Auchlean – Glen Tromie
04 April 2011
24.2 km/694 m/08:30 hrs
Although the weather forecast had been for rain and severe gales, I thought I would be ok as long as I did a Low Level route and found a camp site in a sheltered place. Besides, the day before was supposed to be quite bad as well and it turned out to be sunny with hardly any wind – at least in Inverness! The MWIS has recently developed a reputation for being over-cautious a lot of the time, especially regarding wind speeds. So, I was hoping they would have got it wrong again this time…
I set off just before 11:00 from the car park near Auchlean at the end of the single track road in Glen Feshie.
It was very windy (a headwind, as usual…) and a constant, fine drizzle was blown in my face.
At the first gate, a notice reminds walkers and cyclists of the fact that the rotten bridge at Carnachuin was washed away in September 2009.
Behind the gate, the first stream crossing has to be negotiated. I was too lazy to change into my water shoes that I normally use for wading through rivers, and tried to use some stepping stones instead. Unfortunately, some of them were submerged under water, and the last one was just that little bit too far away from the opposite bank, so I had to step into the water and ended up with a water-filled left boot (just what I needed, only ten minutes into the walk!).
The next stream, the Allt Garbhlach, was easier although it is more substantial.
Soon after, Glenfeshie Lodge comes into sight on the other side of the river.
At this point, the drizzle turned into heavy rain, and I made my way to the bothy at Ruigh-aiteachain as quickly as possible.
The bothy was very tidy with a large supply of firewood in one of the rooms. I had an extended lunch break, waiting for the rain to stop, and having a quick read in the bothy books. I found some entries by former TGO Challengers particularly interesting, as I will also pass through Glen Feshie on my Challenge route.
When I left the bothy, the sun was shining, but at the same time the drizzle just wouldn’t stop.
The landrover track leading up Slochd Mòr on the other side of the river – I was planning to cross at the ford about one km upstream. I knew from a previous crossing that there were large boulders used as stepping stones, although the ones in the middle were too far apart so I would need to wade anyway.
View from higher up the path.
Approaching the ford, I met two walkers who were on a round trip from the Linn of Dee.
Because of the weather forecast, they were planning to spend the night in the bothy instead of camping. When I asked them about the ford I was planning to use, they reckoned that the river would be rather deep as even the stepping stones were submerged unter the water.
A few hundred metres back, the river had looked quite shallow, so I decided to turn back and try and get across further downstream. This time I put my water shoes on and rolled my trousers up, and inspite of “looking shallow” the river was more than knee deep in places.
On the other side of the River Feshie, I walked up the wide track.
From this point on, the walk became quite boring…
Shortly after passing Lochan an t-Sluic, there is supposed to be a path leading through the forest (at least there is one on the map!), but as hard as I tried, I couldn’t find anything resembling a path, so I stayed on the Landrover track winding its way up the hill.
Can a hillwalk get any more depressing?
What a difference to last week’s walk 😦
Because of the lack of scenery to speak of, my mind must have wandered a bit. Although I had looked at the map and knew I would have to turn sharp right at the edge of the forest to my left, I suddenly found myself on a very boggy path leading into a glen that didn’t look as if it led into civilization.
I got the compass out and set the map, only to find I was heading into Gleann Chomhraig – and the Allt Bhran was right behind me… ooops.
Instead of turning back along the path, I took a shortcut to the Feith an Dubh-chadha, a stream flowing into the Allt Bhran. The terrain was probably a “reward” for my stupidity, because it looked like this for most of the way:
The rain had stopped at last, and in the sunshine the landscape looked almost “Monadhliath”-esk 😉
Snow-covered hills of the Gaick Forest.
Eventually I reached the Allt Bhran.
The weir further downstream cannot be crossed because the top is rounded, and it looked very slippery as well.
But on the other side, the river is very shallow and can be easily forded on stepping stones.
The Road to Nowhere… this seemed to develop into a pattern on this walk!
After passing a bridge over the Allt Bhran, the track turns into a metalled road.
I had planned to camp somewhere near Bhran Cottage, but when I got there it seemed to early to stop for the day, and I walked on further along the road.
Unfortunately, there were no suitable camp sites on the way.
But when I got to the foot of Croidh-la, I was suddenly spoilt for choice. Flat, grassy ground on both sides of the road! In the meantime the wind had picked up, and considering the weather forecast, I decided against a pitch near the river because it would have been too exposed. I found a good spot on the other side of the road, sheltered from both sides behind some gorse bushes.
When I cooked my dinner in the tent porch, I had to use the windshield for the stove because it was quite windy, but still not too bad. I went to sleep at about 22:00, but woke up again just after midnight when a storm was raging outside.
First I was just lying awake and listening to the noise the trees on the hillside were making. I was trying to tell myself that I was far enough away to be safe from any falling branches, but the storm became stronger all the time, it had started to rain heavily, and I began to worry that my tent might not be able to stand up to this (the pole was bending in the wind and the tent fabric flapping in my face). As a precaution, I packed up as much as I could, so that if necessary I would be ready for a quick escape…
Although I was very tired, there was no way I could sleep because I was really scared. I put my headtorch on and had a look at the map to consider my options. At this point I was actually thinking of packing up, walking to Kingussie (2 to 3 hrs away), spending the night at the train station, catching the first train to Aviemore and getting a taxi from there to retrieve my car!
I couldn’t have walked back to Auchlean as planned, because no way I would have walked through a forest in this weather. There were just two problems: I didn’t really expect the train station in Kingussie to be open during the night, and I wasn’t sure if it was possible to walk in this storm – I would have probably been blown over by the wind.
Considering all this, I came to the conclusion that it would be best to stay where I was, hope for the best and wait for the storm to pass. I must have fallen asleep at some point, because I woke up at 05:00 and there was only a light wind outside. That was definitely my scariest night in a tent so far, and I am very glad I wasn’t high up a hill.
P.S. Oh, how I would have liked to be in a bothy that night…!
P.P.S. MWIS were right this time 😉
Glen Tromie – Auchlean
05 April 2011
16.4 km/290 m/04:45 hrs
The next morning, I only wanted to get away as quickly as possible, I didn’t even have breakfast (I had packed the stove away during the night anyway), and I was ready to go just after 08:00 – which is very early for me!
Only 300 metres away from my camp site, I came across this cottage, with the door half open. I was wondering if I could have found shelter in there during the storm, or if there was someone inside, but I didn’t go and have a look.
Further along the road, I was reminded that I was approaching civilization again: There are a few similarly designed modern houses that felt somehow out of place in this glen, but also some more traditional styles on the other side of the river.
Past the Woods of Glentromie, the glen widens and the scenery made me think of Yorkshire country lanes…
Oh, and the road I’ve been walking is NOT for cars:
After turning right at a road junction, I followed this idyllic path through a small forest…
… and arrived in the equally idyllic tiny village of Drumguish. At this point I really began to enjoy the walk, although it was still windy, it just felt good to be walking in the warm sun and to forget about the horrible night.
At this junction, I followed the sign back to Glen Feshie.
Looking back to Drumguish.
After another stretch of forest road, the track emerges into the wide glen of the Allt Fhearnasdail.
Cottage at Baileguish.
Sheltered behind a wall of the sheepfold at Corarnstilmore I had breakfast – at last!
After walking through another forest, I was back in Glen Feshie again.
Sign for the only bridge that’s left in Glen Feshie:
The bridge over the River Feshie.
Soon I was approaching the first stream I had to ford the day before, but this time I didn’t even try to use the stepping stones. The water seemed even deeper than the previous day, so I just waded through. Of course I ended up with water-filled boots again, but now I was almost back at the car, and I always keep a spare pair of shoes and dry socks in the boot 😉
Apart from the scary night in the tent, this was mainly a pleasant, easy walk (apart from the middle part which I found quite depressing, scenery-wise). It was a good training, I am getting used to the weight of the rucksack and don’t really feel it anymore (but then again, it was only 11 kg for the two days and there was no ascent to speak of). But by now I am quite confident that I should manage the Challenge without any major problems *fingers crossed* 🙂