Thursday 12 May 2016
Auchtertyre Hill (NG832289; 452m)
Despite Mick having declared himself to be ‘resting’ in preparation for the start of the TGO Challenge tomorrow, he might have joined me on this short outing, if our journeys up and down the A890 hadn’t established that whilst the ‘P’ sign still exists alongside what would once have been a convenient car park, there now sits a crash barrier and a deep drainage ditch between the road and that ex-parking area. So, Mick sat this one out and to save him waiting around in a gateway, on high alert in case anyone wanted access, I opted for a U shaped route, starting from 856296 and ending back at the car park where we’d spent the night, at 849277.
Information gleaned online had told me of a feint path leading up the Coire Bhuide, and it had been my intention to try to find that line, until I saw ahead of me a newish track, associated with hydroelectric scheme. After a spot of dithering as to which would be the best option (a question I pondered fruitlessly for much of the walk, as I often on these ‘choose your own adventure’ routes), the track won out, on the basis that it would allow me to gain height easily up to a col, from where I could follow the ridge across to my target.
The wind put me off pursuing the top of the ridge (in hindsight, maybe not the best decision), causing me instead to stick at 300m around the first lump on the ridge, whereafter ‘up’ was the only option if I was going to make it to the top.
From the summit, looking past the trig point to the Isle of Skye (partially hiding in the haze)
The top proved to be another fine viewpoint, but the wind was getting noticeably cooler than of late, so I didn’t tarry beyond about 5 minutes before I dropped down to skirt Maol Mor (I was definitely liking the 300m contour on this outing, as that’s where I found myself again) then popping over the side of Maol Beag, where I saw Mick standing below in the car park, waving up to me.
Following the track had added extra distance, but the outing still only came in at 3.5 miles with 1200’ of ascent.
Beinn a’Mheadhain (NG918288; 414m)
Back in Colin for elevenses, I pored over the map considering what I do to make use of another couple of hours. The only sensible option looked to be Beinn a’Mheadhain, so that’s where I went, leaving Mick at the end of the little road that runs up the south side of Loch Long (where, happily, there turned out to be perfectly adequate parking for a Colin-sized vehicle, with full amenities of a bin and a BT wifi hotspot).
The going, which started out seeming like it was going to be reasonably hard-going (lots of heather) became much easier when a good trod appeared before me. It made the going so much easier that I wished I’d picked it up lower down.
Tussocks, heather, a lochan and me on the summit
Meanwhile, though, there was plenty more up and for a good while the obvious trod continued. It even boasted boot prints, something of which I’ve not seen many on these hills. Eventually, I either lost the good line, or it petered out, but by then the terrain was friendlier (tussocks and squidgyness, rather than knee-deep heather) so it wasn’t too difficult a task to make it to the summit, where I looked over at the hills I’d visited yesterday. Most people tackle those hills from the side I was now looking at, but I remain unconvinced that the south side is any easier than my north-side approach.
My return journey established that I had actually found the trod on my way up just as it materialised. Strange how a path that obvious can suddenly spring out of nowhere. So, I pretty well followed my outward line back down, returning to Colin with 3.6 miles walked an 1400’ of ascent.
Returning to Dornie, and parking up outside the hotel (we took the ‘no overnight parking of caravans’ to be consent for us to park there) we soon tracked down some other Challengers, with whom the evening flashed by. It was dark by the time we returned to Colin, with an early alarm set for Mick for Friday morning.