Archive for the ‘Western Highlands’ Category

Blue Sky, Sunshine, Panoramas and Sunsets   8 comments

A flicker of bright light caught my eye as I stirred, followed by the sound of zips and a “blam!” from GM. I was outside in a flash and this was the scene that welcomed me into the day

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Nothing finer than a wild camp and sunny clear morning, especially after a couple of days under grey skies. It was perishingly cold but you just can’t waste a scene like this. I ate my breakfast outside while GM and TJS cowered in the tents. The views were just sensational

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

A low mist hung over the valley and the low sunlight highlighted the browns of the heather and the streaks of snow

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

What really attracted the attention was Ben Nevis and Aonach Beag framed perfectly between the valley sides. We’d been here for two days and had no idea they were there. Whilst not exactly a surprise to find them there it was beguiling to suddenly find them filling the view. They continued to be focus of my attention while around the tent

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

We packed up and were off before 9, the sun warming the day by the second and making the trudge back down to Loch Treig a little lighter.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Such was the increasing warmth that we paused at the bridge over the Abhainn Rath to de-layer – thermals were not needed.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Then the hard work began. After a brief chat with a guy who seemed to be living off-grid for several months, in a tent by the derelict Creaguaineach Lodge we headed around the edge of the loch and began the long climb.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

This was to be TJS first real experience of heavy Scottish conditions, no path’s here to tame the heather and grass. We aimed directly up Creagan a Chaise, 450m of steep heather. Whilst the climb taxed the legs, the views pulled us upwards. Close at hand the small peak of Creag Ghuanach was magnificent, further afield the Mamores dominated the view west.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Binnein Beag in particular, with its perfect cone caught the eye, more so than it’s much higher more dominant neighbours.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

As we gained height the full spread of the Southern Highlands were revealed, contrasted by the glass smooth Loch Treig. All the while the warm sun and clear skies made it pretty much the perfect day. I kept reminding TJS that he was lucky to be out in the middle of the Scottish mountains on such a stunning day and he should savour this one

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

We took an early lunch basking on the rocks near the summit, soaking up nourishment, sun, and views in equal measure. I could have sat there all day to be honest but there was a summit to be bagged and we were only halfway up.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

We skirted around the summit trying to find the line of least resistance to the Moine na Gaibhre. It’s a really rather nice area of rock slabs and outcrops and grassy terraces, a perfect place for a high level wild camp.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Once across the boggy peat around the small tarn our next objective was to reach the south ridge of Stob Coire Easain, still 150m above us. The ground was steep and the thawing snow deep and wet. We managed to pick a way through, avoiding the worst of the snow but still managing to get bogged down from time to time.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Once up on the ridge the going always seems easier and with the goal in sight we picked up the pace. Coire Easain Mor was just a wall of perfect snow that looked primed and ready to slide off into Loch Treig.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

There were massive cornices to be steered away from as we hit the snow slopes that drew us up to the summit. GM and TJS seemed to have summit fever as they left me trailing on the final slopes that seemed to go on forever.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Finally, after a long climb (long mostly as we’d been savouring the day as we should) we reached the top and TJS had his first Munro.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Despite being an Easter weekend and the mountain being relatively accessible we had the place to ourselves. We had a full spread from Southern Highlands through Glencoe to the North West Highland beyond the Great Glen. East was Ben Alder and the Cairngorms.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Schiehallion as always from this direction looked pointy, rather than its real whale-backed shaped, the most false-summitted mountain in the world I seem to remember from when I climbed it

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

As always on a such a grand day it’s tough to drag yourself away. We returned along the ridge and to vary the route a little we headed down the western slopes towards the Allt na Lairige.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

I preferred the long runs of deep wet snow for rapid and cushioned progress, benefitting from having over-boot gaiters to keep my feet dry. This killed about half the descent in a matter of minutes. To celebrate we stopped and had second lunch by a cool and refreshing snow-melt stream. Me and TJS felt the benefit of our load from the first two days as we feasted on wraps filled with salami, cheese and chutney.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

GM had oatcakes. He protests (a little too much if you ask me) at how fine they are but to me they are truly the driest and blandest creation. He once convinced me to use them as the basis for my lunch on a backpacking trip. I was hungry most of the time and often wished I’d just eaten the packet. Such was the barrage of sarcasm and gloating that he received as we tucked in he could take it no more and headed back down although I did offer him some pork pie as a peace-offering. It seemed to do the trick as he had a brew ready when we got back

The descent from there was easy and trouble-free and the Allt na Lairige a splendid valley full of wild camping potential.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

There was a small sting in the tail as the river plunges into a deep ravine before it enters Loch Treig giving you a surprising and unwelcome 200 feet of ascent that wasn’t needed. We were tired and heavy legged as we returned to base camp after a top drawer day. We have been so lucky that the past three Easter trips have delivered so many awesome days. I’m not sure when I’m going to pay for it

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Lochaber 3

We had a long relaxing lie on the grass and many brews of tea to recuperate and recover and were able to eat or evening meal outside in the watery sunshine.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

There had been a bank of heavy cirrus cloud that drifted over us when we returned to camp but as the sun set the skies cleared again and treated us to a magnificent sunset. The colours deepened and intensified as the sun went down.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Then the remaining wisps of cloud went pink and red before the skies darkened on a magnificent day.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

There was just time for the ritual burning of the rubbish into a less messy and more manageable quantity.

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

Abhainn Rath, backpacking, bothy, , loch treig, Mamores, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Staoineag, Wild Camping, Ben Nevis, Aonach Beag, Creaguaineach Lodge, Creagan a Chaise, Creag Ghuanach, Binnein Beag, Moine na Gaibhre, Stob Coire Easain, Coire Easain Mor, Schiehallion, Allt na Lairige

No wood unfortunately to get a proper fire going but meths made an acceptable substitute.

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Rain, Grey Skies, Rivers and (still) Heavy Packs   4 comments

Second day of our Easter adventures was a total contrast. Blue skies and clear bold sunshine was replaced with leaden grey skies and a persistent rain. It had rained all night and a continuation led to an indoor breakfast. We finally emerged late morning as the rain stopped into a landscape drained of colour.

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

We pithered and pottered about the vicinity unsure what to do. We were still a little tired after the previous days exploits and as even the lower summits were smothered there seemed little point in any kind of hill climb.

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

After a leisurely lunch we perused options and decided to move on. Whilst a pleasant enough spot the campsite wasn’t what we had in mind and wasn’t well placed for what we’d planned. I still really wanted to see the valley around Staoineag bothy so we hoisted the still rather too heavy packs and pushed on

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

It’s only a short walk with no climbing but it was still hard work, not helped by the intermittent drizzle that kept falling. We decided on the path along the south side of the Abhainn Rath, a fairly mighty river. A somewhat sketchy and infuriating path but even on a grey day a fine stretch of Scottish valley.

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

We passed by the deserted bothy, quite a fine one, but no-one was around and no-one had made an entry in the book for a couple of weeks. Despite its remoteness I was sure it was a well-known and popular bothy and was surprised that even on an Easter weekend we saw no-one this day or any other indulging in its charms. TJS was curious to see his first bothy up close and seemed to agree with me that they can appear rather gloomy and depressing. We had planned on walking a couple of km up-river from the bothy but a few hundred yards beyond seemed far enough and we found a rather splendid spot by the river. There are any number of cracking riverside spots along this stretch on both sides of the river but the one that allowed us to drop the packs at the earliest opportunity seemed the best one.

We were soon pitched up, again in more drizzle, with the sight and sound of a roaring waterfall on the river our companion for the next 3 nights. More rain forced us to cook inside and, well, that was that for the second day. We hoped for better the next day

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

It was, but only marginally. The cloud had lifted a bit and the rain had stopped but it was still generally grey. Having achieved GM’s objective (Leum Uilleim) now it was my turn and we headed off up the valley towards Sgurr Eilde Mor, the only one of the mighty Mamores ridge I’ve not done. I have a fondness for these majestic range of mountains and not just because their name means mammaries! 🙂 One of the best ridges on the mainland with an array of massive peaks and narrow twisting ridges

We’d only gone a few hundred meters when we hit our first problem. The Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan doesn’t look like much on the map but it was wide and deep enough to need a substantial wade which none of us fancied. One look up at the hills that were white 2 days ago and now merely streaked white highlighted the blindingly obvious point that there was a thaw in progress and the rivers were full of snowmelt. We wandered up the eastern bank looking for somewhere to cross but it became obvious we weren’t going to cross it.

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

Where the river was wide and slow it was still enough to be a least a knee-deep wade. Where it was narrow enough to consider a salmon-leap the penalties for a mistake were serious. It was clear any progress further west was out of the question and my Munro bagging had gone for the weekend. Had we realised we could have easily chosen to walk up and camp on the northern side of the Abhainn Rath and stood a chance of progress west. Too late now though so a new plan was needed. (There are stepping stones at Staoineag, but they were deep underwater and must only be exposed in the driest of conditions – a contradiction in terms in the Highlands!)

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

Luckily there was a Corbett within reach, the remote and lofty Glas Bheinn. Even so we still had travel pretty much to the source of the river near the watershed before we could cross it, GM daringly, me and TJS a little more cautiously.

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

The higher corries appeared momentarily from the gloom giving a glimmer of hope for better weather and the river valley was wild, remote and rather splendid. Sometimes you can extract enjoyment just exploring a valley the probably sees almost no human traffic.

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

After a brief lunch we made a direct line up the slopes to the summit ridge and then pressed on to the top. It was cold, damp and cloudy up there and the snow was deep, wet and tiresome.

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

We lingered no more than a minute on the summit before heading straight back down, pleased to have made a decent summit on such a day.

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

As we returned to our point of ascent the cloud started to break and we got some tantalising glimpses of mountains and the wild remote moors and lakes of Rannoch Moor and Blackwater Reservoir. There was even some sunshine and the air seemed to dry out while we watched. The snow was even worse on the descent and snow melt was filling every gully with water. TJS was getting his first experience of truly wet feet, anything he’d experienced before but a mere damp rag compared to the proper slosh of a boot exposed to Scottish bog and melting snow.

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

GM left us behind, hopefully to get the brew on (which he did, bless him) and me and TJS ambled down at our own pace. In fact TJS put on a bit of burst near the end and left me trailing in his wake. All the time the weather was improving and there were even some patches of blue. He’d gone a little quiet and I think he was disappointed that his first Munro seemed unlikely now that the melting snow had cut off our planned objectives in the Mamore or the Grey Corries

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

It had been a pretty good day.

Lochaber 2

We had the first chance to enjoy our chosen site. It was a rather grand spot and we were pleased with our choice and relaxed into wild campsite slumming about

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

It was chilly enough to want to eat inside the tent though. When we emerged again, the light dimmed and the sun weakly appeared. We were treated to a show of cloud billowing over Glas Bheinn and fleeting glimpses of the surrounding and smaller hills. A fitting finale

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

backpacking,  gleann iolairean, loch treig, Scotland, Scottish Highlands, Wild Camping, Staoineag, bothy,  Abhainn Rath, Sgurr Eilde Mor, mamores, Allt Gleann na Giubhsachan, corbett, glas Bheinn

Our mood and enthusiasm brightened considerably. Nothing like a calm evening out in the wilds with a cuppa and a fruit pie. TJS mood was even more brightened when GM gave us a plan for the next day. The Easains above Loch Treig were in reach for some Munro bagging providing we didn’t mind the out and back down to Loch Treig again the way we’d walked in. A hefty old day as they top out over 1100m but well within reach. I’d forgotten they were there to be honest such was my desire to bag the ridges further west. Now we had a plan for the next day and the hope of a further improvement in the weather to send us away to bed

Heavy Packs, Trains, Sunshine and Snow   12 comments

Now here’s a first. Writing up a trip within a few days of completing it!

Our backpacking trip to Scotland over the Easter weekend has become a regular and much planned outing since 2009. Thanks to GM and his photos you also have the pleasure of seeing me in action over the next few posts!

This year we had a new member of the team

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

TJS is pretty experienced now in terms of his walks in Wales. However he has never been to Scotland and I’ve been promising to take him. This year seemed like a good time to move him on to the next level. He was just back from a long weekend on the Brecon Beacons Way with TBF in some wild, wet and stormy weather. They did some long days and clocked up some decent miles. However walking on marked paths and staying in hotels, B&Bs and Bunkhouses is a world away from the Scottish Highlands in a tent. The challenge was added to by the fact that Scotland was still in the grip of winter so conditions would be even more challenging. Added to that, we were out for 5 days and needing to carry extra food, extra clothes and ice axe and crampons. This made for a very heavy pack probably in excess of 50lbs for me and GM. With this in mind, where did we plan to take TJS for his first Scottish adventure? The most dense collection of high mountains in the UK in Lochaber!

The trip had the added bonus of kicking off with a train ride.

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

Our route was based on a start and finish at Corrour Station giving us a nice hour to chill out and enjoy the ride from Crianlarich. The weather in preceding few days had been appalling but today it was glorious. Blue skies and snow-capped peaks. The train ride was spectacular with the Southern Highlands looking majestic and a little daunting for TJS.

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

We arrived at Corrour and found snow lying right down at the station and on the platform. I’d expected snow but not this low down. Daunting indeed. Corrour is an amazing place to exit a train. Right in the middle of the mountains with not a metalled road for miles. As the train disappears into the distance you feel abandoned and committed. I felt daunted too!

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

We hoisted packs and set off into the mountains. Our plan was to backpack over the very isolated and fine Corbett of Leum Uilleim. Immediately we were in deep unconsolidated and untrodden snow.

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

The views were magnificent but the going tough. By the time we’d plodded up to the NE ridge at An Diollaid we were already feeling the strain.

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

I hadn’t expected either this much sunshine or snow and had neglected to bring either sunglasses or suncream. Schoolboy error. For this reason we were sunburnt and squinting for most of the day. We abandoned the sacks and walked out and back to the summit. It’s a mighty fine ridge but a very long way around Coir’ a’ Bhric Beag (and back again!) but the conditions were superb. Nothing finer than walking on snow in the Scottish Highlands under a blue sky. We told TJS just how lucky he was to have this on his first day. He seemed much happier without the burden of a heavy pack. He seemed especially pleased to catch his first view of Ben Nevis, looking mighty and magnificent in its winter garb next to Aonach Beag

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

As we climbed the views become better and better, especially fine back east toward Loch Ossian and Ben Alder

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

The snow cover was immense, huge fields of deep snow, hard going in places as you plopped through the crust from time to time. Both me and GM kept thinking how perfect the conditions were for ski touring!

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

We stopped briefly at the summit for a snack and pressed on back to collect the snacks. TJS was pleased to reach his first Scottish summit but still despite all his walking exploits he was still yet to reach a 3000 foot summit anywhere in the UK

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

The cloud was beginning to thicken but the weather was still grand and the return down the ridge was equally fine.

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

We reached the packs, scoffed some more food and headed off. We had a plan to camp near Staoineag bothy and headed off to cut the corner off cross-country.

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

The snow was thawing and crossing slushy snow-covered Scottish bog with a heavy pack was no fun. TJS was in particular finding it tough. He’s only ever backpacked in summer before, a single night with a couple of days food, lightweight sleeping bag and minimal clothing. Even though me and GM were carrying the bulk of the weight his pack was still an order of magnitude heavier than he’s ever carried before and he was clearly suffering. To be honest so were me and GM. I had a new pack (A Granite Gear Nimbus Trace if you’re interested) and even though it’s substantially lighter than my old one it doesn’t help when you fill it with heavy stuff. Still, the snow-capped mountain views kept our spirits up.

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

By the time we’d dropped down into Gleann Iolairean we were spent. It’s a soggy valley, albeit a nice one with a grand view down Loch Treig, but GM found an elevated patch of bracken that was reasonably dry. It was good enough and after re-enacting our own version of the Highland Clearances we were pitched. I’ve never enjoyed a brew as much as I did at that point!

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

The relief at dropping the sack was palpable. Despite the glorious weather the tough conditions and created a little tension that was all let go as we settled in. It had been a long day. Only 8 miles but with heavy packs, deep snow and no paths, that’s tough in my book

Lochaber 1

The weather was clearly on the turn but the views and the situation were still superb. Nothing finer than a good pitch out in the wilds with what feels like the whole of the mountains to yourself. We set about the important task of reducing the pack weights by eating the food. I’m not into the whole ultra-lightweight backpacking obsession although this trip was testing that reluctance severely. It’s only when you take the pack off, open it up, and realise that your reward for that pain and effort is food, nice food and lots of it that it makes it seen worthwhile. We ate like wild camping kings with fresh chicken and noodle stir fry followed by Jaffa Cakes and Tebay Fruit Pies (well worth a detour off the motorway for) washed down with plenty more tea and hot chocolate

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

crianlarich, west highland line, corrour, leum uilleim, an diollaid, coir a bhric beag, gleann iolairean, loch treig, backpacking, wild camping

Bellies full and with tired bodies we turned in. We weren’t hopeful on the weather and indeed it was raining before we fell asleep. On these trips though you take every day in turn and this had been a great one. We’d had a ride on the train, basked in the sunshine, climbed a summit, walked in the snow, had majestic views, found a decent campsite and were set up warm, cosy and dry in the tent. Whatever the next few days were to bring we had at least one glorious day. Scotland has a habit of kicking you up the ar5e when you think everything is going your way and the steady rain that lulled us to sleep was a reminder of that

Easter in Ardgour Part 4 – The Walk Out and Drive Home   16 comments

Our final day in Glen Scaddle and we woke to another glorious morning of clear blue skies. It was wickedly cold again with the easterly breeze adding an extra bite

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Early morning

We took a whole host more photos as we savoured our surroundings before we had to head back home. Mornings like this are inspiring and depressing in equal measure. Inspiring as the soaring peaks and wild glens lift your spirits. Depressing in the knowledge that the following morning I’d be waking up to another day of work in a stifling office.

Glen Scaddle

Glen Scaddle

We enjoyed a fine breakfast. Well I did anyway (GM is still in the pigeon loft scrapings club). It was then time to break down the tent, pack up, take a last lingering look at our splendid home for the past 4 days, hoist the packs and trudge off

Glen Scaddle

Late Breakfast

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Carn na Nathrach

Breaking Camp

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Carn na Nathrach

Fond Farewell

The walk out was every bit as magnificent as the walk in (albeit with tired feet and a heavy heart). The views with sun now behind us were different and yet as always with a few days spent in the same area familiar and welcoming

Glen Scaddle

Heading Home

Glen Scaddle

The Long Walk

This time we decided against the riverside path and took the forestry track. Partly for a change of scene and partly for an easier walk. It was a result on both counts and despite my very sore feet I thoroughly enjoyed it. The views back up Glen Scaddle from a break in the forest at it’s highest point were particularly fetching

Glen Scaddle

GM & the Lone Pine

Glen Scaddle

Green on Brown

Glen Scaddle

The Wild Beauty of Glen Scaddle

Heading east, it was Ben Nevis that really held the attention and it was great to watch it become larger in view as we plodded back out

Glen Scaddle, Ben Nevis

GM on the Forest Track, Ben Nevis behind

Ben Nevis

Ben Nevis

I have to admit that I found the final couple of miles along the freshly gravelled track a real chore. My feet ached and the sack was a real burden even though I’d eaten a good portion of the weight. Probably it was just the low feeling of a cracking trip coming to an end. I was glad to reach the car, drop the weight for the last time and change into some clean clothes.

Ben Nevis, Glen Scaddle

The weight is off

The weather was still glorious and I enjoyed again the superb views while waiting for the Corran Ferry

Beinn a Bheithir, Corran Ferry

Beinn a Bheithir across the Corran Ferry

Corran Ferry

Corran Ferry

Scotland had one last treat for us. The drive through Glencoe was truly magnificent. The sky a deep blue and all the big summits were in full winter conditions. They were just begging to be climbed on such a perfect day but we had long journeys home and I had to content myself with the views from the car and a few photos taken through the windscreen.

Ardgour

Southern Ardgour from the A82

Pap of Glencoe

Pap of Glencoe from the A82

Glencoe

Glencoe

Pap of Glencoe

Glencoe

Buachaille Etive Mhor

Buachaille Etive Mhor

And that was it. We headed back to Berwick via the chippy in Callander and then for for another 5 hours back home to Hereford. It was a long and lonely drive but my head was swimming with memories of a spectacular trip, one that will live long in the memory and take some beating wherever we end up next Easter

Easter in Ardgour Part 3 – Sgurr a’ Chaorainn & Beinn na h-Uamha   16 comments

Another very cold night but in the morning the skies were more hazy, a thin veneer of cirrus cloud giving the day a less bold and bright feel. It was almost disappointing after the glory of the previous day but we had to tell ourselves that by Scottish standards it was still a cracker. It was dry and the tops were clear and the sun was still out. Time for another day on these fine and rocky mountains

Glen Scaddle

Breakfast

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Gleann Mhic Phail, Sgurr a Chaorainn & Beinn na h-Uamha

After another fine fry-up it was time for the off. Our route for today were the twin summits of Sgurr a’ Chaorainn and Beinn na-h-Uamha, the latter the high point, just, and the Corbett that GM was after.

Beinn na h-Uamha

7.1 Miles, 2,850 feet of ascent

The start was a long trudge up the valley of Gleann Mhic Phail. There was a pretty good stalkers path and we made good time to the first of the rocky gorges that characterise the glen and where the path abruptly stops.

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Gleann Mhic Phail

Another short spell of foot repair and we decided that the left bank was a better option, crossing while we could and avoiding the spots higher up where the slopes directly above the gorge became steep

Gleann Mhic Phail

GM in Gleann Mhic Phail

Gleann Mhic Phail

Ice

Gleann Mhic Phail

Gleann Mhic Phail

It was tough going with peat hags and small side streams to traverse and everything watery (which as we know is everything in the highlands) frozen solid. As the heather changed to grass the going became easier and we traversed upwards to try and reach the west ridge of Sgurr a’ Chaorainn.

Beinn Resipol

Beinn Resipol

We stopped partway up for lunch figuring it would be windy on the ridge. It was a cold rocky spot so I pulled out my trusty sit mat, or I would have done if I hadn’t left it on a rock where we’d sat by the gorge earlier. Being a middle aged forgetful (and clumsy) git can be a real pain sometimes. We pressed on up the steep slopes to the ridge, picking out the scrambling sections at will.

Sgurr a Chaorainn

Rock Athlete

When we hit the ridge we were in the lee of the summit and it was calm. We were surprised to be already at the snowline and very close to the summit so another stop was in order. I checked my messages and received one from James saying he’d found an awesome high level camp site and wouldn’t be joining us in the evening as planned. Having seen his photos it was a good call as he had a tremendous spot. Kind of thing I should be doing really, a bit more than this slack-packing I seem to drift into.

Sgurr a Chaorainn

Sgurr a Chaorainn

The snow slopes were still hard packed and made for more great winter snow walking to the easy summit. As with the day before most was easy angled with no difficulties but it was great just seeking out the little climbs and interesting micro-situations

Sgurr a Chaorainn

Snow Fun

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Glencoe

Glencoe from Sgurr a Chaorainn

Sgurr a Chaorainn

Steep Snow

The views from the top were again sensational. We didn’t linger as were back in the cold wind and we’d already had our stops for lunch. The route onwards was down easy snow slopes and interesting rocky outcrops.

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

GM Descending, Sgurr a Chaorainn

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Beinn na h-Uamha from Sgurr a Chaorainn

There were even some moderately steep slopes to attempt some ice braking practice!

Sgurr a Chaorainn

Ice Axe Practice 1

The route to Beinn na h-Uamha was over a mix of steep little rocky outcrops and snow slopes. There was no need for crampons but I stuck them on and sought out what steep slopes I could – great fun and pretty much kept on snow all the way to the summit. Cresting the final rise it was a surprise to find a distinctive little summit outcrop.

Beinn na h-Uamha

GM on Beinn na h-Uamha summit

More spectacular views were in order on this marvellous peak. As per the previous couple of days and despite the quality of the mountains and cracking weather we hadn’t seen a soul.

Ben Nevis, Mamores, Beinn na h-Uamha

Ben Nevis & Mamores from Beinn na h-Uamha

Beinn na h-Uamha

The final slopes

On the way down I had some more (impromptu) ice axe practice 🙂

Beinn na h-Uamha

Ice Axe Practice 2

The snow slopes on Sgurr Dhomhnuill really caught the eye with their distinctive pattern

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

X Marks the Spot

Beinn na h-Uamha

Thirsty Work

As we headed down the northern cliffs of the mountain came into view. They are hidden from Glen Scaddle and were surprisingly rocky and holding plenty of snow. There were lots of intriguing ascent lines up the snow-filled gullies. Another day

Beinn na h-Uamha

North Cliffs of Beinn na h-Uamha

GM left me to my own pace again to sprint down and get my post walk brew ready

Glen Scaddle

Hopalong…

With the thin cloud still in place we were treated to some cracking light shows from the sun, playing light onto the mountains, river and the tent

Glen Scaddle

Evening Sun

Glen Scaddle

Glow on the Tent

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha and Gleann Mhic Phail

As befits two grown men who should know better we messed about chucking stones about and taking childish pictures before a hearty chilli for tea (extra bag of chilli needed next time)

Glen Scaddle

Childs Play

Glen Scaddle

Attention Seekiung

Post-chilli the light was just spectacular as the temperature started to plummet again.

Glen Scaddle

Evening Glow

Time for the real business of the evening. Plenty of dead wood about so we managed to get a decent fire going. Primarily this was to burn the rubbish down to a more manageable size and weight to carry out but such was the fuel supply we got a decent blaze going for a couple of hours

Glen Scaddle

Playing with Fire

Glen Scaddle

Elemental

Sitting around on the banks of the river with a brew watching the setting sun play with the surroundings and tending to the fire was perfection

Glen Scaddle

Fading Light

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Sgurr a Chaorainn, Beinn na h-Uamha and Gleann Mhic Phail

What is it with blokes and fire? Must be some kind of elemental hunter/gatherer/provider thing. Whatever it is, all my mates love messing with fires and out here it gives a real sense of the wilderness. Everything was tinder dry so we were cautious, using the bare stone and gravel of the river bed as a base and putting out the embers with water before we retired. With a proper wood fire we completely incinerated the rubbish, absolutely nothing left but ash which we buried

Glen Scaddle

It’s a bloke thing….

Glen Scaddle

…and just to prove it!

Like the previous couple of nights as darkness fell the frost started to form on the tents and we were forced into tent and bag. The pink sky bid us goodnight as we turned in

Glen Scaddle

Pink Sky

Another stupendous day on these magnificent mountains.

Easter in Ardgour Part 2 – Carn na Nathrach & Sgurr Dhomhnuill   17 comments

We were awake at 7am, a gentle dusting of frost tinkling down from the frozen inner to accompany our initial stirrings. It was perishingly cold but it looked like it might be quite nice outside. I poked my head out to scene of unmatched glory.

Glen Scaddle, Stob Mhic Bheathain

Early morning splendour

I was up and about in minutes, keen to get outside to savour the scene. You just can’t waste a morning like this indoors (or in-nylon). GM was slightly less enthusiastic as it was well below freezing in the tent but he was soon out in the sunshine. I spent a happy 10 minutes just shaking my head in wonder and snapping heaps of photos. The snow-capped mountains under the blue sky looked magnificent

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Beinn na h-Uamha

Sgurr Dhomhnuill & Beinn na h-Uamha

Glen Scaddle, Meall Dearg Choire nan Muc

Sunlight over Glen Scaddle

The frozen streams were starting to crack in the bright sunlight

Glen Scaddle, Gleann an Lochain Duibh

Frozen river Gleann an Lochain Duibh,

I’m not taken to musicals or singing as anyone who has had the misfortune to catch me attempting it when under the influence of alcohol but “Oh what a beautiful morning” came very close to a rendition. Fortunately for GM my need to eat and warm up with a cuppa took preference and the morning was complete with a freshly made bacon butty (made easier with the purchase of a non stick frying pan for my Trangia)

Glen Scaddle, Stob Mhic Bheathain

Breakfast time

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Beinn na h-Uamha

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill and Beinn na h-Uamha

Find me a better place to enjoy a fried breakfast and a brew – just magnificent

Glen Scaddle

A tent of two halves

We were underway just after 8am which is a pretty miraculous achievement for us. Faffing about is now the norm as we all enter middle age so an hour to get up have breakfast and get ready for a walk is pretty impressive. Our route for today was a grand circuit of Gleann na Cloiche Sgoilte, taking in the Corbetts of Sgurr Dhomhnuill and Carn na Nathrac (or Carn Anthrax to give it’s new name!)

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

7.2 miles, 4,450 feet of ascent

Now the sun was up it was relatively warm in the sunshine and pretty much perfect walking conditions. It looked a relatively short walk up to the first summit but once we left the path the going was rough over heather, tussocks and frozen bog with some short steep slopes that made for slow tiring progress. The views however were still sensational.

Glen Scaddle, Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Carn na Nathrach

Under way for a big day

Carn na Nathrach

Taking it all in

I wasn’t long before the previous day’s exertions took effect and my feet were in trouble again. As we hit the ridge proper I pulled over to take off my boots for some more running repairs to my feet. Pain was tempered by the amazing views and the birds eye view down the length of Glen Scaddle was particularly fine as was the massed ranks of the western highlands spread before us

Glen Scaddle

Across Glen Scaddle to the Southern Highlands

Ben Nevis, Mamores

Ben Nevis & The Mamores

Progress along the short cropped grass on the ridge was much easier and drew us quickly to the snowline. The snow was firm but the angle was easy so need for any steel-work

Carn na Nathrach

GM on Carn na Nathrach

Ardgour

GM with northern Ardgour behind

Walking along a the crest of a ridge on firm snow under a blue sky is about as good as it gets. Here, in the midst of the wild and rocky mountains of Ardgour it was near perfection.

Carn na Nathrach

GM approaching the summit of Carn na Nathrach

Carn na Nathrach

GM takes a breather

Whilst not exactly narrow, the swoops and curves of the ridge, accentuated by the snow were wonderful. There were enough little short steep sections to keep things interesting and it was almost a disappointment to reach the summit

Carn na Nathrach

Carn na Nathrach summit ridge

Carn na Nathrach

Snow work

The views from the summit were superb and we sat for a late second breakfast on the summit at around 11ish. Some light cloud had drifted in through the morning but it just added to the splendour. All around the peaks were almost too numerous to identify. Our next target, Sgurr Dhomhnuill was dominant in the foreground as were the hills towards Glenfinnan. Gulvain also caught the eye with it’s shapely curves as did Beinn Resipol in the west with the Rum and Skye Cuillin and Ben More on Mull also visible. It’s hard to tear your self away but the fresh breeze and another Corbett had us on our way

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Sgurr Dhomhnuill & Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Ben Nevis, Mamores, Carn na Nathrach

View east from Carn na Nathrach

As we headed east, we were given our first reminder that this was still winter and conditions were still not to be trifled with. There was a short steep pitch off the summit down to the easier grassy slopes, steep enough to warrant facing inwards to kick steps and whip the ice axe out for security (one heavy item needed, one pair to go). The surprising little difficulty added some excitement to what was already turning into a classic Scottish winter day

Carn na Nathrach

Descending the short steep pitch on Carn na Nathrach

The ridge west was as good as the route up and we were both enjoying the easy high level stroll across the snow

Carn na Nathrach

Looking back to the summit of Carn na Nathrach

Beinn Resipol

Looking west over Beinn Resipol

That joy was soon cut short as we now had a 350m, very steep and grassy descent down to the col. In my youth is used to run down slopes like this. 30 years on my dodgy knees have put a stop to such nonsense and I’m forced into a slow steady pace supported by walking poles. Our route of ascent, the rocky ridge of Sron Doire Nan Cabair, was looking pretty steep and intimidating but was clearly foreshortened. Having to drop down to 350m before re-ascending up to nearly 900m was not my idea of fun but the thought of gaining the summit by a wild, remote and rocky ridge that probably sees very few ascents was ample compensation

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Our ascent route to Sgurr Dhomhnuill the ridge of Sron Doire Nan Cabair

We took lunch in the col to build our spirits for the next climb (and yet more blister repairs for me). It was a wild place full of outsize erratic glacial boulders with deer trotting through at intervals, watching us with careful eyes

Gleann na Cloiche Sgiolte

The head of Gleann na Cloiche Sgiolte

The ridge was superb. The bottom section was slabs of clean dry rock that were just the right angle to walk up.

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Ascending the slabs on Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Perfect rock

As we ascended the ridge became steeper twisting and turning through small rocky outcrops that gave some interesting scrambling and still more sensational views, the view down the broad and perfect U-shape of Glen Scaddle was especially fine.

Glen Scaddle

Glen Scaddle

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

GM poses for effect

About two-thirds of the way up there was a short 5m wall that presented a slightly more tricky challenge. GM picked his way up carefully, I followed and then promptly lost my footing and fell off. Only a couple of feet but I did fall onto a snow slope and slide a few extra feet into the bargain. GM looked a little concerned but it was just a little lost pride and a wet ar5e for me. Memories of Rum from a few Easter’s back!

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Scrambling the mid section

From there we were up to the snow line and the situations, seeking out the patches of snow and turning the rocky sections, were sublime and the summit of the subsidiary peak was in sight. The sun lighting the snow clad northern corrie was majestic. We’d carried the bloody things for miles so we thought it was time to don the crampons, especially if we came to any awkward sections

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Up to the snow line

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Winter conditions

P1170714b

Perfect snow

We walked off the ridge to try and find a snow slope to the summit. This was the highlight of the whole weekend. A broad couloir with perfect crisp snow just the right angle for an easy yet exhilerating climb. The blue sky above turned that deep colour that you only see on crisp clear winter day. It was sensational and we lingered over its delights, taking pictures of each other in various poses

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Awesome snow slope

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Moment of the trip

It was almost alpine in character and the pity was it was over all too soon. For 10 minutes we were both lost in that wonder that comes from winter mountaineering in sunshine. Those 10 minutes will live in my memory for a very long time indeed

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

Alpine

Sron Doire Nan Cabair

This is what it’s all about

We emerged onto the nameless top grinning insanely at the magnificent ascent. Stick that ridge in the Lake District or Snowdonia and it would be a classic. Here in remote Ardgour we had the whole thing to ourselves in perfect conditions. Lucky? To paraphrase Gary Player, the more often I go out into the mountains the luckier I get

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Ben Nevis, Mamores

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Ben Nevis and the Mamores

Up at over 800m the snow cover was more continuous and was pretty much all snow to the base of the final climb to Sgurr Dhomhnuill. It looked pretty steep from below looking all its 888m in height. We’d been following a set of footprints (the only sign of life we saw all day and in fact all weekend).

Rois Bheinn, Rum

Rois Beinn with Rum behind

I decided to follow them up to the top but they seemed to seek out a mix of very steep ice and very deep mush. It was pretty tough going and in one or two places relatively serious, enough to make me glad I brought the crampons and axe

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

Steep final climb to Sgurr Dhomhnuill

We were now over 4000 feet of ascent for the day and I was starting to feel it. I made a pretty good hash of the climb with some poor route finding decisions.

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

Steep snow work on Sgurr Dhomhnuill

My frustration at not finding the same nirvana I’d found 30 minutes earlier and my tiredness made me a little grouchy for a few minutes. Once over the worst and arriving of the summit that soon dispelled and after a couple of minutes gazing at the views I was at one with the mountains again

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

GM on Sgurr Dhomhnuill summit with NW Highlands behind

Glen Scaddle, Lochaber

Glen Scaddle and the Lochaber Mountains

As expected of the highest mountain of the trip the views were fabulous. We sat for a snack and whole load more photos (we took hundreds between us that day). I remembered that I’d made a vague plan to possibly meet with James Boulter from Backpackingbongos so I checked my phone. He’d sent me a text saying he was in the next valley/hills to the north, that he was having a superb time (of course) and that he hoped to see me the next evening. I replied with our own happy thoughts and that we’d meet up tomorrow

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Glencoe

Zoom shot from Sgurr Dhomhnuill to Glencoe

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Garbh Bheinn

Garbh Bheinn from Sgurr Dhomhnuill,

Alas we’d reached that point where you need to head down. The snow from the summit led us easily down and some of the little micro-views across shadowed snow slopes were again just inspiring. I was pretty shattered but with the snow on the upper slopes and the easy angled grass slopes lower down the first part of the descent was a pleasure

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

Homeward bound

Sgurr Dhomhnuill

Reflections on Snow

I settled into my steady plod and GM settled into a much faster plod interspersed with waiting for me. I told him I was happy enough to saunter down on my own and that he should race on down and have a brew ready for me when I got back which to his credit he did. By the time I got back the skies were clearing again and we settled down for another glorious, sunny but cold evening in our private Scottish glen, nourished by the finest backpacking meal that a hiker could wish for, anchovy carbonara 🙂

Sgurr Dhomhnuill, Beinn na h-Uamha, Gleann Mhic Phail

Beinn na h-Uamha and Gleann Mhic Phail

Glen Scaddle

Suburbs of our wild camp site

Apologies for a very photo-dominated post but such a day demands reminders of each and every classic moment. I was hard pressed to edit out all the photos so I’ve been indulgent in creating a 9 minute slideshow. I enjoyed every minute of putting it together and every 20 times I’ve watched it through since. What a day!

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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