The North to South Walk May 1976
1976 Day 8. May 16 – The Strathfarrar Four
It was going to be a hard day for me as there was a long walk in to the mountains that we had planned to do they were the four Munros of the Strathfarrar Hills. Normally they are climbed from Glen Strathfarrar where access is limited by a locked Hydro gate but this is another wonderful Glen and to climb these mountains from StrathConnon would not be easy, especially feeling not 100% the plan was to climb Sgurr Fuar-thuill : ‘peak of the cold hollow’ Sgurr a’Choire Ghlais : ‘peak of the grey-green coire’ Carn nan Gobhar : ‘hill of the goats’ Sgurr na Ruaidhe : ‘peak of the redness’ We had big bags that we had restocked with 4 days food but I just took it easy and followed the stalking paths for nearly three hours up and down this remote area meeting lots deer in the hills, what a wild area this is. The usual wild river crossings were interesting but we were getting good at them by now, boots off and get in there.
I was very weak still I kept going and it was a long day and once on the ridge the wind came up. Paul and Jim waited on each summit and i just kept going, it is a great area but limited shelter and eventually we were on the last Munro. It was a bitter cold on the top and I could see the road below Paul and Jim headed down and I took it easy on the way down. I was running on empty when I got into the old bothy near the old Broulin Lodge and had an early night really exhausted after a huge day,
Tomorrow would be more of the same we were now in the “Great Glens” all the mountain Summits are hard work, big hills and big days. I felt that I could cope again. I was amazed at the basic gear we had, the famous Curlies boots , breeches , canvas gaiters (what happened to them) and the tartan shirt, ventile jacket and Helly Hanson polar fleece the new secret weapon. A months wages on these new jackets.
Wet gear most days but we thought we were so well equipped for the mountains. I still feel the pain of putting on the wet gear every day! A was hungry but we could not face the chocolate we had and was losing what little weight I had. The Stags were down at the bothy and I even managed to watch them outside massive herds about, what a pace to be.l
A really hard day for me distance 17 miles and 5547 feet.
Day 9 – 17 May
Broullin Lodge Strathfarrar – Affric Munros – Sgurr Na Lapaich Carn Nan Gobhar An Riabachan An Sochach Mullardoch House Glen Cannich. I was feeling a lot stronger still not 100% and we had a good night in the bothy. Paul had somehow burnt his boot in the fire we had he had put his boots into the old oven and not noticed. One boot was in a mess and had a hole in the toe. Poor Paul but he was a bit embarrassed but said he would cope. We followed the hydro track up to the power station passed the old woods and an area I love it is called Strathfarrar Forest with pine and birch trees and is a stunning area that few see. These are usually done as 4 Munros a big day in a remote area but this area I call the Great Glens is stunning and the weather was magnificent. These Glens are so special and so few know them and at the end of winter stunning. The boys were ahead and going well. It was a great walk and despite the heavy bags. We were soon of the track and the long wonderful ridge up to Sgurr Nan Lapaich. This is the most prominent with its well-defined summit makes it an easily identifiable peak in the range The views were outstanding, we were still in our trainers/ RAF sandshoes and when Paul went to change near the top he had dropped his boots! He went back and found them about 4 miles away where we crossed the river, and then he caught us up as we decided to do only other Munro that day Carn Nan Gobhar. The other two peaks are highly sought by Munro baggers An Riabachan with its fine craggy Coire and the lower extension An Socach. They are wild peaks but not for today, we had winter climbed here some ibcredible cliffs. Nowadays many take the boat in from Loch Mullardoch but it is still a day to remember, there is climbing in the remote Corrie and I climbed a few lines with the team in years to come. We were all together now and then down the very steep ground to the Loch Mullardoch, hard going it was not a hard day but what I needed. The road from the Loch took us to the Lodge at Mullardoch and another bothy for the night
Distance 15.5 miles and 4500 feet of ascent.
I was feeling stronger today hope Paul’s boot holds up, Paul seems not bothered he will do the hills in his sandshoes till we get a new pair. Tomorrow we head into the great hills of Glen Affric another wild place, these days are inspiring and when I look at the map it will be a big day tomorrow .The weather has been fine and we are moving well. I am learning so much and have the packing now sorted out each morning and we carry nothing we do not need. The feet are wet most days but not cold, the views of where we have come from and are going to impressive. The Munro tally is increasing and we may be able to beat the record of 42 Munro’s in 21 days at this rate.t. Another great day in the famous Glens Of Scotland big hard hills but what views the day’s distance was 16 miles and 6600 feet of ascent it seemed far longer. Paul’s boots held up he is some guy and Jim just powers on, powerful people. I am feeling stronger got over the bug and now enjoying these wild areas.
We are half way through our walk and going well, we carry little excess in gear just a change of clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping mat, food a stove and fuel, we have few comforts. The weather has been pretty good but there are still patches of hard snow in places and the ice axe is a great companion. The rivers have been tricky with the melt water from the snow and we have to take care, boots of but our feet are always wet. . I feel now as I was to on many other long walks and expeditions that I am part of my environment. We all feel the same; we are at one with the mountains, picking lines up these great hills where there are few paths. We pick up animal tracks mainly deer and move well despite the big bags of about 30 lb. All day we see amazing things the wild animals and the summer plants coming through. The extra daylight in May means we have plenty of time on the hill and the constant views of the hills and our route give you a buzz when times are hard. I now know the feeling of being at one with the hills, we have seen no one apart from the Keepers and enjoy the solitude and our own company, and we are all in our own worlds and getting on fine. We hope to pick up a new pair of boots for Paul after Kintail.
Day 10 May 18 – Mallurdoch bothy – and Five of the Affric Munros. The great things about the walk are you start the hills from a different way few will climb Toll Creagach from Glen Cannich. We had a problem at the Dam but sorted that out eventually and then a great long ridge from the Loch all the way up to the summit. Our journey today was all on the high tops of the Affric hills all the way to the remote Aultbeithe Youth Hostel. Today we would miss the great Affric Forest but we would be high all day and get a few mountains in. From the summit of Toll Creagach it is a broad ridge along to the beallach Toll Easa used in past days as a route between Affric Lodge and the now submerged Benula Lodge under the waters of loch Mullardoch, all part of the Hydro System. The ascent of Tom A Chonich by the south East Ridge from the beleach is a good scramble still snow-covered and not the place to slip. These are big mountains in a wild environment, from the summit of Tom a’ Chonich follows a grand ridge and there is a delightful section where the crest becomes narrow and broken into some shattered pinnacle’s that today needed an ice axe to assist the journey. The great dome of Cairn Eighe lay ahead a huge hill of over 3800 feet. The outlier Beinn Fhionnlaidh looked feasible but not today, we headed on to Mam Sodhail and its massive summit cairn. How many miss the chance when in this area to get the illusive summit of Beinn Fhionnlaidh and a few Munro rounds are never completed because of this?. Our last Munro of the day An Socath was a long ridge walk at the end of the journey and from here a huge drop into Glen Affric down the stalkers path. It was a long walk to the Aultbeithe Youth Hostel a great place to stay for the night and I felt that last pull up to An Socath. I twisted my knee on the way off descending into the Glen and limped along the track to the Youth Hostel. It had been a great day in some amazing mountains; I never tire of this place and a night in Glen Affric Youth Hostel to look forward to. We had the place to ourselves, no one had been there since February and there were a few spare tins we ate well that night and had a great fire. We dried the gear at last and sat enjoying a great bothy again no people at all on the hills and lots of free food.Stags were down again at the bothy, in the evening and watched me as I enjoyed a great sunset over the Kintail and Affric hills, what a day, what a walk. I was feeling a lot better the knee was twinging but had a great sleep in a comfortable Hostel; this was the way to live. Another great day in the famous Glens Of Scotland big hard hills but what views the day’s distance was 16 miles and 6600 feet of ascent it seemed far longer. Paul’s boots held up he is some guy and Jim just powers on, powerful people. I am feeling stronger I seem to have got over the bug and now enjoying these wild areas.