I woke to find a new sprinkling of snow on the nearby hills, but heavy rain on my tent. Despite my intention to start early, the rain discouraged me from packing up and I did not start walking until nearly 9am. I had a bed booked in Newtonmore so, although I wanted to have an enjoyable walk, I also wanted to make good progress and have plenty of time to enjoy the luxury of a hostel, shops and a pub.
My Golite Pinnacle rucksack has big enough external pockets to be able to safely stow my tent on the outside of my pack – which means I could pack everything away, and get fully dressed in my waterproofs, before going outside into the nasty weather. The rain was horrible; it seemed even worse than Wet Sunday, maybe because it was also quite cold as well as wet. I’d only walked a little while when I stopped to put on my waterproof over-mitts. They made it a little difficult to hold my PacerPoles properly, but that may have been A Good Thing, as I’d now re-read my PacerPole instructions and realised my swollen wrist was probably due to gripping the poles too tightly.
After less than an hour of walking, I stepped towards the side of the road to let a car past, but it stopped and wound down the window. “It’s Judith, isn’t it?” said a friendly voice, “You’re booked in with us tonight, aren’t you?”. It was Ali Ogden, of Newtonmore Hostel, taking a Challenger back to Melgarve Bothy where he’d ended the previous day’s walk. It was good to get confirmation that they were expecting me at the hostel, and Ali also advised me that I should have no trouble crossing the rivers on my route up Glen Banchor.
I had a late breakfast at Laggan Stores. It was almost a shame that I’d have access to the Newtonmore Co-op later that day, as I could have bought all my required supplies in Laggan; I don’t know how they fit so much into one shop. The owners have changed since I was last there, but I still received a warm welcome and was invited to eat my breakfast in the little room over the road [no, not the Public Convenience, there’s a room with tables and chairs where you can shelter while you eat]. John Hesp joined me a few minutes later and we discussed the options for getting to Netwonmore. John was favouring the minor road, whilst I was heading for Glen Banchor – although I’d already decided to miss out a couple of miles of boggy stuff by walking along the road. The tourist information board suggested that I’d be able to find the start of a route just past Cluny Castle and that turned out to be the case.
Glen Banchor was beautiful; it’s a shame my photos don’t do it justice. I’m sure I could have found a lovely camping spot if I’d been looking for one, although the ground was very wet and with occasional patches of light snow cover.
I knew that the bridge shown on the map at Dail Na Seilg was no longer there, and my mind was full of thoughts of how fast, deep and cold the water would be.
The Dalnashallag bothy was reputed to be comfortable and well worth a visit but I walked past it to inspect the River Calder (actually, I think it’s still the Allt Madagain here). Luckily it didn’t look too bad; yes – it would be above my ankles but that was a doddle compared with my experiences a few days earlier. Confident that I’d be able to cross, I went back to the bothy for a 5 minute rest.
From here, the walk into Newtonmore was easy – although boggy for the first couple of km – and I arrived at the hostel in good time. John Hesp was already there, together with Giles (last seen on the Corrieyairack Pass) and a few other Challengers (including David, Sue and Heather who told a story of having walked 26 miles and climbed umpteen Munros in one day. I was having a hard enough time walking half that distance with no hills!). This is a brilliant hostel for walkers; the drying room is excellent, there’s a wood-burning stove in the lounge and, as promised, there was free tea and cake for Challengers – what more could I ask for?
I spent a pleasant evening in the pub with John and Andy before turning in, thankful to be warm, dry and well-fed after yet another day of cold, wet weather.