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Old stuff 4: the rough lot revisited (1998)

Old stuff 4: the rough lot revisited (1998)

Postby Klaasloopt » Tue Feb 01, 2011 9:03 pm

Munros included on this walk: Garbh Chioch Mhòr, Maoile Lunndaidh, Moruisg, Sgùrr a' Chaorachain

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn Resipol, Ben Hee, Canisp, Càrn Mòr (Glen Dessarry), Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill, Rois-Bheinn, Sgùrr an Utha, Sgùrr na Ba Glaise, Sgùrr nan Ceannaichean, Sgùrr nan Eugallt

Date walked: 31/03/1998

Time taken: 100 hours

Distance: 320 km

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Old Stuff 4: The rough lot revisited (1998)
Sutherland, Monar, Knoydart, Morar, Moidart, Sunart

Yet another tale from a Dutch attic
The Highlands had gotten into my head, as you might have guessed. Still, the sheer contrast with hill-less life at home shook me every time. Same in 1998. I came up to Lairg, and the first entry in my diary of that year tells the story: "the campground is 2 km from the station, a good opportunity to get used to the wet". And: "how very strange it is, lying in a tent in rain, the discomfort not yet balanced by beauty".

On Ben Hee
En route to MLCMD

1998part1.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Hee ho here we go
On march 31 I walked out of Lairg. A retired scot brought me to West Merkland, north of Loch Shin. There a path leads up along the Albannach burn where I pitched and took off for Ben Hee in the afternoon. The flat rocks, howling wind and ice everywhere completed the transformation: body and mind are taken in by the Highlands.

The Reay Forest. Grumpy humps of rest material, with more cliffs and ridges than one might think. For instance the route to Meall Liath Coire Mhic Dhugaill (evocative name): it crosses Carn an Thionail, a nice ridge with the best short grass and moss and flat-lying stones. On a bealach, I paused and cooked and got very cold anyway. On to MLCMD's summit, all slate grey and into the corrie that faces the back of Meall Horn. Behind me were slopes, before me a peaty labyrinth.

Three times means...
In dutch there's a saying that if you get a third chance, you will have your way. The inventor of the saying had no knowledge of hills like Foinaven. So no wonder in the night of april 2 the wind blew even harder, snow started, and around 4 o'clock that night, the tent was blown flat. I know it can withstand gales, when pitched well. On peaty stuff, guy ropes can pull out tent pins. A clear choice: either you are forced to go when the tent gives in, or you go by your own free will by packing NOW. The reason I would bring a head-torch next year became clear: a flashlight in your mouth in a gale with snow is no fun. I managed to gather all tentpins, push the tent flat and, lying on top, remove the poles and pack it up. Next thing is the trip out of the place: due north, no navigation needed, is the path, running from east to west. Between it and me this wet peat stuff. Fortunately I could just discern white snowpatches. They indicate dryness. I wrote afterward: "After half an hour, surely, the maglite gives up. Totally contrary to habit, I brought spare batteries, and totally contrary to experience, I find them the first time I dig my arm into the rucksack. This simply defies all odds!" When I also succeeded in changing the batteries, I knew: it's gonna be allright. Around seven I reached Achfary, where workmen show me their kettle, and typically don't care about the weather much. This is the same in Holland: the weather is just the weather. We can talk all we want about it, we do not have a say. On this day bridges are closed, lorries blown over and all advised to stay in. I hitchhiked to Ullapool, always the safe place.

More plans discarded
I know when to retreat, but there's the practical point: waiting to see if wheather improves is not possible near Achfary, unless one goes B&B. After the trembles about the weather were gone, I hitchhiked to Ledmore two days later, where another unclimbed hill awaits: the ever so gradually rising whaleback of Canisp. On this summit, I felt no immediate danger, so I enjoyed the icicles and hoar frost everywhere. Going down I took a glance at the compass and the stupid thing is totally off. Errr... You guessed it: time to sit down, shut up and concentrate. Canisp is not lined up east-west, the way down is not south, etcetera. With a corrected mental image of what things look like, I was down in no time, and on to Suileag bothy for the night.
Next day was an attempt to keep to a plan and do Quinag. But once I walked over, along the road, weather in the east didn't look too inviting and the hill had its own private cloud. I turned back and cursed the asphalt. After a while I flicked a switch in my head and said, hey, let's make it an enjoyable day. Walked to Lochinver, had some chippies, walked through some of the delightful woods and on to the falls in the Kirkgaig river. There I pitched and discovered the gale near Foinaven had bent the poles a bit.

Canisp whaleback

Next day Suilven too had its head clouded over, so I climbed up and went for the three little sgurrs at the back end of that hill. The second one is like a catwalk on top, and the ascent of the third one looked too wet and slippery so I rounded it and walked the whole long tail of the hill to Elphin, and hitchhiked out.

Suilven: Meall Mheadonach II. (self timer show)
Suilven: Meall Mheadonach III: not

Is this a Long Walk?
Nah. A Long Walk is a continuous route, and maybe one can come out every four days or so to get food, but one has to be back on the route quickly. This year it looked more like a succession of two to five day stretches. A dotted line. Then again, maybe dotted lines are the way to go.

1998part2-1.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Glory at last
In horrible weather I was given a ride down to Garve, and took the train to Gerry's at Achnashellach. There I hesitated, but Gerry forced me to decide. Unpaid-for waiting is not allowed, and the man is right. Although the weather forecast was bad, at some point I could see the tops and began feeling locked up. At five I suddenly decided and walked out. I wrote a note to Gerry, stating he could keep my money and do something good with it. On the Pollan Buidhe I was cought by several snow showers. I aimed for Glenuaig lodge since that must have a leeside, good for camping. It has. Next morning, the sun was out so I headed up Maoile Lunndaidh right away. This was my first hill seriously under snow and I liked it. The white world is so simple, concentration comes easy. The plateau and cornices seem very cairngorm-like to me now. I returned to the tent, slept, ate, and went up Moruisg in deeper snow still. Sunset nearing, I walked over to 'Ceannaichean', now no longer a Munro, and enjoyed the views tremendously. The moon over Maoile Lunndaidh after a very pink sunset ended this glorious day.

Glenuaig Lodge sunshine

On Maoile Lunndaidh looking WNW

Maoile Lunndaidh summit rim cornice

Up Moruisg in winter sports weather

Maoile Lunndaidh and moon from Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

Bidean Eoin Dearg from the NW

Eoin Dearg so white
Next morning no sun, so a lot colder feel. Up Sgurr a'Chaorachain, with a plan to descend to Loch Monar by Bidean Eoin Dearg, which looked beautiful. (!!The OS map reveals much more of the rocky outcrops and well-defined ridges nowadays). Once out of the cairn of the first, the latter seemd too far away against the cold wind, so I turned round some 700m from that summit, and went down to Loch Monar by the Bealach on the west side of Chaorachain, which gave a descent with some icy patches. No crampons, no ice axe, so very careful. Very tiring walk to Monar, in wet snow, but the camp on the shore (at 166422) was wonderful.

Loch Monar shoreline, looking at Lapaich group

Strathfarrar followed, crossed the river to the south shore and camped within sight of the Strathfarrar biggies in superesthetic Caledonian Pine forest (Coille na Leitire Duibhe). The log states "I'm not exaggerating when I say I saw 500 deer today". Strange wildlife management policy over there. Feels like a deer farm. There was a faint pull on me to do Sgurr Diollaid, a very characteristic dark hat of a peak, but after 100 meters up I excused myself and walked out to Struy, singing and even turning down a lift of two girls (thinking walking is more important than girls??).
Strathfarrar camp

Some artist!
A long round of shopping and hitchhiking (past Urquhart castle is very difficult) brought me to Invergarry Campground, within reach of Quoich. Next morning a Yorkshire hillwalker took me along to the roadside near Spidean Mialach, and I walked (again!!) along the shores of Loch Quoich to my next dreamed hill: Sgurr nan Eugallt, Peak of the Death Streams. And was I right picking that one.

The season was in full artistic swing: lovely changes of hue when snow fell lightly, melted away in the sunshine, the sun moved, new snow fell, and the sun shone again. This gave lots of shades of brown, purple, greenish grey. William Turner, try and beat this! I pitched the tent at the foot of the steep flanks of Eugallt (939019), and went up in the evening. I was rewarded with tons of see-through views, golden sunlight patches on Slat-bheinn, Druim Cosaidh and Ladhar Bheinn. Eagle!
Slat Bheinn and Sgurr a Choire Bheithe, Loch an Lagain Aintheich in foreground.

Loch Quoich dam, west end, and Meall a Choire Dubh

Lost below Sgurr na Ciche

Of course, the next day internal fuel ran out, and dragged myself up Coire nan Gall but had a go at Garbh Cioch Mor anyway. The way down was icy and I made a big navigational mistake (tired!) and ended up the Loch Nevis side of the Mam na Cloch Airde. Quite late and knackered in A'Chuill bothy in Glen Dessary. Revived by dinner, alcohol and great company I had my debut as a singer before an audience. The others in the bothy found a dead deer and tried if they could eat it, and I sang lots of songs (particularly fitting is Revolution Blues by Neil Young. It goes "well we live in a trailer at the edge of town, you never see us, 'cos we don't come 'round, we've got twentyfive rifles, just to keep the population down").
Lyrics sheet

A ballpoint works wonders
Next day I crossed Carn Mor to Oban bothy. Carn Mor looks tame on the map, but is quite a handful on the ground, especially the west side of the hill. On the flat summit, I built a snowman called Moe the Sleaze, but this frivolous act made me loose/forget my faithful map 40. Discovered that too late. Saddened by that, I decided not to stay at Oban but move on, after producing an SMC-style sketch-map on airmail paper I copied from another occupant's map. This brought me to beautiful Kinlochbeoraid. So lonesome a site.

Kinlochbeoraid, with top left the hill ...

Oban bothy to Glenfinnan sketch map
Sgurr an Utha summit in sight

Ah, you can see it coming: with this ballpoint rendering of Sgurr an Utha I went up it and of course cloud came down and I followed fence posts. In this case, one clearer spell was just enough to see where the summit was. On the Glenfinnan side of the hill, I met two people and had a look at their map. It was a One Inch Series from the sixties. Nice!
After getting some food in Corpach by train and car I had the luminous idea to evade climbing the Beinn Odhars on my way south, and instead walk the lenght of Loch Shiel to Glen Alladale. I forgot to make a phonecall, so had to walk one hour back to make the call at a very nice hotel. They offered me a meal and a bed, but I had to go to 788884.

Glen Alladale: Croit-Bheinn (graham, not climbed)

Spring is in the air
Lots of birds, frog spawn, flowers and midges. Spring! Early afternoon I pitched the tent in Glen Alladale. Advice: go there, and the shores of Loch Shiel too. Remote and beautiful. A canoe would be clever. It got hot inside the tent, and even a wash in the river wasn't cold. Rois-bhein was next, but these hills are all steep, with the glen at nearly sea level. Especially Croit-Bheinn, a lower hill, looks tough. Some guidebooks state that one can do the whole row of corbetts in one go, but this is ludicrous, although some thug with a father complex might think he proves something by doing that act. My mental abberrations are too mediocre to propel me in that way, so I went up Druim Fiaclach (there's a grave of a 19-year old along my route, be humble), along Sgurr na Ba Glaise and from that cow onto the horse of Rois-bheinn. Very nice ridge, some rock work, and the spring warmth was a bliss when I had to walk 12 km to the road.

Sgurr na Ba Glaise, Rois-Bheinn and the sea

Thumbed round to Acharacle where the shop was closed, but chipshop/bakery was open. I found enough 'foodlike edible substances' to be able to take in Beinn Resipol next day. That hill is so loved that all its knobbly features have names. I read 'How Proust can change your life' on top of that one. It advises 'go slower, look better and express yourself more precise'. After Resipol I logically went to Strontian, once again to visit Garbh Bheinn, the hill that gave me bad luck in 1994, but I skipped it and walked out to Corran Ferry in spring rain. A couple with a one year old gave me a lift with the purpose of keeping the kid busy. Seems putting a sweaty, hairy hillwalker next to a toddler keeps them quiet. Baffled, I suppose. I just sat and enjoyed, ate a lot in Fort Bill and went home.
Last edited by Klaasloopt on Wed Feb 02, 2011 10:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Old stuff 4: the rough lot revisited (1998)

Postby monty » Tue Feb 01, 2011 9:21 pm

Another interesting read Klass....

Excellent stuff. You should write a book.

The reason I would bring a head-torch next year became clear: a flashlight in your mouth in a gale with snow is no fun
We tend to all learn the hard way :lol:

singing and even turning down a lift of two girls (thinking walking is more important than girls??).
I think you are taking the walking to seriously :lol:

I built a snowman called Moe the Sleaze
That was a snowgirl not a snowman :D

Re: Old stuff 4: the rough lot revisited (1998)

Postby malky_c » Wed Feb 02, 2011 1:52 pm

Really like the look of Croit Bheinn from that angle. Again, more places visited in a month than I get round in an entire year!

Quite a few good photos sprinkled through this too. If it hadn't been for the last two or three winters, I'd be surprised at the amount of snow around in April.
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Re: Old stuff 4: the rough lot revisited (1998)

Postby mountainstar » Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:36 pm

Another top report and walk.
following the map reminded me of a game I used to play years ago....Snakes & Ladders :D
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Re: Old stuff 4: the rough lot revisited (1998)

Postby threya » Wed Feb 02, 2011 9:31 pm

Another superb report. You look to have done some really hard walking on your visits. Really great photos :D

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