After a whole week south of the border here we are, back in Scotland. The main focus of this week is Mallaig, which is from where Mick will start his sixth TGO Challenge on Friday (he’s going solo. I’ve opted out this year), but, as always, I grabbed the opportunity to extend the trip beyond the necessary timescales and a list of nearby Marilyns was duly put together.
After a looooooong drive up yesterday, we woke up this morning in a very wet Glen Nevis (which, based on our experience, is its usual state), which is where Mick, hearing the rain drumming on the roof, opted to stay.
“I’ll be back within 3 hours” I said, as I set out for my first hill, which I had pencilled in as a 4.5 mile outing. I was back within 3 hours too, but only because I positively trotted through the last ten minutes (we had to be off the campsite before noon, and I wanted a shower before we left; the rush wasn’t just to be inside the timeframe I’d given Mick).
It had all started according to plan, but then, based on the terrain, I decided to go a slightly different way. That led to me walking so far around the hill that I started to think that I’d have been better setting out from the Lundavra Road (which had been my original plan, which I ditched because I thought the Glen Nevis approach looked better). Eventually, deciding that if I walked much further then I was never going to be back on time, I struck a straight line up the hill. That was steep! But effective, and only about half an hour later than planned I reached the top.
Then I made a perfectly ridiculous decision as to my route back. No matter how many times before I’ve sworn that I’ll never again try to cut through a forest to a track, that’s exactly what I decided to do. A very, very bad decision, as it turned out (although it did go surprisingly well for the first hundred yards, before I met the tangle of blow downs).
“Bushwhacking” is far too tame a term for the next couple of hundred yards of trying to find my way through young-ish pine trees (two hundred yards which took me over half an hour) and by the time I fully appreciated that what I was doing was a hideous nightmare it would have been as bad to go back as to go forward. However, I did eventually pop out onto the track shaken, filthy and comprehensively prickled by pine needles. An ordeal made worse for the fact that for the last little bit (probably the trickiest bit, which saw me backtrack a few times) I could see someone on the track below the one I was aiming for, watching me. Doing something stupid isn’t so bad if no-one else knows about it (she says, confessing her stupidity online)…
I’d like to think that the lesson has well and truly been learnt now … but I suspect not. (Incidentally, once I did get down and looked back up I could see a route that would have worked – I just couldn’t see it from above). (6 miles, 1800’)
(Post Blog Note, 17 June 2016 (i.e. a year and a bit later): I’m just going through all of my Marilyns to date and adding in map snippets displaying the gpx file that I recorded for each hill. For some reason I can’t find one for Bidein Bad na h-lolaire. Perhaps I deleted it to remove all evidence of my stupidity in this route. More likely, I either forgot to take the GPS with me, or I have misfiled it. Whatever the reason for it being missing, it’s probably best not to share this one. I’d hate to cause anyone else to go the same way. Scrambling down crags in a dense pine plantation is neither big nor clever. Nor is it fun.)
Next up, once I’d regained my composure and my walking partner, was Druim na h-Earba, which by comparison was an absolute breeze. Parking at the viewpoint on the Lundavra road, there was a well trodden (but, today, very wet) path all the way to the magnificent viewpoint which is the summit. At just 1.3 miles (return) with 400’ of ascent, it’s well worth the walk just for the view.
Picking up a few essentials in Fort William (bread, milk, map sheet number 40), off we set along the Mallaig road, swinging off it at Morar to go and park by the loch for our last objective of the day: Sgurr na Dubh-chreige. Another little outing up a little hill, coming in at just 2.25 miles with 700’ of up, but this one stood out as the hill of the day; what spectacular surroundings! It’s a pity that I can’t attach a photo of this landscape of heather and rocky outcrops (I’m hoping I have enough phone signal to send this; I certainly don’t have enough signal for photos).
As for the weather, it didn’t turn out to be as bad as forecast. It was only on the second hill that we got wet (two showers, one as we set out, one as we got back; it was dry at the summit), and it was so warm this morning that I ascended the first hill in my shirtsleeves. However, as I type Colin is rocking away, getting lashed by rain, but it will likely be sunny again in ten minutes.