Distance: 15 miles
Weather: fine morning, light showers later; windy up high
Number of German men seen wearing a bin bag in place of waterproofs: 1
Number of ticks found embedded: 1 (me)
Number of items lost: 1*
Number of items found to be missing: 1**
The fine weather route for today was to go up Mam Sodhail, over Carn Eighe and then along the ridge all the way to Toll Creagach. Even after yesterday's ridge experience, we'd thought that if the day dawned fine then we'd give it a go.
Then, just after we pitched the tent last night, I remembered our vetter's comment about some vertiginous bits on that ridge. More consideration was made of the map and we had to conclude that maybe it wasn't the place for us to be in the current snow conditions.
However, I didn't really want to stay low if the weather was nice, and our FWA would give us an awfully short day.
Plan C was hatched: we would go up Mam Sodhail and Carn Eighe as planned, then would back-track a bit and drop down to the path along the Allt Coire Leachavie. The reality only fell slightly short of the plan.
Having woken up to fine skies, we were on for tackling our hills and we were only delayed in our departure by chatting to some passing Challengers who had stayed at the YHA last night.
Once we'd reached our turn to head uphill, getting up to 900m was uneventful. The snow had receded overnight and we hadn't hit the snowline until gone 750m. However, by 900m the path was covered by deep snow and a short while later it kept disappearing under more extensive snow fields. With the snow being quite firm, when we finally lost its line we simply donned our Microspikes and headed straight up to the ridge.
A few hundred metres before we reached our first planned summit two things happened: we met a chap called Steve (who it turns out we came close to meeting on the Cape Wrath trail in 2010), and the wind picked up with some violence. As a trio, we made our way up those last few hundred metres (I brought up the rear, taking advantage of the steps kicked by the chaps!).
Our planned out and back to Carn Eighe was abandoned as we reached the summit. It was wild up there! Steve made the same decision and after a quick break in the lee of the huge cairn (taking advantage of mobile signals, Steve checked in with his wife, Mick caught up with the news headlines and I sent yesterday's blog), and with cloud having drifted in with snow not far behind, we all battled the wind to get back down.
On the one hand I was glad for Steve's bootprints showing his ascent route from the Coire, but on the other hand I'm not sure his route was wholly advisable. Particularly as we were now on the south side of the hill and there was no firmness at all to that snow. Horrible, wet, heavy, slippery snow is not good on such a steep descent. Still, we made it down with all limbs intact and enjoyed the spectacle of the tumbling stream as we made our way back down to Glen Affric.
At 2pm, we arrived on the track which runs along the glen, a whole 3 miles further along from where we'd left it over 5.5 hours earlier! Definitely worth the lofty detour, though. The tops had all been clear and the views had been tremendous.
We then had to make a decision as to where to end our day. We had thought maybe at the parking/picnic area at the E end of Loch Affric, but the car park was far too busy to be pitching at 3.30pm, so on we continued (thus foregoing the convenience of public conveniences).
At about 4pm we collected water in preparation for camping at the first pitch we found. At 4.55, I pointed out (perhaps a bit grumpily) that a lovely flat grassy area wasn't going to just present itself next to the path, but that we'd have to go looking for one (it's been a hard couple of days and I was desperate to stop). Around the next bend I was proved wrong. Having not seen a hint of a pitch for 3 miles, around that bend was a perfect flat bit of grass just off the track. Mick's mischievous suggestion that we should walk on for another mile received a suitable response and having cleared a million twigs from the area we soon had the tent up.
After a couple of day's of hard (but rewarding) work it's now a couple of shorter/low ascent days to take us into Drumnadrochit.
(*Even with a strict 'count them out, count them back in' routine, we have a history of losing tent pegs. The rate of loss slowed when I put red sleeving over their tops, but we still managed to lose another one yesterday.
**We have a very detailed checklist at home which has evolved over a number of years. Unfortunately the checklist isn't sufficiently detailed to ensure that I don't forget a serving of pasta. So, tomorrow I'll be having pasta sauce and muesli bars...)
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