Monday, 31 May 2010

Coledale Horseshoe Wild Camp

It had been a hard week at work, my colleague phoned in sick four out of the five days which meant I was doing the work of two people and ended up working several extra hours, on top of this I had also agreed to be in work all day Saturday. Come Saturday night I was absolutely exhausted! It was my birthday on Monday and my employer lets us have our birthdays off for free, something I hadn't taken advantage of the last two years so I was determined after the week I'd just had that I was not going to miss the chance for a free day off this year! I was also determined to make sure I made the most of it. I sat down on Saturday night thinking of how I would like to celebrate my birthday and nothing beat the thought of waking up on my birthday morning on top of a mountain watching the sunrise. After doing the usual scouring of Memory Map and browsing various websites I decided I would do something different. The weather had been incredible most of the week and was due to continue through the weekend. I quickly decided on the Lake District and set about finding a route I hadn't done before and in a part of the Lake District I hadn't done before. The north western fells is the one area I have done the least in the Lake District, despite the fact that every time I talk to anyone who lives in the Lake District they always say it is the best.

Go Lite Shangri-La 3 shelter on Causey Pike ridge


The first place I go when looking for a good Lake District route is Sean McMahon's website www.stridingedge.net as he has in my opinion the best Lake District walking and photography website there is. On Sean's site you can click on any of the Lakeland Fells you wish to climb and then once on its dedicated page you can browse through the routes he has done that include this fell. It is a very easy and ingenious way to find a route in a certain part of the Lakes. Sean's photographic skills aren't something that need to be written about, just go visit his website and you will see the other reason why so many hill goers browse to his site every week whilst sat at work missing the hills. I found a few routes that looked good but the one that appealed to me most was the Coledale Horseshoe. The Coledale Horseshoe involves twelve summits, eight of which are Wainwrights, it is seventeen kilometres long and involves a total ascent of one thousand four hundred metres. It is usually a fairly tough day walk but should be made easier by my plan of breaking it into two days using a wild camp. The walk also starts from a free car park, something which sadly I am finding harder to find in the Lakes when planning wild camping nights. I spent Sunday morning packing my wild camping gear. It was a pleasure knowing I could leave several heavier items at home as the weather was so good and night temperatures higher than average. I decided to use my Golite Shangri-La 3 shelter as a single skin shelter, leaving the inner nest and floor at home. All warmer gear was now discarded, the only warm clothing I took was my Rab Generator jacket in case it got nippy at night. I left my gas stove at home and took my ultra lightweight White Box meths stove and several fluid ounces of meths which I had in a fantastic new Vargo fuel bottle I had bought off Ebay earlier in the week. I took my Primus Kettle for boiling water in and MSR Titan mug, however I did have a plan to buy a new pot from Keswick on the way if I could find the one I wanted. Soon everything was packed and my rucksack was feeling surprisingly light even with water and food. I said goodbye to Nicky and set off in great weather, soon on the M6 heading north.

Causey Pike summit ridge


There was a horrible accident on the M6 south bound where a Range Rover and horse box had over turned. Our north bound side was slow for a while as people were rubber necking. I still got to Keswick in good time and was there a few hours earlier than originally planned. There was only one thing for it, I had to waste a few hours in a town known for its abundance of gear shops, gear fondling! I had one thing in particular I was after. I had seen the older version of the Optimus Terra Solo titanium cookset and was impressed with its size and weight, so when I saw the new version with a proper sized lid instead of those daft frying pan lids I knew I had to have one, especially as they aren't that expensive either in my opinion at only twenty quid. The lid on the new version is big enough for a brew, which is a huge bonus as it means I can ditch my mug and the lid isn't wasted weight as it had been in the past with those daft useless frying pan lids. I found one in Ultimate Outdoors where the staff almost drove me to walk out of the shop, I felt like they were about to cuddle me, I like friendly staff but for god sake don't smother me! I also picked up a Thermarest compressible pillow as I've had three inflatable pillows of all price ranges and makes fail on me now and I want something that I can rely on.

Sleet How ridge path to Grisedale Pike

I made my way to the car park on the Whinlatter Road above the lovely village of Braithwaite Kinn path at the north end of the car park. The only way to put myself back on the right path was to either find my way up the very steep heather strewn rocky ravine on my right to gain the top of the Kinn ridge or head back to the car park passing everyone who had seen me head the other way. To avoid such an embarrassing situation I chose the stupid way and made my way up the steep ravine to the right. I got to the top of the ravine and crossed a fern path to gain the path I should have been on in the first place. I was so exhausted in the heat that I had to throw myself to the ground and take a long refreshing swig of Lucazade. I regained my breath and started the easier walk along the Kinn ridge. When I took my break I tweeted to say where I was and one reply I got back said "that last pull up Grisedale is gonna be a hot one today!". After ascending Kinn to Sleet How I had a view in front of me that made me realise exactly what he was talking about. The final pull up Grisedale was fairly tough on a day like this, but the anticipation of the views on a day like this kept me going and I soon gained the exposed summit of Grisedale Pike. My original plan was to camp here and do the rest of the horseshoe tomorrow, the only problem being that it was only six o'clock. A friendly fell runner from Braithwaite appeared over the ridge and shared a fantastic ten minutes with me on top of this brilliant viewpoint which on a day like this was just awesome.

Sail and Crag Hill from Grisedale Pike summit


I left the fell runner to run back down the ridge, he told me of his plans for a family barbecue that night which made my tummy rumble some what! I headed down off Grisedale over the bump of Hobcarton Head then up Hopegill Head. The final ascent to Hopegill Head gave daunting and fascinating views down to Hobcarton Crags which I had never heard of but was more than impressed with, I would imagine there must be some great scrambling routes up it. Hopegill Head was one of my favourite moments for a very long time. It was just something about the airy summit with its perfect position looking out over flat lands to the sea on the north  west and east to mountains galore. The Isle Of Man floated on a shimmering sea in the distance as I sat on a chair of rock on the summit basking in blue skies, sunshine and strong warm winds. I sat for almost an hour in the same position and don't know how I stopped myself falling asleep. The wind coming off the sea was getting stronger all the time and I knew that there was no way I would be able to camp on Hopegill Head summit so continued off it over the bump of Sand Hill down into Coledale Hause. On the other side of Coledale Hause an easy ascent through a very silent and desolate valley in the col between Grasmoor and Crag Hill saw me reach Wandope Moss with incredible views to the southern and south western fells. I then headed up the back of the huge bulk of Crag Gill to reach its wide summit plateau and trig point at the highest point of the walk.

Crag Hill summit with Grisedale Pike and Skiddaw beyond


By now the wind was incredibly strong and I was starting to get a little anxious about the possibility of getting the tent up. The summit of Crag Hill was not an option so I moved on and headed down The Scar to Sail. The views to my right now included Ard Crags and Rigg Beck both of which I hadn't seen before. Sail was just as exposed and windy unfortunately. The only place I was getting out of the wind was in the cols between each peak as the ridge was heading east away from the strong west wind so each time I went into a col I had a mountain behind as a wind break. The only problem I had now was that each possible camping spot that had no wind also had a ridiculous amount of mosquito type flies and of course I didn't have my nest inner, I'm not talking the odd one, I'm talking thousands in view at once, they made the grass look like moving water. I tried to erect the tent on Sail but it almost collapsed in the constant strong gale and looked like an invisible bull was trying to knock it over!

View from my shelter, and what a view!


I carried on and headed towards Causey Pike. This iconic hill is usually seen from Keswick or Borrowdale where it takes on the shape of an impressive pyramid shaped mountain. This is of course because it is the end of the ridge I am walking. As I reached the col before Causey Pike I realised that the sun was about to go down and the spot I was stood on by the path was the most sheltered area yet so I left my rucksack and headed up Causey Pike with warm jacket and camera. From the exposed summit of Causey Pike I sat and watched the sun go down and the tops of the peaks to the east go orange. I was hungry by now so headed back down to my rucksack and set up the tent and got the stove going. I've only used my White Box meths stove once before in a bothy and I am usually a gas fan as I find meths a little messy and hate the smell of it getting on everything. The Vargo fuel bottle I bought this week has completely eradicated that problem with its easy pour flip spout and fluid ounce measuring marks. It was perfect and weighs nothing compared to my usual gas setup. I can see myself using it more in the future. Combined with my new Optimus Terra Solo pot I have a complete cookset including fuel for under 350g! I was soon sat in the porch of my shelter looking out over beautiful moonlit lakeland fells eating a lovely meal and a sweet and milky cup of tea, absolute heaven! I slept well with the large door of the shelter open all night looking out at the moon and stars.

Myself on my birthday morning above the clouds on Causey Pike

I woke at quarter to four and decided to stay awake and make sure I was up for the sun rise. I got the stove going again and made my favourite camp food my very own recipe Spicy Fruit & Nut Porridge. I took my porridge, warm coat and camera up to the summit of Causey Pike. I sat and watched the lights of Keswick and Braithwaite slowly fade as the morning glow brightened. Then the most amazing thing happened, I turned round to find every valley behind me filling with cloud creeping over the cols facing the prevailing west wind. Half an hour later every valley had cloud in it and me perched on Causey Pike above it all. All of a sudden a bright light shone ahead of me and I saw a tiny line of bright light as the sun made its very first appearance of the day. It was jaw dropping with cloud spiralling up from the valleys below on either side at the same time. I tried to take it all in hard as it was to do so and sang happy birthday to myself. I looked back towards the col where I could now see my tent sat on the ridge crest with cloud filled valleys on either side, wow did I really spend the night there! I packed up and was soon heading down the path from Causey Pike towards High Moss. The original plan would have seen me having to do almost the entire horseshoe walk on Monday morning but as I had completed most of it the night before all I had left was the walk over the three small hills on the opposite ridge of Outerside, Stile End and Barrow. This part of the walk wasn't quite as spectacular as the rest, though the walk off Barrow towards Braithwaite was certainly enjoyable. By 10:30am I was back at home in Manchester and in the bath opening my many birthday cards.

I have uploaded all of the photos from this wild camp walk here.

Route Map...

Monday, 17 May 2010

Bollin Valley

I had too much to do this weekend to be going far and wide. Original plan was to go wild camping in Snowdonia but after realising how many things I needed to do at home and the weather forecast which was for rain all Saturday night and showers Sunday I decided to stay closer to home and get my outdoor fix by going for a stroll down our local green belt land. Nicky went off to Uni for a lecture so I made myself a packed lunch, grabbed my small bag, camera and boots and went off for an easy walk in the sun. One objective was to discover the Bollin tributary where the local Otter is rumoured to be hanging out! The weather forecast did say sun for Saturday but getting cloudy during the evening leading to rain at night. The weather was glorious and I felt good bombing down a Cheshire country lane with its big skies, white metal fencing, open fields and me blaring out the Stone Roses Mersey Paradise through my stereo, the world felt good!

River Bollin
Ironic tune really as the River Bollin is of course one of the River Mersey's main tributaries itself, draining the Peak District's south western catchment areas above Macclesfield and beyond. I'm not sure what Mr Brown and Mr Squire were referring to as their Mersey Paradise. The obvious guess would be the Spike Island music festival that took place which they headlined on the banks of the Mersey Estuary many years ago. To me my own Mersey Paradise is the world I was brought up in, geographically speaking home to me is Greater Manchester, all of which is drained into the mighty Mersey Basin. As a child and also an adult there is nothing more intriguing to me than a brook, stream or river. I find the wildlife in them fascinating, they are ever changing and to me like the mountains they are nature itself in motion. All of the local streams and brooks I explored and played in as a child were part of the huge catchment of the River Mersey. Since 1985 the Mersey Basin Campaign has facilitated the clean up of the River Mersey and its tributaries, which includes the Manchester Ship Canal, check out their website. What a fantastic job they have done with our regions waterways!

Quiet wooded stream above the River Bollin
A few tributaries of the Mersey including the Bollin have in recent years re-attracted one of my all time favourite animals the Otter. I have seen several Otters whilst on holiday on the Isle of Mull in Scotland but still not seen one in England. One of these beautiful animals rumoured to be living on a tributary of the Bollin. So this was one of the objectives of my stroll, to sit patiently in the hope of seeing the wee thing. Whilst speaking to a few walkers in the past in the Bollin Valley, a few have mentioned sightings of a Kingfisher down there too. I got to the usual quiet layby car park and set off along the country lanes, as to my left the huge passenger jets flying out of Manchester Aiport flew in blue skies with fluffy white clouds over vast fields of bright yellow rape seed.  After reaching the edge of the first woodland area I sloped off down a quiet path into the woods. The scene was incredible with the suns rays beaming through the trees and lighting up hundreds of bluebells on the woodlands floor. Birds were singing from bushes and trees. Two blackbirds scampered around in the leaves to my left while a Great Tit watched me from a fallen tree trunk. It was like something out of a Disney movie!

Buzzard above the Bollin Valley
I got down to the banks of the River Bollin and just stood in awe of it. I love this river. It silently meanders through the fields and produces a sandy beach on the inner sides of its many bends, contrasted on the bends far sides by deep faster flowing water covered by hanging woodland. When it is sunny like this I cuold sit here for hours just listening to the birds and watching the river slowly pass by. Two Mallards were a little surprised to see me and flew off down stream. I was scouring the sandy muddy bank of the river for signs of animal prints and found plenty. I left this little heaven and headed back along the woodland path. I came across a huge bank of white flower which by the smell could only have been one thing, Wild Garlic. Using my Blackberry to verify this and check how it could be foraged and eaten, I then took it upon myself to dig out dozens of  bulbs and bagged them to take home for the kitchen. Just before I reached the footbridge from the Bowden Priory path I walked through the lushest woodland with massive green river weeds blanketing either side of a winding path, it was an incredible experience and the only thing I could compare it with is the virtual world of Pandora from the film Avatar. It really was unreal. Made all the more unreal when dozens of what I think were either Long Tailed Tits or Pied Wagtails were swarming over head.

Mayfly by Mobberley Brook / Blackburn's Brook
After leaving the river to join the farming fields I then followed the route of the Bollin Valley Way and set about finding this small tributary. On my way across one of the fields I looked up to find a Kestrel swooping and then flapping around above me and a huge Buzzard circling above the power lines. On reaching the tributary I decided to sit for an hour on the banks and eat my lunch. No Otter came unfortunately or Kingfisher but I did have the most relaxing hour I'd had all week! One thing that did make my day was a Mayfly which landed by me, I managed to pick it up and get a cracking close up using my cameras macro. I made my way back across the fields and then down to the river to take the same magical path back to the woodlands and then back along the country lanes to my car. Heading in a westerly direction now I could see the unique shape of Shutlingsloe on the far horizon. When I got home with dozens of bulbs of Wild Garlic I was forced into the kitchen by Nicky as the smell was extremely strong! That night saw a beautiful sunset which would have looked great from my tent at 3000 ft, but hey ho, one day I will learn not to take on fully what the weather man says and I had a great time down the by the Bollin anyway.

I have uploaded all of the photos from this walk here.

Route Map...

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Mobile Fun Wind Up Charger/Torch

Wind Up Charger in box

I have been sent this Wind Up Charger / Torch from the guys at www.mobilefun.co.uk.

First Impressions are that this is a nice piece of kit. Most wind up torches are ugly, heavy and badly made contraptions, however this device is lightweight, looks good, and a well made piece of kit. In the box is the torch itself with a handy wrist strap attached, a bag containing the extension cable for charging and the charging attachments themselves. The torch has a very portable and ergonomic case that fits nicely in the hand. The on/off button is stiff enough not to be accidentally turned on, not that this matters as much with a wind up torch. There are three LED's at the front of the torch, well spaced and with slight magnifying lenses in front of them to boost the light. The torch is surprisingly lightweight at only 68g and is only 90mm long, 40mm wide and 30mm deep in dimension. The wind up arm fits nicely under the torch and clips tight into place out of the way.

Performance of the wind up torch is surprisingly effective. After winding up the torch for just three to five minutes you get twenty minutes of strong light you could use for walking and after that another twenty you could use as tent light so in total that would be forty minutes of very usable light in a camping situation. It does stay on for longer too so when wild camping it will actually last a lot longer with a dim light enough for a dark tent. I left it turned on by the bedside table one night and in the morning it still had light! When first being used from charge I would say this torch performs as well as any other simple three LED head torch or torch. I would put it on a par with the standard Petzl head torches like the original Tikkina and standard Tikka which I have owned in the past. Being able to power a decent torch without the need for new batteries and knowing it will work in any situation is a great comfort, especially for those who venture into places wild and remote. I'm not sure how waterproof the device is but I tend to keep such gear in small zip lock bags or inside dry bags anyway.

Surprisingly good LED torch and great to hold
Performance of the wind up charger is unfortunately useless, as predicted. The wind up charger facility is a great idea but just doesn't work with modern phones due to their much higher battery capacities and battery draining features such as large screens, wireless technologies and media capabilities. I tried the charger on several phones. It would not charge my Blackberry enough from dead for the Blackberry to be able to make a call or even boot up properly. I tried an iPhone, but found that the charging adaptor worked on Ipods only and not the Iphone itself, having said that it didn't give any usable power to a modern Ipod either. Other phones included a Sony Ericcson and Samsung, the only thing it charge enough for me to make a few minutes call was an old Nokia phone of mine.

Wind up charger crank handle
Obviously this isn't much use to anyone carrying a modern smart phone, but in a wilderness situation or long distance walk some people do take older phones and less power draining media players for their excellent prolonged use and ruggedness. MP3 players that have no screen or small screens like the Sandisk Clip and the older Nokia phones with basic functionality and older screens will get a half decent charge from the wind up charger. Unfortunately its small size doesn't help when charging, holding a smaller device still is much harder, though I wouldn't want a larger and heavier device for my use. There is every chance that some of the above devices I have tested may well get a charge enough to make a call if you sat for fifteen minutes winding the thing up, but to me that would defeat the object and you;'d end up looking like Popeye!

Useful variety of adapters and cables

The Good

Wind up torch performs very well, is well built and ergonomically designed to fit well in your hand. It is light weight at only 68g and takes up very little room. Environmentally sound as it is self powering and never needs replacement batteries. Should work in almost any situation.

The Bad

Doesn't charge modern smart phones or modern media devices. This function would only work in a situation where the device being charged is an old or simple device that drains very little power from its battery, such as cheap or older mobile phones with tiny screens or media players with little or no screen.

Conclusion...

Fantastic wind up torch. I will actually use this as a backup torch and I never thought I would say that! It is mainly due to its light weight and build quality which you rarely find with wind up devices. I will never use the wind up charging function of the device and will most probably leave the cables at home, unless I am on a long distance walk where I would take the older phone. Oddly enough the device is actually marketed as a wind up charger which seems a little cheeky to me. As a wind up torch however it performs well and is more practical than any other I have seen at this price.

If you want to purchase one of these wind up chargers you can do so by visiting the Mobile Fun website at www.mobilefun.co.uk. They also have various other phone chargers.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Slioch and Gairloch Weekend

Since she was a wee little girl... many moons ago ( I'll die for that comment! ) Kate has wanted to climb Slioch so when Steve and Elaina suggested an OM Meet in Gairloch just down the road it was destined to be! We took four days off work so we had an easy day for travelling there and back. Kate stayed over at our new abode on the Thursday night after travelling up from her place in South Wales. As soon as she arrived the tone and general conversation seemed to deteriorate, from salivating with Nicky over Diego Forlan's chest while watching the footy with pizza to actually cheering in our house when Liverpool scored! She got a right look from me when that happened I can assure you! Unfortunately this wasn't the last I would hear of Diego's chest as this came up in conversation a few times on the journey up! Packing the next morning was complicated for all as the MWIS weather forecast had it down as snowing and -2 on the summits so despite it being May we had to take gear to cover all seasons. The journey up was an easy affair with the 40mph section at Cumbernauld being the only slight obstacle. We decided also to drop in on our friend in Kendal Kendal Mountain Services's Iain Gallagher who promised us tea and fruit cake, if I nipped in on the way up to collect the bits I left in the bunkhouse on our Winter Skills weekend. Iain supplied tasty fruit cake and tea as promised and we had a good chin wag with him. This added an extra hour and half to our journey though and we were determined that Steve and Elaina would not be the only ones with enough time to fondle the Haglofs gear in Escape Route in Pitlochry. We made good ground and by the time we got to Pitlochry Steve was already looking to the ceiling with an Escape Route brew in his hand while Elaina made up excuses for buying yet more delicious Haglofs gear.

Slioch over Loch Maree

It just so happens that one of the reasons I had to stop was that my Montane Terra Convert Pants had a huge rip in that I hadn't fixed yet. I therefore had an excuse to buy new pants and it wasn't long before Elaina had routed through the bargain section upstairs and found me some perfect Haglofs Lite Split Pants for half price at only £40. From Pitlochry we had to speed our way to Gairloch as we had made a 7:30pm table booking in the hotel. I will not comment on Steve's driving, but I will say this, I'm sure Elaina would have loved the views through Strath Bran from the passenger seat had she had a chance to see any of it and I have absolutely no idea where he gets his mythical reputation of Captain Sensible! We made it in good time and made our table for a lovely meal of local Venison, Beef  and Seafood all washed down with An Teallach Real Ale. Alexander drove down from Aultbea to meet everyone for the first time, and agreed he would come and meet us for the Slioch walk on Sunday. We were staying in the apartment at the Millcroft Hotel in Strath in Gairloch. The accommodation is well priced and ideal for several walkers though was let down by a simple and easily fixed problem of having one tank powered by an immersion heater which only enough hot water for three showers, hmm! Its a shame as apart from that small but also rather important problem it is ideal, I just hope they get it changed.

Keisha my long loved walking buddy

I must also give a mention at this point to my longest serving hill buddy. Several years ago I was going through a bad patch in my life and needed to get away from life. I needed to buy a car to get away and spoiled myself by purchasing the car I had longed after for some time. She is a lovely sporty black Astra Special Edition 1.6i that I named Keisha. I got her at a well discounted price as my employer at the time had a discount scheme with Vauxhall. Keisha changed my life forever, we went on our own fortnight long adventure with no planning to Scotland in the middle of winter and had a fortnight I will never forget and that literally changed my life for the better forever. I did my first proper hike on this trip and have since climbed hundreds of mountains and met new friends and lived a far superior life. Keisha has taken me to so many amazing adventures and like the mountains has never let me down. It is Keisha who has been on more of my walks than anyone else. On our way up to Scotland this last weekend I looked down at the mileage gauge to find that the old dear, now seven years old, has done a whopping 90,000 miles. She is an absolute star!

Port An Amaill jetty at Rubha Reidh

After scanning the MWIS weather forecasts we decided Slioch would be best done on Sunday. Saturday was a day for sea side frolics. Elaina and Steve wanted to explore the road up to Rua Reidh Lighthouse at the Rubha Reidh headland. The road out was fairly bumpy in places though better than you'd have thought if you had scanned the OS map and seen just a Landrover track. The light house itself is in a great location and has its own visitor centre and accommodation. We met a friendly walker who had walked across the peninsula from its eastern side at Midtown. He had taken a 'fantastic' route along a track that passes a 'fantastic' forest at Loch an Draing and told us about a 'fantastic' bothy he had seen by the shore at the 'fantastic' Camas Mor. As you can probably guess, he said 'fantastic' a lot. I'm taking the mickey but he is absolutely right though, this place is fantastic. We walked from the lighthouse to the old jetty at Port An Amaill, the rocks here are great with that classic western coast slant and the rough sea made it all fresh and invigorating. We just stood and stared for ages mesmerized by the waves crashing over the rocks.

Waves crashing over the rocks at Port an Amaill 

We left Rubha Reidh and made our way back down the road. One place we wanted to go after reading many positive reviews and recommendations from friends and family was the Melvaig Inn. In bad weather you'd probably miss it as it is hidden off the coast road on the edge of the cliffs. We arrived and were immediately amused by a flashing mannequin and what appeared to be a masturbating rabbit in the window, at close inspection we realised it was an innocent rabbit holding a carrot. The Melvaig Inn was brilliant! You have to go and see it to realise how great it is. It is so different to most highland establishments, like a breath of fresh air with its wacky decoration, yummy food, tasty ales, friendly owner and chilled out atmosphere. In a way it is like a teenagers bedroom with memorabilia, pool table and darts board. While we are on the subject of darts I feel I must point out that I won the darts game and was rather unbearably smug after, even though neither of us had anything to be proud of after our rather shocking performances. We left the comfort of the Melvaig Inn and decided that for the rest of the day we would go and explorer the road up the other side of Loch Gairloch that leads to Redpoint, with the intention of eating at the well reputed Badachro Inn.

Steve playing darts in the Melvaig Inn

As we passed the Badachro Inn we nipped in to find it busy and booked up for the night, but with one cancellation that had just come through so we took it for 8pm which gave us a few hours to go and explore Redpoint Beach. We got to the end of the road and instead of taking the easy option of the beach just a few hundred metres from the car park we decided instead to hike to the further along beach which to be fair was a good decision. We combed the beach for treasure and looked out towards the panorama of the Trotternish Ridge on Skye before taking a not so good route back to the car. We ate that night at the Badachro Inn and had my favourite dish of the weekend, instead of cooking their Mussels in the usual way they instead smoke them and they were absolutely delicious. We washed them down with a few pints of An Teallach again and went home to sleep ready for the next days adventure. Of course it was only right of us to do our usual best to annoy one of the locals, or in this case she did her best to annoy us, apparently if you walk away from a spot and leave it for fifteen minutes in this place, then it is still yours, so after we moved towards the fire after said spot being vacated we apparently got some sarcastic comments about pinching their place! Luckily I didn't hear this comment and was only told about it later, I suspect we may have annoyed the locals even more if I had heard this when it was said by the 'Daft Blonde Bint'... as she was later crowned!

Coire na Sleaghaich

The next day we woke to a sunny panorama from our well positioned breakfast table over looking Loch Gairloch. We set off on time, which is unusual. Driving along Loch Maree and looking up at Slioch, it looks daunting at the best of times as it is simply massive, but when you know you are about to climb it then it gets really exciting. We drove through Kinlochewe and to the car park at Incheril where Alexander was waiting and ready to join us on the walk. We set of along the easy path that skirts the east side of the enchanting and beautiful Kinlochewe River. The path was streaming with bird life, the sun was shining and across the glen were views of snow topped Beinn Eighe. Just after we reached Loch Maree the path crosses a wooden bridge over the Abhainn an Fhasaigh. From here the path goes up stream into the wonderful Gleann Bianasdaill, wow is the only word to describe the huge wall of rock on its south eastern side, it is truly amazing. What was even more amazing is the view that took our breath away once we topped the bealach between Sgurr Dubh and Meall Each. Coire na Sleaghaich is an awesome sight! Many corries in Scotland are described as amphitheatres but this really is justified, stood in the centre of it you feel tiny and turning 360 degrees you go from the shapely Sgurr Dubh along a ridge to the huge bulk of Slioch then along another ridge to the pointy Sgurr an Tuill Bhain before coming right round to the opening where you eyes can only focus on the huge wall of rock above Gleann Bianasdaill. What a place natures glaciers have created here!

Myself on Slioch above Loch Garbhaig

From Coire na Sleaghaich we took the switchback path up the wall to the two Lochans between Sgurr Dubh and Slioch. From Loch Maree now thousands of feet below us Slioch could be described as a mountain on top of another mountain and at this point by the two lochans you realise you now have to climb that second tier of the mountain. The climb up was stiff but nothing that difficult with plenty of paths. After dropping down to another smaller lochan we then tackled the final ascent to the second summit of Slioch. After talking again to the crazy guy carrying thirty litres of water who was training for an Alaska trip we moved across to the true summit and had to cross a large snow field at the top of one of the gullies. On the true summit we all gaped our mouths open at the incredible views. From the summit of Slioch we could see Beinn Eighe, Isle of Skye, Fisherfield Forest, An Teallach, Beinn Bearg, The Fannichs, Torridon, and hundreds of Lochs and Lochans for miles. After eating and taking in the views we decided not to descend the way we came up but instead did a complete horseshoe walk taking in the surprising ridge to Sgurr an Tuill Bhain.

Alexander, Steve, Elaina, Nicky, Kate & Myself on Slioch Summit

After standing on top of this pointy mountain top taking in the sights we then took a rather steep and pathless descent over heather and boulders back to Coire na Sleaghaich. The only highlight of that descent was the small Ptarmigan who came to greet us. We took the same descent path over the bealach between Sgurr Dubh and Meall Each and were amazed when two rather tame Red Deer stood and watched from only a dozen metres away as we crossed their path. We got back down to Loch Maree and followed the same route back to Incheril. As we passed under the rocky cliffs and gullies below Meallan Ghobhar the infamous Slioch wild goats crossed the path in front of us and made their way up the hill. We all got back to the cars feeling jelly legged as it was a long walk in and out as well as a tough ascent and descent. There was only one thing for it really, another trip to a tasty establishment to eat tasty seafood and wash it down with real ale so we did so at the Kinlochewe Hotel. The long journey home the next day saw us dropping in at Escape Route in Pitlochry again. Kate tried on a rucksack she is considering and I took a fancy to a pair of cheap Seal Skinz Merino liner gloves, especially as I had £4 discount from my purchase on the way up.

For my photos of this trip click here. Kate's photos here and Elaina's photos here too.

Route Map...