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]

Wednesday 11 May 2016

Creag Mhor and Beinn Conchra

Creag Mhor (NG903315; 407m) and Beinn Conchra (NG887291; 453m)

My chosen route for these two hills, which I opted to visit in a single lollipop-shaped outing, was not one that I’d seen anyone else report that they’d taken. In hindsight, I can see why it’s not the popular choice – it was hard, and would have been an awful slog in poor visibility and/or wetter underfoot conditions (look at the map; the lie of the land shouts “bog!”).

Happily, I had excellent visibility and the dried-out bogs which I’ve experienced over the last few days continued to prevail today. There were a few incidents where I plunged my foot into water, but half a dozen times was nothing compared with the ‘with every step’ expectation.

Having opted to start my walk from a parking area just up the forest track in Gleann Udalain (NG86478 30469), the first couple of miles were fast and straightforward (and also featured me being caught with my trousers down, quite literally; oops). It was when I got to the point where I needed to leave the track that, for the first time in all of my outings to date, I really questioned my sanity in pursuing these hills. No matter how much I looked at what lay ahead of me I couldn’t see a line that looked like it would be anything other than very hard work, initially through tussocks then through deep heather.

As it went, it wasn’t as hard as it looked, and an hour and a quarter after setting off I was on my first top, which was a fantastic place to be (incidentally, I had thought that the current hot and sunny weather was countrywide, but having seen the TV weather forecast this morning I now know that we’re being exceptionally lucky and are currently enjoying the hottest temperatures in the whole of the UK).

As lovely as it was up there, I didn’t linger for two reasons: 1) the wind was quite strong, again; and 2) Mick had said that he would start to worry about me when I’d been gone for 4 hours, and it had now become apparent to me that four hours was going to be pushing it for this outing.

The question of whether it would be easier to descend all the way back to the forest track to reascend to my second hill, or whether I should walk the undulating top was one that I had pondered at length, and one which now needed an answer. “Keep up high” was the conclusion I reached, and I think it was probably the right one, although at times during that rough, uppy-downy two miles I did feel like I was barely making progress. I must have been, as eventually the second summit was beneath me – another fine place to be and, if I wasn’t mistaken, that wind speed was dropping.

My thought that it would be plain sailing, downhill all the way, from there wasn’t quite true, and much more lift-feet-up-to-knee-level-on-every-step yomping ensued, made psychologically easier by the gorgeousness of the surrounds. The loch I passed almost had me popping my ‘swim in a mountain lake’ cherry too, except I didn’t have enough time if I wasn’t going to cause Mick to worry.

Arriving back at Colin almost at a trot, I’d completed the outing in 3 hours 40 minutes (4.5 hours would have been a better time period, I would say). At 7.6 miles the route had been about a mile longer than expected (unsurprisingly – there was no way a straight line between the two summits, two miles apart, was going to be feasible). I’ve not calculated the ascent yet, but it felt like quite a lot!

There was no doubt in my mind at that point that the third intended hill of the day was not going to happen. Instead I proposed a trip to Eilean Donan castle, and half an hour later that's where we were, doing the tourist thing.

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