Journeys in the hills and mountains
I almost did not make it. I had planned for some time to spend a week with the Pettits walking in the western highlands, and then I found that I would need to drive up to Fort William the day after arriving back from a trip to Kazakhstan. Spending a day driving with jet lag did not sound like a good idea, however, so I instead decided to take the train which proved a thoroughly enjoyable journey, despite there being standing room only from Edinburgh to Glasgow.
This was also the first opportunity to try out my new Paramo Enduro jacket. After nearly eight years of use, I decided to retire my Paramo Aspira smock. The Aspira served me very well and I used it on almost everything, including Scottish winter, Alpine mountaineering and hillwalking for most of the year; I left it at home only in the middle of summer when it was just too warm, even for me. After eight years of use it still works very well indeed, but the technology has moved on and the latest Paramo jackets are more lightweight so, with the new Enduro on offer, I decided to bag one. I used it throughout this trip, and, based on first use, I think it’s brilliant.
Having previously climbed Sgurr a’Mhaoraich, I was keen to clean up around Loch Quoich, and the first couple of days of the trip were dedicated to this. On the first day we climbed Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach. We made pretty good time on these two peaks, a classic ‘Munro pair’ with a pleasant ridge connecting the two. Despite being a little worried that my fitness would fail after a few quiet months, I was surprised to find that going at pace was easy enough with a day-pack on this route. I clearly had failed to take on enough fluids, however, as I had a killer headache in the evening which rather spoiled an otherwise pleasant wild camp on the shores of Loch Quoich. On the second day we climbed Gairich. The views from the top of Gairich are impressive, though the walk-in and first part of the ridge were a little tedious; the latter part of the ridge is more exciting with some steep sections and rock steps to negotiate. With three Munros done, we returned to Fort William, ready to begin a two-day expedition.
I do not do a great deal of backpacking, but, when I get round to it, I do enjoy the idea of being out in the hills for more than a day. Due to irregular trips, it has also taken me a while to get my kit right for this, though I think I have now worked out a solution that works for me. For a tent, my Terra Nova Laser Competition is perfect, providing plenty of space for one person, yet weighing less than 1kg. For a stove, I have settled on a Jetboil, combining this with dried food and powdered drinks, which makes the washing up easy. My 3/4-length Thermarest works well with my rucksack placed under my feet, though I am still using my four-season down sleeping bag which, while warm and cosy, still takes a little too much space in my rucksack.
We started at the end of Loch Arkaig before heading up to Fraoch Bheinn which had a pleasant ridge up to the top. We then descended steeply down into Glen Kingie, a wonderfully remote glen where we bumped into a solo walker having his lunch at the river. From here we set off to climb the flank of Sgurr Mor. The 700m slope proved to be tiring: I stuck myself at the front and slowed the pace right down which meant I was able to do it pretty much in one go with just a couple of short stops on the way. After following the ridge for a while we dropped off down to the head of Glen Kingie where we set up camp for the night. The following morning saw an early ascent of Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh (I was not particularly keen) before continuing along the ridge to tackle our main objectives: the three Munros that culminate in the shapely peak of Sgurr na Ciche. The ascent to the top of Sgurr nan Coirechan was less tiring than I expected, and from there the walk was a thoroughly pleasant ridge, with just enough scrambling on the ascent of Sgurr na Ciche to make it interesting, particularly with a large rucksack on. We took some time on the summit, staring down into Knoydart, before beginning the very long and rather tedious plod back down to the head of Loch Arkaig. An exhausting but excellent two-day trip.
I walked on my own on the last day of the trip and did a round of the Loch Lochy Munros. Breaking slightly with the norm, I did Meall na Teanga first, climbing up steeply onto the ridge and then following it, before nipping up Sron a-Choire Ghairbh second. I much prefer solid ground for the uphill and the normal route is not particularly pleasant.
So it was nine Munros on this trip (and a couple of Corbetts) – one of my more successful recent trips to Scotland!