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]

Saturday 7 May 2011

Day 40 - Beyond Kinlochleven to Glen Gour

Friday 6 May (0810-1715; 1835-1915)
Distance: 16.5 (Tot: 704 miles)
Weather: Dry! Sunny intervals
Number of ticks found on us and in tent: about a gazillion
Number of times we pitched the tent: 3

When I awoke to rain drumming on the tent this morning I thought that it had only just started. It turned out that I had spent the night so busy sleeping that I was oblivious to the weather outside. With the rain drumming and the wind lashing we felt no inclination to rush, so opted for a bit of lie in.

Over breakfast the maps were considered. It didn't seem like a day to be going up high and our plan had involved a ridge at just over 600 metres. The alternative was three miles further, with a one-mile yomp that looked like it would be a bog-fest. Almost certainly the three-miles-further option would have been quicker. Compared with the anticipated yomping and battling the wind on the ridge, it would have been much easier too.

We decided to take the high route.

By the time we had breakfasted the rain had stopped and, thanks to the wind, the tent was almost dry as it got packed away. We did, of course, expect the rain to be back at any moment.

Having climbed up to the pass, with excellent views back down to the valley, off we struck to the west. Happily there turned out to be a narrow path (ranging from vague to obvious) for much of the way and, even better, the wind wasn't as bad as expected; we weren't being impeded.

From such an unpromising start to the day, sunny intervals had appeared and although the higher tops were in cloud, the views were pretty clear. Looking down on Glencoe was particularly fine.

Over the second top, the path veered off and our route went straight on, so onwards we yomped through boggy, springy, deep stuff. What we certainly didn't expect as we made our way down that rough ground was to find a chap coming towards us. He was the only person we saw out walking today, and we found him in the least expected place. Mick was his name and he was off to bag 3 Marilyns which seemed to be a long way apart. However, dressed as he was in running tights and a Rotherham Harriers vest, we suspected that he wasn't out for a slow stroll.

He had made his way up through the forest below us, which was promising, as we also intended to bash through to get ourselves to the track on the other side of the valley. Find a route through we did, although for the most part the going was 'interesting' and sometimes outrageously steep.

A few miles through the forest brought us out just up the road from the Corran Ferry. It had been a slow-going morning over some rough terrain, but definitely worthwhile.

No sooner had we disembarked from the ferry (I knew that it was a vehicle ferry, but I didn't expect it to be that big) than we slipped and fell into the bar of the hotel opposite. More than an hour passed as we had a leisurely (and quite huge) lunch.

With six miles still ahead of us, off we set, anticipating that we would be pitching the tent in a couple of hours time. Up the previously-dammed Glen Gour we went until after the said couple of hours we found a large grassy area that looked like it would offer a suitable pitch. We hadn't gone as far as we had wanted, but there is the rule that if you pass a good pitch near the end of the day and you don't have confidence that there'll be another one, then you don't just walk on by.

We pondered. We walked on by. We had a re-think and back-tracked. It was the move that heralded the beginning of a farce.

Perhaps when it turned out to be difficult to find anywhere where the lie of the land was acceptable we should have given up and walked on, but we persisted and eventually found somewhere. With the tent up, all our kit went in, the beds were blown up, the sleeping bags released. Then I noticed that the porch was crawling with angry ants. We had pitched on an ants nest.

Another meal was made about finding an alternative pitch (perhaps we should have had a radical re-think at that stage...), but we settled for something in the end and the tent was moved. More kit organising was done.

Then I started noticing the ticks. They were everywhere. A big 'clear the tent of ticks' exercise went on and I was happy that most of the blighters had been ejected. But then I went to make a cup of tea and realised that we were fighting a losing battle. Everything in the porch was covered in them and every time I touched anything I was picking another few off my hands.

We decided we needed to move.

Away everything was packed and another mile and a half was walked up the valley without seeing the hint of a possible pitch. Worse, there were dark clouds gathering and I feared a sense of humour failure if it rained on us before we found somewhere.

It wasn't so much a case of 'third time lucky' as a matter of 'we're going to make do with anything vaguely flat alongside the next stream'. As it happened, what we found isn't a bad pitch at all (if you overlook the rotting deer in the stream just outside the tent) - and we'd been in the tent for a whole five minutes when the rain started! I'm still finding the odd tick, but I'm hoping that they're just left-overs from the earlier pitch.

Reminiscent of how the day started, the rain is now falling and the tent is being shaken by the wind. But, at least we are all snug inside.

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange


  1. Sounds awful. I hate ticks and ants even worse. The joys of the outdoors.
    Glad you found the energy to write it up.
    Hope tomorrow is better.

  2. Ticks!! Aaaaargh!!

    Cue acute paranoia

  3. There must be a use for em. Try a nourishing Tick Broth?

  4. I know I've been 'treated' to a protein en-hanced chilli before on my first wild camp just south-east of Badachro, near Gairloch, courtesy of my Trusty Sidekick. He cooked outside in clouds of midgies and I 'organised' the inside of the tent. Well deserved, in his opinion and he didn't tell me until after I'd eaten. Nice. I suppose you wouldn't need so many ticks for the amount of protein?

    I do dread pitching on an ants nest. I can't think about the ticks, I'm not looking forward to tick checking in awkward places without the Trusty Sidekick. Mind you, it's a bit disconcerting now he needs his glasses, aswell as the magnifying glass...

  5. I am pleased you managed to find somewhere in the end although I have to say the story with the ants and ticks makes my skin Germany we are especially scared of ticks because of the limes disease,which most of them carry. The morale of the story-never go pitching tents around the Swabian alps.and thus thank god you are in Scotland! Maike