Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Monar Munros, Oct'12

We arranged this two-day trip in early October which involves quite a bit of trail-cycling to gain some really remote peaks in the north-west of Scotland.

We had a couple of cancellations on this trip only days before setting off. We hate letting people down, so even though we were down to two clients, the event went ahead as planned. And we were rewarded for our efforts - read on !

On our first day we were aiming for the remote peaks of Lurg Mhor and Bidean a'Choire Sheasgaich and in order to do these in daylight hours, bikes would be needed. Jeannie and myself met at the car-park by the entrance to Attadale Gardens and once gear was checked, headed out on our bikes.

The track starts as a tarred road, turns around the gardens and rapidly becomes a rough track. Jeannie's trusty old bike had no suspension and struggled, eventually being dropped off near Loch an Droighinn.A pleasant walk thereafter took us past Bendronaig Lodge and onto Loch Calavie. This loch lies 350m above sea-level, leaving less than 650m of ascent to gain Lurg Mhor's summit. We had ideal conditions today - soft autumn sunshine, a slight breeze and grass covered slopes. In what felt like no time, we were on the top taking in the vast views.

It was after 2pm, so we decided to give Lurg Mhor's eastern summit a miss and aimed directly for Bidein a'Choire Sheasgaich (affectionately known as 'cheesecake'). As we reached this summit's mountain crest, a huge eagle swooped up in front of us and flew past the summit cairn and northwards. We were in awe ! So much so, I didn't even think to get the camera out and by the time I did, it was far enough away only to be a small speck on the lens. Again in perfect conditions, we stopped on the summit for a break and relaxed as we amazed at the views.

We returned downhill to Loch Calavie and started on the track back to Attadale - it was going to be a long walk and we probably wouldn't get back before darkness. We were passed by a Land-Rover containing a few well healed stalkers, then shortly after an estate pick-up pulled up with 3 shot stags in the rear, the driver of which offered us a lift back to our bikes. We couldn't turn down such an offer from these likable guys who entertained and informed us on the estate. Onto the bikes, we were back in plenty of daylight, tho it did feel like we had cheated a little !

There were three of us for our second day, Neil had driven up from North Berwick. We met in the Forestry car-park by Craig, onto the bikes and up the fine track westwards. A 5km cycle, most of which was uphill, took us to a wire bridge directly below Sgurr Choinnich. One fit chap passed us on his way to Beinn Tarsuinn. We continued onto Bealach Bhearnais and after stopping for a bit to get some food in, continued onto Sgurr Choinnich, being passed again by the same chap, having now done Beinn Tarsuinn. Perfect conditions today with some amazing views !

As we descended eastwards, I noticed we were being caught up by someone running along the crest. It turned out to be Geoff Simpson who was bagging his last few Munros and after today would only have 7 to go ! (I later found out Geoff overtook the other guy on the climb up Maoile Lunndaidh) We took a more leisurely pace and reached Sgurr a'Chaorachain, unfortunatley being stroked by a veil of mist.

Concsious of our timings, I decided it would be best to miss out Bidean an Eoin Deirg, once a Munro many years ago and still a fine peak. Instead, we walked down the grassy slopes around Lochan Gaineamhach and up onto Maoile Lunndaidh's wide plateau - not quite what you'd expect in the north-west highlands. This is more like being in Perthshire or Drumochter ! The summit cairn gained, time for another break.

Although we were on our last Munro, we were also on the day's further point from the start, which meant a long walk back - these Monar peaks make you work for the ticks ! We descended to Glenuaig Lodge, which now has a walker's bothy with electricity and heat ! It's powered by a little hydro generator, which also powers the lodge and I can imagine it would be a very welcome sight on cold, wet or snowy days. A pleasant walk took us back to our bikes for a well deserved free-wheel back down to Craig.

While I was up here I stayed at the Wee Campsite in Lochcarron. It's basic, but got everything you need and is incredibly cheap.

More photos of the trip are on our Flickr website.