Skip to content

Archive for

Heading into the hills

It can take a lot of plotting, planning and scheming to find a way into one of the most spectacular pieces of wilderness in Scotland.

Unless you have the time and energy to carry a pack for days,  you first have to negotiate your way through a padlocked gate which bars entry to most vehicular traffic. Local knowledge and being able to utter  the “magic words” overcame that controversial barrier.

But the first 16 miles of bumpy road  up the Glen Strathfarrar track were just the beginning. More scheming had resulted in a rendezvous and the opportunity to hitch a lift on a boat all the way up remote Loch Monar.

View from my tent

View from my tent on the shore of Loch Calavie

That gave us a fascinating insight into the way of life for folk who live up here all year round and a summit by summit commentary.

By the time we reached the stalkers’s house at Pait and finally heaved on our rucksacks to walk five miles further to Loch Calavie we had taken a few shortcuts and learned a lot. Choosing a campsite beside the loch was a great piece of advice.

We pitched our tents near the shore and set off on the slog up Lurg Mhor, the 986m hill which rises straight up from the loch. It’s known  as Scotland’s most remote Munro and it’s a steep pull up to the summit cairn.

From here we were close to the neighbouring and (to me at least) terrifying Meall Mhor summit. I preferred to turn my back on it and look west instead, over the sea to Rum, Skye and the wonder of the jaggy Cuillin Ridge.

Evening view to Skye and the west from the top of Lurg Mhor

Evening view to Skye and the west from the top of Lurg Mhor

We considered tackling Bidean a’Choire Sheasgaich. It was close but would require another couple of hours of effort at the end of an already long day.

Instead we enjoyed the long walk back across a  mossy hillside carpeted with wild flowers to stop for the day and cook down beside the water. I fell asleep to the sound of birds and the scent of a Highland hillside in June. No midges. No phone signal or internet access. Just peace and the stars.

Advertisements

Maps, mountains and fighting fears

I bought OS Landranger Map 25 today: Glen Carron and Glen Affric.

Which means I’ve spent hours drooling over  mountains, stalker tracks and hill lochs, plotting routes, camping places and the key approaches to some of Scotland’s most remote Munros.

In gaelic they sound romantic: Carn nan Gobhar, Sgurr na Lapaidh, An Riabhachan  and An Socach. They dominate the high wilderness between Loch Mullardoch and Loch Monar in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, miles from human settlement.  If there’s time in our five day hike there’s also Lurg Mhor and Bidean a’ Coire Sheasgaich which stretch above remote Loch Calavie.

But the excitement of poring over the map and finally tackling these hills after talking about climbing them for more than 20 years is tempered with a little fear. Exposed ridge walks link some of them and are part of the deal, so I need to overcome the instinct to stay away from huge drops.

I won’t know how I’ll cope until I get there but (with a lot of teeth gritting) I did succeed in walking New Zealand’s Kepler Track ridge last December – largely because once I’d started the thought of returning over the same ground was too awful to contemplate.

Richard Bach, the author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull said: “Argue for your limitations and sure enough they’re yours”.

Well, in this year of getting on and doing the things I’ve always said I wanted to do, there’s no place to hide. No excuses.

We leave on Sunday.

IMG_1831