Sunday 30 June 2019

Adventures with Ellie - West to Glenquoich Forest

Another opportunity presented itself for Adventures with Ellie, so preparations were made and come 5.30 pm on Friday night, we headed west with a vague plan for Saturday. I also had vague plans of where we could camp, having stopped at a reasonable good layby on  Day Two of the Challenge last year with Laura, Paula, Stephen, Liam, Paul and his son, but soon after we entered the glen, I thought we might need to stop sooner as it was getting late and we were hungry. Sure enough, a nice enough appeared shortly after Poulary, so we stopped. We got organised and set up without being bothered by midgies, but knew we wouldn't head out again before bed as they would most definitely be about. We had a lovely Thai Green Curry that I'd prepared earlier in the day and relaxed.

 Looking west
 Looking SE, Ben Tee on the left

Thai Green Chicken Curry

After not a great night sleep (hot, damn hot) we had a fairly slow start to the day. Eventually we moved off and found a tent and car in the layby I'd thought about, we were glad we'd stopped where we had. We were soon at the parking place for our chosen walk, the Spidean Milach, Gleouraich circuit and after a small amount of faffing we were on our way. There was a chap setting off for a run by his car and another chap and his little dog just exiting our walk on to the road as we made our way towards our start, but we saw no one on the hill.
We made hot, steady progress uphill, there were views and there were flowers. We stopped for lunch at around 600m, the foot of our target hill and consulted the map (we had one!) and I became more unsure as to whether this was a good idea. Spidean Mealach looked fine, but I was not keen on the ridge linking to Gleouraich. I decided it was unlikely I would attempt it, my worst nightmare is to try something and get stuck, at that height, so I agreed the first peak was fine and that I would look at the ridge when we could see it, but I think I'd already decided I would not be trying it. Suitably refuelled, we headed onwards as Loch Fearna came into view, then more steeply upwards, following a fairly good path (according to Walkhighlands, there is none at this point...) directly to the summit. At one point I heard what I thought was thunder, and called out to David, "An airplane." was his confident reply. We walked on. I heard it again shortly after, this time I was certain, "Yes," he said when asked, "We'll walk on."
A shot time later, probably less than 100m from the summit, "Lightning! I saw that!" away over to the east of us. "We're nearly there!" says he. We scampered up to the summit (amazing what a good hit of adrenaline can do...) took the quickest summit pics ever, and did an about turn, straight back down again. "It's okay, it goes for the highest point" says he, as he virtually runs down ahead of me. Thanks.
We were down at the small bealach in good time and continued downhill, with just the odd few moments for a drink of water or to apply midge repellent, every so often we could hear not too distant thunder and saw lightning. When we returned to the car, there was another runner preparing to leave, the first not yet having returned. I was pleased to be off the hill, and having remembered I'd forgotten the pasta for dinner, we headed to Fort Augustus. It was evident there had been heavy rain in places as we drove and it was raining in Fort Augustus while we were there.

 Loch Cuaich

 Spotted Orchid
 It was huge!

 Scampering to the summit
 So dark, the auto flash flashed!
 Down towards Loch Loyne
 The ridge, along which I would not have walked (quite happy for that decision be taken out of my hands!)
 Scampering down again!
A rock on the horizon

 Caledonian Canal
Fort Augustus

Shopping done, we made our way to the Loch Ness Campsite at Foyers as I did not fancy being in an exposed spot with all the storms around us and besides, a refreshing shower was required. This is a super little site I have stayed at before, again during a Challenge and we were soon installed, refreshed and preparing dinner. There was heavy rain accompanied by thunder and lightning during the evening, but we were safe and relaxed. It was very entertaining watching the antics of other campers, there were one or two domestics in other vans. Also some ignorance, I will return to this. We were looking forward to a better night sleep, tired from our walk, the lack of sleep from the previous night and a much better temperature.

 Looking west from B862
 Along Stratherrick

Total distance 5.43 miles and total ascent 2707 ft
We really had no plan at all for today, so headed for Dores and popped in to the new Tesco at Holme for pastries to supplement our lunch. We then drove on to Nairn Links where we would stop for lunch before heading home.
 Bacon butty

 Nairn Links

The Ghost Train

The Ghost Train runs along The Dava Way, the disused train route between Grantown on Spey and Forres. The walk takes place every two years and I took part in the first on in 2009, but I had first walked the route in 2007, (sorry, no pics) with David on my first ever backpack. I saw this years Ghost Train advertised and suggested David and I walk together this time and he agreed. As the solstice approached, it became clear that the ankle injury David had acquired was still giving him some grief, but he still wanted to walk with me if I slowed down a bit for him, so we set off last Saturday evening to register at 8pm at the pick up point in Forres before taking a bus to Grantown on Spey, as I had done before. The journey went better than last time, buses can make me feel ill, but we were soon in the village square getting ready for the off.
There were about a hundred people at the start, I think 107 had applied and 97 registered to do the walk on the night. At about 9:50pm, the Station Master gave a welcome speech, gave thanks to the volunteers and safety advisers and set us on our way a little ahead of time (when does that ever happen on a real train!) and off we went! Initially, we left the square heading for the caravan park, where the Dava Way heads north into the woods and follows the old railway fairly faithfully towards Forres, with one or two slight detours around obstacles or particularly unpleasant ground where the old track floods.
The walk continues north to Cottartown, then from Lynmore heads NW to Huntly's Cave before turning north again to head east of the Knock of Braemoray. As we were heading across this open stretch of moorland, the sun dipped behind Carn na h-Ath-aoil and we continued on in the semi-darkness, it never quite gets dark at this time of year.
There were refreshments offered at Dava, but there were midgies and as the coffee was not particularly drinkable, we ditched it and ate the sandwiches we'd brought as we continued walking. I cannot say that I was particularly enjoying myself at this point, I have poor vision in the dark and found the stony ground difficult at times at the speed we were walking (it was quite quick, quicker than I had thought or expected) and I was very quiet. In the trees at Bantrach, the full size carving of a Jacobite soldier is now standing, (it has been vandalised on three occasions over recent years, presumably by some idiotic anti-English Scot) we were able to see him from some distance as he had a lamp hanging from his hand. I was not however expecting the train whistle from somewhere over to our left and I may have sworn as it made me jump (sorry Pete). As we walked over the viaduct at Edinkillie, I saw some movement above the side of the wall, but did not react to it. Nor did I react to the chap that was hiding in the dark to my left who said hello. David did start a bit at the movement at what turned out to be a ghost, I don't think he was aware of the chap to my left at all. We continued on our way through the trees to the next refreshment stop.
There were breakfast rolls and hot drinks available at Edinkillie Village Hall, Dunphail, and here we did take a break inside away from the biting terrors, used the facilities and donned an extra layer, hat and gloves before heading out again. We knew that although it had been warm through the night as we'd walked, the temperature would drop around dawn, and so it did. It had also clouded over and so there was not much to see at dawn.  It did however improve my mood, which was a good thing, and I was enjoying myself again. Not long after leaving the village hall, a skeleton spoke to us, hidden by the hedge beside a gate. I swore again. Sorry! We were now on familiar ground even to David as this is part of the route we use for our training runs, and our half marathon route, so we strolled along onto Altyre Estate and to the Scurrypool Bridge, where upon another ghost tried to give us a fright, but we'd seen him arrive and were not surprised this time.
In no time at all, we were arriving at Dallas Dhu Distillery, where we signed back in  having completed The Ghost Train almost two hours quicker than on my last. We received medals, which I was not expecting, took a photo, then continued for another mile or so to collect the car and make our way home and to bed.

 The Station Master
 We're off!!
 Lady Catherine's Halt

 Ben Rinnes in the twilight
 Dallas Dhu Distillery

Total Distance 22.4 miles, total ascent, 1150 ft moving time 6 hrs 36 mins and 37 seconds