Whiteburn's Wanderings

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

A Weeks’ Wander

Must admit to being a bit tardy of late in writing up trip reports, half a dozen 2 – 3 night-ers, mostly in the ‘gorms, having passed un-noted. I’m still not feeling ‘summer fit’ so I thought it was about time to take a longer wander at bit further afield & ended up on the Fort William bus with 5 nights of food. The long day on public transport ended with a stroll from Spean Bridge up to the car parking beyond Coire Choille Farm on the Lairig Leacach (Pass of the Flagstones).

I found a nice pitch 100m west of the parking, water from a cistern overflow & plenty of twigs for the Caldera Ti-tri which I’d brought along (not to try & save on fuel but to get some practise for this years Pyrenees trip).

Day 2 – 27km, 1360m ascent

After a disturbed sleep, due to a very blustery night coupled with my incompetent pitching of the Duomid causing lots of ‘humming’ noise, I was underway about 8am. I followed the Lairig Leacach up the glen for a few km’s before turning off the track & climbing the pathless slope up to a bealach north of Cruach Innise, then ascended the easy rounded ridge towards the summit.

10mins later the summit cairn of was reached, a bit blustery but it provided good views of the Grey Corries off to the SW.

A reasonable path descended south to the bealach & up to Sgur Innise, the second Corbett.

The wind didn’t make for any hanging around admiring the views though so it was a quick return back to the bealach, a pathless descent down to the Lairig & onto the Leacach bothy for a spot of lunch.

The walk up to Creaguaineach Lodge at the head of Loch Treig was quite pleasant in the dry conditions even though it looked as though the trail had been cut up by trials bikes; the Scottish Six Day Trial had got there before me. I personally don’t see how the annual destruction of the footpath network around Fort William by 300 motorcycles can be justified, at least this year the ground was pretty dry so the damage wasn’t as bad as in previous years.

I did note that the bridge across the Abhainn Rath at Creaguaineach Lodge had a new deck (the old one was getting quite rotten).

I had thought to pitch up by the West Highland Railway bridge about 4km ahead but it was only 4pm when I arrived so I wandered onward for a couple of hours down the north shore of Loch Ossian. I ended up finding a nice pitch about 1km short of Corrour Lodge next to the Allt Loch na Nap (~NN403692), sheltered from the wind & lots of twigs & pine cones for the stove.

Day 3 – 28km, 1250m ascent

Another blustery morning as I strolled north along Strath Ossian track, well I say track with the estate hydro schemes it’s been ‘improved’ to almost a motorway.

Just 3km along the track I headed off down the old Land Rover track towards Loch Ghuilbinn.

The LRT ended about halfway along the loch from where I followed an ATV track that wound its way up northeast to the bealach overlooking the An Lairig; some nice pitches alongside the stream on the ascent were noted for possible future use.

Descending to the Allt Cam & wandering along the grassy bank I mused over why there was a gap of ~1.5km in old stalker’s path over the An Lairig. Then it came to me, I was walking on it, why build a path when the grassy stream bank proved an ideal ‘path’ for man or beast. I did get carried away though continuing too far upstream into an expanse of peat bog & had to double back a short way & follow a side stream uphill to join the stalkers path. The path is suffering a bit from the lack of maintenance for the last 100 years but the original engineering is still evident.

The path proved a bit fragmentary until past Dubh Lochan, about 1km, from where it was easier to follow to the ruins of a shieling alongside the Allt Coire Cheap just over the watershed, some good pitches around.

My original ‘plan’ was to descend the An Lairig for 4km & then turn northwest up the good stalker’s path to Loch a’ Bhealaich Leamhain but I’d noted that the line of a direct path to the loch ascending across the southern flank of Beinn a’ Chlachair that’s shown on the map was still evident.

Time to explore less beaten tracks. The path proved more distinct underfoot than expected, though in wetter weather I guess it may become a stream as a lot of the drainage is blocked. One thing I enjoy about the old pony paths is the  relatively gentle gradients, this one rose 200m over 2km (10%), nothing too strenuous. At a plateau, circa 730m, on the Druim an t-Sluic the weather turned dreich & the path seemed to have disappeared, time for waterproofs & a check of the GPS. The GPS showed I was still where the path should be & about 400m from the junction above the loch, but the only thing visible on the ground was a depression through the heather filled with soggy sphagnum bog. I decided against the pleasure of 400m of bog trotting or heather bashing in favour of ascending north across stony ground. I soon connected with the main path up to Bealach Leamhain, the ‘plan’ had been to descend west & camp somewhere around Lochan na- h-Earba but it was not yet 4pm time enough for a bit of wandering.

A short while later I was on the summit of Creag Pitridh, today yet another cairn in the clag.

And a little later at claggy Geal Charn

I descended east intending to drop into Corrie an labhair Mor & pick up a stalker path north; a poor choice, I ended up looking down a very steep snow slope that disappeared into the mist. I skirted around the corrie rim north & descended a ridge to join the path lower down the mountain.

Once at the foot of the corrie the extent of the snow field was evident, perhaps 100m vertical & as steep as it looked from above, really glad I didn’t chance it.

A short way north along the good path it was decision time again, a junction; west down to Lochan na- h-Earba & locate a suitable campsite OR east down to the River Pattock & a spot I’d used before. East won & I was soon descending alongside the Allt Dubh to the Pattock track.

Pitched up next to the site of the Blackburn of Pattock bothy (NN 545818); no wood stove tonight, everything was soggy!

Day 4 – 28km, 550m ascent

8:30am, the weather much improved & on route down the pleasant track following the River Pattock downstream.

Imagine my disbelief when only a couple of kms downstream I came upon a hydro construction site (NN549830)

The next few km’s have been devastated by road building & the pipeline corridor.

Must admit to feeling a bit peeved at not to have headed off the hill in the other direction the day before, I wouldn’t have seen this mess.

Once down to Gallovie I followed the East Highland Way route through Feagour, Black Woods above Strathmashie, Laggan & then the A86 to Cluny Castle; I nearly got wiped out on the A86 by a 4*4 driver cutting the corner with the wing mirror brushing my elbow despite me leaping onto the verge & pressing myself hard against the barbed wire fence. I was glad to finally abandon the road & make my way up the track towards Glen Banchor.

I called into Dalnashallag Bothy & met up with Ian who was on a 5 month wander around the highlands on his bike. My original thought was to have continued for a few kms to camp near Glenballoch but I ended up pitching near the bothy, just to be neighbourly.

Day 5 –

I was up & away for 8am feeling a bit smug that the forecasted morning rain hadn’t put in an appearance (yet) so could pack away a dry Duomid. I was to arrive in Newtonmore a day earlier than plan so mused over options during the ~8km into town. I felt like wandering across the ‘gorms rather than jump on a bus home but discounted the ‘trade route’ through Glen Feshie to Braemar as I’d walked that way very recently. Plan B was prevarication; take the short bus ride to Aviemore, pick up a couple of days’ supplies & have lunch at the Cairngorm Hotel where hopefully all would become clear over a couple of ales.

A kind plan of emerged…bus to Loch Morloch wander the ~5km up to the Ryvoan bothy & mull it over some more……the joys of not being on a timetable!

Day 6 – 25km, 650m ascent

The morning turned out to look a lot nicer than forecast as I left the bothy shortly after 8am, broken cloud, a bit breezy but no rain.

I still hadn’t come up with a plan other than head up to the Fords of Avon & the first deviation came after only a few km’s at the footbridge over the River Nethy; instead of following the Lairig an Loaigh over Bynack More I decided to turn right & head up Strath Nethy, only because it had been a long time since I’d wandered that way.

The path turned out to be better than I remembered, though perhaps the very dry weather over the last month played a large part in this, the normal bog trot for the first few km’s became just the odd pole vault to keep the feet dry.

I was over half way up the glen when the rain finally started, only light rain but driven into the face on a 30mph+ wind coming straight down the glen.

The wind increase to 45mph+ by the time I reached ‘The Saddle’ & occasional gusts threatened to send me flat, Loch Avon looked a bit bleak with white caps being driven along its length.

Not the place to hang around though given the weather so it was off east towards the Fords of Avon, the river didn’t look as though it would provide a dry shod crossing at the ford today, I guess that was down to increase snow melt over the last couple of weeks.

The refuge at the ford provided an ideal spot for a lunch stop & a ponder; down the Lairig an Loaigh to Glen Derry & Braemar OR down Glen Avon & Crathie. I decided on Glen Derry mainly because of the more sheltered camping spots & was soon ankle deep in the River Avon (& that was stood on the stepping stones).

I ended up at Bob Scott’s bothy by 4:00pm & put my feet up.

Day 7 – 14km

I up & away by 06:30 the other inhabitants were still firmly in the land of nod, I would have liked to have joined them but I’d decided on the first bus from Braemar (10:20). The ~14km always takes me a boring 3hrs & I can honestly say I’ve learned to hate this walk, the only compensation is the tea & bacon butty that awaits at the end……& the long bus ride home contemplating a hot shower.

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4 comments on “A Weeks’ Wander

  1. charlesV
    May 21, 2017

    A good and varied trip. In my younger days I used to use the old refuge at the Fords of A long before it was renewed a few years ago.Very handy place to get out of the weather for a brew . Used to camp outside when staying.

    • Paul Atkinson
      May 21, 2017

      I’ve only stayed at the refuge once, in early spring with deep snow still on the ground……great for lunch stop on a dreich day.

  2. Peter H
    May 21, 2017

    Hi – nice to see the Ti-tri in action. Is yours a Sidewinder and do you use an inferno insert? I’ve got the Sidewinder and love it, and am contemplating going for an inferno for wood burning but am not sure. Do you carry an alcohol burner and fuel as a backup?
    Looks like it was a good trip!

    • Paul Atkinson
      May 21, 2017

      It’s the sidewinder with the inferno insert, the internal cone & grate gives a better burn. Always carry one of my MYO stoves, can’t rely on finding dry wood in Scotland & places like the Pyrenees there’s often a NO FIRES rule.

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This entry was posted on May 21, 2017 by in Trip Reports and tagged , .
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