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The (un)advised 3-day circular of Slioch

The (un)advised 3-day circular of Slioch


Postby jacob » Mon Sep 16, 2019 7:12 pm

Munros included on this walk: Slioch

Date walked: 06/09/2019

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My brother gave me a book for my birthday, some years ago. It's titled "Hostile Habitats", and for the few among you who do not know it, it's a great book for hillwalkers, covering every aspect of mountaineous Scotland except the hillwalking itself. Weathersystems, geologie, flora and fauna, they all come to pass.

To the superficial observer, the title might be a bit of an exaggeration, as they know Scotland from the green and lush hills they drive through, admire and take photos off from a layby or a parking place. To the hillwalker, the mountaineer, the fisherman and stalker, and all those who know that behind the facade of lush green goes a secret world of bog, rock and heather covered holes, swamp, moss covered slippery stones and ankle twisting gullies, it is less of an exaggeration.
This is a tale of both the hostile and not so hostile interpretation of Scotland.

Like last year, I had planned to get up north from Newcastle's ferry as quickly as I could, get up a hill as quickly as I could and wildcamp at the first suitable spot. Other than last year's Beinn Eighe, this year's objective would be mighty Slioch, a hill that had appealed to me since my first visit to Scotland. Somehow I hadn't got round to bagging it.
A video by Scoob and mrs Scoob, showing an appealing scramble up the NW face was a big inspiration to me, but I decided I'd follow their example only in good weather. The first wildcamp spot would be situated somewhere where the next morning I'd still have the choice between the WH route or the NW face.

As by second nature my plans were great, the execution left a lot to be desired. The original plan was to, after bagging Slioch, descend the corrie after Sgurr an Tuill Bhain, make it to Loch Fada, follow it's shores up NW, cross Gleann Tulacha, climb Beinn Lair from there, get off it again and then head off into the Fisherfields to tackle at least one of the most shapely peaks, Ruadh stac Mor. The execution was slightly different as shown on the map (with 2 attempted triangles which point out the wildcamp spots):


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The way from the carpark towards Slioch is a beautiful walk in it's own right. past a graveyard with Beinn Eighe as decorum, past floodland, past dead trees that catch the eye and past lichen covered trees.


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The sunny and rather warm walk in soon changed into a walk in drizzle. As there I had reached a proper flat spot, that was close to a possible junction between the WH route and the Scoob route, I decided to put up my tent, although daylight would have still permitted me to go further on. No problem though, a good and early night's sleep isn't that bad an idea after the ferry and the drive from there. I put up the tent, had a bite to eat and listened to the ever bigger and heavier raindrops on the flysheet.


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As I woke up, it was still raining. I wouldn't call it a monsoon, but a drizzle it was neither. Nevermind, I've got great plans and nothing can stop me. However, I did decide against the NW face and opted for the WH route. Every now and then, there was a little window in the low clouds and the intensifying rain. The few opportunities I got to shoot a pic, I used. The views over the Fisherfield filled me with exitement.


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These little windows filled me with the necessary confidence that once at the summit, I'd get all the views I wanted. Despite the intensifying rain and wind.


So onward and upwards, and I'm off to find views. Through clag, with no sensible kodakmoment at no time whatsoever.

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So I've finally reached the summit. No, this is not me having just arrived. This is me freezing after over 30 minutes of waiting for a clear bit of sky.


Well, I couldn't do that, wait for too long. The chances of the weather taking a turn for the better were slim and the route ahead was long, unpathed and therefore uncertain. So I set off for the ridge toward Sgurr an Tuill Bhain, enjoyed that one thoroughly, though with views it might have been more than excellent, and descended the corrie that came after. I knew the terrain was unpathed and therefore didn't mind too much that it was slow and hardgoing. And with no major rises in front of me, I could just simply roughly follow my compass and skirt around little pools, gullies and bumps in the way.

Having arrived at Lochan Fada, I learned, (again!), that what looks like doable from a map isn't nescessarily doable in real life. From the map it could have been anything, from sandy beaches to fresh&green meadows. In real life it was an undulating walk towards the NW, across a minefield of heather, rock, potholes, gullies, streams, swamp and what have you. And all that in by now sweeping rain. The skies opened up once, giving me at least an impression of what this wonderful area must look like in slightly better conditions.

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This was a brief moment of pleasure, as soon all clagged up again and rain came in horizontally. Having arrived at the foot of Meall Fhuaran, not halfway the objective for that day, I was cold, miserable, wet, but above all I discovered that the easy mapcontours were in fact very slippery, moss covered slabs of the lower slopes of Meall Fhuaran. Not something I wanted to negotiate, not in these conditions, not with my mindset of "can someone tell me why I like this again?"

So instead of pushing on towards Gleann Tulacha, I headed uphill, in the hope of finding an public footpath that was indicated on the map. Giving up, as it felt at the time, was in hindsight a very good decision. I found the footpath, and it brought me to Loch Garbhaig, a Loch that I normally would not have given a second thought. It is a wonderful place though, very atmospheric, fairytale-like. What a place for my seconds wildcamp. Amazing.

Although every single item I had with me was wet, I slept like a baby, to be greeted by sunshine the next morning. All pain was forgotten.

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Morning sun


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And drying of my gear. Slioch, cloudless in the background laughing at me.


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The wooden cabin I saw at the foot of the hill, I left it alone. Didn't seem like a bothy. Isn't mapped as a bothy. Seemed like an overnight option for Letterewe estate workers/owners.


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After taking my time to dry out some gear, I packed up my tent and made my way downhill, with wonderful views towards the Torridon hills, and further down Loch Maree as well. Although the footpath by now was of such quality and size you could call it a highway, I never met a living soul along my way. Deadcalm, with only some feral goats and birds as company.

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It does pay to look backwards as well though, the views on Slioch are amazing from this side. And so I went on, in admiration of the views to all sides. This day was the YinYang to the previous. A not so hostile habitat at this moment.

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Once I reached Letterewe Estate I turned left after a short detour. This path is also called a public footpath, though I think many of the greater public would discuss the semantics. Beautiful views on Loch Maree, and ofcourse Slioch, still basking in sunlight, and making me wonder for what sins I had to be punished the previous day.

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One Slioch-outskirt rock looked like a circusbear balancing something on it's nose.


When crossing the bridge over the Abhainn an Fhasaigh, something on my right caught my eye. There was a feral goat stood on a big boulder in the middle white water. I do maybe underestimate the strength and abilities of these magnificent though stinky animals, but it seemed to be stuck, not knowing how to get of safely. After I noticed that it got quite panicky as I took it's picture, I feared it might jump of and get in greater trouble than it already seemed to be in. I therefore left it to itself, hoping for it to be allright.

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The remainder of the walk out was all in all very pleasant, leaving me a bit ambiguous about my three day adventure. But as with dinner: it's the desert that defines the memory.

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jacob
 
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Re: The (un)advised 3-day circular of Slioch

Postby Graeme D » Mon Sep 16, 2019 9:34 pm

I enjoyed reading that. Sounds like an eventful rollercoaster of an expedition. It is my experience also that if you go out for three days or longer at a stretch, you can guarantee that not everything will go exactly according to plan and some things may indeed go quite pear shaped! :lol:
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Re: The (un)advised 3-day circular of Slioch

Postby rockhopper » Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:49 am

That sounded challenging. Good weather does make a big difference and am glad it cleared up a bit for you. Did something not dissimilar to part of your route when going up Slioch but in the opposite direction. Can well remember walking along the shore of Lochan Fhada - the odd animal track here and there did help but there were many ups and downs. For info, looking at your report and map, I think you may have missed the actual summit cairn at 981m a little to the NW of the trig. Thanks :)
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Re: The (un)advised 3-day circular of Slioch

Postby jacob » Tue Sep 17, 2019 3:02 pm

Graeme D wrote:I enjoyed reading that. Sounds like an eventful rollercoaster of an expedition. It is my experience also that if you go out for three days or longer at a stretch, you can guarantee that not everything will go exactly according to plan and some things may indeed go quite pear shaped! :lol:


Thanks for your kind words Graeme. And although it is true what you say, I wouldn't like to head off without any plan at all.

rockhopper wrote:That sounded challenging. Good weather does make a big difference and am glad it cleared up a bit for you. Did something not dissimilar to part of your route when going up Slioch but in the opposite direction. Can well remember walking along the shore of Lochan Fhada - the odd animal track here and there did help but there were many ups and downs. For info, looking at your report and map, I think you may have missed the actual summit cairn at 981m a little to the NW of the trig. Thanks :)


Thanks to you too Rockhopper. It's funny, because while walking the shore of Fhada, your name passed my thoughts, as I would have killed for a boulderfield. The map is a rough sketch, so although I can't be too sure it's the right one, with the clag, I think I came past the proper cairn. I'll just consider this one bagged, hope I don't insult purists.
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Re: The (un)advised 3-day circular of Slioch

Postby Alteknacker » Tue Sep 17, 2019 11:32 pm

After the first third of this report I was thinking: "Oh no! He's travelled all this way only to get 3 days of s**t weather!".

But once the weather had changed, it looks like it was marvellous.

This is a great part of the world, especially when one has the leisure to wait for good weather before setting out!
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Re: The (un)advised 3-day circular of Slioch

Postby jacob » Wed Sep 18, 2019 7:29 am

Alteknacker wrote:After the first third of this report I was thinking: "Oh no! He's travelled all this way only to get 3 days of s**t weather!".

But once the weather had changed, it looks like it was marvellous.

This is a great part of the world, especially when one has the leisure to wait for good weather before setting out!


Haha, how kind of you to worry, but you really shouldn't. I spent my holidays well. After this I went to Arran and by lack of any logic, after Arran I went to Kintail. All nice adventures, all in great weather, WR still to come.
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