The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Day 40 - Easter Drumquhassle to 450m up Ben Lomond

Saturday 1 May
Distance: 14 miles (on paper, who knows how far with all of the wiggles) (Tot: 684.75 miles)
Number of other walkers seen: 0 (very sensible of everyone else)

Route: WHW out of Garadhban Forest, N up to unnamed summit between Breac Leac and Gualann, NW to Stob a' Choin Duibh, NW to Beinn Bhreac, down and up to Beinn Uird (losing the will to live on the way), NW down spur to Moin Eich. Pitch tent on first bit of dry ground encountered since 9am, by Glashlet Burn.

Do not under any circumstances ever think that it's a good idea to follow that route! I don't care that it's as described in the Highland High Way book - not only is it a ridiculously arduous yomp, but it's also pretty pointless.

Unless I'm having an attack of "it was always sunny in the old days", then I think that I can put it down as one of the hardest days walking of my life. And did I mention that it was pretty pointless too?

It was in the pouring rain that we deviated from the WHW this morning, and there was nothing overly remarkable about the yomp up to the unnamed summit. It was some of the wettest terrain known to man, there was heather to bash through, and thanks to the low cloud there was no view, but otherwise it didn't strike us as anything dissimilar to terrain we've trodden before and terrain we will tread again.

Then, from the west of Gualann, everything seemed to get magnified. The heather and tussocks were knee high, and were interspersed very regularly with huge man-eating bogs. All okay for a mile of walking, and particularly when there's a point to that walking, but after eight miles of picking your feet up to knee height on one step, and pulling your foot out of a bog on the next, not to mention clambering down hags, and clambering back up, it was surprising that we didn't both just sit down and cry a while. And then there was the job of trying to navigate through it all with no visibilty.

There were some positive points to the day, and when I've thought what they were, which may take a few days, perhaps I'll report back...

Seriously, though, at around 1pm the cloud did start to lift, and soon after the rain stopped and every now and then we got a view down to Loch Lomond.

By the time we heaved ourselves up to Beinn Uird, we had stunning, if curtailed, views in all directions. But we couldn't help thinking that the same could have been achieved with a lot less effort and a lot more reward.

The day wasn't entirely free of lighter moments. The amusing bit came when Mick said "There are lots of holes around here" about half a second before a prolonged "ooooh" of exclamation was torn from me. I'd lost my leg to the knee in a hole full of liquid peat. I did stop to wring out my sock after about an hour of squelching, and again when we pitched the tent.

The most negative thing about the day was that having expended so much energy for so little reward we're now dubious about the rest of our high level route. One thing is for certain and that is that we're now not feeling inclined to heave ourselves over both of the munroes we had planned for tomorrow. An easier day is in order to put ourselves in a position so that we're more likely to achieve the two we have pencilled in for Monday.

To finish on a more smiley note, and if we overlook the nine hours preceding our arrival at our pitch for the night, we are now pitched next to a burbling burn and with Ben Lomond as our backdrop.

(Geoff: was the site at Easter Drumquhassle fully grassed when you were there? There are great swathes of bare earth at the moment (which have been seeded). Along with not-quite-green trees, I don't think that helped in my assessment of "unpretty". It did its job, though and we had a comfortable night (at least until 5.30 this morning when the German chaps who were our nearest neighbours arose to find they had their volume controls stuck on Max...)
Mike: A day that hard: I'm surprised you hadn't chosen to come and join us for it!!)
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  1. Well done on visiting an area never traversed by any Scottish hillwalker (lol)!

    Don't recall ever hearing of anyone tackling that little section before. What you describe is typical Trossachs. You have my sympathy. I'm sure I have a photo of that ridge taken from the QE Forest Park (to the east) must dig it out.

  2. Congratulations, I see you have taken up Marilyn Bagging (I take it you did summit Binnean nan Gobhar).
    I think you'll find the activity takes you to lots more similar such places.
    Bit of a strange 'walk-in' if you were just planning on Ben Lomond (up which there is a path of motorway proportions).
    Have fun!

  3. Easter Drunquhassle was really nice, I recall - fully grassed. it's the one with the big metal communal shelter isn't it?