Backpacking trip from Achnasheen to Locheilside

After the TGO Challenge in May, I felt I had left some “unfinished business” – the Munros I had wanted to climb en route, but had to omit due to the bad weather. I also wanted to explore some areas I didn’t know yet, although I knew their surroundings very well from previous day walks. So I planned a route in a north-south direction that would take me from Achnasheen to Locheilside, crossing several glens and bagging some Munros on the way.

Wednesday 22 June 2011:
Achnasheen – River Orrin (21.8 km, 746 m Ascent)

Thursday 23 June 2011:
River Orrin – Allt Innis a’ Mhuilt (22 km, 1318 m Ascent)

Friday 24 June 2011:
Allt Innis a’ Mhuilt – Doire Gairbhe (21.8 km, 1890 m Ascent)

Saturday 25 June 2011:
Doire Gairbhe – Morvich (18.4 km, 671 m Ascent)

Sunday 26 June 2011:
Shiel Bridge (Rest day)

Monday 27 June 2011:
Cluanie Inn – Allt Torrain Dharaich (24.9 km, 893 m Ascent)

Tuesday 28 June 2011:
Allt Torrain Dharaich – River Kingie (24.6 km, 1812 m Ascent)

Wednesday 29 June 2011:
River Kingie – Glenfinnan (22.1 km, 984 m Ascent)

Thursday 30 June 2011:
Gleann Fionnlighe – Locheilside (26.1 km, 1444 m Ascent)

Total: 181.7 km, 9758 m Ascent

Day 1, Wednesday 22 June 2011

Achnasheen – River Orrin

21.8 km/746 m/08:00 hrs

The previous evening I had ordered a taxi for 08:30 to take me to the train station. I was just going to have a final look at my pack list, when the taxi arrived 10 minutes early, so I had to grab my rucksack and rush downstairs. The next few hours I spent worrying about what I might have forgotten to pack! Nothing, as it turned out, but I arrived at the station far too early at 08:30, with my train to Achnasheen due at 09:00.

I got off the train in Achnasheen at 10:20, had a quick sandwich in the wooden shelter outside the station, put my gaiters on and was ready to go. I walked south along the A 890 until I got to the footbridge across Loch Gowan.

On the other side of the brige I followed the boardwalk and then the path along the Allt Mhartuin.

Wild orchids along the way.

And a rather dodgy looking bridge.

Near Carn Mhartuin I met the only other walkers that day, a couple from the Lake District who were staying in a caravan at Kinlochewe.

The path leads through a forest and eventually emerges at Scardroy Lodge at the head of Loch Beannacharain.

Sign at the entrance to Scardroy Lodge.

At the lochside, I tried to have a break, but the midges were so bad that I had to eat my sandwich walking up and down the road…

At Inverchoran I crossed the River Meig and walked past the farm buildings, where a large herd of deer were grazing in the grounds.

When I came closer, the deer jumped over a fence where they were confronted by one of the resident horses…

After a while, the deer decided to back off into the forest.

Just before the farm buildings a sign shows the route that walkers are expected to take, which means fording the river instead of using the bridge.

Several fierce looking dogs were barking wildly and jumping up and down in their kennels while I was crossing the river. After that, it was a quiet walk up the hill behind Inverchoran.

It was raining on and off by now, but soon I was over the pass and down in Glen Orrin.

After a short stretch through the forest…

… the path emerges by the River Orrin.

Approaching the river, I was looking out for the bridge which (according to the map) is a couple of hundred metres upstream from the forest, but… there was no bridge. Thankfully, when I got to the river, I saw the bridge on my left – phew!

I made my way carefully along the wet and slippery wooden planks, and because of the fast flowing river underneath, the whole bridge seemed to move sideways.

On the other side, I started looking for a camp site, but the only flat, grassy patches were very close to the (noisy) river. In the end I pitched my tent right beside another bridge across the Allt Coire na Sgùile, the place was a bit midgy but there was not much choice. I didn’t bother having a hot meal because I wasn’t very hungry, and went to bed just after 21:00.

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Day 2, Thursday 23 June 2011

River Orrin – Allt Innis a’ Mhuilt

22 km/1318 m/10:00 hrs

Munros: Sgùrr a’ Choire Ghlais,  Sgùrr Fhuar-thuill (Nos. 170 + 171)

The noise of the stream just beside my tent woke me up several times during the night, besides, it didn’t seem to get dark at all. At 09:00 I was ready to go, walked across the bridge and up the path along the Allt a’ Bhealaich Bhig.

I had planned to climb up to the bealach between Carn nan Gobhar and Sgùrr a’ Choire Ghlais, but from the distance this looked very steep. On the northern flank of Sgùrr a’ Choire Ghlais I noticed a grassy ramp leading diagonally to the ridge, which seemed a much easier way up.

Looking back down to Glen Orrin.

Ascending the grassy ramp.

Devil’s Matchstick growing in the corrie.

When I finally arrived on the ridge, I left my rucksack on the bealach and quickly climbed to the summit of Sgùrr a’ Choire Ghlais.

Last August I had made my first attempt at the Strathfarrar Munros, but the weather had been horrible, and after climbing Sgùrr na Ruaidhe and Carn nan Gobhar in fog and rain without any views to speak of, I was fed up and decided to come back another time for the other two Munros (which are the more interesting ones of the four anyway).

So today I only had half of the ridge to do, and this time I could actually see the hills I was climbing!

The summit of Sgùrr a’ Choire Ghlais has got two large cairns and a trig point, and to be on the safe side, I visited all three.

I returned to the bealach, collected my rucksack and followed the ridge.

Looking back to Sgùrr a’ Choire Ghlais, Carn nan Gobhar on the left.

When I got to the summit of Sgùrr Fhuar-thuill, it started to rain and the clouds were lowering quickly. But I managed to get a glimpse of Sgùrr na Muice and Loch Toll a’ Mhuic.

With the weather deteriorating, I didn’t make the detour to Sgùrr na Fearstaig which is supposed to be a good viewpoint, instead I followed the stalkers path down into Toll a’ Mhuic.

Stalkers path.

On the way down a hill runner caught up with me, and stopped for a chat. He had looked at the weather forecast in the morning and said that tomorrow was supposed to be better than today – I was glad to hear that, because tomorrow would be the hardest day of my trip.

Loch Toll a’ Mhuic with its small beach at the north end would be a nice spot for a wild camp.

It doesn’t look that far on the map, but it took me almost two hours to get to the road in Glen Strathfarrar.

I turned left towards the bridge at NH 230387.

But when I arrived, I found that the bridge was closed!

I couldn’t believe it – I had planned to cross the River Farrar, get as close to the Mullardoch ridge as possible, and camp high to shorten the next day a little bit. I was really tempted to clamber around the boarded-up gate and use the bridge anyway, but it did look very dodgy and in the end I decided not to take the risk.

The river was in spate and in some places the ground on either side of it was flooded, so wading was not an option. I had no choice but to make the long detour around the two dams at the eastern end of Loch Monar. As if to add insult to injury, it started to rain heavily while I was walking upstream along the road…

Looking down to the outlet of the dam, the power of the water was quite impressive.

Loch Monar.

After crossing the second dam, I made my way down Glen Strathfarrar again, this time along the Uisge Misgeach.

At last I could get to the other side, across this very solid looking bridge!

The rain had stopped and suddenly the glen looked a lot friendlier.

I walked up the track along the Allt Innis a’ Mhuilt, looking for a camp site.

Eventually I found a bit of flat ground under a large Scots Pine, just beside the track. I cleared the ground from twigs and cones and pitched the tent.

It was just a few steps down to the river for water, and a slight breeze kept the midges away. Perfect!

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Day 3, Friday 24 June 2011

Allt Innis a’ Mhuilt – Doire Gairbhe

21.8 km/1890 m/12:30 hrs

Munros: Carn nan Gobhar, Sgùrr na Lapaich, An Riabhachan, An Socach (Nos. 172 – 175)

When I looked out of the door, the mountains were clear – that’s what I had been hoping for, because today’s goal were the Loch Mullardoch Munros.

There was a slight drizzle when I packed up the tent, but it didn’t last long, and when I walked up through the forest, it quickly became sunny and very warm.

Looking back to yesterday’s hills.

After the track ended, I kept walking between the Allt na Creige Duibhe and the Allt na Fèithe Bàine towards the 815 m top on the ridge. This was hard going on boggy ground, covered in knee-deep heather. It became slightly easier higher up, where the vegetation changed to grass, but it was still very wet underfoot.

To save some energy (I thought I might need it later!) I didn’t climb over Creag Dubh, but contoured around its southern flank.

The Strathfarrar Munros.

From the wide, stony bealach between Creag Dubh and Carn nan Gobhar it was easy going to the first Munro of the day.

First I walked to the South top, marked by a large cairn, to get a view down to Loch Mullardoch…

… and then to the summit, with its much smaller cairn.

From the summit, I descended to the Bealach na Cloiche Duibhe. The upper part of the ascent route to the second Munro, Sgùrr na Lapaich, looks quite daunting from here!

Loch Tuill Bhearnach, another potential wild camping spot.

The way up Sgùrr na Lapaich starts easy enough…

… but to get to the summit, a steep boulderfield has to be negotiated. There seems to be a way around it on the right hand side, but this was blocked by snow, which I assumed to be quite unstable at this time of year.

Even some of the largest rocks were loose, and although I don’t mind this kind of terrain with a small daypack, I found it very unpleasant with a large rucksack which was pulling me out of balance.

Looking down the steep boulderfield and back to Carn nan Gobhar.

It was quite a relief to finally arrive at the summit!

Near the summit I met two walkers who had come up via Sgùrr nan Clachan Geala, and who were heading down the way I came.

Loch Monar with the Torridon hills just visible on the horizon.

Thankfully, the way down the SW ridge of Sgùrr na Lapaich was a lot easier than the way up had been. The next part of the ridge was Creagan Toll an Lochain, with interesting crags on the right hand side and two nice lochans.

Creagan Toll an Lochain.

Looking back at the easy descent route from Sgùrr na Lapaich.

This part of the ridge is very pleasant on a path winding its way through little crags, close to the edge of the corrie.

After reaching the 1120 m top, it is an almost level walk to the summit of An Riabhachan a few hundred metres further along the ridge.

An Riabhachan summit cairn.

The views in all directions were stunning, with the Glen Affric Munros to the South…

… Skye to the West…

… and the Loch Monar hills to the North, with Torridon behind.

But I couldn’t believe how far away An Socach, the fourth and last Munro, looked!

A steep path leads first down and then up to an intermediate top at 1040 m.

From there it is another scrambly descent to Bealach Bholla, and finally the last climb to An Socach.

By now I had been walking for ten hours, and my legs just had enough! Although the last ascent is not extremely steep, it took me absolute ages to get to the top.

Finally, at 19:45 I reached the summit of An Socach.

View to Loch Calavie and the West Monar and Torridon hills.

Loch Mullardoch and the Glen Affric Munros.

I followed the ridge for another 300 metres and then descended in a SW direction.

The slope was easy-angled and grassy, and I could even run in some places.

Clouds lit up by the setting sun.

Looking into Coire nan Each.

I descended in a westerly direction to Loch Mhoicean, hoping to find a camp site for the night.

When I arrived by the loch, there was no wind at all, which meant: The midges were out in force! Besides, the ground around the loch was waterlogged…

I had no choice but to walk all the way around the loch and along the outflow. Eventually I found a tiny flat patch of grass so close to the stream that the guylines would end up almost in the water, but at this point I was so exhausted that I didn’t care anymore.

After a very long day of 12.5 hours walking, I was too tired to eat properly, so I just had my usual “dinner after a hard day” of coffee and soup and went straight to bed.

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Day 4, Saturday 25 June 2011

Doire Gairbhe – Morvich

18.4 km/671 m/9:30 hrs

When I woke up, I felt actually quite hungry and had some Travel Lunch Beef Stroganoff for breakfast! Then I took the tent down, and managed to lose one of my red tent pegs (not the tooth picks that come with the LaserComp, but lightweight aluminium pegs), it just slipped away and although I looked for it all around my camp site, I couldn’t find it. Must have ended up in the stream, I suppose.

The weather was very mild, with a slight drizzle and lots of midges. I walked along the Allt na Doire Gairbhe and past Iron Lodge.

Between Iron Lodge and Carnach, I came across a large herd of Highland Cattle – they were just about everywhere, some on the path, and the rest of them on either side of it. In other words, there was no escape, and I had to walk right through them.

A cow with three calves around her was blocking a bridge, so I walked around on the right hand side, scrambling through a steep-sided stream bed which was fortunately almost dried out. There were more cattle around the next bend, I made a wide detour again to the right, where they were standing so far apart that I could keep a distance of a few metres between me and them. But, as usual, I avoided any eye contact and tried to get past them as quickly as possible, and it was a great relief to look back after a few hundred metres and to see them still standing in the same place!

Loch na Leitreach.

Thankfully, no more cows after Carnach – only fluffy friendly sheep…!

About 1.5 km past Loch na Leitreach I tried to locate the path that climbs up the slopes on the south side of the River Elchaig towards the Eas Bàn Waterfall.

Where the path crosses the river (according to the map), there was no bridge or obvious ford, so I spent quite a while wandering up and down the river to find a suitable place to wade across. When I got to the other side, I still couldn’t find the path.

As usual, I only had the Landranger map with me, which doesn’t show enough detail to navigate in difficult terrain. After wasting a lot of time walking up and down the glen and still not finding a way up the hillside, I was even considering walking back to the path that leads up past the Falls of Glomach.

But in the end I decided to somehow make my way up the steep slopes towards a small cluster of trees, hoping to find the path as it leads past and above the trees. This was hard going because the ground was very steep, and covered in high bracken and heather, with large rocks in between.

Eventually I saw the path a few metres below me 🙂

Following the path made the walking a lot easier, although I managed to lose the path temporarily in the bog on the bealach.

Looking down Glen Elchaig.

Eas Bàn Waterfall.

After a while, I found the path again, running along the stream into Gleann Chòinneachain.

It soon turns into a very steep forest road leading down into the glen.

The path goes through a field with lots of foxgloves, and then crosses the Abhainn Chonaig via a wooden bridge.

From there it is a pleasant walk on a good footpath to Morvich.

Looking back into Strath Croe.

I checked into the Morvich campsite (£ 9 per night), which has got a drying room, a laundry, and a hairdryer in the shower block. Some essentials are available at the campsite shop, like ice cream and soft drinks 🙂

After a little break with a well-deserved Magnum White I pitched my tent, washed some clothes and put them into the drying room over night, together with my wet boots. Then I had dinner, consisting of coffee, soup, Dolmio Pasta with Bolognese Sauce, followed by hot chocolate and biscuits.

Although I was very tempted to fall asleep after all this, I got up again to have a shower and wash my hair at about 23:00. When I walked back to my tent, it was still almost daylight!

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Day 5, Sunday 26 June 2011

Shiel Bridge (Rest day)

I woke up to heavy rain, which became even heavier while I was having breakfast. Fortunately, today was supposed to be my rest day anyway! The roads on the campsite were flooded, and I didn’t fancy another night on the campsite in these conditions.

I packed up my tent under one of the wooden cooking shelters and started walking to Shiel Bridge. As my boots were almost dry after a night in the drying room, I put them into my rucksack and walked in Crocs.

Loch Duich looking very gloomy…

A few weeks ago I had emailed the Kintail Lodge Hotel asking about vacancies at the Trekkers’ Lodge, but they had been fully booked. I was hoping someone might have cancelled because of the weather, and so I just walked in to ask again. The Trekkers’ Lodge was still full, but there was space in the Wee Bunkhouse.

I normally prefer the Trekkers’ Lodge because it has got single rooms, two bathrooms and a good-sized kitchen, whereas the Wee Bunkhouse consists of one room only with three bunk beds, a kitchenette and a tiny shower room in one corner (at the same price of £ 14.50 per night). But the only other option would have been the campsite at Shiel Bridge, so I checked into the Wee Bunkhouse.

As it was still early in the morning, the previous guests had left, but the room had not been tidied up yet. I put my rucksack beside one of the beds, packed a small daypack and walked to the bus stop in Shiel Bridge to catch a bus to Kyle of Lochalsh.

First I went to the Tourist Information hoping to get a weather forecast for the next day. I would have to cross the River Loyne and I was slightly worried about its water levels in case it would keep raining until tomorrow. But no such luck, the friendly assistant at the TI had no info whatsoever about the weather – I would have thought that’s one of the things Tourist Information offices are for?

My next stop was the Coop, where I did some food shopping for tomorrow’s breakfast and for the next walking days. After spending as much time as possible in the shop, the question was – where to go on a rainy and windy Sunday in Kyle of Lochalsh? The only place I could find was the pub at the the Lochalsh Hotel, so that’s where I spent the rest of the afternoon.

Eventually I could get a bus back to Shiel Bridge, where I was still the only guest at the Wee Bunkhouse. I had a shower, got changed, sorted my maps for the next day and went over to the pub where I had a very nice bar meal of Cullen Skink, then Chicken breast filled with Haggis, followed by Apple Pie with cream, and two bottles of Magners 🙂  The MWIS weather forecast was available as well, and it looked quite promising for the next day!

Back at the bunkhouse, I found I had a roommate, mountain guide Ian Stephenson who was going to do the South Glen Shiel ridge with a client the next day. It was very interesting to talk to him, but it was getting late, and soon it was time to call it a day.

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Day 6, Monday 27 June 2011

Cluanie Inn – Allt Torrain Dharaich

24.9 km/893 m/09:00 hrs

Ian left at 08:30 to meet his client at the Cluanie Inn and offered me a lift, but I already had a ticket for the bus at 09:14.

Loch Duich looked a lot brighter than the day before!

I arrived at the Cluanie Inn at 09:35 and walked along the tarmac road that soon turns into a track which leads around the eastern end of the South Glen Shiel ridge.

Sign at the start of the road.

Looking back along the Allt Giubhais to Loch Cluanie.

I made good progress on the excellent track, and soon I got the first view of Glen and Loch Loyne.

Ford at the Allt Coire nan Leac.

Spidean Mialach seen across the glen.

As the river seems to become wider further down, I tried to find a way across it before the ford where the path meets the river. I managed to get across on stepping stones by a little island a few hundred metres upstream from the ford.

Looking up Glen Loyne.

After climbing over a stile beside a gate, a very boggy area has to be crossed, but eventually a path materialises.

I followed the path down to the long single track road that leads from Loch Garry to Kinloch Hourn.

After a short break by the bridge I walked along the road to the dam at the east end of Loch Quoich.

I climbed over the locked gate and crossed the dam. What follows on the other side, must be one of the boggiest “paths” in the Highlands…

View along Loch Quoich, with the Knoydart hills in the distance.

I had intended to camp somewhere before the path enters the forest, because I wanted to traverse Gairich the next day, but the ground was too uneven and boggy. But I remembered a good camp site nearby that I had noticed during the TGO Challenge in May.

I followed the path into the forest and turned left when I reached the forest road. In a wide bend about 500 metres further, there is a flat area covered in dry, short grass, with a stream running just beside it. Unfortunately, the midges were a nuisance, and there was a layer of rubble under the grass so that I couldn’t get the tent pegs very far into the ground. But as the air was absolutely still, that wasn’t a problem.

Later that evening, I changed my mind about the next day. Instead of traversing Gairich and camping on the bealach Bac an Leth-choin between Meall a’ Choire Bhuidhe and Sgùrr an Fhuarain (one of my planned camp sites during the Challenge, but this never happened because I walked a low level route through Glen Kingie), I would climb Gairich with a light daypack and then I should be able to do Sgùrr an Fhuarain and Sgùrr Mòr on the same day. Looking forward to a long, but interesting day, I fell asleep very quickly after my dinner.

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Day 7, Tuesday 28 June 2011

Allt Torrain Dharaich – River Kingie

24.6 km/1812 m/11:00 hrs

Munros: Gairich, Sgùrr Mòr (Nos. 176, 177)
Corbett: Sgùrr an Fhuarain (No. 29)

In the morning, the flysheet was covered in midges, inside and out. Eventually I dared to leave the tent to brush my teeth, a bit awkward with the midge net over my head and wandering up and down… At 09:15 I was ready to go, and apart from a slight drizzle it was a pleasant day, warm and no wind.

The ruined house at Lochan.

Soon the clouds lifted and patches of blue skye became visible – and suddenly Gairich was almost clear of clouds.

So that’s how Glen Kingie looks in the sunshine (very different from how it looked in May)!

When I arrived at the start of the stalkers’ path that leads up the western shoulder of Gairich Beag, I stopped to pack a small daypack for the ascent of Gairich. Just at this moment a heavy rain shower came down, and the contents of my rucksack became a bit wet. I put the large rucksack (with rain cover on) behind a rock and walked up the easy-angled stalkers’ path.

Looking across Loch Quoich to Sgùrr a’ Mhaoraich.

After the 730 m top of Gairich Beag, the terrain flattens out before the final rise to the summit of Gairich.

Just as I approached the summit, dark clouds appeared and within minutes it started to rain.

The “view” near the summit…

When I reached the summit, I got no views, it was cold, windy and wet, so I didn’t hang around, just took a compass bearing and made my way down again.

A short while after I had left the summit, it stopped raining and the clouds lifted… typical!

View across Loch Quoich, Beinn Sgritheall just visible on the skyline, a bit left of centre.

When I got back to my rucksack, I had a short break and tried to decide what to do. It was after 14:00 already, should I have an easy day, descend to the River Kingie and camp there, or even stay at Kinbreak Bothy, or should I climb Sgùrr an Fhuarain and Sgùrr Mòr, as I had planned? It was sunny and warm at the moment, but some of the distant hills were in cloud and rain.

But according to the last weather forecast I had seen (two days ago at the Kintail Lodge Hotel), the weather was supposed to deteriorate the next day, so I decided to give the hills a go.

I put the big rucksack back on and walked up the stalkers’ path on the eastern flank of Meall a’ Choire Bhuidhe.

Looking back to Gairich from the path up Sgùrr an Fhuarain.

Interesting clouds above Glen Kingie – and rain in the distance.

I arrived at the summit at 16:45 and had great views all around (for a change!).

But I had no time to lose and descended quickly to the bealach.

View back to Sgùrr an Fhuarain.

Again, I left the rucksack behind a large rock and climbed up the ridge to Sgùrr Mòr, which becomes narrower (and more interesting) further up.

It was 18:00 when I reached the summit of Sgùrr Mòr, and the views were even better than from the Corbett.

The western end of Loch Quoich with Lochan nam Breac behind it (my camp site in miserable weather on the first night of this year’s TGO Challenge!).

Sgùrr an Fhuarain and Gairich in the distance.

Loch Quoich.

Looking along the ridge to the SW, Sgùrr Beag, An Eag, and the Glen Dessarry Munros behind.

The descent back to the bealach.

Ben Nevis in the distance.

On the descent, I came across this tiny lochan with crystal clear water and some sheltered, grassy patches nearby – would make a nice camp site!

After collecting my rucksack, I descended to Glen Kingie in an almost straight line from the bealach.

The slope is quite steep and my knees didn’t like it at all, but soon I reached the path in the glen and followed it in an easterly direction.

Looking back up the slope.

The weather was really nice by now, and so I decided to camp on this side of the river, instead of staying in Kinbreak bothy.

It was after 20:00 when I pitched my tent, thankfully there was a slight breeze and therefore no midges. It had been a really good day and I celebrated it with a nice meal (Butternut Squash Soup and coffee to start with, followed by Mashed Potato with Leek & Ham and some smoked sausage that I had bought in Kyle of Lochalsh, a vanilla flavoured dessert and Moroccan Mint and Spice tea and some chocolate afterwards :)).

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Day 8, Wednesday 29 June 2011

River Kingie – Glenfinnan

22.1 km/984 m/10:00 hrs

The next morning wasn’t quite as bright as the previous evening, but at least it was dry and the water level of the River Kingie was low.

I waded through the river (and the swamp on the far bank) in Crocs. When I reached the path, I changed into my walking boots, carefully checking my legs for ticks after walking through the tall grass on this side of the river.

Kinbreak Bothy.

Glen Kingie.

After walking up the boggy “path” to the bealach between Sgùrr Mhurlagain and Fraoch Bheinn, I could see that it was raining on Streap and Sgùrr Thuilm.

Approaching Strathan.


From Strathan, I followed the track leading into the forest until I got to the cairn marking the turnoff for the bridge across the River Pean. After walking through an extremely boggy area (the wooden planks floating on top don’t really help), I emerged from the forest.

I walked across the bridge and then crossed the Allt Cuìrnean easily on stepping stones.

At first the path leads through large areas of tall bracken, something I don’t exactly enjoy, being slightly paranoid about ticks!

Higher up, the glen widens and the terrain becomes grassy (and boggy) again.

Looking back along Gleann Cuìrnean from Bealach a’ Chaorainn.

On the other side of the bealach, a good path leads down to Glen Finnan.

There is a great deal of groundwork operations going on in lower Glen Finnan at the moment, due to a Hydro Scheme being built. Walkers are being directed away from the main track on a diversion which deliberately seems to follow the boggiest possible route!

When the diversion joins the road again, the scale of the operations becomes apparent.

Groundworks on the slopes of Glen Finnan.

New road up leading up into the glen.

I had heard about a “small” Hydro Scheme being built, but I wasn’ t prepared for the actual scale of it. The whole stretch between the bridge at NM 921855 and Corryhully Bothy is quite a mess at the moment.

I settled down for a short break in the bothy and read a bit in the bothy book. A visitor mentioned he spoke to someone in charge of the operations who assured him that the glen is at its “messiest” right now (he compared it to Open Heart Surgery) and that it will be looking great once everything is finished… I hope he is right!

I had also heard rumours that the electricity in the bothy had been switched off due to the ongoing works, but at least the lights were working – unfortunately I couldn’t try the sockets as I had no electrical appliances at hand 😉 and the electric kettle has gone (once again).

I had been thinking of walking East along the A 830 and trying to find a camp site near the entrance of Gleann Fionnlighe, but it was almost 20:00 when I approached Glenfinnan. A road walk of at least 1.5 hours didn’t really appeal to me at this time, apart from that, the midges were out in force and camping in a sheltered glen didn’t seem like a good idea.

The only (affordable) accommodation nearby that I knew of, was the Glenfinnan Sleeping Car. So I walked another kilometre to Glenfinnan Station, on the off-chance of finding a bed for the night. And I was lucky, the Sleeping Car was fully booked apart from the family room, which had been reserved for that night but the guests had not turned up.

So I got to stay in the “largest” compartment in the coach, consisting of a double bed and a bunkbed, for £ 14 a night. It was still tiny and the only storage space was under the double bed, but it was very cosy and midge-free!

Glenfinnan Station and the Station Museum are being refurbished at present, and all the other guests at the Sleeping Car were builders working on the site. While everyone else was watching TV, I chose a very interesting book from the shelf in the lounge and read it in one go during the evening – “Midges in Scotland” 😆

Unfortunately, the walls between the sleeping compartments are very thin, and a heavy snorer next door tried his best to keep me awake – but thanks to my earplugs I had a very good sleep!

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Day 9, Thursday 30 June 2011

Gleann Fionnlighe – Locheilside

26.1 km/1444 m/08:30 hrs

Munro: Gulvain (No. 178)

When I got up, the workmen had already left and I had the coach to myself. I had breakfast and took some photos of the Sleeping Car.

Lounge area.

The kitchen.

Kitchen and lounge.

Somehow I needed to get to Gleann Fionnlighe, and according to an old timetable from 2010 on the information board in the kitchen, there was a bus at 10:00. I was hoping the bus times wouldn’t have changed very much from last year, and left the Sleeping Car in time to catch this bus. I didn’t know where the bus stop was – it could have been opposite the train station, at the Visitor Centre or anywhere in between, but I thought the Visitor Centre was most likely.

After waiting outside the Visitor Centre for about 20 minutes with no bus in sight (if there is one, I must have just missed it), I decided to stick my thumb out to get a lift. I couldn’t afford to wait much longer as I was hoping to catch the last train to Fort William at 19:13 later in the day – after climbing Gulvain.

I was lucky again, the second car stopped. It was Kath from Inverie in Knoydart with her kids, on her way to do some shopping in Fort William. She dropped me off right at the start of Gleann Fionnlighe, and after packing my daypack and leaving my large rucksack behind a boulder, I was on my way up the glen.

First the path follows the Fionn Lighe through the wooded glen.

When the path emerges from the forest, Gulvain dominates the view ahead.

After crossing a boggy area, a clear path zigzags up the hillside.

When I came near the 855 m top, the wind suddenly picked up and within a few minutes it became so cold that I had to stop and put another layer on. The clouds lowered and I was worried I might get the same “views” from the summit as I did on Gairich two days ago…

The clouds became darker and I expected the rain to start any minute.

The clouds came and went, but it stayed dry, cold and windy.

Looking along Glen Mallie, Loch Arkaig in the distance.

The view back to the 855 m top.

A short while later I reached the trig point at 961 m – which is not the summit, unfortunately. The real summit (or what I could see of it) still looked very far away…

The summit of Gulvain in the distance.

Looking towards Glen Pean and Glen Dessarry – bathed in sunshine!

Almost there…

I arrived at the summit just after 15:00.

Strathan and the entrance to Glen Dessarry.

Loch Arkaig.

The way back along the ridge involves a good deal of descent and re-ascent and takes longer than it looks…

Gleann Fionnlighe, and Loch Shiel in the distance.

Glen Mallie.

Approaching the 855 m top again, Loch Eil on the left.

By the time I arrived at the bottom of the hill, the dark clouds had disappeared.

A last look at Gulvain.

Although I was in a bit of a hurry now (it was 17:00 and after I got to the main road, I still had to walk about an hour to Locheilside station), I really enjoyed the walk along Gleann Fionnlighe in the warm sunshine.

After collecting my rucksack and doing a bit of re-packing, I started the boring walk along the A 830 to Locheilside. I arrived at the station with almost 20 minutes to spare before the arrival of my train at 19:13.

I would have liked to have a meal at the Grog & Gruel in Fort William, but as I had to catch the last bus to Inverness at 20:25, I had to make do with McDonald’s instead…

Altogether, this was a really good backpacking trip. Most of the time I was very lucky with the weather, although it rained at some point almost every day, I managed to get good views from the summits of most of the hills I climbed, apart from Gairich. It was also pleasantly warm, I never had to wear my Primaloft jacket, hat and gloves, or my long-sleeved baselayer.

And the best thing – I completed my “unfinished business” of three hills I had planned to climb during the TGO Challenge, Sgùrr Mòr, Sgùrr an Fhuarain and Gairich 🙂

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