Date walked: 03/12/2022
Time taken: 8.5 hours
I was in the area having my bike serviced in Fort William so thought I'd make a couple of days of it. The weather was looking reasonable and I'd had Streap on my list for a while. Lucky and I, along with my partner in crime, Mark, had attempted this walk earlier in the year, but we didn't even make it to the bothy. I could say the weather was poor - which it was - but the real reason was that we'd both had too many G&Ts the night before and thought we best save the big hill for another day. We did, however, enjoy the fresh air and the walk up the forestry track and back - there are some beautiful waterfalls and rock formations to explore. And it was a good opportunity to scope the scene for my next attempt.
On this particular day it was just me and Lucky (Mark was stuck at home engaged in the dreaded "w" word). We camped out in the van the night before, forgoing the G&Ts for tea and hot chocolate. As it was November, the daylight hours were short, so I set off early in the dark at about 7:30am. Lucky, chief mountain guide, was off ahead of me, his reflective harness aglow in my headlamp - a cheerful beacon as I made my way to Gleann Dubh-Lighe bothy.
By this point the sun was rising and the sky was a beautiful mottle of pink. The bothy was looking in very good form, particularly having been destroyed by fire in 2011. The story of how it burnt down is eery for us who frequently camp and love a good jetboil meal: the fire resulted from a faulty seal on a screw-in gas cylinder which allowed gas to escape under high pressure and be ignited by a candle. Only the walls remained but having been rebuilt in 2013, it's now a 4-star shelter with two rooms, one with a sleeping platform, wood burner, and good table and chairs. I mentally bookedmarked the bothy for a return trip in winter with Mark, Lucky, firewood, Yahtzee, and maybe a few G&Ts.
Onward! We carried on to exit the forestry area where the view of the walk ahead really came into view. It's one of those moments where you (the royal you... or maybe it's just me) doubt your ability to actually do the thing in a reasonable amount of time. Still, this was impossible to resist, and the weather was looking great.
It was still early and the sunlight on the hills was something special. The clouds were intermittently kissing the tops and I had high hopes for some great views when I eventually got there. But first I had to overcome what Walkhighlands rightfully calls a "relentless" ascent. I did the math and estimated it would take me about an hour and a half to reach the summit of Meall an Uilllt Chaoil. So I readied myself for the slow and steady climb. I had a couple steep climbs in the weeks prior which I thought would have "warmed me up" (including the B29 Superfortress crash site in Succoth Glen near Lochgoilhead, but that's another story). However this climb was about four times longer in distance and on more taxing ground - a test of the mind as much as the muscles! Relentless was right. For some reason I only brought one of my walking poles, which I immediately regretted. Lucky, however, seemed unphased, and I often spotted him a few hundred meters ahead of me, looking back as if to say "come on, catch up".
The inordinately slow going was a good opportunity to inspect the plant life underfoot, of which there wasn't much this time of year - plenty of lichen and moss, though, and a herd of Stag to fascinate the Luckster.
With much relief we reached the summit of Meall an Uilllt Chaoil. It was blowing a hoolie. I'd been wearing just a base layer the whole way up and sweating profusely but the weather swiftly changed up top - puffy coat, gloves, and hat required.
We stopped to enjoy the view and refuel our calories - I had some homemade cream of mushroom soup in my flask, delightful! while Lucky had chicken and sausages. It was just as well we stopped because this would be the last of views for the rest of ridge. The Nevis range to the east was covered in snow. To the northwest I admired Sgurr Thuilm right in front of me, and the rest of Knoydart, an area I still have yet to visit (all in good time!).
As I made my way towards the second lump of the day, Stob Coire nan Cearc, it was clear the clouds had settled into position and there they would stay.
I can't lie, I was a little disappointed, as the grassy arete up to Streap must be exhilerating in clear weather. On the plus side, it wasn't raining. And it was an opportunity to practice my low vis navigation skills. There was also some interesting geological specimens along the way - perhaps someone can explain them to me?
We stopped briefly at the small cairn on Streap for more soup and Lucky's requisite selfies and a Power Nap, then carried on to Streap Comhlaidh in yet more thick cloud, and more steep ground - again I bemoaned my lack of second walking pole. I resolved to return with said stick on a clear day.
The descent was also steep but not nearly as relentless as the climb. I eventually emerged from the cloud where I could see the ATV track I was aiming for. I was looking forward to a path, no matter how boggy. By this time it was about 3:30pm, and the light was looking dull in comparison to the dawn colours. I trundled back to the van - the bothy this time was occupied. (The residents did not come out to say hello.) The first and only people I'd encountered all day!
Two paws up from Lucky and two walking poles up from me!
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- Activity: Mountain Walker
- Member: British Mountaineering Council Mountain Training Association
- Munros: 36
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- Distance: 19 km
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- Distance: 128 km
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