Sunday, 3 October 2010

Old Man on a hike (re publish)

Old Man on a hike

A change from the bike for Scott we planned a walk on the wild side with Scott's friend MC. The choice of where to go was debated and we agreed that glen finnan would be a good starting point and then head north twards Knoydart.I was quite pleased about this as 25 years before myself and three friends had started this walk but had to abort due to illness so to me it was an unfinished walk. Planning food for a five day trek and what to carry keeping our eye on weight was half the fun in preparing the outing. As we were all leaving from different locations we agreed to meet on the train to Mallaig on the Saturday which proved to be an eventful experience for Scott who managed to miss his train and with (someone up there likes me ) managed to get other trains to meet the connection from Glasgow. This is one of the few times that mobile phones were handy planning alternative meeting places if required.

Day One

Glen finnan

We arrived Glen Finnan lunch time and after failing to buy whisky (purely for medicinal purposes) we headed off under the viaduct following the very good track up the Glen. Arriving at the Bothy 2 miles up the track we stopped for a lunch break. Now this bothy is a wee bit unusual as it had electricity, kettle and the grass cut for pitching tents near the river. I could not remember it being like that 25 years ago (how times change). The problem being as there were a few tents pitched already with no sign of the occupants. It reminded us of a holiday camp and not what we were looking for on our trek so we headed on up the track planning to camp higher up. This proved to be harder than we thought finding room for three tents among the boulder strewn hillside. Pushing on up the steepening track (which was still good going) it was obvious with the black clouds rolling up the Glen behind us we were in for some rain. We reached the bealach and splashed our way down the other side still looking for some where to camp by now we were well and truely soaked.

 Both getting a soaking in heavy rain

Eventually we had to take what ever we could find and made camp in the pouring rain.It was not a social evening as we each crawled in to our tents some of us spending a cramped wet uncomfortable night ( MC's tent being the envy of Scott and myself ) he could sit up and spread out changing out of the rain. After a night of rain hammering down on the tent and strong gusty winds very little sleep if any was had (for me anyway).The next morning I crawled out of the tent into a bright dry day with no wind and wall to wall midges.

Day two Sunday

After cooking oats, drinking filter coffee (thanks Scott) the one luxury we had with us and fending off midges with any free hand we broke camp.
                                            Morning camp my coffin on the right

We headed off down the glen twards Strathan enjoying the warm sun a nice change from the last few hours.The faint track was lost due to erosion by the burn and a few detours had to be made during one crossing Scotts tent fell off and floated merrilly down the burn. One wierd event of the day occurred while we were resting by the burn. Scott had left his spoon in the bothy the day before and while sitting on a rock by the burn without moving bent down picking up spoon .(spooky). After a rest in the sun (we didn't know it then but this was to be our last day of blue sky),we continued down to Strathan and one last ford over the burn reached start of glen pean.
                                              Scott keeping feet dry

Heading away from glen pean twards Strathan and glen Dessary we were now on a forrest road which made easy walking on the south side of the glen.Still having some sunshine we stopped above the bothy and out of the trees for another "coffee" Scott spread his tent out on the hillside to dry it out after its swim in the burn.

                                              A'Choul bothy

At the bothy we met a german guy and a party from Glasgow,the glasgow party were just packing to leave and as they had driven to Strathan had a pile of goodies which they left for us! (who brings dips and bread sticks for a bothy trip?). The german was interesting from the point that he carried no tent or stove and was the main man for lighting and cooking over the fire.After we settled in Mc went for a walk and swim in the river, Scott put his running shoes on and set off for a 90min training run, me,well I just sat outside the bothy resting.At this time the sun finally gave up and the rain swept into the glen. Later Mary and jane ? arrived they were planning a munro bash the next morning and very kindly gave us all a tot of whisky each which went down very well reminding us that we failed to bring some along. Apart from Mc we all slept in the bothy that night listening to the rain again.

Day three Monday

The next day after breakfast we had one of those do or don't we moments as bands of rain were still pushing down the glen, do we go or do we stay. (sounds like a song title). Finaly we thought it was set in for the day so we geared up for the weather and walked out. The first couple of miles we were on the forrest track so the going was good although a bit wet.

The main track ran out and we had to pick our way through knee deep bog which wasn't very pleasant,(thanks to all the rain we'd had).Leaving the tree line we climbed over the bealach still in pouring rain and going was hard picking a route over the top through bog after bog.
                                          Trying to find a dryer way over

A soup break was taken near the Lochans on the way down and sure enough our midge friends found us as we brewed up.Slipping and sliding our way down twards Loch Nevis MC enquired if this was the river or a path !. We had missed the crossing point of the river and couldn't be bothered retracing our tracks so as we were soaking wet anyway just walked accross the thing. At this point we could now just see through the weather Loch Nevis down in the distance its a pity the weather was so bad for any decent photographs but we our best.
                                            Loch Nevis in the distance

I knew from reading other journals that the Sourlies bothy could get busy at times but we were suprised when we eventually aproached it that a pile of rucksacks in rain covers were piled up outside. It turned out that a party of Americans had walked down from the north and after a very wet night were drying out in the bothy.The group was made up of two adult leaders and the rest were mixed sex teenagers and the bothy was full. The leader promptly said to his group that some would be in tents again to make room that night and not one complained. Scott and MC also put there tents up to make more room as our german friend arrived a little later.Give him his due he was carrying DRY wood wrapped in a waterproof and got a fire going so he was allocated the nearest bench. The bothy was full of smelly wet clothes hanging from every available point .

                                                        Not much room in bothy

Again very little sleep was had by most of us in there we were just lying listening to the rain hammering down on the roof dreading needing a pee!

Day four Tuesday

The americans packed up and headed off in the direction of Glen Dessary.I don't know why but they all filled there water bottles added iodine (yuk!) to carry up the pass. I'm sure they wouldn't have a shortage of water off the hills as it was still raining! Anyway that left our german friend complete with fire and ourselves alone in the bothy for now.
                                                   Sourlies bothy

To-day had been scheduled for a drying out and rest day I needed to give my leg a rest as it was still playing me up and I was not used to lugging a full pack on my back over the hills. After a lazy day dodging the odd shower and watching the tide going in and out we were joined in the bothy by an outward bound group, one leader plus three girls and a guy. They had had a rough night before and there main tent was too wet to use so we had a social night in the bothy in which we all slept apart from Scott and MC who retired to there tents. Again it was a night of heavy rain and wind and I was glad I wasn't in my little bivy tent which I had put up in case it was required. In retrospect I had bought the wrong tent for this weather and I felt very confined when I used it, it was more for emergency use than normal camping out. It was an early start 6am for the outward bound group so again little sleep had, it had stopped raining for now although it was very overcast and dull start to the day.

Day five Wednesday

After our usual hot oats and fruit breakfast washed down with Scott's filter coffee and a clean up of the bothy we set off on our final leg to Knoydart and Inverie. The old forge was the end of the rainbow and we had promised ourselves a few beers at the end of the trek. We headed along the Loch shore before negotiating the bog on the way to the ruins at Cornish.

                                              Finding our way over the bogs

From Carnoch the track zigzag'd up the steep slope 560mtr to the bealach. I found this to be my hardest time of the walk, I was tired after a few days lack of sleep,hauling a heavy pack over mostly slippery boggy tracks and blew up trying to get the climb over with !.Scott came to my rescue and led me up at a steady pace which kept me from blowing up again and to my suprise I managed almost none stop to the top.There was a very strong wind at the summit so a brisk walk over the top and down into shelter from the wind was completed.
                                               Inverie in the distance

I was glad that the main climb of the day was over and was looking forward to a gentle walk for a few miles down to the PUB !. The "few" miles went on and on and tiredness realy set in I don't know if we had all switched off by then but heavy legs were the order of the day.
                                                     Closer still

After what seemed for ever we reached the outskirts of Inverie walking down ever improving "roads" we tramped down to the shore.
                                                    MC on country road take me home mode

We arrived at the "old forge" for our much lookforward to pint and looked for somewhere to stay. The only choice was the hostel a mile back down the road where we could try for a bed or camp on the beach next to the hostel. I think we all felt an anticlimax at the "old forge" and just sat contemplating our next move. MC said the Mallaig ferry was due in ten minutes and as one we all agreed Mallaig was the prefered option to staying where we were and a brisk walk to the pier followed !.
On arrival at Mallaig we needed to find somewhere to stay I had booked B&B for the friday and we were two days early.All B&B's were full and desperation was kicking in when Scott spotted "Shoona's hostel above the tea room right on the main road.With luck they had three spare beds which we quickly took and settled in. It was only a small place with two rooms of six large bunk beds, a neat kitchen and comfortable sitting room. After a quick shower and change into the only clean dry clothes we had we went down stairs for a meal and it is to be recommended the food was excellent.Then a move to the pub for a well deserved pint and rest.
                                                       A very tired but happy old man

Well that concludes the walking part of the trip to Knoydart, we did spend a couple of days based at Mallaig before heading home on the Saturday.A trip to Rum on Friday was again spoilt by low cloud and we didn't get to see much of the island. Scott managed his "training" run among the clouds while MC and myself chilled out for a couple of hours before the return on the ferry.One last meal was had at the tea room before we said goodbye to Mallaig the next day.

Post script :- this blog was originally on geocities but was lost when they shut down thanks to MC who kept a copy I have republished on "grey hair" blog to keep a record of our efforts.