Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
30th April & 1st May 2011
A high traverse over the ancient peaks of Beinn an Eoin and Baosbheinn starting through the new pines of the Flowerdale forest followed by a walk around the Coille na Glas Leitre Mountain Trail with a detour onto Meall a'Ghiubhais.
My first visit to the Flowerdale forest had been in April just a few years ago with snow still decorating the mountain tops. I had enjoyed a long weekend exploring and soaking up the atmosphere in this wild corner of the highlands. On that occasion I remember having a bit of difficulty finding a rock free area in which to pitch my tent, but eventually squeezed it in at the North end of Loch na h-Oidhche. The hills were climbed on alternate days using the track on the eastern shore of the Loch as my outward path on both occasions. For anyone wishing to camp it may be worth noting that I later discovered a good grassy area near Pocca Buidhe Bothy which enjoys a fine situation at the south end of the loch. After parking in the small car park beside the green barn just opposite Am Feur-loch we prepared for what would be quite a big day out in the hills. A small footbridge crosses over the outflow of Am Feur-loch to enter Loch Bad an Sgalaig Pinewood. The nearby islands of Loch Maree still contain remnants of ancient Caledonian pinewoods and seedlings grown from these trees have provided a platform for a regeneration project that has seen the planting of over a million pines. From the footbridge the track rises steadily through the slow growing pines to reach a bealach before dropping slightly to run along the gorge in which Abhainn a Gharbh Choire flows. It was from here that we could see what was in store for later in the day as we gained good views of northern end of Baosbheinn's undulating ridgeline.
As we reached the top of the gorge the "Grouse stone" marked the edge of the pinewood. The Stone was used in days gone by as a repository for game left by shooting parties for later collection by ghillies to transport back to the estate larder. After passing through a gate in the deer fence the track led up onto typically Torridon type moorland. A rough plain of fairly level ground stretching between peak's littered with erratic boulders of many shapes and sizes. Shortly after crossing the Abhainn Loch na h-Oidhche via some stepping-stones we left the path near a huge chunk of sandstone.
Baosbheinn from Beinn an Eoin
A rocky buttress defends the north west end of Beinn an Eoin so we worked around to the east and into Coire Loch na Geala. A small burn lead upward to reach a section of low angled slabs covered with a scattering of erratic boulders, a feature that we would see repeated later. Turning steeply up a shallow gully we made our way onto a broad ridge then over a couple of knolls before a steep final pull up to the summit. The final section of ridge narrowed nicely and provided a wonderful grassy platform from which to enjoy lunch and the views.
Baosbheinn and Loch na h-Oidhche
Working through crags we dropped steeply down the southern slopes before wandering across the sandstone escarpment south of two Lochan’s.
Keeping to the higher ground that formed a stone terrace we worked our way around to the south eastern tip of Baosbheinn. It is from this aspect that Beinn an Eoin takes on the form of the most conical of peaks.
Beinn an Eoin
The grassy vegetation had dried out but a myriad of rock pools belied the fact that there had been little rain recently. The superb northern cliffs and terraces of Beinn Eighe, Beinn Dearg and Beinn Alligin provided more stunning scenery as we ambled along.
As we left the moor to tackle Ceann Beag a lizard scuttled into the safety of a small crevice pausing for a last sideways glance before disappearing into the cool recesses. After moving around the sandstone pillars that align the crest we dropped briefly before taking a curved ascent onto the lower of the two main tops.
The Peaks of Torridon from Baosbheinn
Baosbheinn's summit was now close but a rocky descent was required before the final ride onto Sgorr Dubh. It had already been a long day so instead of continuing along the ridge we dropped down into Reidh-choire.
Beinn an Eoin
After roughly following the line of the burn that runs out of the corrie we reached and forded Abhainn Loch na h-Oidhche before picking up the land rover track. A steady, if lengthy plod was all that was now required to carry some tied but happy bunnies back to our starting point. It was getting fairly late after our long walk so it was a case of a quick wash before turning our attention to some food. Nat was staying in Gairloch highland lodge hotel while myself and Stephan headed for a comfortable camp on the shore Loch Maree. A fine if chilly night saw a multitude of stars come and go as we awoke to another promising day. Leisurely breakfast ensued at the picnic tables at Slatterdale before considering the days options. The way marked mountain trail in Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve on the sores of Loch Maree is fast becoming a favourite walk of mine. Despite the main route itself providing an excellent walk through some amazingly varied scenery my previous two visits have also included somewhat of a detour. This was to be my first visit outside of the winter months and it was nice to see the well constructed pathways ice free. After leaving the car park the path follows Alltan Mhic Eogheinn to start but soon tends upward as it works its way through some magnificent birch and pinewoods. Over our shoulder there were engaging views across loch Maree whose waters stretched out to the west from under the spear shaped buttresses of Slioch.
Slioch across Loch Maree
The trees began to fall away as we emerged onto the somewhat lunar type landscape of scoured and weather beaten rock. Our immediate goal was 'Conservation Cairn' and the viewpoint that gives grandstand views over to the Beinn Eighe Massif.
The Peaks of Beinn Eighe
Dropping a little from the viewpoint we passed by Loch Alt An Darich before reaching the shore of Lunar Loch. Leaving the path here we followed a gassy spine of ground that led unexpectedly to a small stone shelter after a short climb. The eastern slopes of Meall a’ Ghiubhais are a wee bit craggy so we skirted around the lower slopes a little before taking on the steep ascent to the eastern top. The summit now lay about 400m south west along a broad ridge which became increasingly rocky as we neared our goal.
The Peaks of Beinn Eighe from Meall a' Ghiubhais
A long lazy lunch ensued and Stephan kicked back and enjoyed the siesta he had obviously been looking forward to (There was no way I would be allowed to renege on my promise)! After rousing our selves we headed to the col between the two tops before working our way over some boulder fields as we began out descent northward heading toward Loch Bhanamhoir. Adjusting our heading further down we followed the vague north east ridge before making for Loch Bhanabhaig that lies 300m off the mountain trail. After negotiating some rough ground around the loch we soon found our way back on to the trail. The path now hugged the west bank of a deep ravine as we dropped quickly toward Cnoc na Gaoithe Gorge. The trees lining the ravine were a deep iridescent green and the leaves sparkled as the late afternoon sun sifted down through the branches.
Cnoc na Gaoithe Gorge
Cuckoo's could be herd calling constantly and made a surprise appearance in the dry embrace of a nearby dead tree. We then watched as they flitted from tree to tree as they made their way around the deep sides of the gorge. It was still pretty warm as we arrived back at the car park and this encouraged us to find a secluded spot for a quick dip into Loch Maree.
Slioch across Loch Maree
Refreshed we returned to the van to have a bite to eat and a brew before making tracks back to Aberdeen.
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