An Unexpected Drop in Air Pressure

Our planned walk in the Strathcarron area was based around the use of bike and train and would take us over two or three hills with a cycle approach from Achnashellach station first, then afterwards an onward peddle, out to Inverness station via Strathconnon.

We left Inverness on the early train bound for Kyle of Lochalsh under grey skies, as forecast, but were happy to alight at Achanshellach in much brighter conditions, with various mountains either clear of cloud already or showing promise of being so in the coming hours.

IMG_2993

Fuar Tholl

Fuar Tholl

Our intended camp spot for the night was by a small plantation of trees about 12km from the station and the first quarter of this was on the tarmac of the main road back towards Achnasheen, the previous village and station, the rest being on a rough 4×4 track servicing a lodge someway further in.

IMG_3001

I’ve grown relaxed about using my hybrid bike with its skinny tyres on rough surfaces after a few jaunts on similar, so the route we had planned on was not a concern for me. However, a hydro scheme on the Allt a’ Cholais is currently under development and with that, there is some freshly broken rock, still loose in some places, and sharp edged, making up a good percentage of the track we followed in.

Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

Sgurr nan Ceannaichean

After reaching the high point of the track, which we had partly pushed the bikes up, we were on for a speedy free wheel down in to the flat ground beyond and it was here I was starting to feel a bit uneasy about my ‘flimsy’ wheels versus the sharp edges. Sure enough, with a third of our planned cycle still remaining, I was suddenly aware of a much harder and noisier back wheel juddering along beneath me.

IMG_3013

Bad luck getting a puncture so early on, given we still had so much to do, but it did allow us to decide on playing safe by returning to Inverness on the tarmac via Garve and Beauly rather than via that more heavily based on rough tracks. Good luck in that we were in a great location to set up camp where I had punctured and just adjust the walking for the rest of the day accordingly. What initially looked like being a real spanner in the works actually was only a short delay in getting the walking underway.

View from camp

View from camp

By now it was lunch time and with the tent up we opted to have lunch before setting off, taking advantage of the shelter from the wind we now had and enjoying the views over the Allt a’ Cholais which flowed past us.

IMG_3028

Rucksacks much lightened, we set off along the 4×4 track to join a good stalker’s path taking us up to the Bealach Bhearnais. Along the way we got views, firstly eastwards in to the heart of the area we had expected to get to, then once up on the bealach, westwards and southwards to new territory.

Our original route out, back to Inverness

Our original route out, back to Inverness

IMG_3046

IMG_3050

From the bealach, height was quickly gained and with that the wind picked up, chilling us as it did. Only after passing the summit of Sgurr Choinnich and dropping down a few metres could we get any shelter and a warming break. A short, but tiring walk, soon had us up on the summit of Sgurr a’ Chaorachain and from here views out to Loch Monar and east to Maoile Lunndaidh were taken in.

Summit of Sgurr Choinnich

Summit of Sgurr Choinnich

IMG_3068

IMG_3076

IMG_3088

Maoile Lunndaidh

Maoile Lunndaidh

A steep descent to the north had us back down out the wind quickly and a series of waterfalls were followed back to the track which would lead to camp, food, beer and well earned rest.

IMG_3111

IMG_3126

IMG_3129

IMG_3146

It turned out to be a great site, a comfy spot to sit by the river cooking and eating before turning in and nodding off with the wind whipping the sides of the tent increasingly through the night.

Views over camp

Views over camp

Up early next morning, we headed back out and made friends with a nice pony by the gate. He laughed heartily at discovering we were about to cycle 55 miles in to a headwind!

IMG_3168

Moruisg

Moruisg

What a tough day! The cycle was largely uphill and in to wind for the first half without much in the way of progress markers, but things picked up for us after descending to Garve and getting to fill up on food, coffee and coke. Even though the wind was still against us from there, the villages and towns were more often and separated by much flatter sections.

Cycling to Inverness

Cycling to Inverness

Kessock Bridge, an end in sight

Kessock Bridge, an end in sight

It was great to get back to Inverness with time to spare for dinner and a couple of ales, finishing off a good weekend of hard won rewards.

Advertisements

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: