23rd to 26th of February, 2011 – High and Low Roads in the North

A long awaited trip up to Poolewe with friends for some intended walking and winter climbing. This was my first time joining this gathering which is becoming a bit of an annual event and after past years having had good weather and conditions on the hills, there were high hopes all round of repeated successes this time too.

Wednesday
A deterioration in weather over the days leading up to the trip, mainly due to high winds and at first rain too, had us first seeking a dry spot somewhere east on the road north to Poolewe.

Breakfast, or was it second or third breakfast, at Aviemore had four of us fueled up for a walk and we stayed in the area, setting off on a loop up a nearby summit, Gael-charn Mor, hoping for views east to the Northern Corries and west over the Monaliadh. As it happened we stayed dry and did get our views to the east, though the tops there were shrouded in cloud. As we gained height, we soon found ourselves in damp cloud and missed out on any views out to the west (and in any other direction from there).

A pickup in Inverness soon after had our numbers up to five and we set off on the nice drive across country to Poolewe in fading light where we met up with four other friends already in residence there since the weekend.

Thursday
Staying in a cottage right on the edge of the sea has its benefits and whilst we had our breakfast, we could clearly see from the white caps and streaks of foam being torn off the sea’s surface that though apparently dry, the wind was going to be an issue high up as forecast and with that, we kept to our plan of driving round to Beinn Eighe to walk in to Coire Mhic Fhearchair for a look at the climbs on the Triple Buttresses there.

One of those stop-start days commenced with stops for shopping and coffee before finally arriving at the car park where we grouped in one car long enough to talk ourselves out of any walk. By now is was damp and we had a brief chat about how much energy was required by the wind to rock a car with five people in it. More stop and starts ensued in search of a lunch / pint stop before finally arriving back at the cottage for lunch.

The sky brightened a bit and the thought of doing nothing was too to much, so a couple of us headed out on a low level, loop walk behind the cottage taking in the River Ewe and Loch Kernsary. Very pleasant walk and along the way we met the others (who had been up all week) returning from their longer walk, some squashed frogs, a donkey and dozens of deer. Two of us at least had earned a fantastic chilli dinner. Mmmmmm.

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Friday
Still very windy so after a look at maps, we settled on another walk in the same area but longer and further in to the barren country behind Poolewe, same start but this time passing Kernsary Lodge and continuing on to Fionn Loch on a good track.

A quick stop for lunch out of the wind thanks to a handy boat shed before we tackled ‘Bad Bog’ which didn’t seem so bad and where numerous low crags were bouldered on for fun.

The track out from Fionn Loch to Aultbea which we then followed was a much rougher one, still looks vehicular but if it is still used by vehicles it must be slow and uncomfortable to travel along.

Apart from one shower, the day was dry, windy and with a changing, and at times dramatic, light on the many outcrops of rock rising out of the heather covering the area.

Along the way, I kept a close eye on the access roads with a mind to paddling in / portaging the canoe some time in future. I think a paddle on Fionn Loch would be worth the effort for the sake of access to surrounding hills and the views, not so much for interest on the loch itself. Hard to say, it looks possible but hard work would definitely be involved in getting in and out.

After the fourteen mile walk, our Mexican dinner theme continued with fajitas. Mmmmmm.

Saturday
Typical! Departure day and we woke to a glorious and much ‘stiller’ morning. We cleared up and said goodbyes to others before heading along the scenic route north towards the Fannaichs where we had (I thought) two hills in mind. Pleasant walking, rough at first, and winds bitter high up but no obstacle to progress. We lunched just below the summit, behind a small wall and here the realisation (for me) that no second top was intended even though it was ‘just over there’ lazy, lazy, lazy!

Back down the road with a pi(n)t stop, fish suppers and more goodbyes at Aviemore.

All in a great trip, despite the winds and lack of climbing conditions, the fireside social was great and the low level walks really quite pleasant too.

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