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Wednesday, 22 June 2011

The 2011 Challenge, day 4: Tomdoun to Laggan (2)

My route card said that I was going to ascend Meall a' Choire Ghlais and walk the horseshoe ridge over Sron a' Choire Ghairbh and Sean Mheall. The walking had cleared my hangover; but nevertheless, the weather said otherwise. The cloud was low, and a steady rain was falling. Not the weather to go high.

My Foul Weather Alternative was to follow the path to the West of the horseshoe, past Lochan Fhudair. My route vetter had warned that it woudl be pretty wet. But it was the way I decided I should have to go.

Interestingly, when I reached the path junction at NN226983 there was a Scottish Rights of Way Society sign indicating that there was a right of way - and suggesting that there was actually a track as well - through the bealach between Meall a'Choire Ghlais and Ben Tee, and down to Laggan. My map showed no path all the way through; but it did show a big bog round the upper Allt na Feadaige. If my designated FWA was going to be wet, then that was going to be wetter. It might be shorter, but I didn't think I wanted to go there. Not when it had been raining steadily for a week. So I turned onto the track through the woods, which was my designated FWA.

My route vetter was right. It was wet. But it was waymarked and the path was readily apparent; and let's face it, my feet were already sodden and I was used to walking in wet shoes and socks. The path only finally gave out when I was about 100 metres from the edge of the woods, and I had to push my way through the low branches of two or three rows of confiers (no fun!) to get out onto the open hillside.

Once out on the open hillside, there was no sign of a path. But the beauty of this route was that there could be no doubt where I needed to go. The macro-navigational features were totally unmistakable, even in foul weather and poor visibility. So I just pushed on up the valley in the general direction of Lochan Fhudair.

After a while I came to a deer fence; and I was just preparing to climb it when it dawned on me that in all probability either it stopped short of the path, or else it would have a crossing point (a gate or a stile) where the path passed through it. So I turned left and followed it up the hill in search of the path. The occasional boot print and deer track told me I was not the first one to follow this fence line.

Well, the fence turned through a right-angle, so there was no need to cross it. Following it up the valley there was after a while a good strong path, which I followed until it faded; and then I followed the fence. most of the way there was a discernible path, made all the more discernible by the tracks of many trail bikes which had also been this way. All the way I got the impression that maybe, just mayne, I was two or three contour lines below the path line shown on the map; an impression which increased as I approached the Allt Cam Bhealiach, and found myself bog hopping through peat and heather. And then I was clear, and ascending the Allt Cam Bhealaich, and I stopped for some refreshment. A good drink, and the last slice of the fruit cake I had bought at Glenfinnan. The weather was grim, but nonetheless this place had a magnificence about it born of soiltude. With clear blue skies and dry ground underfoot, it must be truly incredible. This, I thought, is what the Challenge is all about. And, it dawned on me, that hard wet slog though it had been, I had foudn today really and truly enjoyable. Not that it was over yet, of course ... I still had a good way to go. I still had to get up to the bealach, and descend into the Great Glen.

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