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Day 53 - 58 “Solvitur ambulando”

May 25. 2023 – Day 53

As soon as the bike was out of the van and ready for the road, Euan was on his way as quickly as he could since the midgies were waiting to attack any warm-blooded body in the area. The myth that midgies cannot fly in a brisk breeze seems just that, a myth, since they certainly were able to circle above and around Cr282 in the steady breeze without coming down to earth. The van also went along to Creag Meagaidh Nature Reserve, today’s start point. Any mist around the tops was clearing and most of the Munros could be seen from the carpark.

Carn Liath – Grey Hill

Stob Poite Coire Ardair – Peak of the Pot off the High Corrie

Creag Meagaidh – Bogland Rock

Beinn a Chaorainn – Hill of the Rowan

Beinn Teallach – Forge Hill

Total Munros – 170

Creag Meagaidh is a massive hill with huge offshoots and a deep corrie – Coire Ardair. The translation of Creag Megaidh into Bogland Rock seems more Buddy Holly than a bon fide Munro name. Perhaps the rock addition is better than “crag of the boggy place” or “mightie steep craggie hill” which were also options. Near the summit there is a pile of stones named Mad Meg’s Cairn which some believe is the grave of a local resident who was denied burial in consecrated ground because she had committed suicide. The world treats people like Meg better today and our two charites – St Mungos and Samaritans certainly makes a difference. Beinn Teallach – the Forge – has no connection with iron, smithing or some strength inducing feat but merely the mountain looks like a forge from one angle.

The commander took the opportunity to amble round the series of walks through the nature reserve and liked the series of storyboards on the environment and native wildlife along the way. A cuckoo was heard, and he was sure that it sounded the same one as was heard in the three other stopping points recently. Otherwise, he had a routine morning in Spean Bridge – obtaining a signal, a laptop recharge and an americano in short order. He did manage to arrive at the agreed RV at Roughburn so early that he was forced to take out a chair and wait for Euan in the sun. He also reviewed possible campsites – one no longer existed, one no longer took touring campers so that left the Bunroy site at Roybridge. Euan got a refreshing cup of tea at Cr282 before both made their way to the aforementioned campsite. There were only three campervan spaces left according to the campsite owner – “English bank holiday” as if that explained everything. The site was a very green and well-appointed site, perhaps too green in one respect since no litter or waste bins were available except at the exit to the site. Putting the responsibility on users to care for their own waste is fine except there were no waste bins in the toilets or at the dishwashing area. That was the only minor gripe since all the usual Cr282’s needs were well met – hot, adjustable showers, laundry facilities and a strong wifi. With chairs out for a second time in one day, the commander’s latest beer purchase was tried. This was another excellent lager from that Scottish brewer based in Ellon, Aberdeenshire. (Did the commander not read my previous negative response to even subtle product placements in the hope of sponsorship in the form of money or goods? – The Editor). Nevertheless, the name of the product which caught the commander’s eye is “Lost” – appropriate or what in light of a recent adventure?

May 26 2023 – Day 54

Today’s Munros along Loch Lochy – Loch of the Dark Goddess, are –

Sron a Choire Ghairbh – Nose of the Rough Corrie

Meall na Teanga – Hill of the Tongue

Sron is an interesting use of the Gaelic word for nose in hill terms. It generally means a ridge or extension from a summit or sometimes the summit itself. Sron, like the nose, can be concave or convex, rough or smooth, broad or narrow but always projects from the hill face. The commander mischievously thought it might be combined in some cases like the human form with “Dearg”. For those still requiring some help with the Gaelic, dearg is a blood red colour with a hint of crimson. Like Sron, Teanga – the tongue, is a logical word for describing some hill features since it describes a ridge like a tongue poking down into a valley. The writer was also attracted to another nearby hill – Teanga gun Urrain – literally translated as a tongue without a responsible person attached. Perhaps the readers may know of such people.

From Bunroy campsite, Euan on his bike and Cr282 made their way to Clunes on Loch Lochy along the single-track road. After a brief stop, Euan continued along what is the Caledonian Way to the base of the 2 Munros. Euan had to make a small but advantageous diversion on the Way because SSE Renewables are carrying out exploratory work for the first pumped hydro scheme in the country for 40 years. Similar to the Ben Cruachan scheme, a very early Munro in Ch282, it is hoped to be operational by 2029 using the waters of Loch Lochy – Loch of the Dak Goddess. This should be a worthwhile addition to the country’s efforts to become less reliant on fossil fuels and nuclear power.

On his trek, Euan encountered a wide variety of fellow travellers – Lawrence, a Swiss backpacker from London, Jim, a civil engineer who Euan may meet again in Skye, other Munro baggers and Ben who was walking from John O‘ Groats to Lands End and the Salt Path.

“Solvitur ambulando” – it is solved by walking.

In the move to Clunes, CH282 is now west of the Great Glen which marks the geological fault line which divides the country from Inverness to Fort William. All the Munros east of this line have now been completed. The fault line is also the route of the Caledonian Canal which links three of the country’s deepest lochs – Loch Ness, Loch Oich and Loch Lochy. With any road network at a very early stage of development, the canal provided shipping with a short cut from the Atlantic in the west to the North Sea in the east. It was a major piece of early engineering and was completed in 1822.

Euan was back at Clunes by 1.45pm and a trip to Fort William was planned to resource the van for the next 7 days. Ch282 needed considerable supplies since it was going into the more remote west including the Rough Bounds of Knoydart – no further explanation is needed at this point. Everything on the big shopping list was found and surprisingly few yellow labels items this time round. Such were the quantities purchased, that van’s boot space was used for some items – dried foods, muesli, crisps and selection pack of beers from that innovative Scottish brewer with that canine name.

It was a busier parking spot at Clunes when Cr282 returned but it was able to squeeze in for a peaceful night.

The Great Glen

May 27 2023 Day 55

An early start was made from Clunes, Loch Lochy to Strathan at the top of Loch Arkaig, a 10 mile journey along the now customary single track road. What made this one different was the frequent, short and sharp ups and downs, a real rollercoaster ride. This was a strength sapping ride before a 3 Munro day. The commander at the wheel of Cr282 could not let his attention wander to the many fisher’s tents, caravans and semi-permanent huts along the route since the road had many narrow bridges and soft verges either side. He did have the rest of the day to recover compared to Euan’s 30k route covering the reasonably accessible first two Munros before the third which entailed a rough, wet trackless trek to the top. Gulvain was described as a secretive mountain, well hidden from immediate view. Euan had other adjectives to describe it. Not only that but he broke one of his new poles on a steep grassy slope as he sped towards the van. Repairing the broken section is not easy with no likely repair places here so a new section from the manufacturers seems inevitable. He’s using his heavier old ones for now. He had a distant view of the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Glen Shiel while crossing between Munros but had no time to dally. Euan even took a deliberate “short cut” across the river such was his keenness to arrive back. It was still 6.30pm before he could rest in the van where lots of pasta and pancakes and custard were consumed.

Today’s 3 Munros were –

Sgurr Thuilm – Peak of the Rounded Hillock

Sgurr nan Coireachan – Peak of the Corries

Gulvain – either from the Gaelic – “gaorr” – filth or “gaoir” – noise

Total – 175

Spot the viaduct..

Besides the literal meanings for Gulvain as above, it has also been suggested that it could be a huge billow or wave or a beaked bird. Far less feasible is the legend that it commemorates the death of a Fingalian hero who died in a lover’s tiff or another legend that the mountain is inhabited by fairies under the knolls on this mountain. Apparently, a girl on cow herding duties was knocking a stake into one of these knolls to tether a calf. A fairy came out and promised the girl that if she moved the stake and the calf from the knoll, her cattle would give endless milk. The miracle endless milk never happened. And you thought scams were a recent phenomenon?

Besides guarding the van in an increasingly busy carparking area where every available verge was being used, the commander had instructions to recce a possible cache for Euan’s cycle on tomorrow’s route. “Time spent on recce was time never wasted.” Euan stated. Accordingly, the commander went on patrol and found a spot 5k along the route which he duly noted – 6 figure grid, photos, stone on the track and other clues included a nearby cattle grid, a sign to faraway Inverie in Knoydart and a rotten fence post. As recce’s go, this was easy and took little time. (A fondness for using military terms has been noticed recently, legitimate but they can be overdone – the Editor.) Roger and out.

May 28/29 – 2023 – Days 56/57

Day 56

After the previous day’s energy sapping endeavours, Euan left his preparation for the new day/s to the morning so that his dry food rations, his designer custard and high energy meals could be meticulously counted and packed. He would also carry a pack for emergency use and on this occasion a new gas cannister just in case. His “dancing shoes” – his favourite light pair of boots/trainers – were showing distinct signs of wear. This was not surprising given the pounding they have taken in all the underfoot conditions which they have endured. A new pair has been ordered – at a sale price of course – but will not be delivered before the next few days. (Stop press – family members will deliver by a circuitous route, the new pair of “dancing shoes” so that Euan “can go the ball after all” but just not tomorrow. Euan was going into the high, rocky hills in Glen Dessary and then into what is called the Rough Bounds of Knoydart. There is no road access to this wild and is the least accessible part of the Scottish Highlands – entry only by foot or boat. The area – Knoydart – comes from the Norse, “Knut’s Fjord”

The Knoydart Estate was once owned by the infamous Lord Brocket whom locals alleged was a Nazi sympathiser. Since the early 1930’s, this peer and heir to a brewing fortune did great harm to the area – he fired estate workers, evicted many from their homes and left the land unproductive and kept it solely for fishing and hunting for himself and his guests. Since 1999, the Knoydart Foundation has taken over the estate and run it for the benefit of the community which they’ve done splendidly. They recently purchased the only pub, The Forge, through crowdfunding to avoid it falling into the hands of a brewing company or potentially a less community aware owner.

As Euan set off on his bike, momentarily surrounded by clouds of midgies, he claimed to have heard the call of three separate cuckoos. Alert to such ominous warnings, the commander was sure that he heard calls from at least two different locations in the wide Glen Dessary. “Had the original cuckoo enlisted his friends and allies? Were they intent on an encircling movement to overcome Cr282? Was the commander going cuckoo? (Oh dear – The Editor)

Today’s Munros

Sgurr nan Coireachan - Peak of the Corries

Garbh Chioch Mor – Big Rough Place of the Breast

Sgurr na Ciche – Peak of the Breast

Meall Bhuidhe - Yellow Hill

Total Munros -179

When it was decided to call Sgurr nan Coireachan, Peak of the Corries, this is surely stating the obvious since so many Scottish hills have corries. It seems as if it follows the pattern of calling some mountains – Ben Mor – Big Hill. For those who were thinking that swelling as in Luinne Bheinn was some big ugly carbuncle then they would be wrong. It’s more likely to be a swell as in the sea.

The commander enjoyed the 5k morning hike up Glen Dessary to retrieve Euan’s cached bike behind the agreed very large stone. There was, unsurprisingly, more than one but a detailed recce and instructions paid off this time. Euan still felt it necessary to camouflage the bike as it lay behind the stone. The dried grass soon blew off as the commander sped downhill despite the rough track but still cheerily acknowledging the heavily laden backpackers on their way uphill. A return to old haunts beckoned for the commander – Spean Bridge for the usual and a forestry parking spot at Glen Loy Forest. Neither let him or Cr282 down. The Glen Loy Forest parking spot has been discovered by German tourers whom Cr282 was happy to share with. This small area with great views and a fine signal from a nearby mast also attracted no less than 4 other campers who had to go and find an alternative site. Cr282 was looking the part amongst these grand looking continental campervans even though their owners seemed, at first, unaware of Scotland’s version of the mosquito. Cr282 had even got a spruce up courtesy of a handy water tap at Spean Bridge.

Although this site was on a bit of a slope, the commander had no problem at night if he rolled down the ever so slight slope on his mattress since he had the double bunk. Euan had purchased wedges to level out the van in such circumstances, but the commander found them unnecessary and slept soundly. That could also have been due to the larger than usual malt – in Euan’s absence - that the commander had poured that evening.

Day 57

At the end of day 56, Euan camped at a high lochan between Meall Bhuidhe and Ladhar Beinn – pronounced – loe-ar vYn – an elevated site but with great weather, he was sure of a superb view from his tent. He should see the next two Munros, before he turned his back on Knoydart to climb a long way back towards Loch Quoich the agreed meeting point on Tuesday. On the way, he will bag the final two Munros of this expedition. Right after breakfast, he was standing on Luinne Bheinn in glorious sunshine. On a mobile call at midday with the commander, he was enthusing about the whole experience in Knoydart and unsurprisingly was not in the usual haste to return and start the next stage. He planned to take full advantage of the long walk back and not miss out on the experience. That said, the schedule for the Skye leg with a guide booked was looming large but very much on track at time of writing. Euan camped for the night at one end of Loch Quoich, beneath Sgurr Mor.

Luinne Bheinn – Swelling Hill

Ladhar Bheinn – Hoof Hill

Munro Total - 181

The observant will have noticed that some of these hills in the west follow the Norse order of names i.e. the adjective comes before the noun, swelling hill as opposed to Hill of the Swelling and hoof hill as opposed to Hill of the Hoof.

The commander, meanwhile, dallied for a time watching some very large but elegant sailing ships navigate their way through the Neptune’s Staircase, the series of locks at Fort William. This is a fine piece of engineering from Thomas Telford still serving a purpose today, 200 years since its completion. Cr282 was completing some final purchases for the week ahead but was dismayed by the number of shops closed for the bank holiday despite the busy main street. Even worse his favourite coffee and croissant café – Rain - didn’t open on a Monday but he was able to find an alternative cafe. As he sipped his americano, he was able to contact Bunroy campsite and managed to squeeze a place in there again despite the “English Bank holiday”. There was no electric point available, but he could pick his spot on a large grassy area with a convenient picnic table ideal for completing admin in the warm sun. This is what is called working from home, he thought. Multi-tasking was the order of the day, however, so a big wash was also set in motion, then hung out to dry in the newly found washing line behind the laundry block. Euan was not available to erect his bespoke version of awashing line around the van. The sun soon dried the clothes, so the commander whisked them all down and laid them out on every flat surface in the van and that convenient picnic table. The admin would have to wait as the commander became distracted over several missing socks. Immersed in this seemingly endless sock matching exercise, he didn’t notice the approach of a fellow camper who, during the subsequent conversation, introduced herself as Janice. She was also looking for missing items, clothes this time. She very politely asked if perhaps, the commander had taken some of her and her husband’s clothes from the washing line? Much to his embarrassment, he did find black cycling shorts, black trousers and a black top – is there any other colour for leisure wear? – among the array of clothes which he had bundled into the laundry bag. Janice’s husband, Alistair came along later to reassure the commander another missing item had been found and the case of the missing clothes had been solved. Thank you, Janice and Alistair for your good humour and swopped Munro stories. The commander was only relieved that he would not have clothes theft on his record and only three odd socks to admit to.

May 30 2023 – Day 58

Euan set off from his overnight camp under Sgurr Mor to reach the summit by mid-morning in time to wish his mother a happy birthday! This was a unique birthday wish in a couple of ways. First his mother, Ann, received many good wishes but not a dedicated video message from high on a hill in Knoydart on a sunny May morning. Secondly this summitted hill was number 182 of the Ch282 total – another special moment for all involved in this epic challenge. Sgurr Mor – Big Peak – big best wishes all round! It was discovered later that Euan also had covered over 1000miles in the challenge so far, another milestone. Today’s Munros -

Sgurr Mor – Big Peak

Gairich – Roaring

Total Munros – 183

No prizes for guessing what hill animal is celebrated with Gairich especially if the hill was named during the Autumn rut. Very many herds of these animals have been seen on the travels, some would say too many for other plant and tree life to survive. In the next pitch, Kinloch Hourn, the deer even came down to graze on the seaweed on the shore which showed their daring and flexibility in eating habits. Where does that leave venison in the tide and turf menu?

The commander, meanwhile, gave up on Euan’s missing socks. Perhaps his mother could give him a new pair for Xmas but just not black ones because they’re a devil to match. Cr282 left Bunroy in good spirits and made for “Spean” – wonder if the locals shorten its name as well – to await a signal to meet up with Euan.

This prompted the commander to consider how climbing had changed since he had started venturing out into the wilds of Scotland. (Cue nostalgic music – the Editor). In a bizarre coincidence as the writer penned this draft in the tourist café in Spean – the shortened version is catching on – the omnipresent piped music was playing “Auld Lang Syne”. It is hoped that our foreign visitors don’t believe that Spean is in a time warp and it’s the New Year.

To return to the good old days of climbing (Not sure about all good, but certainly old – the Editor), the only navigational aid was the map and compass, apart from the rising and setting sun, of course. A note of the route/s planned would be left with someone at home as would the approximate time of return. Now the climber has several digital aids to guide them, find the best routes and inform family where they are if a signal is possible. The map and compass and the ability to use them, however, should still be an essential in the climber’s pack.

Times have decidedly changed with regard to hill clothes. Black or fluorescent colours prevail. The commander remembers his first real climbing gear – navy blue breeches, woollen red knee length socks, matching red gaiters coupled with brown leather boots. The boots required regular waxing to keep the leather supple and increase water repellence. And at the end of the day, jackets were often as wet on the inside as they were on a rainy day on the outside. Goretex is the key brand name here.

Following a signal from Euan on top of Gairich, Cr282 made its way to the Loch Quoich dam. This entailed a drive along the busy A82 and even busier A87 before the turn off to Kinloch Hourn. The next 22-mile stretch is the longest dead end road in Britain with the last 3 or 4 miles some of the steepest and most narrow that the van has had to negotiate. The end point at Kinloch Hourn has 3 houses, a B&B and a café. The latter attracted the attention of the commander for its wifi, its coffee and cakes but all very much at exclusive prices. Budgets in these inflationary times have to examined carefully.

Euan got a surprise on the hills when he met an unknown person whose opening line was, “Are you Euan?” – a follower on Instagram who happened to be on the same hill, at the same time as someone he follows on Instagram! He also met others for a second time on the road to Kinloch Hourn including a couple – 70 and 59yrs old - going home after a 7-day adventure in the hills including a loch crossing by kayak. Going home, but probably not to rest. Cr282 did rest, however, with a beer, a BBQ and a Cardhu in that order.

Postscript – The 3 odd socks case has been solved. 2 of the 3 which were swept up by the commander from the communal washing line at the previous campsite were summarily dispatched to “sock heaven” - they were not Euan’s. The third sock was happily reunited with its partner and will keep Euan’s feet warm and matched for days to come. A happy story to end the day…..


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