These early starts It was up at 0500 away at 0630 and it was raining when I left to pick up Derrick the birthday boy 75 yesterday in Forres and then on to Dunphail to pick up Babs. The rain was a bit of shock but so needed after the dry spell we have had. I had decided to drive( plan change) and it is a long 3 hours to Glendessary, the roads we quite and as we went West it brightened up and we were soon at Spean Bridge. From here the fun starts and after the aptly named “dark mile” comes the fun single track all the way along Loch Arkaig for about 30 minutes. It is like a roller coaster and you have to take care and even driving I felt a bit sick, memories of my Dad and Mum taking me here in 1966 and me being ill in the car. The wind was up with waves in the loch and I sopped as the “tin legs” need a break and it was a bitter wind. There were a few camping wild by the loch and this is a wild place.
My Dad who was a minister was a student missionary in the 1930’s and worked here as a minister for several summers at Achnacarry and loved the area and the people! He ministered the local people in the remote Glens. He was helped and stayed with the family of the head Keeper Donald Cameron who helped him in his early days . Donald carried the communion cups and wine over the hills to the small parishes to give communion and always came over these big hills on the way home. Dad took me to meet the man in my trip in the mid 60’s Donald Cameron the head stalker and he made a huge impression on him all those years ago and they remained great pals throughout their lives. My Dad was young and very fit winning the Arthurs Seat hill race several times when he was at Edinburgh University and running Cross Country. He always told me how powerful the Head stalker was on the hill and how he looked after my Dad and he was the subject of many sermons. I should have listened more.
At last we reached Strathan at the head of the loch there was mist on the hill what had happend to the weather forecast and it was cold. There were cars parked everywhere this is the gateway to a wild wilderness. From her many great hills are available, this is the gateway to many bothies and so many were taking advantage of the dry weather. Knoydart and wild Munros and Corbetts beckon.
The Birthday boy had plans with Babs and they were after 2 Corbetts Froach Bheinn and Sgur Mhur Lagain a big day for a 75 year old! I had done both and had one more Corbett in the area to get so off we split and I had my day on Sgurr Cos na Breachd 836 metres – laoigh ( peak of the cave or bonny calf) and unpronounceable name. I had tried this in winter but there was stalking on so it was drive for nothing. Today it would get done.
I was away just after 1000 and it was a great walk down the locked track (a bike would help) to Glenessary Lodge from here it was a steady pull up the South East ridge. It was so dry and what a jumble of boulders and big broken crags that make up this hill. The hill steepens and the mist was down and the wind biting.
The views were immense and near the last pull up I met a couple descending from the summit. The were in the area from the Lakes and had got all the Corbetts done in 5 days. We had a good chat and they said the wind was bitter on the top and I was glad I had plenty of gear on.
I went on picking a line through the steep ground in winter this would be interesting. Th views were magic I could see all around and with the sun now sneaking through and the mica on the rock shinning it was a superb place to be.
The summit went on a bit 3 tops before the small cairn and the wind was still cold. I picked out all the old favourites hills Sgurr Na Ciche, Loch Nevis, The Ben and so many others, the weather had cleared and it was great to be out.
It was cold on the top and a buffeting wind so I did not hang about and went along the ridge into the wind then descended through the boulder strewn slopes. Out of the wind the sun cam out and it was warm as I had lunch.
On your own you have to take care the wind was gusty at times but the ground dry and no sign on wildlife apart from a few deer. It was then a walk done the track in the sun back to the car.
I had a wait at the car as the birthday boy and Babs managed both Corbetts in a 7 hour day with 4500 feer of ascent not bad for 75!!! I sat in the sun and waited getting stiffer and the car park was still full.
I had time to spare so I visited the remains of a Jacobite-era (and very small) government barracks built to control this important route across the Western Highlands. I magine a posting here with all the locals wanting to murder you?
Loch Arkaig’s other claim to fame is as the alleged hiding place of a consignment of gold landed by the French at Arisgaig for the Jacobites in 1746. This was hidden somewhere near Loch Arkaig, and the hiding place, it is said, has never been found. I looked but no joy.
Babs and Derrick arrived a bit stiff but overjoyed that they had got their hills done, there faces said it all. We left just after 1800 and the wild drive home. The track was slow and then again an easy drive home just about 3 hours. It was then drop of Babs and Derrick as always they left boots, camera and other stuff in the car. It was the “tin man” that emptied the car at home and I had a bath a long day but a good one.
Will I be going as well as Derrick at 75 ? He complained of sore legs on the second hill !!! They still manages to leave boots, flask and camera in my car old age???
Now for that golf match against Elgin if the body can hack it?