Saturday, 31 May 2014
Thursday, 29 May 2014
Craig to Loch Monar
M&G, Croydon and many others had gone beyond Gerry’s Hostel to camp the previous evening. Given the wet weather and the warm welcome we received from Gerry I would say Alan and I got the best deal.
We had been expecting to see Little Miss Maria (henceforth to be referred to as LMM……less typing that way) and Dave at Gerry’s. They’d started from Torridon SYHA but had decided to bag a Munro hilly-thing or two en-route. Apparently they’d arrived at Gerry’s at 10.30pm – I didn’t see them arrive or spot them in the morning. It must have been a hard day for them both.
A short stretch of tarmac from Gerry’s took us to a level crossing over the railway line to open country. The rain had (re)started and by the time we got to cross the River Carron we were back in full waterproofs. We passed some tents en-route, their occupants getting ready for the day ahead.
The rain grew heavierer (that’s Timperley dialect for the rain getting heavierer) as we followed the Allt a’ Chonais towards Pollan Buidhe and then to Glenuaig Lodge where we we hoping to make a brew in the shelter. I spotted the lodge in the distance, it consisted of a group of three buildings. I joked that the smallest one would be a shed and that would be the shelter.
We arrived at the lodge and found just that.
The shed was rather luxurious. It had an electric light and an electric heater plus two bunk beds.There wasn’t a great deal of room in the shed ‘cos Lawrence & Lesley Dark and Frank Row were in residence, sheltering from the wet. It’s really a good emergency shelter, not a bothy – not intended for overnight stops other than in an emergency.
The Dunsires rolled up – all cheerful and happy-like. Shouldn’t be allowed on such a wet and miserable day like today. They were all nice and dry too, clad in new waterproofs an’ all that.
Leaving the shelter we continued in an Easterly direction (East is good….I may have mentioned this in the past) following the north bank of the River Meig, all the time looking for a suitable crossing point…preferably not like the wire bridge we had spotted earlier in the day:
Eventually a suitable crossing point was identified and we went over one by one.
Croydon and Martin Angell had teamed up with us by this time and we all enjoyed a brew and lunch on t’other side of the river as Lawrence, Lesley and Frank continued East on the north side:
Martin Angell and Croydon
My feeble attempt at a selfie
Croydon doing a selfie….properly
Our target for the day, the north shore of Loch Monar, was a long time coming – the weather was very changeable and we had a climb to contend with. Much of the ground was rough and boggy, added to which there were some landslips that made the route difficult. As with many footpaths marked on the map, this path appeared only infrequently on the ground. There was much crossing and re-crossing of the river as we headed south – the route the path took on the map was really only notional. A virtual path.
The pull up to Coire Ffionarach wasn’t terribly steep but the false summits we encountered were frustrating. Alan and Martin went high above the river to bypass some of the trudge whilst we stayed close to the river, preferring to follow it’s grassy banks.
After what seemed an age, Loch Monar came into view. The last time I was at Loch Monar was two years ago and I was at the South Eastern side…in the sunshine.
Anyway, things were looking up: it had stopped raining (sort of), our destination was in sight and judging by what other Challengers had said we were expecting an excellent pitch for the night.
No photographs of where we camped, we were all pre-occupied in trying to find flat(ish), tussockless(ish) and dry(ish) places to plant our tents. I didn’t succeed too well – the ground wasn’t brilliant. The only area that looked promising was already being used by a couple of lads who’s been at Gerry’s the night before. Eventually we all found suitable spots and settled down for the night – there was little or no socialising that evening, we were all a bit pooped.
Still no sign of LMM & Dave, they were intending camping at the same spot that night.
My evening meal was a home-made and home-dehydrated beef hash – think corned beef hash but using decent minced beef rather than corned beef. Well it was something like that.
And this is what we did:
15 miles, with 2300’ of up.
Wednesday, 28 May 2014
Friday May 9th, Torridon to Gerry’s Hostel, Craig
The Challenge Register had been put out early. 38 participants were due to sign out from Torridon. Although Alan and I signed out before 9am, we certainly weren’t the first….or the last.
Off we jolly-well set off on our Challenge: it’s Alan’s first and my ninth – and I STILL feel like an inexperienced beginner. A good job really, because that’s exactly what I am.
The intended route for the day covered 14 miles with around 3300ft of ascent. A slight navigational error saw us extending the route just a teeny-weeny bit. Unfortunately that teeny-weeny bit was through terribly overgrown and boggy ground. Oh well.
Our route involved going back over part of yesterday’s route: Annat > Ben-Damph Forest and as far as
The Lousy Pass Bealach na Lice. It was a bit of a tug but it had to be done. A trio of cheery (and smug!) Dutch Challengers had chosen a more direct, but almost certainly steeper, route to the top:
Our climb earned us a sit-down at the top, which is where the Dutch team passed us. A couple of minutes later the smiling Dunsires, clad in shorts (and other stuff too), bounded past us so quickly that I didn’t have time to grab my camera.
The weather up to this point was still quite good, dry and bright. Alan spotted a gecko which he managed to pick up…..I thought he’d found a GPS.
We enjoyed some cracking views – the rain hadn’t yet started:
Not all the views were of the landscape. For Alan:
Our destination that night was to be Gerry’s Hostel. Our route to Achnashellach / Craig seemed straightforward enough on the map. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be quite so easy – a path we should have taken was dismissed as only a path can be dismissed, we walked past it and straight into some seriously, horribly overgrown and boggy ground.
Not nice. Oh, and by now the rain had started. Ah well.
After a bit of a faff that involved walking through someone’s garden we got ourselves down to the road – at least it wasn’t boggy. Or overgrown. A long stretch of tarmac took us to Gerry’s – a place I was very happy to find.
Now then. Gerry and his hostel have a bit of a reputation and so Viv, Alan and I were all a little apprehensive as we entered.
We needn’t have worried. Gerry is a fine man who’s been running his hostel since 1964 and he’s well used to dealing with outdoorsy-type people. Almost as soon as we arrived in the building we were given a guided tour of the building and shown how to operate the showers. He’s got TWO showers now.
During the evening we saw Gerry as he bustled around the place, making sure that everyone had everything they needed and doing his best to ensure even those who hadn’t booked were able to stay over.
Gerry seemed to me to be a genuinely caring type although I could perhaps imagine that his care and concern for his guests could be misunderstood and get on the t**s of some. I liked Gerry, he’s a decent bloke. I think his reputation is maybe due to the fact that he is caring and that probably annoys some people = Gerry getting a bit narked sometimes.
Our evening in the hostel was very pleasant. The place was almost fully occupied by Challengers apart from a couple of lads who were up to grab some Munro-type hilly things. The evening’s conversation was good.
Accommodation was in one dorm filled with bunkbeds. Not plush but perfectly adequate. There was some loud snoring during the night so there wasn’t a great deal of sleeping – even with the benefit of earplugs.
Where we went:
Monday, 26 May 2014
Plockton to Coulags and beyond and thence to Torridon
We took the train, I mean we travelled by train from Plockton to Strathcarron. Trains are too big and heavy to take. Anyway, somebody might notice.
The Plan (Ho-ho!) was to alight at Strathcarron and then walk a few miles in the direction of my Challenge start of Torridon to camp for the night. I had arranged for the very splendid Mick & Gayle to follow our route that evening so they could drink my tea and camp next door. They weren’t due to arrive in Strathcarron until 7.45pm
As if on cue the heavens opened whilst preparing to leave Strathcarron. This was actually A Good Thing. After the five minute delay to don full waterproofs, a taxi rolled up and out jumped Alan R who was to accompany me on the Challenge. This is Alan’s first Challenge and I feel a little nervous in case he doesn’t enjoy it – I did rather give him the hard sell!
Less than a couple of hours later we found a suitable spot to plant our tents, leaving enough space for M&G’s Terra Nova wotsit tent.
Alan and I climbed a bit of a hill to get a good view down to Strathcarron to try to spot M&G walking up the valley but without success. Mick’s specialist training in camouflage was obviously being put to good use – less than half an hour later we heard menacing demands for tea.
It was good to catch up with M&G. Their walking trip from their home to the start of the Challenge had to be aborted part-way through when Mick sustained an ankle injury. The injury was thankfully very successfully treated by driving Colin around Anglesey and making cheese sandwiches for hungry stray dogs. You should try it – it worked for Mick.
Next morning our posse of five headed further north, following Fionn-abhainn to Coire Fionnaraich Bothy where we would breakfast and drink tea & coffee to excess. We were on holiday after all!
Rain at Loch an Eion
Torridon comes into view as we rounded Ben Damph Forest
….and looking behind, the tremendous view up Glen Torridon
Dropping down to Upper Loch Torridon we met Marion & Graeme Dunsire – they were doing posh, staying at the hotel. We were slobbing it, three in Torridon SYHA and two on the very good (and FREE) campsite adjacent to the hostel.
The hostel was good. It was good to meet Challengers who were staying there – it felt like the Challenge was beginning at last.
All went swimmingly until a large party arrived, armed with beer, wine, TONS of food….and an equal quantity of bad manners. This party proceeded to take over the hostel – completely alienating the Challengers. They swarmed into the kitchen which made it virtually impossible for ‘us’ to prepare our meals.
I was not impressed.
Having said all that, Jules, who seemed to be running the hostel single handed, was an absolute delight. She is one that the SYHA should hang on to – she’s made of the right stuff.
The evening was spent chatting with Challengers too numerous to mention – but it was lovely to see Nigel again and to catch up with Croydon. Little Miss Maria was there along with Dave, a Challenge virgin. M&G joined us in the hostel for their evening meal….we had commandeered a table so we at least had some where to sit, eat and chat.
Viv had an early night whilst Alan and I had a couple of beers before bed which finished the day nicely: tomorrow we sign out and start our Challenge to Montrose!