Making an Evening of it……
Addictions need fed and my need to get high was growing. A busy few months at work and home was squeezing time and as the new week beckoned another long day travelling on the road for work was on the cards.
The day before I had thrown some light outdoors gear in the car, a boot that usually contains a pair of boots , trousers and a jacket gives the addict the chance to feed his habit should the chance arise…… The weather was fine, a late spell of settled weather as the summer ebbed away. Leaving Elgin at 16.15 and my thoughts were of a quick blast up Geal Charn again. A road side hill that can be summited easily in in under an hour, easy parking and stupendous views from the top make this a favourite quickie of mine, providing exercise, aesthetics and mind clearing properties.
But today was different, the meditating action of one foot in front of another along soft spongy terrain was usually fine for me but today I need more. Having not climbed for a while I had an urge to utilise my upper limbs in an attempt to ascend and the two scooped bowls of the Northern Corries were too irresistible to drive past this evening…..
A left turn at Aviemore and I was soon heading against a steady stream of cars, day trippers who had smiles on their faces after another fine day spent high in the Cairngorms, either via foot or by funicular access.
Parking in the ski car park I was soon happily hiking in along the well-constructed path toward Fiacaill Coire an t-Sneachda. A few years previously on a rather windy summer’s eve I had done the same, albeit harbouring ambitions slightly more ambitious than this evening’s adventure. On that occasion I climbed the Ridge with my full camping gear and enjoyed a night high on the plateaux before a 5am ascent of Scotland’s second Highest peak.
No camping gear tonight though, this was clearly a smash and grab affair, an attempt at getting maximum mountain infusion.
Striking off the main path that circumvents the corries, and the rocky granite blocks provide boulder hopping fun as I make my way for the crest. I see people ahead of me; perhaps people of a similar mind set – headed for a quick evening hike. However the strange looks I get as I say my hellos and that I am on my way up confirm that I won’t have company on Fiacaill tonight. This weary band are returning from an adventure that took place in the interior of the range and are loitering on the ridge , soaking up the warm rays before they return to civilisation. It’s a fine night to loiter, but I don’t have the time to….. Onwards and upwards, the familiar Ridge shows itself as the last of the boulder field is left behind. My excitement grows; the drops off to the left are starting to get a little more vertical and soon the ridge starts to rear upwards as it reveals its final stretches to reach the high Cairngorm Plateaux.
Hands are now removed from pockets and concentration is required. The Fiacaill RIdge at this time of year is a short lived scramble but enjoyable enough. A few steepening sections and keeping to the left of the ridge provide the best entertainment and views down in to The Coire. There is nobody down there now, strange to think in few months that this will be filled with winter enthusiasts heading up and down classic winter routes, this evenings benign weather make it look tame in comparison to the scenes coming up when winter takes a grip…
A few more rocky steps and suddenly the views are expanded. The plateau reveals itself quickly and the sky grows larger. Lochnagar and the smooth horizon of the Glenshee Hills form the sky line beyond The Cairngorms. I see two matchstick figures rimming the Corrie, matching the footsteps I will be taking in a little while. Soon I am at a Cairn, a quick look at the map and I see am elevated at 1176m, I feel great, the outdoors drug is elevating me, I may be the highest homo sapien in the UK presently.
Shadows are lengthening and I sense the long arms of dusk approach. However I am only on the edge of the wilderness. Not wanting to waste Petzl batteries, I don’t linger and soon I am amongst the metal work of Coire Cas. There are only a few cars left now. I sit and have tea (egg sandwich and the remaining wine gums).
The A9 beckons but the miles are eaten up and now the smile is on my face…
Beinn Airigh Charr and Beinn Lair
A week off – where to go and what to do…… Summit camps had crossed my mind but the weather wasn’t going to play ball, I wanted away, away from everyday life and so out came the Corbett books… I had promised myself I would make an effort to tick off my remaining 7 Munros but without companions who also like to tick these off I decided to make an indent into the Corbetts-no one would mind me ticking a few of these off… So many choices but I settled on those in The Letterewe Forest……
Heading off from the lowlands around mid-morning and I made my way north, again. Familiar hills and sights came into view and then out of view in the RVM, Drummochter Hills, The Cairngorms, Coulin Forest… Torridon…. Then Slioch and my objectives passed by… If it weren’t for Loch Maree, these would be pretty accessible locations! But the 20km stretch of water (4th largest fresh water Loch) meant I drove right past them until Poolewe was reached.
After much faffing about the bike was eventually fully loaded and ready to go… in the wilds….
A good track got me eating up the distance until the Kernsary Farm. Not long after this the forest track had me cursing as I pushed and hauled my heavy bike through bogs and puddles! However once this was done the fine single track out of the forest was cracking….
Where to camp – that was the next thought … already thoughts from the rat race were leaving my mind as survival and a place to rest my head for the night took over… I wanted to head up Beinn Airigh Charr this evening and when I found a grassy pitch at the lower reaches of Srathan Buidhe I quickly set camp. A nice northerly breeze was perfect as it kept the midge at bay (for the most part!)
Tent up and I was soon striding up the South East flank of Beinn Airigh Charr. No paths here but I was soon perched on the summit looking at the inside of a cloud. Map out and down I went for tea… As sunset approached, thoughts turned to catching a nice sunset. Around 250metres from the camp there was a slight peak. Sitting at around 250m, it wasn’t high but it did give some outstanding views over the surrounding wilderness. I spent a few hours snapping away up here, watching the sunset come and go and the gathering dusk eventually being taken by nightfall. I have done many summit camps and seen some special night skies, however this was the most stars I have ever seen, the sky was in overload… the mind wanders, rat race gone for good, what’s out there …. The glow of the Milky Way was amazing and a faint hint of green and red emerged on the northern horizon…
Eventually tiredness made me retreat to the tent. Tomorrow was going to be a long day. Sleep took me easily…
Waking to blue skies is immense, brekky was enjoyed and the bike was soon back in action, cycling to Poll Fraochain where it was left and my ascent to Beinn Lair started. This time a path made the going easier. The numerous stops were to take in the amazing scenery…. One side of Lair rolls away to the shores of Loch Maree, the side most of us see on our passage past… However, as with The Ben, the Northern slopes reveal the Hyde to the Jekyll.
Amazing cliffs line the northern flanks and if this wasn’t spectacular enough, the views open up as one gains height. Torridon fills the southern horizon, whilst we have near neighbours in Fisherfield and Slioch filling the sky. The northern horizon reveals the serrated peaks of AnTeallach – what a place to linger……
Linger I did, but I had plans to touch Fisherfield. Down I went and the bike took me across the causeway to Carnmore. I headed up and over to Fuar Loch Mor avoiding stalking on the other side of the glen….. Remote beasts A’ Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor said hello and goodbye as I decided to head back. The weather was on the slide… The blue skies were now gone and a deeper grey blue sky was rolling in from the SW….
1730 and I arrived back at the tent. Exhausted I was going to strike camp the next morning, but gale force winds (and a sleeping matt malfunction) saw me strike camp and cycle down to Poolewe in gusty winds and wet weather. A fine call by the wife saw me get the last room in the Loch Maree hotel where I arrived at 21.30….
Only come dawn did I recognise the view from my pillow…… My camp site wasn’t far away as the crow flies but in reality a long way round….. Mind was now free and fours days ahead were to be mountain filled days……
Falls of Glomach
The last day of my 6 day Corbetteering trip and I had left a long day to finish up on. The target for the day was Sgurr Gaorsaic- The Horror Peak! I had been utilising the bike well for the previous week and thought another trip up the beautiful Glen Elchaig would round things off nicely. Additionally this route offers passage past the Falls which are described as the most impressive in the UK-I would wait and see…
The day started off well with only a hint of rain coming through the clouds which were well broken. The previous three days had been wet wet wet and with wild winds on the tops so I was looking forward to a slightly better day weather wise today. I headed off from Killilan about 0830 and was soon flying up Glen Elchaig on the bike.
Unlike the previous few days I only encountered a handful of Highland Cows blocking my path and as usual I gave them a wide berth. The sun was now more prevalent as I hid the bike and headed off on foot up towards the gorge of the Allt a’ Ghlomaich. This was fantastic, the path was narrow and relatively exposed but the gorge felt pre historic and I felt like I was wondering around Jurassic Park! Although fine for hillwalkers this is definitely no tourist path and I would be wary about tackling it with children or inexperienced walkers!
Soon the falls came in to sight and the sound of the water falling 375 ft was immense. I was looking forward to a closer view. To achieve this you need to drop down a steep path to a platform that give a great view of the falls. What an immense place. I have posted a few pictures and also hope the short film does the falls justice…..
After taking in the falls I headed off o bag the Corbett. The ground between the falls and the Horror Peak is pathless , boggy and very rough!! I must admit that I was glad to get back to the path after bagging this one. Crossing the burn also proved a little tricky but I had my gaiters on and headed over with the water getting to about knee height! The views from the top were great and showed off how may bigger peaks there are in the area, from the tops in Glen Affric to those in the Sheil area.
I eventually got back to the car around 1700 and then a 3.5hr drive home to end the holiday.
Some thoughts and reports from my outdoors activties...