Sron na Creise

Posted in Hiking, Hills with tags , , on August 18, 2016 by Jinja Coo

I arrived at the entrance to Glen Etive hoping to see my route for the day, but as forecast, the cloud was lower than the summits and Sron na Creise, the ridge I would ascend Creise by, was completely hidden.

Having had no view of the route, I took some photos of the route description for reference later on and set off. First challenge of the day was crossing the Etive, my second river crossing in a couple of weeks with a strong current. No danger other than a potential soaking as a consequence, but my camera was in my mind as I struggled to get across, this time with no bike to assist stability. Fifteen or so minutes of trying various options to get across and I was over with soaked boots and somewhat committed to going for the ridge.

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Good upward progress was easy after crossing the boggy ground low down and despite the cloud cover high up, I had great views across at my favourite mountain, Beauchaille Etive Mor, and down Glen Etive.

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I was nervous on the first bit of scrambling, not used to trusting my feet, but soon realised how grippy the rock was and started to relax. I reached the ‘house sized’ boulder and sat for a few minutes, taking on food, admiring the views and checking the route description. The next section was an angled slab, atmospheric and felt like the point where hillside transitioned to mountain.

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Thick mist lowered briefly then rose again, briefly denying me views then revealing them again, but after this I was ascending into the summit cloud. The route description did come in handy, but largely the route was obvious and though it would be easy to stray off onto easier ground away from the ridge I managed to follow the line of interest without too much thought.

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There were no views up top and I had to navigate to work my way to the summit of Creise and round to the western ridge that would take me onwards to Beinn Mhic Chasgaig.

Part way down to the bealach, the mist cleared, giving me a view of the hill ahead as well as up Glen Etive and back towards Clach Leathad.

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The northern ridge I would descend by had looked impossibly steep from my start point earlier in the day, but proved to be an easy route down. Tier after tier brought me quickly back down to Glen Etive, finishing with a section following a continuously white burn (Allt Fionn Ghlinne), flowing down exposed, smoothly worn bedrock right to the Etive and my second crossing point of it.

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By now, the cloud had lifted, at least from Creise, and as I walked back up Glen Etive to my start point the ridge had revealed itself so that I could see the line of my ascent in its entirety and given the distinctive sections of the route, it was easy to piece together exactly where I had been earlier in the day.

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Rounding Beinn a’ Ghlo

Posted in Cycling with tags , , , on August 16, 2016 by Jinja Coo

It was far too windy for an original planned outing on the hills and I perused books and maps looking for low routes between hills as an alternative. Good fun in itself and I have plenty of new ideas for trips in future, but I settled this time on rounding Beinn a’ Ghlo by way of Glen Tilt, Glen Loch and the more open ground to the south of the hill.

I have cycled up Glen Tilt on two previous trips including a full traverse as part of cross-country jaunt and part way up on a bike n’ hike taking in Carn aā€™ Chlamain to the north of the glen, and really enjoy time spent there.

It is such a varied glen with interest along the way in numerous waterfalls and in the changing scenery as the glen rises and narrows. The River Tilt is formed by the coming together of the Tarf Water, Allt Garbh Buidhe and Allt Feith Lair, then just below by the addition of the waters from the An Lochain, the latter of which is fed by Loch Loch, which lies within Glen Loch, my second low pass of the day.

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Having first detoured for lunch at the idyllic spot of the Falls of Tarf, I returned part way down Glen Tilt level with the mouth of An Lochain, to cross the river and continue onward up and through Glen Loch.

I had chosen to go clockwise to get to this crux point before the harder work of the day as route descriptions suggested this crossing could be difficult / impossible when the river high and given the amount of water lower down and the colour of the water, I had been thinking I might not get to ride the full loop. However, this high up, the river was just passable with the bike coming in handy for stability as I made my away across the swiftly flowing water.

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Winds, which had pushed me up Glen Tilt, were now against me and with funneling were causing me to work hard to stay balanced. Not so much of a problem early on as I largely pushed the bike, but once on better tracks, the winds made cycling (and even standing) quite tricky. Long before I set eyes on Loch Loch, its presence was evident by huge spumes of white spray whipped up from the surface by the stronger squally gusts.

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Despite the breeziness, I was keen to enjoy a swim having earlier been pleasantly surprised by the relative warmth of the river on my crossing. The narrows gave me a chance to get a spot out the wind to enjoy a second food stop and here I braved the waters, albeit very briefly. Refreshed and refueled, I continued on and was surprised to hit easier cycling sooner than expected as a new bulldozed track leads up to the southern end of the loch.

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A few of the ruins that the area is known for lie at the point where I turned westwards to cycle below an increasingly gloomy looking Beinn a’ Ghlo. Wetter weather was definitely pursuing me on the way out, but thankfully I made it back to my start point dry at least, though muddier than I’ve been in years. It is a good route, hard earned, but I wonder what changes are ahead (if any) necessitating the newly extended 4×4 track into Loch Loch.

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Interestingly I noted my arms being sore on my previous, shorter cycle up Glen Tilt, but this time on a different bike with front suspension and bigger wheels, I was blasting along rough tracks with little discomfort at all – much more enjoyable.

Central Cairngorms

Posted in Hiking, Hills with tags , , , , , on August 15, 2016 by Jinja Coo

After the previous night’s camp I needed to re-stock my food and pack for a solo trip rather than shared kit. A relaxed coffee and cake stop had us part ways and I was on my own to head back into Linn of Dee for the second time in two days.

This time, I was taking the northern path, following the Derry Burn rather than the Dee. Apart from runs in the recent years utilising a stretch of this route, this was my first walk in this neck of the woods for fourteen, possibly fifteen years! On that visit, a record breaking warm February day, three of us were aiming for Ben Macdui and Derry Cairngorm, but high winds and burns swollen with the heavy thaw held us back and we eventually turned back from Loch Etchachan where chunks of ice were flying off the surface at us.

Derry Lodge arrived sooner than expected, where I headed north into a stunning Glen Derry. I had very little memory of the place and was surprised how nice it was: hemmed in by mountains on either side and ahead, yet open feeling with edges softened by the numerous pine trees along the way; Derry Burn close by and the view ahead of the torrs on Beinn Mheadhoin adding something to the scene.

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It was dry all the way to the point where I turned west, just fifteen minutes from the Hutchison Memorial Hut. A very wet fifteen minutes! I took shelter in the hut, until the roof told me the rain had all but stopped. I had wondered about staying here and the place would likely be mine for the night, but a second high camp and dramatic views were more appealing so I continued upwards. Coming level with Loch Etchachan, I was now further than I had been before in this area and took some time to admire the scenery before turning to continue up Beinn Mheadhoin. I was looking forward to views back down Glen Derry from this high point (the torrs I had seen all the way in), but more so to to a place I have read about and seen on maps, but never been into, the Loch Avon basin. Behind me though, views over Loch Etchachan and the cliffs behind towards Ben Macdui were giving me plenty of reasons to stop and take my time.

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It was clear the weather for the remainder of the day was going to be on the wet side, but I got some good views up top – some more dramatic for the swiftly moving cloud and mist – and I took a detour to the lower summit, Stacan Dubha, where much better views of the loch and the Shelter Stone crags can be enjoyed than from elsewhere on Beinn Mheadhoin. My timing was (im)perfect, coinciding with the start of even heavier rain and views were obliterated in seconds. I did get enough glimpse to know it is an impressive view and I’ll be back to see it again soon, I hope.

This actually would have been a perfect place to camp, but I wanted to hold off until the rain stopped to get setup. However, after the walk back to Loch Etchachan and studying the sky to the west, I was starting to shift my attention back to a night in the bothy – it was clear I’d not be getting a camp with views tonight. An easy decision made, half an hour later I was in the bothy changing out of soaked clothes into dry ones. Things improved shortly after with food being taken and the the noise of heavy rain and winds on the roof convincing me I had made a good decision.

It is a great wee bothy – much more appealing now after a recent refit than all those years ago – and I got it to myself afterall.

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After a pleasant, but restless night, I woke to brightness coming directly in the window and didn’t waste time getting packed up and back up to Loch Etchachan where the scenery was even better under a blue sky – cliffs that were grey and black the previous evening, were now showing all kinds of shades of red and pink amidst the greys.

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The walking felt easy and I was soon up high with views of my day ahead and enjoying my breakfast. Derry Cairngorm to the southeast looked further away somehow – something I have experienced in the Cairngorms previously – yet I was on top soon after, enjoying views to the west, where Ben Macdui – just in cloud until now – was showing signs of clearing.

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I lingered to enjoy views at the summit, but walked quickly onwards to Ben Macdui, hoping to get the views over the Lairig Ghru and the hills across it, before any more cloud came in. Just as I approached the ruin of the Sapper’s Bothy, I was stopped in my tracks by a bold snow bunting who was keen to lighten my load. After bouncing over to me, it rounded me in circles and only flew off once I had given up some of my lunch.

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The summit of Ben Macdui was bouldery as expected, but I hadn’t expected so much in the way of constructions – cairns all over the place – not sure that would be helpful in a whiteout. No visibility issues today though, my views were reasonably clear, both across the Lairig and south to my next destination, Carn a’ Mhaim. One of the best views was of the Devil’s Point, somewhat dwarfed among its giant neighbours, at the southern end of the Lairig Ghru – and I found myself looking across at it all the way along the ridge to Carn a’ Mhaim. More great views from there, over my travels of the past two days and my route back out to Linn of Dee.

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Until now my legs had been pretty fresh, but the descent from Carn a’ Mhaim had pushed them over an edge and once back on the path back out to Linn of Dee, I could feel the weekend’s efforts in them.

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Four buzzards (I think) were above me on the latter stages of the walk out soaring and gliding far and wide, calling to each other all the time. Perhaps two parents teaching their young some skills. A final highlight in a couple of brilliant days’ walking in the Cairngorms.

Curry Night in the Cairngorms

Posted in Hiking, Hills with tags on August 12, 2016 by Jinja Coo

With high winds forecast (again), we had hope of midge-free camping and headed into the Cairngorms from Linn of Dee to get a walk, hill and camp.

Following the Dee west to White Bridge, then north from there, we stopped only to enjoy the impressive two-tiered falls, a few hundred metres on from the bridge. Until now, Sgor Mor, the hill we were bound for had blocked views north, but now they were starting to open up with hints of the bigger peaks to the north and the gloomy Lairig Ghru dividing them. We followed a pair of burns up to the summit and briefly enjoyed the views before a shower hastened our getting setup for the night.

I have long wanted to camp on this hill for the views it would afford over the hills around and had pictured doing so in winter, not summer. I’m pretty sure I will return for a winter camp someday, but this trip, despite being July, felt pretty wintry up top anyway. The summit plateau has lots of good spots, some with wind-shelter, including the one we ended up pitching ourselves.

Tent up, we got out in and enjoyed the views, hills disappearing, but a stunning rainbow taking their place. As stated, it was surprisingly cold for July, but we left the door open to enjoy the scenery (when it revealed itself again) and paced our evening with pre-dinner chat at what might have been Britain’s highest curry house that night. Packaged curries transformed by the simple addition of fresh coriander and spring onions – cheers Andy – perfect!

Occasionally we got out to see what was going on with the scenery and changing skies in other directions, quite dramatic at times, yet largely dry.

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Next day we returned to Linn of Dee following the summit ridge, descending to the area just west of the Linn itself.

All the time views to the north, clearer now, were tugging at me and my plan of a day walk to the south, part way home, were shifting instead to a second night in the Cairngorms exploring the central group of hills and maybe staying in a bothy.

A Lismore Wander – Coastline and Castle Coeffin

Posted in Hiking with tags , on August 10, 2016 by Jinja Coo

On a previous visit and circumnavigation of Lismore, I managed to squeeze in some exploration of more of the island than just the coastline by getting up early. That short walk whetted the appetite for a return trip by foot (or bike) to see more.

That time had finally arrived, and starting at the north of the island, we followed a route round the coastline to Port Ramsay and down the west coast to Coeffin Castle.

Along the way we had good views up and down Loch Linnhe, and with a calm sea early on, a single otter was an easy spot among all the geese and other birdlife.

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First glimpse (this visit) of Castle Coeffin

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Short of time, we never managed to visit the island’s museum / cafe or Tirefour Broch, but it means there is plenty to go back for next time and it would be good to get more background to all the ruins we passed along the way.

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