Sunday, 6 September 2020

Adventures with Ellie - West Highlands 28th August 2020

Friday afternoon saw us driving west with the intention of parking at Kinlochewe. We arrived to find an old VW campervan, what turned out to be an associated car and several cyclists camping already and a lady wearing PPE cleaning the toilets. There were a few vehicles that came and went early in the evening, the occupants mainly using the facilities but some using the recycling and bins. Another couple arrived and we watched as they prepared their new Range Rover to sleep in and then visited the pub to get hot water in takeaway cups to make their Pot Noodles. Clever, I thought. We had a relatively quiet, comfortable night, once the traffic eased. In the morning, we were in no hurry as we were waiting for the local shop to open (we went to the wrong one in the end, who knew Kinlochewe was big enough to boast two shops) in order to purchase lunch and breakfast items for the next two days. then we were off for a walk. The young couple and ourselves appeared to be the only ones to leave a donation in the box.

We made our way to the car park further up the road in order to walk the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail. We did this walk 14 years ago with young children (ranging 5 to 10 yrs old) and whilst we'd had a nice walk with good weather, fine views and a Palmate Newt, I had had a little trouble with a short section of the walk making me extremely anxious. David's plan was for me to do this walk again in the knowledge that, having done it before, I would know I could do it again... On arrival at the car park, it was quite busy with people that had obviously stayed over the night before, most of them having canoes or kayaks with them. Their vehicles seemed to be stuffed full of all manner of equipment.

We set off on a path that took us underneath the A832 and through pretty woodlands, making our way steadily uphill. Views were snatched through trees until we crossed a bridge and then broke through the treeline and the ground became steeper and more rocky.

On a bridge we crossed

Views towards Slioch

There were a few of these really useful, informative signs

Fionn Bheinn

Looking towards Beinn Eighe

The troublesome stretch was, in reality, relatively short, gaining around 800ft over half a mile, but I found the path to be somewhat exposed. Where David could walk up, maybe occasionally resting a hand on a rock to lever himself up a high step, I found myself making three points of contact on most of this section. Towards the top, I had to give myself a serious talking to, I'd done it before, I could do it again, that sort of thing, but I did not enjoy the experience. I was happy to pause and rest whilst the two couples walking together passed by, we had a brief chat. There were two separate couples and a family that also passed by as I rested further up, but they weren't being drawn into any kind of a conversation.

 It was over soon enough (seemed like an eternity...) and the walking became much easier again as we finally approached the viewpoint. Which was quite busy. It was also quite chilly in the wind, so I said I'd prefer to walk on a little further to drop down and perhaps find a little shelter, the group of four having nicked the best spot at the top. The path levels out for a while, winding around little lochans and with great views of the surrounding hills. At the first point we would have stopped, a young couple started to fly a drone. The whining was very irritating. We walked on. The group of four caught us up and passed us again, complimenting us on our shiny boots. I had cleaned and waxed mine the day before and did David's at the same time, I told them I don't normally and wouldn't be making a habit of it.

We found a place with enough shelter and somewhere to sit a little further on and stopped for lunch, enjoying the views, but we didn't stop long. I had been looking forward to heading downhill and returning to the warmth of Ellie, but the downhill became tedious and somewhat wearing. Nice views, but really went on a bit. We talked about how it might be a good route up, but I felt the scrambly bits would not be pleasant to go down. Shortly after, as we were getting closer to the Woodland Trail walk, we met a couple coming towards us, dressed for urban walking and carrying shoulder bags. They weren't chatty. Then a middle aged couple passed us, the next couple however joined the path ahead of us just passed the viewpoint (no view now the trees have grown) they sat on a convenient bench to let us pass, they spoke and we shared a joke. I looked back and the second couple had turned back and joined our path, I believe the first couple had also missed their turn and were making their way up hill further than they had intended, their tourist leaflet clutched in their hands. Oh dear. I hoped they realised in time.

Looking back

Loch Maree

We arrived at the car park to find it was very, very busy. Our friendly group were there and David managed to get into a conversation about Ellie. I had been sitting inside in the warm, but felt I should go out and join them. We chatted for quite some time, the women were travelling in a car, the two gents were riding Harley Davidsons. One of the women had never been in Scotland before. She was so curious about Ellie and how we managed with her, we persuaded her it's a fab life and I think she was sold!

We left the car park heading back towards Kinlochewe and then headed off towards Torridon, the plan was to park beneath Beinn Eighe in order to walk to Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair in the morning. The single track road was incredibly busy and I began to think we might be making a mistake. We arrived at a car park and drove in. It was nicely away from the road and would have been quiet, but it sloped quite badly. We thought we could wait a while and see if any of the cars left and we could get a flatter pitch, but this wasn't the car park for the start of our walk, so we moved on to the next one. It wasn't far a long the road, but as soon as it came into view, I knew we would not be stopping there. It was full, there were cars parked along the verge and in passing places, and there was a stag standing in the entrance, drawing quite a lot of attention (NB. I would not stand that close to a wild stag with large antlers) We passed by and managed to get turned, then returned the we way we had come. We returned to the first car park, but I was not happy. There were one or two spot we could have parked as we got neared to Kinlochewe, but they weren't far off the road and we decided we might just as well return to the previous night spot.

It was busy. There were motorbikers with tents, a couple of backpackers and the campervan and associated car were still there initially. We parked up and later were joined by a (hired) motorhome and at least two other cars and another old VW campervan. The first one and the car left and their places were taken. It was so busy!

We had already had a gin by this point, so had dinner, put the blinds up, pulled the boards over (it's warmer on a chilly night with the roof popped) and settled down.

Roughly 6.4 km 602 m total ascent

Most people left before us in the morning. Noone else had made a donation. They had, however, left the men's toilet in a state (David said) and someone had nicked all the toilet paper from the ladies toilets...and I only saw one other lady...(I don't think it was her)

I was not happy with the idea of adding to the problem at Beinn Eighe. It was crowded and it just seemed silly going there, the mountains aren't going anywhere, so we made another plan, heading first to Achnasheen, then north to Ullapool and on towards Knockan Crag. We stopped for lunch and to see the state of the toilets (one user at a time, lock yourself in at the main door, suited me!) which were good, so we decided after our walk we'd spend the night here again. After lunch we continued north, passing Elphin, Inchnadamph and onward to reach a walk to Britain's highest waterfall, Eas a Chual Aluinn.

There were a couple of vehicles at the overflow car park but only one motorhome in the main car park where we parked. It was midgey, so there was very little messing about as we got ready and set off, picking up the old A894 briefly before taking a vague, boggy path away from the road. We met and crossed the outflow from Loch nan Gainmich. Here we found another vague path, boggy in places, and followed it till we crossed Allt Loch Bealach a' Bhuirich. We soon realised we'd been on the wrong path, which explained the couple we'd seen shortly before walking above us on the hillside, and crossed it back to pick up the correct path heading up hill, following the burn. The path left the side of the burn just before reaching Loch Bealach a' Bhuirich, where we met another couple, before reaching the bealach and heading downhill. The landscape was rocky and almost lunar in nature. We followed the river that had a series of waterfalls before leading to the main one. The ground varied, there was mostly a clear, well made path, sometimes it was boggy, and there were some big steps to negotiate. Towards the end there were peat hags, where we met another couple and their dog.

Looking towards Quinag

Looking up towards Glas Bheinn

Striding towards the bealach

Sedum acre

Towards Quinag

Lunar landscape

Cliffs above Abhainn an Loch Bhig

View south east

Towards Glas Bheinn

Lovely waterfalls

It felt as if we were walking off a cliff edge. I did not like it. David tried to coax me further, I was less than happy, but eventually screwed up my courage and managed to clamber down a little further to a flat area where I felt safe enough to enjoy the views. I didn't want to stay long, however, and we had to make our way back. There seemed to be an unfair amount of climbing, but we reached the bealach in good time, passed the loch and headed downhill. This time, we had no intention of taking the wrong path and found it quite easily, it was a good path all the way. A bit boggy in places. Like the bit David plunged into up to his knees. Whoops! We walked on until we reached the outflow again where he took off his boots and socks to wash them out. Then his trousers.

River leading to Eas a Chual Aluinn

Loch Beag

David looking over the edge (he couldn't see the waterfall)

Abhainn an Loch Bhig, a long way down

David stepped into my panorama 

I think it was at this point I got bitten by midgies, although not as bad as two weeks previously the night we spent by Quinag. We made it back to Ellie, quickly sorted our boots and packs and then headed back to Knockan Crag. There were just three other vans when we arrived, one of which was parked in a very territorial fashion, side on and awning pitched. We were joined by at least two other vehicles overnight, one of which was a Volvo car and they made much noise with slamming of doors late at night and early in the morning, but we had another good night here before making our way home the next morning, without another walk as we had originally intended.

Roughly 10.4 km and 531 m total ascent