Sunday 29 May 2016

Canoe on Loch Maree

Another beautiful day...

Nowhere better for a paddle than Loch Maree. We set off from the Forestry Commission car park (NG888721), across the kilometre or so of open water, to the most beautiful islands of Loch Maree.

Crossing from Slatterdale to the most northerly island Eilean Ruairidh Mor

We spent the day exploring the bays, lagoons and woodlands - wild and unspoiled - a privilege to be here...

Looking south east along Loch Maree to Slioch

The small islands west of Eilean Ruairidh Mor (NG893732)

Looking south from Eilean Ruairidh Mor (NG893733)

Rafe on Eilean Ruairidh Mor

Rafe by Eilean Ruairidh Mor

Eilean Ruairidh Mor's south shore

Eilean Ruairidh Mor

Eilean Ruairidh Mor

Looking south east across the narrows between Eilean Ruairidh and Garbh Eilean

Garbh Eilean

A good place for lunch - beach on Eilean Subhainn

On Eilean Subhainn

Beach on Eilean Subhainn

Wetlands on Eilean Subhainn

Looking south east along Loch Maree to Slioch and Meall a'Ghiuthais

Rafe has a plodge in Loch Maree

Inlet on Garbh Eilean

Good place for a second lunch - inlet on Garbh Eilean

Inlet on Garbh Eilean

Saturday 28 May 2016

Loch Affric Paddle

So, we've purchased a little canoe trolley to make access to lochs and rivers a bit further away from where we park the car, just a little bit easier...

We parked up in the Forestry Commission car park at the far end of the public road in Glen Affric (NH201233) before loading up the canoe with the days provisions. With our slightly oddly shaped wheelbarrow, we continued west along the track until we found a good place to get down to the river...

Looking west along Loch Affric (from NH196232)

...and off we paddled - a day to explore Loch Affric.

Looking west to Affric cottages and bridge (from NH189230)

West along Loch Affric (from NH185228)

Exploring the northern shore of Loch Afric

Views into West Affric from Loch Affric

An Tudair with Mam Sodhail beyond from Loch Affric

West Affric from inlet into River Affric at western end of Loch Affric

Waterfalls on River Affric (NH138208)

A good place for a picnic - waterfalls on River Affric (NH139208)

Looking north east along River Affric and Loch Affric from NH139208)

Looking south west into West Affric from NH139208

Rafe - An Tudair and beach on Loch Affric (NH141212)

East along Loch Affric - exploring the southern shore

Second lunch on the south shore of Loch Affric (NH168220)

Watchful red deer on the south shore of Loch Affric

Affric Lodge (NH184229)

Nearly back - bridge over the River Affric (from NH197232)

Brought back lots of great memories of my little backpack - Sort of the Affric Kintail Way in 2014.

Friday 27 May 2016

The Beinn Dearg Four (Ullapool)

Looking north west from near Inverlael Bridge at the start of the walk

A big walk on a glorious sunny day - four Munros - Beinn Dearg, Cona' Mheall, Meall nan Ceapraichean and Eididh nan Clach Geala (plus a Munro Top, Ceann Garbh, for good measure!) - can't wait.

Jim and Rafe - looking east towards Inverlael Forest and Gleann na Sguaib

There were quite a few cars in the car park at Inverlael Bridge when we arrived at 8:30am - we weren't the only ones making the most of the wonderful weather.

Into the woods

The sun was beating down and the sky was blue and crystal clear as we set off. It was already hot. Jim didn't even put on his jacket!

The track through Inverlael Forest - looking back towards Loch Broom

It was just a few hundred metres to the woods and then a couple of kilometres amongst the trees.

We didn't concentrate quite hard enough at one point, on the winding forest tracks and we went up the wrong track. We realised quickly enough (we shouldn't have been going up!) and turned back. It was only when we got back to the track junction that we saw there was a signpost "< Beinn Dearg". Only slightly hidden amongst the abundance of glowing yellow broom.

Crossing the River Lael over the bridge at NH204851

Once back on the right track we made good time, over the river and past the ruined cottage and farm at Glensguib

Ruins at Glensguib

It was a gentle ascent on good paths - we made excellent time...

Jim - Track through Inverlael Forest with views to  Meall nan Ceapraichean, Bealach an Lochain Uaine and Beinn Dearg

Our first and third Munro objectives for the day, above Bealach an Loachain Uaine, were soon in view, crisp against the sky.

Rafe and Jim - the deer gate out of the forest (NG214849)

We were soon out on the open hillside, taking the good stalkers path up Gleann na Sguaib, an easy ascent above the river.

Rafe and Jim - ascent in Gleann na Sguaib

Looking back (west) over Inverleal Forest

Ascent in Glean nan Sguaib - views to Meall nan Ceapraichean, Bealach an Lochain Uaine and Beinn Dearg
with Eas Fionn (waterfall)

Eas Fionn

Jim and Rafe - Gleann na Sguaib

The walk in was long, but so lovely. As the bealach gradually neared, the wide wild expanded around us...

Crossing the River Leal with views to Bealach an Lochain Uaine

We stopped for a drink and a snack beside some waterfalls, where the stalkers path crossed the river, and breathed in the mountains.

Rafe had a plodge in the water.

Waterfalls on River Leal with Mathair Lathail crags beyond

Jim - climbing towards Bealach an Lochain Uaine

Onward and upward...

Looking back (west) down Gleann na Sguaib

Jim and Rafe - climbing towards Bealan an Lochain Uaine
with views to Meall nan Ceapraichean

River Leal and Bealach an Lochain Uaine

There was a tiny green island in glittering Lochan Lathail.

Lochan Lathail and Bealach an Lochain Uaine

Looking back to Lochan Lathail and Gleann na Sguaib from ascent to
Bealach an Lochain Uaine

Nearing Bealach an Lochain Uaine

Looking back (west) down Gleann na Sguaib from Bealach an Lochain Uaine

There were a couple of unexpected false "tops", before we got to Bealach an Lochain Uaine. Coire's in the mountainside, tumbled rocks, babbling burns and silver lochans, each one prettier and wilder than the last. Until the sudden opening up of the sky and wide new views, east, over mountain and moor.

Lochan Uaine - views north east

Jim - Lochan Uaine with first views of Cona' Meall beyond

We found a comfy spot beside Lochan Uaine and had a first lunch.

Rafe has a well deserved plodge in Lochan Uaine - views north west to Meall nan Ceapraichean

It was hard for us to drag ourselves away.

Beinn Dearg from Lochan Uaine - good place for a first lunch

But we hadn't even made it to our first Munro yet - so we had a lot more work to do...

We dumped our rucksacks at the bottom of the wall in the bealach (NH263818) and headed off up Beinn Dearg - the first steep climb of the day - 200m or so, of craggy, bouldery stuff.

Beginning the ascent of Beinn Dearg

There were a couple of snowy patches to cross (Rafe enjoyed chucking it about!) but we soon gained height. We left the wall when it turned and was no longer the direct route to the summit, and we continued south west across easier slopes to the summit plateau and onto the summit cairn,

Ascent of Beinn Dearg

Jime and Rafe - ascent of Beinn Dearg

Looking down (north west) into Gleann na Sguaib and over Meall nan Ceapraichean from ascent of Beinn Dearg

Nearing the summit of Beinn Dearg

The views opened up suddenly - pretty much of the whole of the north of Scotland! Beinn Dearg (Munro 57, 1084m) is apparently the tallest mountain north of the A835 and we were there on a good day to make the most of it.

Beinn Dearg summit (Munro 57, 1084m) - views to The Fannichs

The Fannichs and An Teallach, were to the west and south west, Torridon to the south, Coigach and Assynt to the north, Ben Wyvis to the east. Ullapool and the Summer Isles stood out just below us on the west coast.

Once again - we could have stayed up there all day!

Rafe and Jim - descent from Beinn Dearg - views east over Cona' Mheall

But time was moving on...

Rafe and Jim - descent from Beinn Dearg - views to Bealach an Lochain Uaine

We descended back into the bealach, the way we had climbed. We refuelled at the rucksacks, but left them again, heading off east, descending to a lower col before starting our ascent of Munro number two - Cona' Mheall.

Rafe and Jim - on the way to Cona' Mheall

The views down Coire Granda were eye wateringly lovely.

Cona' Mheall, Coire Granda and Beinn Dearg from NH266818

There was a rough path across the face of the slope. We met another walker who suggested we stick to the path rather than cross the boulder fields - she had regretted making the opposite decision! We decided to stick to the path...

Rafe and Jim - starting the ascent of Cona' Mheall

There were patches of boulders that were unavoidable, some large, some small - it was hard going in places, but we were soon on the summit plateau.

Looking back to Beinn Dearg from ascent of Cona' Mheall

Beinn Dearg from Cona' Mheall summit ridge

The path brought us out on the plateau a couple of hundred metres south of the summit. It was an easy ascent from there - the summit itself very bouldery...

Rafe and Jim - nearing the summit of Cona' Mheall - views north over Loch Tuath

Once again the views were great - back across to Beinn Dearg dominating in the west.

Cona' Mheall summit (Munro 176, 978m) - views to Beinn Dearg

We had a few minutes on the summit of Cona' Mheall (Munro 176, 978m), taking in the views and taking many photographs - before heading back along the summit plateau to pick up the path to avoid the worst of the rocks.

Descent from Cona' Mheall - views south to The Fannichs

We were soon back at the first col, before the easy 70m ascent back to Bealach Lochain an Uaine. We crossed a couple of patches of snow again - Rafe was definitely feeling the heat - he had a roll about and a cool off.

Returning towards Bealach an Lochain Uaine (NG269817)

Nearning Bealach an Lochain Uaine (NG265818)

Loch a'Choire Ghranda

Bealach an Lochain Uaine and Meall nan Ceapraichean

We collected our rucksacks from beside the wall and had a second lunch - just where we had eaten our first lunch, two Munro's ago...

Lochan Uaine and Meall nan Ceapraichean - second lunch

We had to drag Rafie out of Lochan Uaine - our next Munro was calling - Meall nan Ceapraichean.

Ascent of Meall nan Ceapraichean  - views back to Cons' Mheall, Bealach an Lochain Uaine and Beinn Dearg

It was a bit of a shock to the system having to lug a rucksack up the hill! But it was only 100m or so...

Jime and Rafe - Ascent of Meall nan Ceapraichean - views to An Teallach

...and the views were new again.

Views west into Gleann na Sguaib from ascent of Meall nan Ceapraichean

Views east into Coire Loch Tuath from ascent of Meall nan Ceapraichean

We were soon at the summit of Meall nan Ceapraichean (Munro 177, 977m), only one metre smaller than Cona' Mheall.

We had our best views of the day of the Coigach and Assynt hills - instantly recognisable.

Meall nan Ceapraichean summit (Munro 177, 977m) - views north west to Assynt

We were soon moving on though - time was getting on! We followed the summit ridge north and then north east across yet another boulderfield.

Rafe and Jim - continuing north on the Meall nan Ceapraichean ridge
Views to Eididh nan Clach Geala and Ceann Garbh

It was nice to stay on the tops for a while, drinking in the views.

Looking back (south) to Cona' Mheall and Beinn Dearg from near Meall nan Ceapraichean

Rafe and Jim - ascent of Ceann Garbh

We picked up a Munro Top along the way - Ceann Garbh - topped with more rocky stuff...

Ceann Garbh summit (Munro Top 124, 968m) - views west

...before descending north from the next bealach (between Ceann Garbh and Ceann Garbh Meall nan Ceapraichean) towards a lower bealach strewn with lochans.

Eididh nan Clach Geala from descent into Bealach Coire Lochan a'Chnapaich

There was another big patch of snow for Rafe cool off.

Rafe and Jim - Bealach Coire a'Chnapaich

The bealach was lovely - tiny unnamed lochans scattered across the moor. We picked our way through (Rafie literally), looking for a path to ascend our final Munro, Eididh nan Clach Geala - but we were out of luck. We crossed the stalkers path that ran across the bealach and took a pathless beeline up the hillside towards the summit.

Jime and Rafe - ascent of Eididh nan Clach Geala

We would our ways through rocky outcrops, before coming out on another bouldery summit plateau.

Looking back (south east) to Bealach Coire Lochan a'Chnapaich

Rafe and Jim - nearing Eididh nan Clach Geala summit

Views south over Meall nan Ceapraichean and Beinn Dearg from near the summit of Eididh nan Clach Geala

Munro number four - Eididh nan Clach Geala (Munro 257, 927m) - more great views. Not quite as good as earlier in the day, with a few clouds rolling in and the haze over more distant hills increasing - but still...

Eididh nan Clach Geala summit (Munro 257, 927m) - views west to An Teallach

We yomped off, descending west, initially steeply through the rocks, heading for a lochan, Sidhean Dudh - looked like a good spot for a third lunch. As the slope relented, the terrain changed and we were on grass - much to Rafe's relief.

We spotted a couple of ptarmigan amongst the rocks as we descended.

Ptarmigan - Eididh nan Clach Geala

Looking back to Eididh nan Clach Geala summit

North west to Coigach and Assynt from Creag Tuath a Chnapaith

Sidhean Dubh turned out to be a good place for a breather and the final cuppa and sandwich...

An Teallach over Sidhean Dubh

Meall nan Ceapraichean and Beinn Dearg from Sidhean Dubh

...before we descended, steeply again, south to that stalkers path in Coire Lochan a'Chnapaich.

Coire Lochan a'Chnapaich from descent from Eididh nan Clach Geala

Once on the path, the going was straightforward, if a little long.

Bealach an Loachaine Uaine from descent into Gleann Sguaib

We were soon at the junction with our outward route in Gleann an Sguaib.

Rafe at the meeting of the stalkers paths in Gleann Sguaib (NG234834)

Jim - descent in Gleann Sguaib

We all had sore feet by the end...

Crossing the River Leal in Inverlael Forest (NG204851)

Jim - nearing Inverlael Bridge

...but, well, what a day!!!

North to Loch Broom from the end of the walk at Inverlael Bridge

Route:  Car park south of Inverlael Bridge (NH181825), right out of car park and immediately right again through gate onto track E into Inverlael Forest, continuing E on main track to NH205853 and take left fork NE to cross bridge over River Lael, pass ruin at Glensguaib, remain on tack ESE above River Lael through gate out of forest and onto stalkers path along Gleann na Sguaib to Bealach an Lochan Uaine (NH264818), SW to wall at NH263817 and follow this SW to NH260814 (where the wall turns away W) and continue SW to Beinn Dearg summit (Munro 57, 1084m), return to wall and follow back to NH263817 and continue NE on path to bealach (sh 813m), follow intermittent path to Cona' Mheall summit ridge about 200m S of summit, NNE to Cona' Mheall summit (Munro 176, 978m), return to bealach (sh 813m), and then to Bealach an Lochan Uaine, NW on intermittent path to Meall nan Ceapriachean summit (Munro 177, 977m), N to Ceann Garbh summit (Munro Top 124, 968m), E to bealach at NH264831, descend NE to lochans (NH265837), NW on pathless slopes to Eididh nan Clach Geala (Munro 257, 927m), WSW to Lochan Sidhean Dubh, SE to stalkers path at NH250837, follow stalkers path SW then W to join outward route on stalkers path in Gleann na Sguaib at NH233834, retuen to start.

Statistics:  Distance: 26km  Ascent: 1600m  Time: 11 hours

Map:  OS Explorer 436 Beinn Dearg & Loch Fannich

Beinn Dearg

Cona' Mheall

Meall nan Ceapriachean

Eididh nan Clach Geala

Beinn Bhrotain and Monadh Mor

Setting off from Glen Feshie - it was chilly - before the sun had a chance to peep over the hills...  Off we go! Jim - Setting off near Auch...