Easter in Ardgour Part 1 – The Walk In   16 comments

The build up to the Easter weekend wasn’t promising. We were still in the grip of late winter and the weather and forecasts were full of cold biting easterly winds, snow and freezing temperatures. Not exactly prime weather for backpacking to fulfill what has become a regular date in my yearly calendar. I travelled up to Berwick to meet up with GM and arrived in blustery snow. We toyed with idea of some ski-touring in the Cairngorms but the forecast looked better in the west and the thought of cold wintry wild camp was appealing in a masochistic sort of way.

As we drove north to Edinburgh and through the central lowlands the next day it wasn’t looking good. Leaden grey skies and snow flurries were the order of the day but as we approached Callander for breakfast, things were improving. After the usual feed we pressed on and things dramatically improved. Grey sky was replaced by blue and snow-capped mountains filled the windscreen. The ice falls on the cliffs above Glen Ogle were awesome and the drive down Glen Dochart, across Rannoch Moor and through Glencoe were stupendous. Scotland in all it’s winter glory. When we reached the Corran Ferry there was barely a cloud in the sky and excitement reached fever pitch. Well nearly 🙂

Corran Ferry, Meall Dearg Choire nan Muc

Meall Dearg Choire nan Muc from the Corran Ferry terminal

I was like a kid running about the little ferry taking photos and enjoying the views up and down the loch while GM sat quietly in the car, probably rolling his eyes I guess. With the blue water sparkling in the sunlight it was just superb. I couldn’t wait to get going

Beinn a Bheithir, Corran Ferry

Beinn a Bheithir from the Corran Ferry

All the cars and lorries turned left off the ferry to head to Strontian, we were the only car that turned right. We were soon parked up at the gravel track that leads into Glen Scaddle. Ben Nevis was watching over us across the loch as we packed.

Ben Nevis, Glen Scaddle

Ben Nevis from the end of Glen Scaddle

I’m not in any way a lightweight backpacker. I prefer to bear the weight of a half decent meal and plenty of food as I’m permanently hungry when out walking. This trip the sack weight was bolstered by a full weight down sleeping bag and extra thermals and clothing for the cold nights. Despite the fact the hills we were planning to tackle were less than 3,000 feet and the snow line had dramatically risen as we’d gone west, we figured an axe and crampons would be sensible and another few pounds were added. We crammed everything in, hoisted the packs, made the usual middle-aged groans about the weight and set off.

Glen Scaddle

GM ready for the off

The plan was a simple one and fits in with a more slack-packing style of walk. We would walk to the far end of Glen Scaddle, set up camp, do a couple of full days walking and then walk back out again.

Glen Scaddle In

6.8 miles

Glen Scaddle was just magnificent. The wind was behind us so it was perfect walking conditions, never too hot or too cold. After a mile or so we rounded a bend and  Sgurr Dhomhnuill appeared framed between the sides of the valley under a clear blue sky

Glen Scaddle, Druim Leathad nam Fias, Sgurr Dhomhnuill

Glen Scaddle, Druim Leathad nam Fias and a distant Sgurr Dhomhnuill

Even though the packs were heavy it’s easy to carry it under conditions like these. We were hoping that weather might be good out west but we had no real expectation it would be this good

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

We pushed through the Glen with a line of trees along the bank of the river all the way. Sometimes we walked on the track, sometimes on the grass by the river-side. All the way the views of the hills we would be climbing just got better and better. There wasn’t a soul around

Ben Nevis, Glen Scaddle

GM does the hard miles

One problem with crampons is that you need a pretty solid pair of boots to attach them to. I’d brought my Salomon winter boots for the job and before I set off I debated walking in trainers and carrying them. The pack was already pretty heavy and full so I figured I’d just wear them. They are great boots on snow and rock but on a dry dusty flat gravel track and with the weight on my back they were purgatory. Before We’d gone 3 miles we stopped and I took the chance for the first in a series of running repairs to protect from blisters (zinc oxide tape – the old sticky variety – over an elastoplast)

Glen Scaddle

The Sherpa massages his blistered feet

Once past the ruined cottage of Creagbheitheachain there is a choice of path. The landrover track goes a couple of hundred metres up the hillside through the plantation before returning to the riverside. There is also a path right along the riverbank and we chose this option on the assumption it might be nicer and I thought it might be easier on my feet.

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Beinn na h-Uamha

Sgurr Dhomhnuill and Beinn na h-Uamha

Glen Scaddle

Trees lining the way

Paths like this are never as easy as they look with lots of little ups and downs and some boggy bits to wend around. One thing is for sure, it was stunning. With the river for company, the regular companionship from the trees along the bank and the ever-expanding views it was a joy. Only in the final mile did the path vanish and the going become tougher but we were soon back on the main track and eating up the miles again. We passed the locked estate bothy at Tighnacomaire where a sign directed you to a shelter further up the valley

Glen Scaddle, Tighnacomaire, Carn na Nathrach

Tighnacomaire Estate Bothy, Carn na Nathrach behind

By now I was feeling pretty weary. It was only a 6 mile flat walk but with the heavy pack it was a tiring effort. The views were still magnificent. GM told me he’d read a trip report that said Glen Scaddle was “the Konkordia of Scotland”. I can’t say it gave me a Himalayan aura but it didn’t need to. It was an absolutely stunning spot, one of the best Scottish glens I’ve walked in.

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Carn na Nathrach

Konkordia!

Just before we reached the shelter I was fit to drop and we spotted a potential site across the river. GM wasn’t happy with it and we pressed on a little further and we came to a superb spot at the point where the Gleann an Lochain Duibh meets the main river.

Glen Scaddle

River Crossing

It was a superb pitch with the stream at our side, a view the length of Glen Scaddle one side and the triple Corbetts of Sgurr Dhomhnuil, Carn na Nathrach and Beinn na h-Uamha the other way

Glen Scaddle, Gleann an Lochain Duibh,

Wild camp site at on the end of Gleann an Lochain Duibh

Glen Scaddle, Meall Dearg Choire nan Muc

Glen Scaddle and Meall Dearg Choire nan Muc

We dutifully set about making the place our home and after a pathetically poor attempt to put up my tent we finally completed the scene. The place even had a small bank that was perfect for sitting on to make brews and cook tea. Perfection

Glen Scaddle

Soaking it in

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Carn na Nathrach

Sunset over Sgurr Dhomhnuill and Carn na Nathrach

The site was just fabulous and fits in the “life doesn’t get better than this” category. Whilst I will always be a bit of peak bagger at heart, the joys of sitting in the (admittedly cold) sunshine with a fresh cuppa surrounded by views like these at a wild camp with a tinkling stream are music to the soul. I don’t know how people who don’t hike and backpack survive without it. De-stress? This is the way to do it

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Carn na Nathrach

Home from Home

Glen Scaddle, Meall Dearg Choire nan Muc

Evening light

We were enjoying the scene so much we left it a little late to cook. A quite ludicrous amount of stir fry veg and chicken with noodles was on the menu. Lightweight? Absolutely not! Delicious and filling. You bet. Nothing can take a chainsaw to your elation of fabulous setting like opening a food bag and realising its Chop Suey Beanfeast for tea. As I say I prefer to bear the weight of a decent meal

Glen Scaddle

Feast fit for a backpacker

Glen Scaddle

Caught in the act

After a meal spent in the glorious setting we took a stroll up the valley and found a whole host of quality wild camp pitches at the next river junction. The sunset was glorious but heralded a very rapid drop in temperature. There was ice forming on the tent before it was properly dark. We retreated indoors for a pre-sleep brew of tea before turning in. Water left in bowls and pots was already frozen. It was going to be a cold night

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Carn na Nathrach
Pink Sky
Glen Scaddle

Yes, it was VERY cold

When we took a trip into Glen Kingie a couple of years back the walk in was on a similarly sunny day (albeit much warmer). We went to bed wondering how we would spend the next sunny day and it was raining before we were asleep. What would the weather hold in store for us tomorrow after this fine start?

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16 responses to “Easter in Ardgour Part 1 – The Walk In

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  1. And then………………………………………..what? What a cliff-hanger!
    Looks fantastic (if a bit brass monkeys). Amazing photos.
    Nice to see somebody other than me looking daft on your blog – the photo of you slurping noodles made me chuckle.
    Looking forward to the next installment.

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    beatingthebounds
    • Don’t be so impatient, you’ll just have to wait. It was only really cold at night and then not a great deal colder than it was at Wasdale last year. When the sun was out and the wind dropped it was gorgeous. Absolute corker of a spot.
      Thought you’d like the pictures of me looking like a care in the community candidate. GM seems to have knack of catching me eating and looking stupid.
      Next installment in a couple of days (some Wales coast and Plynlimon smugness coming soon as well)

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  2. Love the shot looking up the valley to the snow covered Sgurr Dhomhnuill. Also particularly like the evening light reflection shot! Looks very peaceful. What a great trip.

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    • Thanks Bob, the water wasn’t quite still enough to get a perfect reflection but I like that photo as well. It was a stunning spot and lovely walk in. I’m just so at home at wild camp spot. It was pretty cold at night though. The next day was even better, post to come soon!

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  3. Epic! this looks like the kinda trip (cold) dreams are made of ^_^ Hurry up with the second instalment, can’t wait to read how much colder it got, ha!

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    • The nights were cold but the days were great, out of the wind you could sit without a fleece and bask in the sun. It was one of the best trips I’ve done in many a year. Next post to come in a couple of days, editing then slideshow as I type. Gardening to do later though 😦

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  4. great report. I’ve enjoyed what wild camping I have done but I struggle with the weight issue. On a day walk I eat allot and graze most the day, on a wild camp I’d like to do the same, but being only 7 stone if I pack my bag full of food I can’t carry it. It’s a constant struggle with being lightweight but getting in enough calories to move. Slightly worried about how I will help carry my daughter stuff next weekend and mine, been on a mission this evening to find lightweight but tasty muchies. Your meal does look delicious though! I’d like to return and go to some of the hills on the other side of the ferry, we were looking over at them enviously during out Scotland trip at the same time you were there.

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    • It’s always a struggle to balance weight against comfort. My wife also quite small and she has the same problem. I always go with comfort over weight but that’s easy to say when you have a 13 stone middle-aged-spread frame to bear the weight like me :).
      We’ve taken my son backpacking (he’s 13) and he carried all his own stuff (clothes, lunch, water, sleeping bag, mat) and we carried the communal stuff (stove, fuel, tent, evening meal) between us with me taking the dense heavy stuff. Important thing is to pick a short and easy walk in into a campsite and do the major part without the heavy pack. The site you mentioned in Hengwm is only an hour from the road-head. Hope you manage to get out and have a great weekend :). Check out my post below for a report of the above trip with my son:

      https://surfnslide.wordpress.com/2012/07/12/up-in-the-clouds-a-moelwyns-backpacking-adventure/

      When you go back up to that part of Scotland, you cross the ferry and lose the crowds. They are pretty rough mountains but superb with a real big mountain air to them

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  5. Looking good so far Andy. I wondered what the riverside path was like as I took the forestry track (much better than looks on the map). Glen Scaddle was a scenic gem, on a par with the Cona Glen. The weather was superb that weekend. Good to know that you were also feeling the cold a short distance away!!

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    backpackingbongos
    • We walked out by the forest track, really rather nice apart from the pain in my feet!
      I was a happy man at that campsite and in the end it wasn’t as cold at night as I thought it was going to be. Cona Glen is clearly another trip I need to do. What a fantastic area and so deserted. We saw not a soul all weekend and you came across one person. Who says the hills are too crowded (well I do actually when I climb Pen-y-Fan) 🙂
      Next (and best) installment should be up tonight

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  6. Hmm, I think I can guess what happens next – GM ticks off more corbetts. Hurry up with the next post anyway – I’d like to see the Ardgour hills as both the trips I’ve done there were ridiculously wet

    Its strange to celebrate not seeing anyone for a whole trip, but its a feeling I share – I like the complete opposite of being in town. Or maybe I am just antisocial?

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    Deutschland Jim
    • Hey Jim! Welcome to my humble blog – you must be psychic with that prediction 🙂

      GM did mention that he’d done some wet weather Ardgour with you. In fact he says every day on the hills he has with you is wet! It’s nice sometimes to see a few people on the hills and I like walking with the usual crowd. But there is something special about sitting on a mountain in the sunshine knowing you have it to yourself (or least just with a couple of others)

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  7. Looks a bit nice up in that area and you can’t beat a bit of sunshine – even when it’s cold!
    Didn’t realise you were up there as well though, when we were driving past. Did you notice me when I waved to James?

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  8. I thought I caught a glimpse over the top of my noodles 🙂
    Cold doesn’t bother me as long as there is a bit of sun and we certainly got that!

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  9. I loved hiking thru Your great photos.

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