It was warm and dry in the hostel and I only had 10 miles to walk today, so I was in no rush to set off. It was lovely to put on clean dry clothes and to repack my dry kit into my dry rucksack. By now I had decided that I would buy a rucksack cover when I got home. I’ve never really seen the point of them if you have a lightweight rucksack and everything wrapped up in dry-sacs and plastic bags, but the rain had managed to work its way inside everything and I now think a cover would be worth the extra weight.
I wanted to go North-East-ish, along Loch Oich, and the map showed a path which started about 100m short of a milestone. My original plan had been to go up the side of the hotel to join a track through the forest, but this new plan would save time and distance. Well, it would have if I could find the path. If it had ever been there, it was now overgrown and impassable. I walked at least 200 metres in both directions up and down the road looking for something resembling the start of a path. When I was heading towards Invergarry, ie West, I passed two probable Challengers (heading in the more conventional Easterly direction) but I felt a bit daft at being “lost”, so just said hello and kept walking like I’d intended to go West all along. There was a chance I’d be able to climb up through the forest by following the pylons from the power station, so I went East again and found that I could. It was steep and a bit rough but took me onto the track that ran all the way to Bridge of Oich. As I emerged from the forest, wheezing and gasping, three Challengers came powering along the track looking like they could reach the East coast by the afternoon if they kept up that pace. They stopped for a brief chat and it turned out that they were behind schedule due to the rain and the rivers and were trying to make up time while the weather and going were good.
On the way to the forest, I’d visited the Invergarry war memorial. Wherever I go, I do like to spend a few minutes looking at the local memorial, reading the names and seeing which Regiment they served with. Usually, most of the men belonged to the local regiment [probably now disbanded] but there is the occasional one who joined an English regiment or the Royal Navy. As I carefully and solemnly made my way back down the stone steps, I slipped on the wet rock and landed with a thud on my backside. Ow! I bet this place is a orthopaedic disaster zone in November!
I reached Bridge of Oich at 1200, two hours after I’d left the hostel, and was pleased that the Aberchalder tea rooms, which I’d found on the internet, still existed. I found that the two Challengers I’d passed on the road were already there having walked all the way along the road. Actually, only one of them was a Challenger; the other was his friend who was walking with him for a couple of days and, despite chatting with them both while we ate, I didn’t get round to asking their names.
There was a HUGE hailstorm while I was eating, so I put on my waterproof trousers before I set off again but the weather soon perked up and I took them off before the ascent towards Glen Buck. I took a path which went up the side of a B&B and cafe . . . . but resisted the temptation to stop for another bite to eat.
The climb through Aberchalder towards Glen Buck was fairly steep but on a good track and with amazing views. Because of the way I fold my maps in an Ortlieb case, I never know which hills I am looking at in the distance but I think these [photo at top of post] must have been the ones to the South of Glengarry Forest.
The navigation to tonight’s camping pitch was supposed to be easy; at the end of the track marked on the map, all I had to do was go East and ever so slightly North, following the contours around a couple of minor lumpy bits, until I saw General Wade’s road over the Corrieyairack Pass. I was going to camp in a sheltered spot with a good water supply. If the weather was bad, I could divert North to Blackburn Bothy. Easy.
It was a pleasant walk, off road, and the weather was good enough for me to zip the legs off my trousers. I was still wearing my Paramo Velez smock but my bare legs could cope with the occasional rain shower and I was determined not to stay wrapped up in waterproofs for a fortnight. I’m not very good at estimating distances when I walk; I also have a tendency to ignore the obvious if it doesn’t fit in with what I want to see. After a while, I could see the Corrieyairack Pass; plain as day – there it was. It wasn’t in the right direction and it wasn’t far enough away, but that was just detail.
Once I’d identified General Wade’s road, I didn’t bother with maps or bearings – I just took the easiest route over and round the hills. The weather was mixed, but quite pleasant, I was wearing my shorts and there were excellent views. I had a slight nagging doubt that something wasn’t right; for example, the pylons didn’t seem to be in the right place and some other landmarks hadn’t come into view when I expected them but, hey, I was enjoying myself. Eventually, I reached the General’s road and was puzzled by what I found. The road had been bulldozed and relaid; the pylons had been moved half a mile away and they’d even re-routed a couple of burns. Oh bother, time to get the GPS out.
I believe that I was standing on an access road for the Beauly – Denny power distribution work and, looking around me, there were several other new roads on the surrounding hills. At the time, I wondered if the access roads were for wind farms and I pondered the effect on an area I regard as quite “wild” but which already has a line of electricity pylons running along its length. Should we give up some areas as already spoilt, or should we always fight to maintain the landscape in as close to its natural state as we can?
The GPS told me that the actual General Wade road was not that far away and I was still well-placed for Blackburn bothy or a more South-Easterly camping spot. The weather had got a lot colder but I was still wearing my shorts but with gloves and my hood up. I decided I’d look for a camping spot but, if I couldn’t find one, I’d possibly plod on to Melgarve bothy rather than going backwards to Blackburn.
I set off again and, whilst mulling over the options and looking at the new roads on a distant hill, I suddenly found myself wedged in a deep, wet, black channel in the peat. Failing to see the gap, I’d tumbled backwards and my rucksack was holding me in place with my knees at shoulder height and my backside getting very wet. I would have loved to have watched this happen to somebody else, but it was a bit disconcerting to be trapped in a peat bog, out of sight of the new road and with the weather getting colder and wetter. I managed to wriggle free and climb out but was now covered in wet peat and with big scratches down one of my legs. Oh well, at least my trouser legs were still clean-ish, as they were in my rucksack!
It was a relief to finally reach the Corrieyairack Pass and find that the pylons were back where they should have been and the road looked exactly how I’d remembered it. I reached my intended campsite and it was perfect; flat, good water and the sun even came out for a bit while I pitched my tent. I did my best to wash the peat out of my socks and pegged them on my guyline to dry. A Challenger (Giles) stopped for a chat; he was intending to push on while the weather was good and may camp, or sleep in the hut that’s not that much further on.
Today was supposed to be my shortest in terms of distance, but it turned out to be a very demanding and memorable day. Although there were a couple of worrying moments, my best day so far!