Saturday 10 July 2021

Adventures with Ellie - West Highlands 28th May '21

I had not run since my half marathon in the middle of April and in fact had done little walking, considering the Challenge was in a little over two weeks time, I thought a walk in my new boots would be a good idea. So we set off with Ellie to the North West Highlands and the car park for Beinn Eighe. There were quite a few vehicles when we arrived, we guessed a few of them were staying overnight, some with occupants, and some would have late returners from the hills.

We had a pleasant evening, a few vehicles came and went, and we had some very late, very noisy, very rude arrivals.

We were off for our walk at a good time, just gone 09:00, which is early for us, but there were already plenty of people and we had company all the way there and back. We walked to Loch Coire Mhic Fhearchair, far enough and rough enough to test the boots and the ankle. We were passed by many people as we walked, but we were just dawdling and pausing to take photos and practice my map and compass skills, as it had been two years since I'd used them and I can lack confidence.

We arrived at the loch after two and a half hours in time for lunch. There was a group already gathering on some handy rocks, so we found some more a little distance away on which to sit and enjoy our sandwiches. I sat watching a few people making their way up to the ridge, some took a more interesting route than others. I wasn't sure I'd like it.

Eventually it was time to return to Ellie, we arrived in good time to dither about where we would spend the night. Having decided we would return to The Fairy Lochs the following day, but that the car park would not be suitable to stay in. We investigated a perfect forestry parking spot by Loch Maree, but unsurprisingly there were signs asking people not stay overnight. I'm sure people do, but we don't want to be those kind of people. We investigated another forestry car park close by and there were no signs regarding overnight stays, and it was much quieter, so we decided to stop there. Once all the visitors to Victoria Falls had left, we were alone for the night. It was a nice spot, albeit without views.

Can you see Ellie?

Roughly 13.8km and 603m total ascent

In the morning, we visited the falls ourselves, another short walk. The path was well maintained, the waterfalls had a bit of water, there were nice views, and then we returned to Ellie. On arriving at the car park for the Fairy Lochs walk, I was dismayed to find the car park really busy. It had been a good idea not to stay there. A small group set off ahead of us, an older couple and a middle aged couple. Another young couple left the car park before us and we soon caught them dithering 100m from their car. The young lady asked us if they were going the right way for the walk, they'd left their 'map' in the car. I assured them they were and that if they got stuck there were markers to show them the way. They had been put off by the warning on the sign that they were heading in to dangerous country and that they should be prepared. They scurried off ahead of us. After about the first kilometre, we passed the first group, having a break. We exchanged pleasantries and continued. A short while later, I could see the young couple ahead of us, scrambling up beside what looked like a small waterfall. Now, we've been here before, many years ago when the children were small and we used to camp for two weeks at Gairloch, I did not remember such a scramble on this walk. I suddenly spotted a walk marker we were just about to walk passed and so corrected ourselves, taking us away from the approach to the scramble. It could be that the couple had every intention of going that way, but somehow, I doubt it. They were too far away to attract their attention. We continued on our way, greeting some walkers coming in the opposite direction, before reaching a gate in the deer fence.

From here, we left the path as I wanted to bag a nearby trig. We crossed some fairly rough ground and as we reached the foot of the lump we needed to climb, we stumbled across the small group, looking a little lost and confused. David spoke to them, showing them where they were on the map and suggesting how they could return themselves to the path. They had probably unwittingly followed the route the young couple had taken and must have climbed the deer fence, which would have been fun for them. The easiest thing to do was to return the way they had come but not climb the fence, just follow it to the left to meet the gate, return to the path and visit the lochans. They seemed to be taking the advice as we continued. 

It soon became abundantly obvious that I was not going to reach this trig, there was a small scrambly climb and I was so close, but I was very concerned I wouldn't get down again, so I returned to easier ground and waited for David. In doing so, I got to watch the group. They had ignored David's advice initially and tried to continue the way we had come, but with no obvious path they were unsure. There was much heated discussion and I'm sure some foot stomping, difficult in the soft ground they found themselves on, before they headed back the way they had come. We never saw them or the young couple again, the groups car was gone when we returned.

Once David returned, we returned to the gate and to the path and continued to see the memorial by the lochans. The route we know continues, but judging by the state of the path, most people (if they make it this far) turn around and go back. We were eventually caught up by two couples walking dogs.

It was nice to revisit, but far too busy for comfort. It was usually just ourselves on this walk.

We got back to Ellie in time for a late lunch, but decided to move on first, eventually stopping at the viewpoint overlooking Kinlochewe and Loch Maree. My goodness, a busy carpark! But we were only stopping for sandwiches, cake and coffee, so no worries. We were soon on our way home after a lovely weekend away.

Roughly 6.19km and total ascent 264m

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