2010 – A Scottish Odyssey: Part 3 – Bogs, Logs, VW Vans and Tesco Workers

After the unscheduled visit to Inverness described in Part 2, I was able to continue my tour of Wester Ross with new Day3boots and a renewed determination that I could complete the trek I’d set out to do. I decided however on a change to the itinerary.  Due to the poor state of my feet after the affair of the boots, I scoured my maps for an alternative to the Shenavall Bothy which was a good 17 miles as the crow flies, not including climbing and descending.  I didn’t feel it was a realistic goal for me at the time.  This was a good decision!  With the help of Andrew at the Kinlochewe Hotel I located another Bothy on the banks of Loch a’ Bhraoin called the Lochivraon which seemed to be run by the Inverbroom Estate, and not the Mountain Bothies Association.  It was on the right route to where I wanted to be, so I decided to alter the route to suit.  Just as important, there was no major river crossing.  It meant heading North East from the Hotel out to a place called Heights of Kinlochewe and then to a crag called Creag Leacaidh.  This was all on good path, often suitable for a landrover. Thereafter I had to strike out North first to Mointeach Leacaidh, a very flat topped hill and then North to Groban at 749m which was to be my only real hill for the day.  After that North Wets down to Bealach Gorm then North to the path at the foot of Creag Rainich and a simple walk down to the Bothy for the night.   I estimated about a 12 mile trip which at about 2 miles an hour comes out about 6 hours.  Add in to that stops and I reckoned I’d be at the Bothy between 3 and 4 pm that afternoon if I set out at 8.30am.

On the path to Creag Leacaidh from Kinlochewe, I saw nobody, just some horses in a field and a bunch of nice waterfalls.  The day was cool, cloudy but bright. Pretty perfect for walking.  Blue skies and sun are great, but it can get really hot and you end up sweating loads.  I like it cool. So I plodded along the track at an OK pace.  My feet were still hurting so it wasn’t too fast.  I headed off the path at the foot of Creag Rainich  and struck out up the hill.  There were some diggers up on the hill to the South of me doing something, but I still saw nobody.  The walk to the top of Mointeach Leacaidh was to be frank, a slow slog which involved many, many changes of direction, backtracking, jumping and clambering over, around and through thick peat bog.  When you stepped in it, it stank.  I tried not to step in it.  I was thankful I was not in late May, otherwise this place would have been Midge Central and I’d have been eaten alive!  There were boggy patches, pools of stagnant standing water, overhangs of pet bog dripping water all lying in a tangled maze.

Eventually by midday I managed to get to the top of this annoying plateau which seemed to go on forever. I stopped and had lunch and took a panoramic view all around.  It might have been a struggle getting there, but it was a glorious view from the top.  I took the time to load these pictures into PhotoSynth to produce a Synth which you can see left by clicking on the image, it’s pretty neat I think and gives you an idea of what the place was like.  If you want a standard experience check out this PhotoSynth Link.

So after a short lunch I headed to the shallow beleach between Mointeach Leacaidh and Groban which was to be my only real hill of the day and not a Munro. Still it’s a nice looking hill an worthy a climb.  I headed up it and found it quite a climb. I definitely was not ‘match fit’ as they say.  I cycle everyday, swim a couple of times a week and eat pretty healthily, but it’s just not the same as getting out and doing it day-in day-out.  Still I made it to the top of the hill and managed to send a Tweet on my phone to Andy Maggs as promised!

Next was the bit I dreaded. Going down hill.  Still having the walking pole was a real bonus and I got to Beleach Gorm with no issues and from there I could see the path into the Bothy clearly and also the what I thought was the Bothy (a nice white house) way down the valley at the head of the loch.  Up to that point I’d had pretty decent weather, but then it decided to absolutely tip it down with rain and I was yet again ploughing through bog and peat to get to the path.  After ages again I got to it and found it was another track which had been made by or for a vehicle and so I headed down the path, dripping wet towards the Bothy.  When I eventually got there about 45 mins later I found a large white house all barred and locked up.  I checked what looked like the garden shed, only to find it was actually the Bothy …  To be fair it was pretty decent.  It even had a flushing loo which is almost unheard of in mountain huts in Scotland.  There appeared to be a leak in a pipe under the sink, so I turned it off and swept out the hut.  Most importantly it had a wood burning stove which looked OK.  Outside was a huge pile of wood all feeling and looking rather damp.  Some had been brought inside the bothy and had dried out, but I could see it wouldn’t last long.  So I got out my Trangia Cooker, got some water from the brook which ran down the side of the bothy and started a brew-up.  Then getting the saw left in the bothy which looked sharp thank goodness, I started sawing wood.  I also gathered wood chipping and gathered a bunch of long grass for kindling.  About 30 mins later I had a decent pile of wood and kindling.  So I started the fire in the wood burner and without using any firestarters got the fire going nicely.  There was a fair bit of smoke at first, but as the fire got going, the stove expanded and sealed all the joints and it was fine from that point on.  The front vent under the fire was stuck open so unfortunately it meant the stove was on ‘full’ the whole time. I’ve never seen wood burn so fast!  I started sawing again as I thought what I had done wouldn’t long.  I was right. I could barely keep up with this thing.  It was like a monster. In the end it beat me and it went out as I couldn’t be bothered to to keep sawing.  Still by then it was pretty late, I’d eaten a great meal and had several cups of tea.   I was feeling tired and relaxed, so I went to bed.  Trouble was, the bed was so hard, just a platform of wood, and despite having two roll mats under me, I couldn’t sleep more than a couple of hours before I awoke, cold. My bivvy bag and liner we no match for the Scottish nights.  So I got up and guess what?  Yep, I started sawing again and got that bloody stove going again for a few hours.  Saw, saw, saw, burn, burn ,burn, the race went on for several hours, by about 4.30am I gave up again and went and got another 3 hours fitful sleep.Day4

Next day dawned cloudy but dry with next to no wind.  I had a quick breakfast, tidied the bothy, and went on my way heading towards the A832 where I hoped to hitch a lift to the Forest Way Bunkhouse, my next stop.  My feet were still hurting and I was very tired, but I plodded along the path alongside the loch. My phone was dead, so I couldn’t take a picture, but Loch a’ Bhraoin was like a millpond with the mountains reflected in it like a mirror. Magic.  I met a few people out walking their dogs and a couple of ladies who were heading up a couple of really nice looking Munroes.  I hit the A832, but despite my best efforts I could not find anybody who would stop to give me a lift.  I’d heard people would often stop to pick up hitchhikers but not that morning!  I hobbled down the road, my feet very sore,  until I reached a nice viewpoint just off the A835.  I rested for about 15 mins and could almost see my destination which was only about 2 miles away. It felt like it was 50 miles.  I was very tired, I’d had a light breakfast so was feeling a bit hungry. I also needed to let the Kinlochewe Hotel know that I was OK, so I headed for a phone box about a mile out of my way on the junction of the A832 and A835, since my mobile was dead.  When I got there I found it took credit cards only! Doh!  Resigning myself to another hour of pain I headed down the A835, then though I’d try one more time to get a lift.  I stuck my thumb out and blow me, the first vehicle that went past stopped! It was an old VW van and the guy had been marshalling some kind of fun-run/cycle event so he understood tired legs!  Never been so glad of a lift.  Five minutes later I was standing outside the Forest Way Bunkhouse.

I met Iain the owner immediately and what a great guy.  Made redundant a few years back from a pensions firm in Edinburgh he pursued a dream and bought the Forest Way Bunkhouse which he had done up to a fantastic level. He takes in walkers and visitors all year round and provides an awesome place.  For £25/30 a night you enjoy a beautiful place, great breakfast and he was kind enough to drop me into Ullapool whilst he did his evening shift in Tescos.  He recommended the Seaforth Pub in Ullapool and boy was it a good recommendation!  If you go to Ullapool, go there, the food is superb!  I downed Thai Fish cakes made with local prawns, crabs and shellfish, steamed trout with steamed vegetables plus 4 granary rolls and a chocolate fudge cake!

I had treated my feet and they felt alright, but I would wait until morning to make a final decision as to which route I should do.  So at the end of Day 4, I had had a rest in the afternoon in Iain’s garden, had a great chat with him and gotten a couple of hours shuteye and a shower, and so I went to bed clean, relaxed and with a full stomach, ready for my last day which I was hoping I could make a good one.   You can see how that went in Part 4.

Cheers

Dave Mc

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About davemcmahon81
Software Developer & Architect, User Group Leader, Speaker, Writer, Blogger, Occasional Guitarist, Man-made Global Warming Sceptic, Climate Change Believer, General Optimist but most of all proud Husband and Dad ...

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