Tuesday 13 October 2009

Trip report: Day 2 - Evanton to Ullapool

It was a windy night and Paul had brought his snoring machine along to boot, so sleep was never going to be abundant. I caught a few hours here and there, listening to passing rain showers and stag mating calls in between. I woke at around 6.30 and was wishing we hadn’t promised to move on quite so quickly now!

I reached up and opened the tent to see the rain had stopped and the thick cloud had dispersed from the night before. It was still quite windy but it was dry and I headed on out to relieve myself having done that thing were you put it off for hour after hour!

Despite the dark arrival we’d chosen probably the only good spot beyond the wooded area for a pitch.Gradually the sun crept up and as it got brighter it was clear it wasn’t going to be a bad start.

pitch_1  How not to pitch a Seedhouse SL2!

It became clear upon being born from the tent door (that’s how you have to leave Big Aggy when she’s holding twins, she gives birth to you in the most unflattering way!) that the reason for the incessant flapping was purely user error, but that wasn’t a problem because today we were free men in open country. We could pitch that thing however we damn liked and there was nothing anyone could do about it! We took her down as quickly as we could in any case….

We ate, checked the map and packed away whilst it was dry and we were ready to be on our way in no time at all. Packing the Gorilla was becoming more routine and I was growing to like the little blighter already. Putting it on is a nice experience if that makes sense. The straps are sufficiently wide to spread the weight and no part of it had rubbed the previous day – which was a nice surprise.

Paul_packing_up Paul demonstrates the safest way to hold the tent pegs

We hit the track, taking in the scenery and before long we forded our first river of the trip. Paul had to cross 3 times though as I didn’t have the camera ready the first time!

pauls_first_ford Paul demonstrating his intrepid explorer pose.

One thing I’ve often noticed in Scotland is how big the skies are and today was no different. The clouds were just making all sorts of shapes and was pure entertainment in itself.

Cloud_front Cloud formations approaching Ben Wyvis

We made good progress on the track and it was really sinking in that we were out here doing our thing. The plan for today was relatively simple: We would be following the glen along the falls, and breaking west off-track up onto Carn Loch Nan Amhaichean, before heading on down to Strathrannoch forest and following the well maintained landrover tracks north west until we rounded in the glen and Loch Vaich. I knew from reading Jame’s blog that there would be a bothy to play around in so we couldn’t wait to get there.

We gradually ascended the glen passing the falls and the stalking shelter on the way up. We were making great progress without really making much effort and even despite the increasingly boggy ground alongside the river.

topsy_turvy_waterfall The shelter and falls of Abhainn Beinn Nan Eun

We broke to higher ground from the track, trying to avoid the endless boggy ground but everywhere we stepped threatened to swallow us at any time. It became a bit of a lottery as to whether you could make it over sections of ground without the need for a snorkel! We rejoined the path further up before heading west after the ford and up a slight cleft on the approach to Loch Nan Amhaichean. It was tough going with the heavier packs and was really the first ascent of the trip. Again the ground was wet and bogs lay in ambush – I couldn’t quite get my head around how a steep incline could retain so much water!

loch_nan_amhaicheanPassing by Carn Loch Nan Amhaichean

As we approached the top of the cleft we were met with a blast of cold wind coming in from the west. Without seeing the Loch we could see that our summit was in a band of low cloud. We trudged on some more before deciding that making for the top was pretty pointless, so we continued west towards the forest.

strathrannoch Strathronnoch Forest and the bog mined ground in between!

As we pressed on the wind battered our faces, the cloud lowered and the bogs squelched at our every move. Luckily we could see clearer skies in the distance and we hoped they blow in for our approach to Loch Vaich. By now we were ravenous and food was starting to become quite an obsession for us both. Once we’d eaten breakfast we were thinking about lunch and planning dinner! Rather than eat and get blasted we decided to carry on to meet the river we would have followed down to the forest had we have bagged the peak of Carn Loch Nan Amhaichean and this was a good decision as we were rewarded for our bog hopping with a nice sheltered riverbed to take on food and a brew.

lunch_alt_a_choire_rainnich Descending to the river for lunch


“Sorry, is this seat taken?!”

Lunch was Quick Rice Chinese style and it won’t be appearing on the menu again! We refilled out platys and headed on down towards the forest, opting for the more interesting route down the river, crossing over at various stages, jumping from rock to rock.

alt_a_choire_rainnich Rock hopping the alt a choire rainnich

The weather was holding off nicely but looking back it seemed our decision to skip the tops was a wise one as the sky blackened above Carn Loch Nan Amhaichean.

carn_loch_nan_amhaichean Carn Loch Nan Amhaichean from Strathronnoch Forest

After the endless bogs walking on the landrover track was surprisingly welcome. Up ahead we spotted a 4x4 and a quad with a stalking party, but by the time we reached the fenced wooded area they had turned around and gone. We forded the river and it was touch and go as to whether the crocs might have to come out for the first time. They didn’t and I was starting to wonder if they would ever be needed and just end up being a 349g dead weight in the bag.

passing_strathrannoch Heading north on the track from Strathrannoch

Unavoidably we talked work whilst stomping down the trap, both eagerly awaiting the first view of Loch Vaich and the bothies near the shore. It wasn’t long until the track began to turn west and eventually north where the loch came into view.

loch-vaich-bothies Paul charges towards the shelters

Our eagerness to get to the bothy was primarily as we were looking forward to setting up camp in good time and getting a fire going before taking a dip in the loch. The notion that we could set up camp early was great and the freedom to just relax rather than hurriedly put the tent up, scoff food and got to bed was refreshing to say the least.

We made our way over and quickly noticed that the first dwelling was not fit for any kind of human occupation – being literally full of sheep droppings! However, the second of the two buildings had one room left with window and fireplace, fit for a temporary shelter. Kindly, someone had left some wood inside to dry out and to say we were elated is an understatement!

The building once had two floors but the stairs had long gone and the only features up there were the resident bats which would visit us later on that night by the fire. There was not a chance we would sleep inside and with that decision made it was back outside.

loch_vaich_bothy Our prize for the day: the open fire and dry fuel

We decided to set up the tent in the lea of the second building whilst it was dry, but with the wind whipping up from the south of the loch it offered little protection for Big Aggy. This done, we set about rigging up a drying line and lighting the fire before heading down to the loch for a swim!

bothy_fire Paul prays to the God of hell fire before our near death experience at the loch.

I’ve heard that the legendary Alan Sloman uses a gas stove for his fire lighting trickery but here I found that liberal use of meths works just as well to get things going! The dry wood needed little help though and was soon popping and crackling away.

The plan was to pop the crocs on and go for a ‘refreshing’ swim in the loch, which we fully anticipated would be cold but foolishly continued regardless. Paul was the first to get down to the shore donning merino socks, boxers and crocs as I trailed behind with the camera and similar attire! The wind was whistling on up the loch and whipping up a cold fine spray, hinting at what we were about to sign up to. Paul flirted at the water’s edge, I however I wasn’t in the mood for small talk and waded on in whilst trying to stifle my wimpy gasps. Paul barely got wet and ran back to the bothy but I made the most of the opportunity to wash a few items and freshen up. Luckily there was no-one around to see this homo-erotic freak show at the lochs edge!

By the time I got back to the bothy the fire was dying away but with a small drop of meths and some more logs soon restored open fire karma. Boxers, socks and towels were hung up to dry and it wasn’t long before we had the alcohol stove on for a brew. We sat on rocks by the fire warming ourselves and our food obsession returned with a vengeance. It was a Real Turmat beef and potato stew for me and it was worth the £7.99 price tag without a doubt. We took our time eating for a change and finished off with a hot chocolate before heading out into the howling wind to the tent.

We had pitched the tent on a slight slope as there was no level sheltered pitches to be found. Nevertheless we had pitched it to absolute perfection. It was like a little rock despite the ferocious gusts of wind. We dived in to get the usual chores out of the way.

Upon inspection I was still without any blisters and ticks so was a happy man all round. I still took the time to apply some Gehwol Extra foot cream which if nothing else has a nice smell and encourages you to at least check your feet for blisters and sore spots.

Paul went off to sleep almost instantly whilst I lay listening to my Ipod before dropping off, with only a faint sound of the wind getting through.


baz carter said...

Brave indeed to go for a dip. Still you had the fire to dry and warm you through!

Dave Hollin said...

excellent post and made me chuckle especially the bit about the half hearted swim. Sounds like you had a grand time. No-one around and freedom to pitch and do as you please. Grand stuff! :)

James Boulter said...

With a little TLC that building would make a superb bothy, I would plump for the tent option there though, not a place to sleep in! You are lucky not having ticks so far, when we camped just behind the trees at Wyvis lodge there were millions of the little buggers. Did you spend the night at Glenbeg and Coiremor bothies? I suppose I will just have to wait and see! Enjoying the write up by the way.

Marcus said...

We had a great 2nd day and enjoyed the whole shebang. Only a shame we couldn't hang around longer to enjoy the freedom. Swim was questionable mental health but I was craving a shower so badly I didn't care too much at the time!

The bothy (lubachlaggan) would make a good shelter but unfortunately I can see it being a lot of work. Saying that I'd certainly volunteer for a weeks free labour to put the wheels in motion.

As for the next stop its a case of watch this space....sorry James!

Alan Sloman said...

Nice report, Dude.
Coo - Fame - a mention in your blog!