Tuesday, 27 November 2012

West Highland Way - Lundrava to Kinlochleven

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 27 November 2012
Walkers - Steve Smith, Gina Smith, David Boother, Wendy Boother, Joss Johnson
Accommodation - Laurel Bank Lodge, Fort William
Refreshments - Tailrace Inn, Kinlochleven
Start Point - Lundavra (GR NN10038 66507)
Start Time - 10:23
Finish Point - Kinlochleven (GR NN18698 62063)
Finish Time - 14:56
Duration - 4hrs 33mins
Average pace - 1.76mph
Distance Walked - 8.01miles
Height Ascended - 450.93metres
Height Descended - 616.37metres

Peaks visited


Walk Summary

We are committed to the days walk
as the taxi disappears
after dropping us off at Lundavra
Following yesterdays exertions climbing Meall nan Clèireach Gina only wanted to do about 8 miles today so the £12.50 paid for the taxi with Nevis Taxis to take us the first 4½ miles down the Old Military Road to Lundavra was money well spent.
There was not too much opposition from Joss & Wendy either so I guess this suited them as well.
It also made sense to reverse the direction of walking, primarily so we would end up where we could go to a pub while waiting for the bus, rather than finishing in Lundavra, then having to walk further to receive a mobile signal to call the taxi. It also meant there was more descent than ascent overall. In particular avoiding the steep ascent out of Kinlochleven which would have been at the beginning of the walk rather than the easier descent we actually had into Kinlochleven.
From my point of view there was an element of disappointment that there were not any hills to bag, but on the other hand acquired great satisfaction that every one enjoyed the experience of a sample day on the West Highland Way with more than their fair share of spectacular views in a single days walking.
From my early experience of walking in the Scottish Highlands I suspect this is not a unique occurrence.

Walk Description
1.) Walk the short distance from the road to the West Highland Way and turn left ignoring the unmarked forest track going straight on.
2.) The path heads directly towards the Marilyn Doire Bàn through the coniferous wood marked on the map which has now been harvested.

West Highland Way heads for 
Doire Bàn then turns left
around base of

Mullach nan Coirean - Meall a'Chaorain
3.) As the path gently turns left around the Corbett Top Mullach nan Coirean - Meall a'Chaorainn pass the cairn on you right marking the spot where the MacDonalds broke off the chase after the fleeing Campbells following the Battle of Invelochy in February 1635.
Clach nan Caimbeulach
(Stone of the Campbells)
4.) Continue through the harvested forest to the boundary and go through the gate. The Corbett Mam na Gualainn will be straight ahead.
The Corbett Mam na Gualainn
5.) Follow the path for 1km heading directly towards Mam na Gualainn until the path veers to the left into the Allt na Lairige Mòire and Allt Nathrach valley.
6.) To your right will be the ridge between Mam na Gualainn and Beinn na Caillich the other side of which will be Loch Leven and Glencoe.
7.) On your left is the Momore ridge with it's nine Munros including the distinctive pyramid of Stob Bàn.
The Munro Stob Bàn
8.) Stay on path and cross Allt a' Choire Charaich at the abandoned settlement of Lairigmòr.
9.) From Lairigmòr and with Allt na Lairige Moire still on your left carry on along path to the next abandoned settlement of Tigh-na-sleubhaich.
Tigh-na-sleubhaich - Great place
to stop for lunch,
or spend the night at a push
10.) After maybe a rest and/or snack at Tigh-na-sleubhaich all there is left to do now is follow the well defined path and just enjoy the views to the left, right and straight ahead as they unfold. Don't forget to look back occasionally as the views are pretty good behind as well.
11.) The next point of reference will be the path off to your right across Allt na Nathrach and up the Corbett Mam na Gualainn. Look beyond this for fantastic views of the Aonach Eagach ridge.
12.) Somewhere between this path and Mam Beag you will notice some flat rocks rubbed smooth apart from score marks caused by the ice age 10,000 years earlier.
Great place for a geography lesson
showing how rock was scraped smooth
by previous ice-age
13.) At Mam Beag take the right fork downhill.
14.) Follow the path as the rate of descent increases and chicanes through the wood taking extra care on the rough ground under foot.
15.) Cross the private road to Mamore Lodge Hotel and continue descent into Kinlochleven, 
16.) Take care as you cross the ford oveAllt Coire an Eich after which you will soon reach the B863 road.
Crossing Allt Coire an Eich
17.) Turn right on the road towards Kinlochleven and follow the road round to the bus stop for the return journey to Fort William on the No44 bus. 

More Photographs
Happy days in the hills with the Corbett Mam na Gualainn behind
Click on photograph to view slide-show

Monday, 26 November 2012

Meall nan Cleireach

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 26 November 2012
Walkers - Steve Smith, Gina Smith
Accommodation - Laurel Bank Lodge, Fort William
Start Point - Lundavra (GR NN 09580 66449)
Start Time - 10:01
Finish Point - Laurel Bank Lodge (GR NN 09418 73057)
Finish Time - 16:29
Duration - 6hrs 28mins
Average pace - 1.51mph
Distance Walked - 9.78miles
Height Ascended - 535.84metres

Peaks visited
Highland Five (771)
Meall nan Clèireach (2)

The red part of the route indicates where we went during the
first hour of the walk looking unsuccessfully for a
river crossing to give access to Doire Bàn.
Walk Summary
Today was the only day out of the four walking days the whole group did not walk, with three of the group going to Mallaig on the train, that left just Gina and myself getting in the taxi from Laural Bank to Loch Lundavra.
As it turned out it was the only planned route we did not complete or get anywhere near following, due to the ford near the Loch outfall being too deep and fast to cross so early in the walk. If it was at the end of the walk I would just go for it, but the thought of having wet boots, as well as persuading Gina to come across, was just not worth the effort.
After unsuccessfully, wasting an hour in the process, trying find an alternative crossing across Allt na Lairige Mòire, we decided to head home. But rather than simply following the farm road back through Blarmachfoldach we went for returning over the Highland 5, Meall nan Clèireach. It looked a pretty steep hill walk (no crags or climbing required) from where we stood and there was no marked footpath, but with the benefit of Scottish access laws it seems no two people go up a hill the same way, at least on the minor summits anyway.
I am realising there are many scenic walks around that do not involve a trig point or a cairn, but for me they provide the focus and motivation to visit an area in the first place, so in the absence of a better option we set off.
It was in fact a steep climb and very well done to Gina for keeping going no matter what and in spite of more than the average number of false summits, which included two steep descents and a scramble across a good sized grough before the final ascent to the summit plateau.
When we found the cairn (well half dozen rocks) I am sure I heard Gina says to me in a not so friendly tone "Is this all you have dragged me up here for". But then we noticed the views of peaks with early coverings of early winter snowfalls all round; west towards the Corbetts at the top of Cona Glen on the other side of Loch Linnhe, South to the Mamores, North to the snow covered peaks of Locheil Forest and of course East to Ben Nevis seemingly permanently shrouded in cloud.
A great walk for us both.

Walk Description
1.) After giving up on wading across the knee deep ford near Loch Lundavra outfall we returned to the bridge to find an alternative crossing over Allt na Lairige Mòire.
It really is too deep and fast
with slippery stones to cross ford
across Loch Lundavra outfall .
2.) Heading along the east bank south for about 400m we gave up and decided to return back to the bridge and the point where we had been dropped off by the taxi one hour earlier. Although the stream became narrower, not only did it get faster but also deeper at the bottom of an ever deepening gorge.
We won't be crossing here to get to
Doire Bàn beyond
3.) From the bridge we started what was now the walk proper heading up the marked farm track past the animal barn following and ascending the hill contours round to the left.
4.) Continue contouring round the hill to the left looking out for the fence, also on the left.
5.) Don't go any higher or for that matter lower just head straight for the fence in the least wet, most direct way you can find.
6.) As you approach the fence a gate should become visible which you should head for and go through rather than climbing over the fence.
7.) Look up the hill and head for the lone boulder, you may see a faint line of a track heading diagonally up to the left.
8.) From the boulder it is a choice just going for it and heading straight up the bank of heather or following tracks (sheep or otherwise) that take you vaguely in the right direction and of course up hill.
Ben Nevis still in cloud along with
indication of gradient we are climbing
9.) We were lucky enough to come across a collapsed peak bank near Sròn Gharbh, which made an excellent seat to stop and have lunch.
Handy seat for hot drink and
snacks - lunch. Just below Sròn Gharbh
10.) From Sròn Gharbh prepare yourself for at least 3 or 4 more false summits, I lost count, but when you get to one with a significant amount of descent there will be just one more.
11.) The last false summit will reveal a wide grough over (and down) which you will need to find the easiest and driest place to cross. We tended left until we found a place to descend into what is the head of Allt a' Choire Dhuibh.
12.) You can scramble out of the grough and head for the next ridge,knowing it will be the last false summit.
13.) Clearing this final ridge will bring you on to the summit plateau. Enjoy the views all round (because this is what you have really come for, apart from the physical challenge and just the hell of it) then head for the 535 spot height where you will find a small cairn.
The Corbett Stob Coire a'Chearcaill
from Meall nan Clèireach cairn
14.) Head north to start the descent and when you reach the edge of the summit plateau and in the absence of a worn path assess your easiest route down.
15.) Try to pick out the tongue without heading for the pointiest part at the end, in general this can often lead to an overhang. In this case the steepest drops where to the right, but nothing too serious.
16.) Very soon you will see the small hamlet of Blarmachfoldach, this is your marker for descent so head straight for it taking account of terrain ahead and underfoot.
Our line off the hill is follow the tongue
strait down heading towards
Blarmachfoldach and Ben Nevis
17.) As the rate of descent decreases and you get towards the forest boundary look out for gate and head for that after which you carefully pick your way through tree stumps and rotting moss covered branches to get to the forest track.
18.) By the time you reach the track you will have covered 2/3 of the walk in terms of time but only 1/2 of the route in terms of distance. From now on the ground is much easier but care is still required not to trip or come to any other harm on the uneven surface.
19.) Follow the track, mostly down hill until you reach the A82.
First sight of the A82 at 15:25,
still 4miles to go.
Snow capped Druim na Sgriodain ahead
20.) Turn right on the A82 and cross the road at the bridge over River Kiachnish  where there will be a tarmac footpath for the final 4 miles (maybe 1½miles to Fort William

More Photographs
Close up left to right - Sgorr Bhan, Sgorr Dhearg & Sgorr Dhonuill, south of Ballachulish
Click on photograph to view slide-show

Friday, 23 November 2012

Great Glen Way - Laggan Lochs to Fort Augustus

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 23 November 2012
Walkers - Steve Smith, Gina Smith, David Boother, Wendy Boother, Joss Johnson
Accommodation - Laurel Bank Lodge, Fort William
Start Point - Laggan Locks (GR NN28661 96326)
Start Time - 10:42
Finish Point - The Bothy, Fort Augustus (GR NH37893 09166)
Finish Time - 15:32
Duration - 4hrs 55mins
Average pace - 2.31mph
Distance Walked - 11.38miles
Height Ascended - 226.80metres
Height Descended - 240.72metres

Peaks visited

Walk Summary
Second day of trip and everybody keen to walk. The only caveat was that after yesterdays peak bagging (Bidein Bad na h-Iolaire) and difficult descent the general consensus was to do a flat walk. With only 147m of ascent on the planned route, this section of the Great Glen Way from Laggan Lochs to Fort Augustus fitted the bill. As well as being the flattest, at 10.66 miles, it was also the longest planned walk of the trip, but that did not bother anyone and the option to cut the walk short at Bridge of Oich would not be needed.
So with the sun shining and the weather forecast being much better than the day before we set off in the taxi full of anticipation.
Unfortunately the weather forecast was wrong again. It was a nice bright start but by the time we reached bridge of Oich the milky blue sky had been replaced by grey cloud and a very steady 'wet' rain. But the wet picnic seat and splashes in coffee cups from rain drops did not deter us from sitting down and having lunch.
With more than half the route completed at this stage we set off in the rain for Fort Augustus. With me stopping (but less often) for photographs and Wendy pushing on because she had not put on waterproof trousers (something to do with believing the BBC weather forecast) the group was fairly spread out. Not a lot of chatting either, just getting our heads down and getting on with the job in hand. Perversely it was a great walk enjoyed by all.
What is it about the inverse relationship between adverse conditions and the enjoyment of the walk?

Walk Description
1.) With Loch Lochy behind you stay on the right (west) side of the Caledonean Canal and head north.
2.) Very soon you pass the floating pub The Eagle Inn on teh Water. Unfortunately (a) it was too soon in the walk to stop and (b) it was closed anyway to stop for a drink, but it would make a good place to stop if doing this leg of the Great Glen Way in the opposite direction.
3.) Very soon you enter a thin strip of coniferous woodland as you follow the route of the Caledonean Canal.
4.) As you exit the wood the path veers away from the canal and very soon you reach the busy A82 linking Fort William to Inverness.
5.) Carefully cross the road and with the Laggan Swing Bridge on your leftgo more or less straight over going down the track to the Activity Centre and Holiday Park.
6.) Very soon you reach the disused Invergarry Station, opened in 1903, closed to passengers in 1933 and closed completely in 1947.
7.) From here the route is easily followed without problems. Look out for Invergarry Castle on the opposite side of Loch Oich.
8.) Soon after the castle you will pass Eilean Dubh - The Black Isle. According to the OS Explorer map there is a causeway from this side to the Isle but with the recent heavy rains we did not notice it.
9.) From here there is not a lot more to mention until you reach the end of Loch Oich and the path turns left just before Aberchalder Farm then quickly right to cross the old railway bridge over Glen Buck.
10.) On the other side of the bridge the footpath turns back alongside the bridge to the end of Loch Oich.
11.) Carry on round to where the Caladonean Canal and River Oich flows in to the Loch.
12.) The Bridge of Oich marks more or less the half way point of the walk and is a convenient place to stop for refreshments at the conveniently placed picnic table.In spite of the heavy rain which splashed in our coffee cups, when we were here it makes a great place to have lunch.
13.) Scope for confusion at the Bridge of Oich. The map says cross the bridge and walk along west bank of Caladonean Canal. However the thistle signpost indicated to stay on east bank. We opted for this option crossing canal at Cullochy Lock.
14.) As you leave Cullochy Loch prepare yourself for a simple walk following the Great Glen Way with the River Oich on your left and the Caladonean Canal on your left.for 3km to Kytra Lock. 

15.) From Kytra Lock it is more of the same all the way to Fort Augustus. Apart from the pouring rain the other thought that entered my mind was how many people it took to dig the canal by hand over 200 years ago. 
16.) If the canal is impressive as a feat of 19th century engineering the 7 lochs that lift the canal from Loch Ness is truly amazing. As this is the end of the walk allow yourself time to admire and explore.
17.) The only thing remaining for us was to have a well earned pint and get dried off in The Bothy whilst waiting for the taxi to take us back to Fort William.

More Photographs
Early sign of a rainbow as we leave Laggan Locks
Click on photograph to view slide-show

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Bidein Bad na h-Iolaire (near Fort William)

Walk Statistics
Walk Date - 22 November 2012
Walkers - Steve Smith, Gina Smith, David Boother, Wendy Boother, Joss Johnson
Accommodation - Laurel Bank Lodge, Fort William
Start Point - Laural Bank Lodge, Fort William (GR NN09418 73057)
Start Time - 11:25
Finish Point - Laural Bank Lodge, Fort William (GR NN09418 73057)
Finish Time - 16:40
Duration - 5hrs 16mins
Average pace - 1.47mph
Distance Walked - 7.73miles
Height Ascended - 702.37metres

Peaks visited
Marilyns (1216)
Bidein Bad na h-Iolaire (2)
Highland Five (771)
Bidein Bad na h-Iolaire (1)


Walk Summary
Clouds looking menacing after breakfast
Bonus walk today. General consensus last night was not to walk due to horrendous BBC weather forecast, predicting heavy rain for 12 hours from 3am, with torrential rain for 3 hours from 9am. So I took all walks down to explain walk options after breakfast, for the rest of week. Couldn't believe it when conversation was around what walk we would do today, then deciding on one walk that we could start from our B&B without using a bus or taxi.
Although the hill tops on on the other side of Loch Linnhe were shrouded in cloud and the sky looked heavy with rain, it was not raining that hard, nothing like forecast anyway.There were some heavy rain briefly as we set off but other than that the weather was dull with only a couple of brief showers before lunch that was all we had. What is more as the day progressed the cloud lifted from the hill tops, apart from the likes of Ben Nevis, so although it remained cloudy  we had some good views of the adjacent hills and distant mountains.
Highlights were coaxing Joss Johnson up her first Marilyn ever, in spite of her deep fear of heights. As well as Wendy Boother completing her first hill walk since recovering from severe fatigue.

Walk Description
1.) Turn left out of B&B on to Achintore Road, then quickly turn left again up Ashburn Lane.
Need to sort out waterproofs early on 
2.) At top of hill cross Grange Road and take footpath up steps to Lundavra Road past house with waterfall in garden.
Garden Waterfall
3.) Turn right on Lundavra Road heading out of Fort William.
4.) Cross the cattle grid on to the Old Military Road to Landavra. The path to to the left and Glen Nevis is where we return at the end of the walk.
5.) Carry on past the viewing point and Glengour to the next cattle grid.
Ben Nevis hidden in cloud from viewing point
6.) Stay on road and after 2 houses immediately on left count 4 fences on left up the hill to Blarmachfoldach. then 1 more fence on the left, a bridge then a gate before what will be the 6th fence up the hill preceded by a metal gate. Do not rely on finding phone box marked on map. IT HAS BEEN REMOVED.
Doire Bàn beyond cattle grid before
ldach. Two houses on left
just after cattle grid
7.) Go through the gate and head up the tongue of Bideinn Bad na h-lolaire.
Phone box shown on map in Blarmachfoldach
now removed so we start ascent at next farm.
Iron gate at bottom of hill to right of fence
8. ) Follow fence ignoring gate on right and over style at fence intersection. (We went through gate ½ way up and thought we would have to go back to get over stile on other side of fence, but found a gate about 50m to the right)
9.) Follow carefully track up tongue it is not always clear.
Gina leading the way.
We all know this is not the summit
10.) As the ground dips after the first false summit just after the 475m spot height look to the right and see the summit of Bideinn Bad na h-lolaire.
11.) The top is the last of the 3, so skirt around the first hill and do not be tempted up the front of the next hill like we were.
Steve explaining to Joss we are not going
up that. What I neglect to explain we are going up
the one she can not see (but the camera can)
12.) Instead stay to the left and head up the third hill to the summit cairn.
13.) From the cairn head back to the second hill descending in as steady a diagonal as you can.
14.) We could not find a well worn path and there is certainly not one marked on the map. Descend as best you can by trying to keep clear grass ahead of you until you reach the un-named loch.
15.) Skirt round the hill on the other side of the loch avoiding as best you can the boggy ground SE of the loch.
Avoid the boggy ground to the left and
east of un-named Loch. Also don't bother
climbing over hill, go round it to the left
16.) On the other side of the hill head as best as you can towards the path from Glen Nevis and Cow Hill. 17.) Try and keep sight of clear ground ahead and avoid following streams down hill, they will lead to a waterfall. Proceed cautiously where you cannot see clear ground as there are several crags on the right to avoid.
Head towards visible path between Glen
Nevis and F. William. Keep clear ground and
grass in sight ahead. Avoid sharp drops to the right
18.) Finally you will get to level ground followed by a small climb east of the path over fairly boggy ground. Head for the path avoiding getting wet feet as best you can.
19.) After hitting path, turn left and follow path to cattle grid at end of Lundavra road mentioned in 4. above.
Head back to B&B or start point following reverse route from point 3. above.

More Photographs
Click on photograph to view slide-show