil working, it was just the two of us. Monday night and Tuesday looked like reasonable weather for a wild camp and hillwalk. Monday morning was considerable colder that recently with condensation on the windows for the first time. We headed up north, heading for Glen Affric, with a plan to cycle from the road end to the west end of Loch Affric and camp for the night, then tackling some munroes on the North side of the loch on Tuesday. After a quick stop in Aviemore for a cream bun, and to pick up a pie for lunch (healthy diet for this trip!), we got to the Loch Affric car park in the rain about lunchtime. After lunch in the car, the rain stopped and we got out to get the bikes loaded up with the camping gear - or rather MY bike loaded up! Midgies were out in force so head nets were on. A group of lepidoporists were arriving back from looking for a very rare moth, one hundred years exactly after it had been discovered at that location.
We headed off on the track south of the loch, which was nice and smooth to start with, but hard going with a heavy load. There were quite a few people on the track, looking like they had been round the loch for a walk. After about 40 minutes, and after the track got rather stony, and with my tyres getting softer, we saw our destination - a sandy beach on the west end of the loch. There were a few people there already, sitting next to a hut near the beach, and range rover sitting at the track. The steep slope down to the beach didn;t look possible with the bikes, but we spotted an easier track a little further on which doubled back to the beach. We pushed our bikes along here with difficulty - it was very boggy to get to the beach. The other group looked like they had been fishing and were just leaving. We found a spot at the far end of the beach, pretty much out of sight, and pitched the tents. It was a beautiful spot! An almighy stink of human **** (bastards!) hit me and initially I thought I had pitched my tent on it, but turned out I had stood in it right next to my tent pitch. After getting rid of it with difficulty, I repitched slightly further away, and we chilled out for a while. I went for a quick swim in the loch - it was cold though and quite shallow so this didn't last long. Dinner of packet mac and cheese, custard and banana. I went for a wee wander to say hello to a couple who had pitched there tent next to the hut. They were trying to start a fire (there was afire pit already there) after foraging for wood - not many trees on this spot - and invited to sit round it if they managed to get it started, I didn;t see any smoke and it started raining for a bit so didn;t take this up. The light was lovely so took a few photos. Once rain started we settled down for the night, and ended up with a reasonable sleep.
The next morning my first sight out of the tent was the sun rising over the loch - beautiful! I got breakfast on the go and got dressed - porridge and bacon rolls, and off we went. First took bikes further along hte track to strawberry cottage, then left them as track got stony, We turned off to the right to go along the north side of the loch. The day was warming up and although I started out with leggings, I quickly changed to shorts at the burn crossing below the waterfalls we could hear from the campsite. Managed to leave my walking pole here, but it had gone my the time I got back. We turned of the rather boggy path up the Allt Coire Leachavie, and followed this for some time up to the corrie, and then on the bealach. This was a slog, and the weather was showery, but once up on the bealach we could see the top on Mam Sodhail - a large hollow cairn. It didn;t take much longer to get up to the top - over 3 hours after leaving our campsite. We hadn't seen anyone all morning, but one chap appeared as we sat in the cairn we was on his 3rd munro of the day already. There was a reasonable view to the west, but the north was decidedly murky, so we decided against tackling the 3rd munro Beinn Fionnlaidh, and settle for the two. After our lunch we headed of to Carn Eighe - the highest peak nrorth of the great glen but only a little higher tham Mam Sodhail. This wasn't far, and we met a couple who had come up to this one first froM Chisholm bridge. We returned to Mam Sodhail - skirting around the top to avoid the full climb - and returned by the same route. The weather improved as we descended to Loch Affric and layers were shed. Made it back to the campsie about 4.30, packed up and got everything back on the bikes, and headed off back to the car park. My bike felt like it was going to fall apart, but one I pumped up the tyres again the going got a bit better, and the track got smoother and easier as we went along. Calum was miles ahead of course with his chunky tyres!
It was a relief to reach the car park at a decent time, and we arrived back in Cannich around in time for a good feed at the Slaters Arms, and to set up our tents at the campsite - both recommeded.
All in all, a good wild camping trip. Glen Affric is beautiful and I will return! Maybe with a trip to the Youth Hostel next time!
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