Thursday, 7 June 2012

TGO Challenge 2012 - Day 2

OK class.  Settle down at the back.  This is the next bit...

Day 2: Allt Rhiathingaidh to a half way down Glen Cannich

The day dawned and outside the tent the sun was shining on snowy peaks.  Was I still in Scotland or had I been transported to the Alps?  I no longer felt hungover and my legs didn't hurt.  I made some soup and noodles and immediately knew that I wasn't going to be able to do this trip with these for breakfast every day.  I later buried most of the noodles and tucked into a healtho-cruncho bar intended for mid-morning.  Carl had survived the night in his not quite a complete tent and sawn off sleeping bag.


Carl faffing with his pack at the start of day two

As we finished packing up, Alistair and his dad, Edward, came into view and we set off together for the bealach that would lead us to a track down into Glen Strathfarrar.  It was a bit of a slog through heather and haggs but not entirely unpleasant on such a sunny morning; the time passed quickly and the track was where it should have been.  This felt good.  Getting ahead of myself, I thought that I just might even get to the east coast.



Glen Strathfarrer (and Carl again)

Either Carl had slowed down today or I had speeded up but we kept pace down the glen, spotting the local flora and fauna, discussing the UK government's energy policy and generally setting the world to rights (well for goodness sake, someone needs to.)  We met a solo walker on his way up the glen and he seemed most put out that there was anyone else in his hills (he was English).  He warned us with some enthusiam that a storm was on the way and advised us to pitch our tents in the lee of a drumlin for protection.  Carl and I later discussed the physics of this and I posited that the drumlin would act like an aircraft wing and the air pressure behind it would be reduced and the tent would be in a partial vacuum and some bad shit would happen, though I couldn;t quite work out what sort of bad shit without the aid of the back of an envelope, which neither of us had to hand.  But I digress. Carl told him, somewhat naughtily, that there were 300 people heading to the east coast and he might come across them and with that he got quite agitated about bothies being full and the tranquillity of the mountains being destroyed.  We wished him a good day and carried on down the track, chuckling to ourselves.



Somewhere in Glen Strathfarrer - it's just a nice pic, innit

We had a brief elevenses stop by some hydro-concrete stuff and as we continued down the track I mentioned to Carl that one of my vetters had said that the bridge at Inchvuilt was unsafe and closed and we needed to make a decision before then on going round by the dam across the end of Loch Monar or taking the ford.  The water levels weren't high, so we thought we'd go for the ford.  As it was, we walked right past the track down to it and ended up at the bridge where we found Ed and Alistair having lunch.  Even from 100 yds away the bridge did indeed look unsafe and we went a short way back upstream and crossed at a point where the river was a bit more braided.  Well I did.  Carl decided to try a deeper spot but then his knees are further off the ground than mine.

And so it was, after another couple of miles, that we reached the point where I said goodby to Carl and turned off south to cross over to Glen Cannich, following the Allt Innis na Larach.  This was a route which this year's vetter, Colin Crawford, said didn't exist as a track but which last year. Ann and Alvar Thorn seemed confident did and was mentioned in Scottish Hill Tracks (which it is, in my 1977 edition).  From a distance there appeared to be a vague track going up the left (east) of the stream or it might have been merely the product of a desire for there to be such a track.  On the right side there was a bloomin great LRT. 


Looking up the Allt Innis na Larach - Blooming great LRT on right and the 'path of dreams' on the left

But before all that there was the River Farrar to cross (for the third time) and a bridge to locate.  It was then that I noticed Carl waving at me from the road.  That's nice I thought but we've already said our goodbyes.  Oh, he's pointing at something.  Oh it's the bridge...



And what a fine bridge it was, if somewhat wobbly.  I was glad that I wasn't still hungover.

Well, this was exciting.  I was on my own again and about to cross into another valley by a route that might not exist and I might die or be lost for days.  By the time I reached the point where the LRT started climbing I could see the other track.  Not much evidence of human use but plenty of deer had passed this way.  And it turned out to be absolutely splendid, rising up next to a small mountain stream with plunge pools and cleaned washed boulders higher up.  It had a distinctly alpine feel (in miniature).  About half way up, there was an especially inviting pool and I took the opportunity to jump (well inch my way slowly 'cos I'm a wuss) into the icy cold water and get clean.  In the time it took me to find my towel, a colony of ticks had taken up residence on the tastiest parts of my body and I was still plucking them out when I got back home a few days later.  Ooops.  What's that disease with the funny name called?


Looking back down into Glen Strathfarrar

Further upstream, the path had washed out in three places, the first being easy enough to traverse but the next requiring a bit of a detour up and over.  For the third, I ended up clinging to chunks of heather and as I topped out, I came across two foxes in the meadow.  One of them saw me and run off up the hill but I was downwind of them and the other hung around for a couple of minutes until, with feet slipping and about to lose grip of the heather, I was obliged to haul myself up over the edge, which scared it off.  Sorry, there are no pics - no free hands to hold the camera.

The bealach dragged on a bit.  Why do they always do that?  And the path became a bit indistinct, well ok, disappeared completely but eventually I got a view down into Glen Cannich and the road seemed close enough to reach out to, although it took another hour and some more to get there.


View into Glen Cannich - see how close the valley floor looks!

Now Ann and Alvar had said to keep left of the plantation on the way down and it would have been a good idea if I'd heeded that advice but of course when you pick up a bit of a track, however faint, it's just tempting to follow it.  And then I was following a deer fence which was heading into a ravine.  Eeek!  Anyroad up, I found a sort of stile thing over the fence and then I realised I was inside it and thrashing and stumbling down steep foresty bits and getting wet feet and a bit hot and cross with myself.  Eventually I could see the road and, mercifully, a gate out through the fence.  Looking back from the gate I could see that there is a path down, to the east of my descent route.  Ahh, that Ann and Alvar, they know a thing or two, they do.

So anyway, just across the road was a splendid patch of grass by the river, with a small rise at one end to use as a makeshift aircraft wing against the storm.  The wind never came down Glen Cannich, though I believe others had it bad elsewhere, and I had a splendidly peaceful night until three whooper swans came gliding down the river and woke me around 7 the next morning.  Whooper di dooper.


Camp in Glen Cannich at bottom of Allt Innis na Larach

I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed walking with Carl (I have to say that because he says nice things about me).  No seriously, he is a splendid walking companion and I look forward to the opportunity of other adventures with him sometime.  The same cannot be said about 'Mr doom and gloom, get out of my mountains, you're all going to perish in the storm, Englishman'.

All that came to about 14 miles, so that just left another 140 miles to Johnshaven.

Oh yes, for tea I had pudding of Mountain House Red Berries and Custard, which is possibly the yummiest thing I ever have eaten in a tent, though at the current price of  £4.40 may just have been a one night only experience.