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]

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Creag Ruadh and Creag na Doire Duibhe after a Creag Meagaidh Abortion

Wednesday 16 May

Having spent Tuesday night in the car park below Creag Meagaidh, it occurred to me over breakfast on Wednesday morning that, with a glorious blue sky above, instead of my two little Marilyns, I could go Munro bagging instead. My Munro guide and a map was consulted and in the blink of an eye the decision was made. The contents of my pack were swiftly modified from 'quick little hills' to 'Big Day Out', and off I went in the direction of Creag Meagaidh and its two Munro (but not Marilyn) neighbours.

I was probably just over a mile in when it occurred to me that I hadn't picked up my spikes. That was annoying, considering that I've been well aware of the snow on the higher tops for some weeks now, but I clung onto the hope that any I met would be bypassable, and onwards I went.

Some big patches of snow on my route

At 1.9 miles in, I could clearly see the snow on the climb up to the 'window' (the notch of a col that I was to ascend) and it looked like it was quite possibly bypassable. But I couldn't shake the thought that it was going to be an awful lot of effort to get up there and either find that it wasn't feasible to go around it, or that just around the corner there was an even worse obstacle of a snowfield. Moreover, there was no good reason why I should go up this hill today - I could call these miles an early morning warm-up and just go off and do the originally planned tops instead. So, with an about turn, that's what I did.

Creag Ruadh (NN558913; 622m)
Distance: 2.6 miles
Ascent: just over 300m
Weather: glorious!
Start point: Layby on A86 at NN 56521 90325

I had expected to have to start this walk with an unpleasant walk along the A86, but seeing the deer fence was down at one end of the layby, and that the trees were sparse beyond, I went to explore. There I found ridiculous quantities of toilet paper, but also a clear way up to a line of power lines, and following them took me to a cottage, behind which I wanted to ascend.

I suspect that, even under Scotland's liberal access laws, I committed a few yards of trespass in getting to where I needed to be, so I put all hope in the occupants of the cottage either being out or not looking out of a window at that moment and hurried on.

Once through a gate in a deer fence on the far side of their garden, I was out of the forest and on lovely slopes of firm, cropped grass. That lasted a good way up and even once the pasture got a bit rougher it was still easy going.

Looking back on my way up

After visiting the summit...

...I had good intentions of going over the lower (560m) top and making my way back on forest tracks. Indeed, I started out in that direction, but as I did so I assessed my choices as:
1) cross a soggy dip to get to tracks that would either be entirely enclosed by trees in a commercial forest, or be in a wasteland of harvested forest; or
2) return down the open grassy slopes I had ascended.

Looked at in those terms, the retracing of my steps seemed like by far the most enjoyable option.

The only spanner in the works was that I had made absolutely no mental note of my surroundings as I had joined the power lines and thus I had no idea where I needed to re-enter the trees to get back to the layby. The guess I made was wrong and there ensued a bash through a dense forest (again!). When Mick got a phone signal after a three days of silence, and called me, he caught me about 5m horizontally from the road, but about 10m too high, at the top of a vertical piece of rock.

He was standing atop a Munro at the time, which was by far the better place to be.

With a bit more clambering over and crawling under blowdowns, I was exceptionally pleased to come across the first clump of used toilet paper - if passing motorists had come here to relieve themselves, I must be but a few easy paces away from the layby, and so I was.

Creag na Doire Duibhe (NN615905; 571m)
Distance (bike): 2.3 miles
Distance (foot) 3.8 miles
Ascent: around 400m
Weather: Glorious!
Start point: Wolftrax (mountain biking centre) car park at NN593349 (£1.50 for 3 hours, £3 all day)

Blue = bike; red = foot

I had hoped to be able to cycle up to a track end at an elevation of around 450m at the start of this outing, but only made it just over a mile when the track deteriorated to this:

In my world that is not cyclable, so the bike was ditched and onwards I went on foot. It hardly seemed worth having got the bike out for such a short ride (although I did enjoy wooshing back down effortlessly on my return).

Getting to the top of the track, crossing the deer fence where a tree had conveniently fallen across it and following the outer edge of that deer fence to a crossing point over a joining barbed-wire-topped fence, the going was all remarkably easy. Then I had to cross a wide bowl and ascend to my objective, where suddenly the going was rough, although I did note that for the first time on any hill in four weeks, the bogs were squishy rather than squelchy or sodden.

Looking towards my top from the upper edge of the bowl. I opted to take a more indirect line in order to reduce the amount of height I lost

Having visited both high points at the top...

Summit view

...and paused to remove a tick from my leg (second one I've found embedded in two days), off I toddled back down. Rough stuff is always easier in descent, but even so I'm pretty sure the line I took on the way back was better than the one I took on the way up. The tussocks seemed smaller, the ground firmer and the heather less prevalent.

Just before reaching my bike, a TGO Challenger was met, so we stopped for a chat before I had a brief thought that I was going to stride straight past my bike without seeing it (nope - it was perfectly visible as I rounded the next corner).

Three hours parking turned out to be plenty; I wasn't gone much longer than two, giving me plenty of time to avail myself of the cafe's wifi before I moved on, having spent a couple of days without any phone signal on my internet phone (plenty of signal on my 'calls only' phone, but that doesn't get the blog sent).

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