Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

Around Monar

21 – 25 Nov; 80km

I’d this little plan, a dawdle around the Attadale and Monar Drove roads, on the back burner for a while waiting on a suitable opportunity.  The weather forecast looked reasonable so I grabbed 4 days food, rucksack and  a £19 ’55 Club’ ticket and it was off to Attadale.

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Day 1

1pm starting up the track towards Bendronaig Lodge the day didn’t look as ‘nice’ as the forecast, overcast and threatening rain, but at least the storm force winds of the day before had dwindled to a light breeze.   It’s an easy 12km jaunt to the bothy and once the short length of black top is over and done with it’s quite a pleasant one

I arrived at the bothy shortly after 4pm to meet the estate stalker Tom Watson coming off the hill in an Argocat, after a brief chat and unfruitful search for his lost 4*4 keys he set off noisily down the hill on his 8 wheel pony; a very pleasant gentleman.

5pm and it was pitch black, the sky was clearing and the temperature dropped quickly below freezing.  I did manage to get a small fire going using un-burnt coal from the grates, it didn’t do anything for the temperature in the bothy but psychologically it was pleasant watching the flames dance for a couple of hours before an early bed.  I’d decided to pack the Cumulus Panyam 600 sleeping bag as the forecast had predicted temperatures well below freezing, with a -14C rating I didn’t need the collar or the hood done up and even found it too warm half way through the night.

Day 2

The clear skies of the night before had closed and the tops were swathed in mist.  At 8am as I headed off towards Loch Calavie the temperature was around +5C but the ice on the LRT testified to the chilly night and even minor burns were tricky to cross with ice coated boulders.  I was just approaching the loch when Tom trundled up noisily on his green ‘pony’, off to search for his lost keys, I accepted to offer of a lift for a couple of km and helped having a look around, to no avail.

Tom had advised me of a potentially easier route to Pait Lodge, avoiding the bogs, so a couple of km’s further down the track I cut off X-country towards the outlet of Loch an Tachdaidh (NH 097381).  The stepping stones that Tom had described to gain the LRT a short distance away on the southern shore were today predominantly underwater, still it looked an easy splash across in trail shoes.

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I decided that I didn’t fancy a paddle in the freezing water so doubled back up the hill following the Allt Coire a’Charra, at around NH 097384 I did come across quite a nice camping spot.

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Following the Allt Coire a’Charra back up the hill proved quite easy going and I soon reached the ‘track’ to Pait Lodge just above a derelict sheep flank.  I soon found that the track faded away a short way east and it was 3km of soggy going to reach the bridge at the lodge.

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I find it interesting that Tom referred to Patt Lodge not Pait, I thought that this was just local pronunciation however I since found that the old 1930’s OS map shows it as Patt Lodge.

From the lodge it was only a short hop up the LRT to the footbridge across the Allt Riabhachain (~NH 125391) and the start of more boggy terrain.

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I was heading for the bealach between Meallan Odhar and Meallan Buidhe but decided to stick to higher ground to avoid the worst of the sogginess and ended up going over the ridge just south of Meallan Buidhe ‘enjoying’ the sleety rain showers.  A boggy descent and I soon picked up the LRT heading east down the Allt an Fheadain.  It didn’t seem to take long to reach the start of the dreaded black top with the afternoon light starting to rapidly fade.  3km later I turned off down the LRT to the banks of the Uisge Misgeach and pitched up the Trailstar by the remnants of the footbridge (NH 202 383), not an ideal site as the ground is a bit lumpy but I’ve used worse; the day’s 24km yomp had felt rougher than expected.

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Half an hour later it was fully dark and a light rain had set in, it was to be another long evening, though not particularly cold.  I find that whiling away the hours before bed is one aspect of winter camping that takes some effort; once the Trailstar is up I’ll first brew up a pot of Earl Grey and then get the bed and baggage sorted, I can probably drag this out for an hour.  Dinner is also tackled as a leisurely affair; soup, main meal, desert and then hot chocolate; carefully managed it easily stretch an hour or so before sliding into bed and getting plugged into the iPod.

Day 3

8 am and I was on the ‘road’, the weather hadn’t improved much but at least the rain was holding off.

Monar Lodge, the black top ends and an enjoyable pony track continued up the glen to the Allt a’Chreagain Bhuidhe where a well trodden route heads off north towards Maoile Lunndaidh, I was glad of the good bridge as the river was quite high.

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Across the bridge the path disappeared for a while and it took a bit of bog trotting to pick it up again, definitely not a well trodden route.  The 10km along the loch from the Monar Lodge to the Allt an Longairt took longer than expected probably due to all the twists and turns and ups and downs.

The bridges across the various branches of the Allt an Longairt have long since ‘disappeared’.

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I worked my way uphill crossing the various burns as the opportunity arose, it was only after gaining the path on the west side and climbing higher that a good bridge (~ NH 129418) was found which would be very useful if the burn was in full spate.

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The path ended in much slushy bogginess before reaching Loch Mhuilich and the rain set in.

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After a short slushy bog trot I dropped down to the bouldery loch shore which made for a little easier going before the long bog trot up to Drochaid Mhuilich started.

I headed north following the east bank of the An Crom-allt in search of the path marked on the map but it wasn’t until well down the glen that I picked up vague fragments.  I had hoped to cross the burn fairly high up and then head directly for Glenuaig Lodge but the burn was very steeply sided and raging; in retrospect it would have been circumspect to traverse across to the NE ridge of Sron na Frianich direct from the Drochaid Mhuilich.

I eventually managed a dodgy bolder hop across the An Crom-allt about 0.5 km from the junction with the River Meig and then headed off across the bog to the footbridge at NH 109476 just below Glenuaig Lodge.  I arrived at the refuge in the gathering gloom; today’s 20km had felt tougher than the previous day’s 24km.

I’d originally planned to continue a further 4km down to a camp site by the wire bridge at NH 076466 and then walk over the Bealach Bhearnais and on to Strathcarron for the 16:00 train home the next day but I decided why rush, I’d pull up early and then sorted out a route to arrive in Strathcarron for a Monday train.

Day 4

The new day brought much improved weather, still light winds with the cloud looking as though it would break.  I decided on an easy day heading over Sgurr na Feartaig to the Bhearnais bothy so enjoyed an extra cup of coffee before heading off around 8:30.

I headed down the glen to the bridge across the Allt a’Chonais (NH 070481)

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A really pleasant stalkers path led up Na Meallanan Buidhe with the slush on the higher ground soon turning quite crusty making for awkward going; step, step, crunch, step, crunch…..frustrating but better than bog trotting.

On reaching the summit of Sgurr na Feartaig the sky had cleared remarkably giving good views across the surrounding hills, time for a bit of snow melting for a brew and lunch!

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The route down over the west ridge was a very pleasant outing, even through the crunchy snow cover.

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I reached the Bearneas bothy a little after 3pm, time for a brew and preparations for another long lonely evening; an early frost not long after dark promised a chilly night

Day 5

8am and on the trail, the frost had gone, the temperature was +7C; west coast weather strikes again.

The path over to Auchintee starts a bit boggy but soon develops into a good stalkers path, there are a few squelchy sections but these were easily by-passed or pole vaulted.  Even dawdling along I was down to Auchintee in around 3hrs.  I bumped into Tom Watson again coming off the hill with a couple of hinds lashed across his quad bike; he’d finally found his keys laying in the sump guard of the Argocat.

I enjoyed a couple of beers in the Strathcarron Hotel before the train but was a bit disappointed that they didn’t have any food for lunch….trail mix and cereal bars would have to do.

The weather hadn’t been the greatest, hard frosts would have made the bogs a lot less tiresome, and the low cloud had often spoiled the views but it had turned out to be an enjoyable few days.

Gear +/-

The Cumulus Panyam 600 sleeping bag turned out too warm for the job and consequently suffered a bit of dampness due to me overheating, it would have been better to pack the Alpkit Pipedream 400.

Kovea Spider Stove had its first real outing and performed as well as anticipated, very impressed with the stability and flame control.  I didn’t have to use the canister in the inverted mode since the temperatures were above freezing so that test will have to wait until a future outing.  Fuel efficiency was good boiling around 8.5L of quite cold water using 150g of gas, equates to 13L for a 230g canister, for summer trips with the MSR Micro Rocket I’ve experienced around 15L per canister with the same pot, so performance would seem very similar.

Meindl Kansas GTX boots, great fit, very comfortable and quite lightweight.  This is the second pair in 15 months and both pairs have leaked after very little use, I normally use trail shoes outside of winter, I spent 3 days with soggy socks; they’ll be going back!

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4 comments on “Around Monar

  1. Paul Myerscough
    November 30, 2013

    Thanks for this, probably a good intro to the atmosphere of this area. I’m planning my first bit of TGO 2014 through here. In my imagination it is a lot less boggy and also there’s more sun!

    • Paul Atkinson
      November 30, 2013

      It’s a wonderful part of the world, even in the gloom!

  2. Fellbound
    December 21, 2014

    That looked damp and grey. As in Paul M’s comment I’m glad I found this as the start of my 2015 Challenge route takes me along the first two-and-a half days of this walk. Good to be forewarned about one or two things, especially the boggy bits and the state of bridges. I always find the going easier if I know in advance where bridges are closed or missing and where ‘paths’ become a figment of a crazed cartographer’s imagination and where I might be up to my knees in it. 🙂

  3. Paul Atkinson
    December 21, 2014

    A bit dreich but that’s always the risk in trying to get into the hills in winter. I’ve found exploring the drove roads at this time quite reliable when I need a ‘recharge’.

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This entry was posted on November 27, 2013 by in Trip Reports and tagged , .
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