Saturday 21 June 2014

Sort of the Affric Kintail Way - Day Two - Cannich to River Affric

It was a touch drizzly first thing, so we didn't rush up - the forecast was for the weather to improve as the day went on...

After packing all the kit and donning the new waterproofs we paid our dues to Matt at the Cannich Camping Site and set off into the wilds.

The Plan for Day Two of the Affric Kintail Way (AKW) was to amble along the 19km of forest tracks along the length of Strathglass and Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin before wild camping at the eastern end of Loch Affric - not too strenuous...

Rafe by the Chisholm Stone, Cannich Brae (NH331315)

We headed north west along the road from the campsite before taking the minor road west into Glen Cannich, A short steep push up tarmac, past the Chisholm Memorial Stone - definitely worth a look if you can get yourself and the rucksack through the kissing gate - before the road flattens out and a welcome AKW finger post points the way, along a forestry track into the woods.

Beauly Denny Line in Strathglass

The waterproof was already off - it was warm and muggy and increasingly bright - and eventually sunny.

Rafe - beside the AKW above Strathglass

The path undulates gently through patches of sitka, Douglas and lodgepole, with area's of more attractive Scots pine and birch - plus there were plenty of gaps in the trees to see across Strathglass and to the hills of Affric ahead. Wild-flowers abounded.... a lovely walk.

The AKW above Strathglass

The forestry tracks on the map didn't quite seem to meet up with the track up from Dog Falls, where we knew the AKW passed through. If the route wasn't finished at this top end, we might have to do some yomping through the undergrowth to meet the route down in the glen. I kept a close eye on our position on the map - but I needn't have worried. About 100m before I was ready to break trail through the undergrowth, a waymarker appeared at the side of the track. A new path had been built through the trees, narrow and winding, steep in places, but it was pleasing to be off the wider forestry road and be deep in the woods.

Rafe on the AKW as we descend towards Dog Falls

Rafe - Adit near Dog Falls (NH284282)

All the height we had gained was soon lost. We crossed the road and we were at the Dog Falls car park, definitely a good place for a first lunch.

Rafe by River Affric at Dog Falls car park

The Highland Cross annual event was taking place today. A couple of police officers and a mountain rescue land rover along with some event marshals were based at the car park - they were expecting the first "elite" competitors through the checkpoint very soon.

Looking west into Glen Affric from above the dam on Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin

We were crossing over the River Affric here and walking down the southern side of Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin, so we wouldn't meet up with anyone on the Highland Cross until we reached Loch Affric - a good few km away yet!

Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin from AKW above the dam

It was a bit of a pull up through the woods to the viewpoint west down Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin above the dam. I had to get the waterproofs out for a time...

Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin looking west from AKW

We met up with a grandma and grandson who were a bit navigationally challenged, having taken the wrong Forestry track down from Tomich - they had a bit of walk ahead of them to get back to their car, but they didn't seem phased, just relieved to know where they were!

Tom a'Choinnich from AKW

The walk along Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin was beautiful - the sun was out again and the views glorious - Caldonian pine forest at it's finest and Scottish hills with just a tiny bit of last winters snow shining out. The track was smooth and only just undulating - easy walking and just breathtaking... 

We stopped for a second lunch in the trees above the loch - we could see the main Highland Cross checkpoint, (where the competitors complete the walk/run and collect their bikes for the second part of the race) across the loch. Looked like they were having a busy day.
Competitors in the Highland Cross 2014
on AKW south of Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin

Considering it was only mid afternoon, and I was still feeling fine and raring to go, I decided not to finish for the day at the western end of Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin and to crack on down Loch Affric.

So of course, as soon as we took the left fork, we started meeting Highland Crossers - some were running, some walking briskly, others heads down and looking exhausted (not surprising they'd already done about 20 miles and had a 30 mile bike ride ahead!) - most managed an "Afternoon" and/or a wave and Rafie got a few pats and tickles - I even got a proposal of marriage from a chap who was so pleased to be told he was nearly at the checkpoint!

Loch Affric and Sgurr na Lapaich from AKW

As the afternoon wore on, we saw less and less competitors and eventually it was only marshals and organisers that we met, some on foot, some in vehicles. Every single one of them stopped for a word. They seemed like a great bunch - well done to everyone, volunteers and competitors...

Allt Garbh (NH179224) on AKW by Loch Affric

The walking continued to be superlative - I felt like I could have carried on forever.

Loch Affric from AKW

The terrain was changing, we were coming out of the forest and the views opened up, mountains all around.

Loch Affric, An Tudair Beag and Sgurr na Lapaich

An Tudair and Mam Sodhail from AKW

Loch Affric looking east from AKW

Loch Affric and An Tudair from AKW

Rafe by Loch Affric - hot on the AKW

Both Rafie and I were starting to get tired now. As we neared the head of Loch Affric we decided to look for a good place to camp.

Loch Affric and Sgurr na Lapaich from AKW

There was a lovely beach at the western end of the loch, looked promising. We decided to head over the next rise and if nothing looked good, we would come back to the beach.

River Affric campsite (NH139208)

Just over the next rise the views changed completely - we were looking into West Affric, The River Affric meandered towards us, out of the glen, to tumble through some rapids (it says waterfall on the map, but I don't think I'd go that far!) before meeting Loch Affric at the beach. There was a flat patch of grass just above the rapids - perfect.

The western end of Loch Affric with views to Sgurr na Lapaich

After setting up camp and having something hot to eat, we wandered down to the beach for an explore - it would have been just as good a spot to camp - and it seemed like a place to remember for a canoe trip sometime!

The western end of Loch Affric - looking east

Someone had planted a sheep's skull on a stick at the point where Loch Affric became River Affric (or vice versa).

Loch Affric looking west up River Affric

Back at the campsite, I had another cuppa and Rafe had his tea. It was time to settle down for the night.

River Affric looking east from near the campsite

Although it was getting quite late it was still quite light - it was midsummers night after all.

It was the just the perfect place.

River Affric waterfalls (NH139208)

Read on - Sort of the Affric Kintail Way - Day Three - River Affric to Shiel Bridge

Route:  Cannich campsite (NH341316), NW on A831 to NH338319, Clen Cannich road west to NH326317, SW on forestry track waymarked Affric Kintail Way above northern side of Strathglass, at approx NH282286 follow waymarks and descend to Dog Falls car park (NH282282), cross River Affric and continue on waymarked Affric Kintail way along forestry tracks above south shore of Loch Beinn a'Mheadhoin, continue east along waymarked Affric Kintail Way along south shore of Loch Affric, continue east to Waterfall (NH139208), wildcamp.

Statistics:  Distance: 27km  Ascent: 450m  Time: 9 hours.

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