I drove the short 30 minutes from the Kintail Bunk house where I had an overnight stay the small bothy only hold 6 people and it was a noisy night as there was a party going on at the Hotel and into the car park till 0330. I was up early had a leisurely breakfast and then the 30 minute drive to Killinian my starting point. The main road to Kyle was busy with tourists and motorbikes making the best of the last two hot days. Just after the Castle is the single track road to Killian a great trip on a tight road( beware of fast cars) This is not a place to rush as the views are magnificent.
There is a small car park at the beginning of the Estate Road and no vehicles are allowed past this. There is a sign at the gateposts informing you but the car park is fine and there were already a few cars here trying to get away early before the sun makes its presence felt.
Our hill is a 13k walk or cycle in we had already planned this as a bike trip Aonach Buidhe 899 metres occupies a remote location at the head of Glen Elchaig it is a great wilderness of remote passes and hidden glens. Derrick and Babs had left early from Forres and arrived at 0930 it was already hot and the sun cream was on. There was a “little faff” as we got the bikes ready, did the usual repack and then we were off.
The estate road is tarmaced for a few miles and then a track takes you to the Iron Lodge after a stunning journey through the Glen. It has some great views of cliffs, loch Moichean trees and views changing all the time. This year everything is green after the rains there is scope for climbing here in these hidden cliffs. The heat was intense and we had a leisurely cycle in you start at sea – level nearly and Iron lodge our destination in only 130 metres high but on a windy road with small hills, that can hurt in the heat.
I am no cyclist but despite the heat it was a great trip in. We stopped every half hour to drink and fill the water-bottles and get out of the heat, where we could use the trees for shade and getting lots of photos, this was hot weather. I was having to be covered up as my Psoriasis had flared up so it was an uncomfortable day for me. It leaves my skin raw in places and the sun just upsets it when it flares up but I have learned to live with it for nearly 50 years. At least my throat virus that starts it off had gone and it was magic to be out in this incredible place and soon you are in another world.
This is a land of wild space and beauty and peace.
We met 3 others two going for the Affric Hills and one who flew past us heading for two Grahams, he would suffer going that fast in the heat. We passed a “rubbing post! used by the deer for their antlers it looked great in this wild glen but no sign of any Deer all day? I found an antler on the hill but it stank too much so I left it in the car park after carrying it down.
Red Deer have always been prized for their antlers, which are collected by deer stalkers to commemorate a successful day on the mountain. Traditionally, fine sets of Red Deer antlers are mounted on a shield to decorate the walls of a shooting lodge or country house.
A Red Deer’s antlers start growing in the spring from the age of 10 months, and they are shed or cast when testosterone levels fall in mid-March and April. Each successive year sees the Red Deer stag’s antlers become longer and wider, with more points or ‘tines’.
Antlers are made of bone, and can grow at the rate of an inch per day. While they are growing, the antlers are covered with ‘velvet’ which is a soft, blood-filled, bone-forming tissue and is very sensitive. In July, the Red Deer’s antlers have stopped growing and the velvet is shed by rubbing against trees and posts.
We reached Iron Lodge named after the initial lodge was glad in corrugated iron. and the first time I was here was in my first weekend with the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue Team. It was February in 1972 and it was my first weekend out with the team on my trial. I was taken out by the Officer ic to climb Sgurr nan Ceathermhean. This was a big winters day. It was my first Winter experience and we wore crampons most of day and came off in the dark, there was limited contact between us as it was a different era. Yet it was magic and hard going I was a wee laddie about 8 stone. No one spoke in the pub the Kintail Lodge Hotel so I spoke to the locals, that was the way it was then. My companion hardly spoke that was the way then and I stayed with him all day he was surprised I think but what a miserable sod he was. I met him years later as the Team leader he was by now high up and did not remember the day, I had the last laugh as I told him that I learned this was how not to look after new troops after that introduction.
Now all those years later I am back after a new hill 46 years later. Arriving at Iron Lodge it was another fill up of the water – bottles then head of minus the bikes.
We had a break before we left the bikes and headed up the path / road onto the steep slopes of our hill. It was great to be off the bikes( I need padded shorts) but from the track it was straight up very hard in the heat and we took plenty of breaks all the time the views expanded.
The wild flowers were incredible enjoying the sun and the past rain I have rarely seen so many. There were a sea of ferns, heathers,orchids, Tormentil and so many others even the Bog Asgphodel was looking great.
It was great to see the hills from such a viewpoint and try to work out what we were looking at. it was a different aspect for many views of these big hills.
There were no midges we eventually hit the ridge, what a toil no path just following the deer tracks when we could and we got the breeze. This was essential as the heat was now full on but it was so hot and we managed to fill our water bottles again from a little burn.
The great thing about getting older and in a very hot day was the stops we had Derrick was photographing the wild flowers every break Babs and I were just taking in the views. Once up onto the ridge there was a wee pull up some rocks that were hot to touch. The last pull to summit was easier and it was head down and then we saw the cairn. The views now were 360 degrees. We could see all the Skye hills, Torridon, the Great Glens Affric, Mullurdoch, the Kintail Hills and many more. It was a perfect day for views and memories.
This hill has some big Corries and I need to revisit it if I can manage the trip in again, I could see the bothy at Maol Bhuidhe a place I have stayed in the past in the distance. Time was moving on and we wandered down the to beleach down some steep ground and onto a bulldozed track ( what a mess) made for the “toffs” to facilitate the stalking. The erosion was terrible and I hate to see the scars on the hills. There used to be great stalking paths that are being wrecked by the use of 4 wheel vehicles or am I wrong?
We were soon back at the bikes after the steep descent care may need to be taken in poor weather. From here we walked down the track for 3 ks back to Iron Lodge for another break and re – hydrate it was now 1745 and still very warm. We headed back the 13 k track meeting another walker who had completed two remote Grahams and looked exhausted in the heat. It was a great trip back a few pushes up the hills and a meeting with a Highland Cow and calf who was not for moving. Be aware when they have young calves they can be temperamental and those horns are huge.
I stopped a few times to grab a photo or two on the way off and to cool down. Derrick and Babs were pushing it on the bikes but I needed to cool down and take it all in and I was tired We got back to the car park at 1900 it was still so warm and then it was the journey home. i came back via Kintail and the Loch Ness road and enjoyed the trip. Thankfully the roads were quite and I stopped for chips in Inverness and got back just after 2200. I was pretty tired and it was a bath and get sorted out and feeling the effects of the sun and then fall asleep.
What a great day and a new hill with good companions and Derrick is 75 what a man he is some example to us all.
Now who has advice on a pair of padded mountain bike shorts???
I wore my running shoes again today and they were great even on the steep ground, I doubt I ever run again on the hills but did a wee jog on the way down but care must be taken. I never took my walking poles a mistake as uphill they would have helped so much.
In the heat water is so important and the sun is hard on me but I stopped often and used the burns to cool down wet may head and neck when I could. I hydrate before I go out and drink plenty. I also carry salt in crisps or food for the hill as sometimes I need it.
Sunscreen is also important as my skin is damage by years of weather and sun on the hills, and ignorance, there is no excuse now. I always wear a hat and a neckerchief.
Take your time in the heat, walk slower and re – hydrate whenever you can and on the drive home. The colour of your urine is a great indication of your hydration, an easy check for the male.
I cover up as sunstroke is common on the hills and if you take care you can enjoy even the hottest of days. A good tip is get on the tops before the sun comes out early starts are the way forward.
Remember sun damage is dangerous look after your skin.