An Odd Weekend in Armine

Grahams: Ben Armine, Creag Mhór (Sutherland)

Date walked: 01/05/2022

Distance: 48km

Ascent: 1053m

This was our last weekend before attempting the Cape Wrath Trail and we had a number of objectives which didn't really involve hill bagging. One was to deliver my aged parent to my brother's in Thurso for a week's holiday, which east that we could look at doing some hills in the Caithness/Sutherland area. Secondly we had to drop off our box of "half-way supplies" in Kinlochewe so that we could manage the second half of the CWT. And thirdly there was the testing of Allison's dodgy ankle that had been giving her gyp last weekend, so a largely track based walk was required, with not much in the way of steep or rough ground underfoot. I reckoned that we could do the Ben Armine hills, which met the above requirements to a tee. It would have been nice to select a different route for them, such as going in from the south via Ben Armine Lodge, but there wasn't really time for that amidst all the other tasks to be achieved.

We set off from Grangemouth on Friday morning, with my mum in the front and Allison relegated to the back seat. I was under instruction from both of them to drive smoothly to avoid car sickness :shock: As I was intending to drive "fuel-efficiently" anyway, given the price of diesel, this was not a problem. We motored up at a sedate 55mph, stopping off at the Harry Gow's place north of the Cassock Bridge to have lunch and arriving at my brother's at a bout 2.30. There wee had a quick catch up, met their new kitten, Bruce (who seemed to enjoy attacking my arm with teeth and claws) and set off about an hour later for Kinbrace. We headed along the north coast for a bit, past Dounreay which was really busy with workers leaving their shift (maybe they're re-commissioning it now with the fuel crisis) and headed down the A897 towards Kinbrace. A sign at the start said "Local Access Only" which seemed a bit concerning. Lots of re-surfacing work going on - we had to pass various bits of heavy road machinery, but luckily didn't get held up significantly. We drove past Kinbrace to Badanloch Lodge, where we parked at the start of the estate track and got our packs on. I planned that we'd walk in for about 10k tonight, do the hills the next day and camp somewhere near the beginning of the track on Saturday night before driving to Kinlochewe on Sunday morning.

2022-04-29_1739 Raw.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

It was quite a pleasant evening for a walk - cool but still bright, some interesting cloud formations above the hills. We could see the Griams to the north, Ben Klibreck in the distance to the west. The track is a good one, easily cycle able if that's your thing and we made rapid progress covering 10k in about 2 hours. There is an estate bothy along the route (if you don't mind sharing sleeping space with a large bird of prey) but we opted for the tent. There are some grassy spots amidst the heather/tussocks. We passed a large herd of maybe 100 deer who stood and watched as we walked past. tent up, tea on, book read, whisky (Laphroaig Sherry cask) drunk and sleep.

Image726F3F47-3F10-46CB-8A93-E3D13DFAE276_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image11678CB6-A872-450E-8903-525155B79B6E_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image88FA5536-FC8A-4ED3-ADF9-A57C7F20AEAB_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

The forecast for Saturday was rain all day from 8am til 9pm. We've been really spoiled with good weather recently - any rain there has been has come overnight. Just typical that the weather should break when we're about to set off on the CWT...Anyway we got up at 7 and were just packing away the tent when the rain started, 12 minutes early :lol: It was only spitting for a while, not really causing much bother as we walked to the end of the main track and turned off up to our left on the rougher track towards the hills.

I was trying out two bits of kit this weekend - my new Fjallraven Trekking Tights, which seem to be all the rage with CWT'ers and a pair of Hoka 111 boots I bought way back in 2016 when I was originally going to do the CWT. The tights were a success, doing a fair job of keeping the rain out and drying quickly, also very comfortable to wear, though I did look a bit odder than usual whilst wearing them. The boots - oh dear - they are superbly comfortable for trail walking, but sadly their waterproofness has been well and truly extinguished, and I ended the day with saturated feet, something I'm not planning on tolerating on the Trail. But more of that later...

Ben Armine
Image358F059F-E751-4363-A3D2-2A1763F898E6_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

The path goes all the way to Coire an Eas where there's another path that heads up between Ben Armine and Creag Mhòr. Pick a point at the highest bit of the path and head up the short grass/heathery slopes of Ben Armine, a mere 200m ascent. The rain was now heavier and persistent and I was forced to put waterproof trousers on. It was also surprisingly chilly in the wind. We made the summit and returned to the bealach before heading across to Creag Mhòr. There's a messy section of peat hags to be negotiated before you start to climb Creag Mhòr and we stopped in the shelter of one of these to have some lunch. The wander up Creag Mhòr is straightforward after the hags have been crossed and we reached the trig point wet but triumphant. On the descent, I decided we might be better off trying to avoid the peat hags, and took us down more directly into the coire. This was a mistake as there were steep slippy sections to deal with and if you dropped into the coire floor you then had to climb about 100m back up to the path. So I ended up having to contour round the inside of the coire, which was not what Allison's ankle really needed - the peat hag traverse would have been preferable.

Ben Armine from Coire an Eas
Image27CD5C54-5CA8-4C4B-9B02-BB4620F6A324_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Creag Mhor
ImageE00B9DB6-60B2-47DD-9D0E-81DB0328E38F_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Summit Armine looking at Mhor
Image106BD8CE-BD9B-49AB-A339-56FD50CAECE6_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image892E5E82-7737-4E10-99D3-05B14EEB18A6_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Once back on the track it was plain sailing again. We had both shed our gloves, which were soaking, and could barely feel our fingers. Back on the main track we marched along in the rain. I pondered what to do. We could easily walk out today (it was only around 3.15 when we got back to the main track) but then where would we camp when we had to go to Kinlochewe. Plus I'd said we'd visit the lady looking after out kit around lunchtime, and I wanted to stop off and get her some flowers on the way for helping us out. In the end we decided to pitch up about 5-6k from the start of the track, beside a sheep fank we'd noticed on the way in. We were walking for this when we met a figure with big pack coming towards us - this was Tim, from England, who was doing JOGLE but the End to End route which is sone 1214miles. He reckoned he was going to be 3 months on the trail, which put our planning for the CWT into perspective, but he didn't seem very organised. He hadn't managed to start before 11am any day yet and liked taking to people. And pubs. Anyway, he was very friendly and we said to look out for us on the CWT (although I see from the route of the End to End trail that it doesn't share that much with the CWT.

We thought (briefly) about staying the night in the weird bothy, but decided we'd rather camp and made for the sheep fank. We found it was less windy inside it, though had to shift a metal portcullis like thing to get inside at a creep. A bit lumpy but alright for the night. We pitched in rain and I was fairly miserable, thinking how awful the CWT was going to be if we had day after day of rain to contend with...We also noticed our hands/fingers were really swollen - like to the point of not being able to see my knuckles if I made a fist. this was the oedema seen in the extremities of patients with heart or renal failure...what was going on? We reckoned it must have been the cold wind and rain (both of us had been gloveless for about 4 hours) but I can't think of having experienced this before. Our hands were still significantly swollen in the morning, though down a bit.

Image1D8D826E-B081-47A7-80C6-FC40FEA122CD by Al, on Flickr

The rain did go off overnight. Ticks were a bit of an issue in our camp spit - I pulled half a dozen off my arms while making breakfast and subsequently found more, including one walking over the lens of my glasses. Who knows how many of the blighters have stowed away bodily to be found over the coming days. We were up at 5.30 (having had an early night the previous evening) and reached the car at around 8am. Then the driving - first to Tesco in Dingwall for flowers and a few bits and bobs, then to Kinlochewe to deliver our box. Then back to Inverness and down the road, stopping at Tiso's in Perth for some essential purchases - waterproof gloves for Allison and new boots for me. Really sensible to buy new, untested boots 3 days before walking 380-odd kilometres in them :wtf: However that's the story - I'll put them on around the house, sure they'll be fine :lol:

Loch Badacol
Image829DC3CE-5B6F-4B3C-9196-C42A9D25C9E3_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr

Image63266CA3-CC50-4A28-8B69-33AC1648105E by Al, on Flickr

So no reports for several weekends, hoping the CWT and the weather is kind to us. No doubt there will be a report of some sort at the end of it all...

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Comments: 7

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Attachment(s) Munros: Meall Dearg (Aonach Eagach)
Corbetts: Glas Bheinn (Kinlochleven), Leum Uilleim
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Date walked: 24/04/2022
Comments: 1
Views: 380

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This post is not published on the Walkhighlands forum
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Location: Greenock
Occupation: Bandersnatch?
Interests: Solvitur Ambulando
Activity: Hill Bagger
Mountain: Foinaven
Place: Assynt and beyond
Gear: Satmap Active 12
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Ideal day out: A long walk that thrills, chills and makes me feel alive
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