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Day 72 - 76 'Making progress while the sun shines'

Updated: Jun 20, 2023

14 June 2023 - Day 73

Euan started early as usual for his overnight camp to tackle the following Munros -

Munros – 4 Total Munros – 238

Sgurr Fuar-thuill – Peak of the Cold Hollow

Sgurr a Choire Ghlas – Peak of the Grey/Green Corrie

Carn nan Gobhar - Hill of the Goats

Sgurr na Ruaidhe – Peak of the Redness

He had a relatively uneventful day with only the midgies, particularly in the evening and early morning causing bother as well as many the horseflies which seemed to have hatched over the previous few days. He met an adventurous mother and son who were about to camp out on the tops after the heavy deluge of rain, thunder and lightning.

Cr282 had a peaceful night at Cannich campsite where fellow campers awoke to warm sun which quickly dried the surrounding ground including the neighbouring couple’s difficult to erect tent. The commander spent a peaceful morning in the partial shade of the Scots Pine and Silver Birch which surrounded Cr282’s pitch. A one basket shop at the local Spar – who remembers this as “getting the messages” – was needed. It did not better the commander’s favourite Coop in the area, but it was well stocked and had helpful staff. There was no danger in getting lost in this two-aisle shop but the commander still managed to end up in the crowded Greetings Card section – think 2 shelves 0.5m wide. A box on the floor caught his eye – 3 greetings cards for £1. Not sure if Euan would appreciate such a card after 1 day absence especially since most were of 1950’s vintage – flowers or cheery faced individuals doing “men or women tasks”.

Fortunately, the communal drying whirly was in line of sight of the seated commander who was mostly engaged in intense blog research. He was able, however, to keep a beady eye on anyone lurking near his drying clothes which included three pair of matching socks. As the commander was the perpetrator of washing line “theft” at an earlier campsite, he had “previous” as the police lingo goes. He was the ideal guard for any suspicious movement near the laundry block – a not overly busy area as it happens. Before he left to pick up Euan, he collected all his own clothes including the three matched pairs to remove the temptation to any passing miscreant. Perhaps, he should have placed the singular sock on the line as a bait and waited or a “catch”. (Who on earth needs a singular sock? – The Editor) There’s a challenge, readers!

As described earlier, access to the lovely Glen Strathfarrar is strictly limited by a gate keeper housed beside a locked gate. With the official opening time of 1.30pm, the commander did try to gain an earlier entry by requesting such when a friendly workman with the secret lock combination passed through the gate. It was a case of “more than my jobs worth, guvnor, she (the gatekeeper) decides when and who. A woman with a key…..” (This quote has been heavily edited to avoid causing offence to any reader who may be offended by industrial language. – The Editor)

At 1.29pm exactly, the gate keeper emerged from her gatehouse and stood in front of the locked gate. Cr282 being first in the queue of only three cars tentatively approached this normal enough looking woman. After a polite exchange, her somewhat steely exterior softened and she and the commander explained what each other was about. Safely and happily through the gate, the commander easily found Euan waiting by the roadside drying out his tent, still wet from the previous night. He was at the rendezvous point as planned and had only a 30-minute wait. After cycling to the dam at Loch Monar, which was the start point for the next day, Euan and Cr282 made their way down this varied glen and passed through the locked gate after another friendly exchange with the gatekeeper. A bbq, salad, pasta and beer – a perfect combination, bbq and beer that is - were enjoyed in what was an idyllic campsite.

15 June 2023 Day 74

Reluctantly Cr282 left the Cannich campsite in time to be the first in the queue at the Strathfarrar access gate. Again, there were only a few cars with walkers and bikers waiting to enter this glen which is very much worth travelling into. They were greeted by the gatekeeper at 8.59am whom the commander learned in a previous conversation was retiring after 21yrs service as keeper of the gate at the age of 71. Euan and the commander both wished her well in her retirement and reflected on what career path a new and younger replacement would follow. Would they aspire to a bigger, better gate? More gates to open? Multitask with other clerical tasks on the estate – nos. of deer, game birds or incidence of ticks? To be serious, she will lose her grace and favour house when she retires, so it is hoped that she is well treated by her employers.

Euan had a hot and tiring day in the hills for only 2 Munros covering 23.5k. The climb up Moruisg was particularly steep. He was glad to find the van had several cans of cooling drinks.

Today’s Munros - 2 Total Munros – 240

Maoile Lundie – Bare Hill of the Wet Place

Moruisg – Big Water

Today’s Moruisg – Big Water conjures up a lovely picture of a rolling wave of a mountain whereas tomorrow’s Lurg Mhor – Big Shank where shank is a shin bone patently does not. In football banter with TV pundits, it is common place to familiarise the name. Hence, Alistair McCoist becomes “Coistie” and Ian Wright becomes “Wrightie.” Big Shank surely becomes “Shanksie” to his friends?

The commander left Strathfarrar and took the necessary circuitous route by road to the day’s meeting point – Loch Sgamhain on the A890. En route, he stopped at Beauly for fuel, fresh food, sun lotion and the obligatory americano at a very good Italian café in the Square – Café Biagiotti. While waiting for Euan at Loch Sgamhain, the commander heard a cuckoo call again – the first for several days. He distinctly felt that the first syllable of its call – “cuc” was harsher and more insistent than previously. Was it losing patience that no one was answering its call? Had all its competitors for territory given up early and “hightailed it” – sorry! – to Africa confident that its young were being looked after by host birds? (It is hoped that the previous fixation with this bird has not returned, otherwise more therapy is advised. – the Editor)

There was a heavy rain shower in the afternoon but come night parking time, warm sun had returned. Suitable parking spots were at a definite premium and Cr282 scoured the main road for somewhere accessible and quiet. Eventually, Euan spotted one up a forestry track which was flat and had a good signal. There was no water nearby, but Euan opted for a character building cold shower using the van’s facilities. The chilling noises from the shower cubicle dissuaded the commander from following Euan – his character rebuild would have to wait.

16 June 2023 - Day 75

Neil, Euan’s brother, would join him on today’s walks but that meant a very early start for him from Elgin as he arrived as planned at 7.00am for a 7.30am start. The 4 Munros on the list are usually climbed in two pairs and not linked as Euan and Neil hoped.They each had gravel bikes to travel the 5k up the glen from Craig before caching them to continue the climb ”Shanksie” and Bidean Corrie Cheesecake - see previous blog to understand these crude translations. They would then loose a lot of height before tackling the next two. Although carrying water as usual, Euan had to resort to dousing his head and at breaks his feet in cold mountain streams. Invigorating or what? Even though they each took on plenty water, Euan still felt dehydrated at the end of a hot day. Cool drinks and then refreshing tea/coffee were enjoyed back at the van.

Today’s Munros – 4 Total Munros – 244

Bidean Choire Sheasgaich – Pinnacle of the Corrie of the Farrow Cattle or Barren Corrie

Lurg Mhor – Big Shank

Sgurr Chonnich – Mossy Peak

Sgurr Chaorachain – Peak of the Torrent

Today’s Stats – 34.3 k covered in 8hrs; 180 bpm; 7877ft ascent; 7870ft descent.

When Euan cycled the 5k route to the start of the next day launch point at Achnashellach Station and given the day’s dehydrated bodies, it was inevitable that a heavy downpour started. These downpours were refreshing but they also seemed to activate the midgies which formed visible clouds outside the van’s windows when it was parked up for the night. The white metal body and the windows seemed to act like a magnet for them. Only 2 other campers attempted to “pinch” Cr282’s spot – a well hidden pitch in this busy area.

Neil left his dog Obi with the commander to look after for the day. Usual lively dog activities were envisaged – walks, stick throwing/retrieving, cooling off in water. All these canine pursuits were achieved with some success. The dog day started with a 9k trot – Obi doesn’t walk – up a beautiful glen. At least, the commander thought it was scenic, Obi had a more of a head down approach with only wildlife being any distraction. There was a brief stop at 9k before a return was started. Some dog/commander bonding took place – stick thrown into water retrieval, dog sweets gobbled, lead now dispensed with. Obi was tireless as he criss-crossed the track ahead between burn on one side and large stream on the other – likely dog heaven. The term “dog tired” is not part of his lifestyle. After another snack back at the van – dog and the commander having different ones obviously – a short rest period was ordered. The “sit” command was obeyed. After what seemed a very short rest period – no paws – Obi found a short stick in the wood and dropped it at the open door of the van and looked up at the commander expectantly. After this was ignored by the commander as he sipped his tea, Obi cleverly then picked up the stick and dropped it again, this time on the first step of the van. He looked again at the commander and angled his head in a questioning manner. Request for resumption of stick throwing/retrieval activity was granted. Neil sent a thank you text later with a picture of a resting Obi. The commander also rested.

17 June 2023. Day 76

Euan set off just after 7.30am to tackle 3 Munros including Beinn Liath Mor, “ a long multiple summited sandstone ridge with steep flanks, sprinkled with white quartzite” – Walk Highlands. This distinctive colouring would be repeated along the string of Torridon Mountains. He then had to lose a lot of height before he tackled Maol Chin Dearg. Euan frightened two ptarmigan chicks on his trek whose mother repeatedly feigned injury to distract Euan from her chicks who in natural scatter behaviour scuttled off in different directions. He made sure to leave them promptly to save any distress.

The commander went by road to Torridon via Kinlochewe which was busy as it was at a junction for Highland Cross competitors on this day and throughout the year because of North Coast 500 travellers. He did not know what to make of this village and its Highland welcome. On the one hand, it provided excellent community toilet, fresh water on tap and parking for visitors as well as a 24hr fuel station/shop and café. Its post office/store was less well stocked, the hotel looked a bit bleak and a campsite which did not open till 1.00pm. Overall verdict will be given after a booked visit to the campsite the next day.

Today it welcomed the Highland Cross athletes and support teams which is an annual event on the international circuit of tri/duathlon events. This is a 20mile run and a 30mile cycle including an estimated 4hr run over and down Beinn Eighe. Participating teams agree to raise at least £500 for local charities. Andrew who was the running partner of a participant – each competitor must have a partner to go up and down the mountain section – explained to the commander some of the protocol for the event. A selfless run by Andrew was the order of the day although his participating colleague was well down the field. He borrowed the commander’s phone to contact the support team. Hope all went well, Andrew.

Today’s Munros – 3 Total Munros – 247

Beinn Liath Mor - Big Grey Hill

Sgurr Ruadh – Red Peak

Maol Chin Dearg – Bald Red Head

Today’s Stats – 27.4k covered in 7hrs 40mins; 2085ft ascent; 2084ft descent; 5.54kph average.

Maol chin Dearg has a bare sandstone top with only some grassy areas (like hair) around its top. Its not difficult to imagine the thinking when a name for this hill had to be thought up. It is hoped that precautions are taken in this hot, sunny weather.

The planned meet was The Torridon, a grand hotel standing alone some distance from nearby Torridon. The hotel itself was a bit too grand for Cr282 and its grubby residents but the hotel has thoughtfully provided the Beinn Bar for the public including hillwalkers. Some draught beer of the Orkney variety and good food was booked for 6.00pm. Before entering a public place, Euan thought a shower would be needed and the solution was a cold shower in the van. This was achieved with no problems except for the lack of a grey holding vessel to collect shower water. A long foamy stream of shower water made its way down the long bar carpark. Ah well, nothing that a good shower of rain wouldn’t solve. Cue rain!

A good overnight spot was also found nearby with no tell-tale signs of a campervan left behind.

Heading North!


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1 Comment

Jun 19, 2023

Torridon, yes, know this area well, having spent a number of months over a two year period instructing young soldiers External Leadership. Great time. It is noted from the map photos that Euan‘s smile broadens on each. Aye the end is nigh. As you browse the map the Munro‘s are spreading, more time on the bike no doubt.

Cold showers, grr, can’t beat it. Enjoy.

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