Time Travelling on Gulvain

Route: Gulvain, near Kinlocheil

Munros: Gulvain

Date walked: 28/10/2018

Time taken: 6.5 hours

Distance: 21km

Ascent: 1228m

Even though the clocks were changing this weekend the weather was looking so good that I decided to slot in a longish walk and maybe try and get the bike out again even though I’d only been on it once this year. So I shoehorned the bike into the car the night before and deciding to ignore the fact the clocks were changing so as not to miss the light I left the house at 7am on Sunday morning. It was a beautiful sunrise drive towards Fort William and the roads were car free. My temperature gauge was flashing on -1°c. As I headed out towards Glenfinnan I seemed to enter into thick mist but luckily as I arrived at the end of Loch Eil I came out the other side to glorious sunshine.

01 From Layby.jpg
Sunrise at the start

02 Start of Walk.jpg
Trusty bike at the start of the track

I soon geared up and clumsily got on the bike in boots and gear trying not to spike myself with my poles. Crossing the main road the start of the track appears pretty quickly. Within minutes I was puffing and panting my way up the hill with the bike in the lowest gear. My quads were already burning and I was wondering if I’d regret bringing my wee hybrid bike. I passed a camper by the side of the track, nodded and gritted my teeth, not wanting to show defeat I waited till I got round the corner before getting off the bike and pushing it the rest of the way up the hill. The going wasn’t quite so bad after the track levelled off but it was a bit of a stony track so I was wishing I’d also had some padded shorts. I continued for a few miles on and off the bike trying to decide if walking or cycling was quicker.

03 Gulvain coming into view.jpg
Gulvain starting to come in to view

Gulvain started to come into view bathed in early morning sunlight with a dusting of snow on the top. I passed what appeared to be a new house where the ruins are marked on the map. From here the path was a little better until I got a branch stuck in the spokes and shortly after managed to somehow get the brakes stuck on. No disc brakes on this old bike. As I came to the edge of the forest I decided it was early enough and a nice day to ditch the bike and walk the last mile in to the foot of Gulvain. Sure enough I reached the hill track quite quickly and started the ascent. Pretty soon I was out of the valleys shadow and into the sunlight.

04 Gulvain in the light.jpg
Gulvain bathed in early morning sunlight

05 Back down the valley.jpg
Looking back down the valley

06 Heading uphill.jpg
Heading up onto the ridge

07 Into the snow line.jpg
Reaching the snowline

It was quite a steep ascent but the good path helped. I started to reach the snow line and every time I thought I saw the start of the ridge another one appeared. The views got better every time I turned back to the valley and eventually I reached the start of the ridge. There was not a soul in sight. It looked like I had the whole mountain to myself.

08 On the ridge.jpg
On the ridge

By this time I was walking up through virgin snow making new footprints up the ridge to the ‘top’ which as I found out when I read my WH instructions the night before was not really a top. Putting my sensible winter head on I had luckily had the extra map for the real top and put it in the rucksack along with some extra gear just incase. Luckily today there seemed hardly a cloud in the sky. It was a little slippy in places on the snow covered rocks so I tried to aim for grassy spots where I could. It didn’t take long to reach the trig point and it looked like a nice walk along the ridge to the true summit.

10 Along to Gulvain.jpg
Looking along the ridge to Gulvain

Pity it only counted as one top but on a day like this who’s complaining. I descended the ridge about 100m and soon started the climb back up which was a lot more pleasant than the earlier ascent. No slippery boulders just a nice snowy path. This time I had definitely reached the top judging by the gigantic cairn. I had 360 degree views and all of it to myself. I put on some extra layers and sat for a good 20 minutes taking in the view.

11 Summit Cairn.jpg
Gulvain summit cairn

12 Panorama.jpg
Great 360 view from the top

13 Ben Nevis.jpg
Across to Ben Nevis

I finally tore myself away to start the journey back and followed my own footsteps back down the ridge. Just as I reached the first top two women popped up from the other direction. They seemed very surprised to see me and said I must have had a really early start. Did no one else take the advantage of the extra hour. Continuing down the next ridge I bumped into another solo hill walker. We chatted for a few moments and I continued on reaching the snow line again. It was lovely to have views down the valley for my whole descent.

Unfortunately I could see exactly where I had to get back to for my bike. Two thirds of the way down I met the last hillwalker of the day. I was quite surprised given the shorter day but realised I hadn’t changed my watch yet, none the less I checked they had a torch on them just incase. Once on the track it didn’t take long at all to get back to my bike. I readjusted everything again. Fiddled with the brakes to see if I could unjam them and set off on the return.

14 The return track.jpg
Heading back along the sunny valley

This time it didn’t seem quite so hard on the bike and I started to get a bit braver racing through the puddles on the down hills until it got a bit steeper and the brakes came on. I was back at the car in no time and thankful for the bike in the end. Got back at 3:30 and realised it was actually still only 2:30 so time for a wander round the Fort William walking shops. Time to get started on the christmas list...

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Location: Argyll
Activity: Mountain Walker

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