Footprints Across Scotland
Why not make a few of your own!
As seems the usual state of affairs over the last few years I have approached December with plenty of holidays still remaining, not a bad thing I suppose, but I had planed to make use of any good weather during the year and take some long weekends, the good weather didn't materialise very often so my holiday quota remained fairly well intact. Seeing as I had already taken up Angela's kind invite to ply me plenty of Rioja out in Spain over Christmas I wasn't to worried about finding a warm environment for my week off and so decided on a trip to the west coast, it certainly wouldn't be warm but I was hoping for a few sunny days and a chance to get some snow on my boots. The weather in the few weeks leading up to my trip had not been good, so working by the law of averages and keeping my fingers and toe's crossed I was hoping for the best. As it turned out the wet and windy weather continued unabated through most of the week. It did clear up for a couple of days allowing for a foray into the higher hills. Last year I booked a cottage through the web and found it to be very good, so decided to use the same booking agency and selected a cottage over in Onich.http://www.unique-cottages.co.uk/cottages/westcoast/argyll/loch_view
Onich lies on a small peninsular that sits on the Loch shore at the junction of Loch Linnhe and Loch Levan. Fort William is at the north end of Loch Linnhe and Glen Coe is on the shores of Loch Levan which stretches out east to meet Kinlochlevan.
I had a choice of two routes to get to Onich. One via Aviemore and Fort William and the second, which I took, via Aberfeldy, Killin, Crianlarich and across Rannoch moor and finally through Glencoe.
Swollen river banks at Killin
I never tire of travelling along this road, there is always tremendous atmosphere across Rannoch moor no matter what the weather.
Grey Skies over the Blackmount hills on the edge of Rannoch moor
Sunday continued as Saturday, wet, windy and dark. I had a lazy start and enjoyed a 'fat boys' breakfast before heading into Fort William and a wander around the town. On the way back I stopped at Corran to check on Ferry times in case I decided on a trip out to the Ardgour peninsular.
The cottage had some good views across the Loch and was generally facing the incoming weather and because of the strong winds there was always plenty of change as each new weather system rolled in.
Across Loch Linnhe to the Ardgour Peninsula
On Monday I took a trip into Glencoe to do one of the forest walks there figuring the trees would give some protection. Glencoe Lochan and the surrounding woodland were created by Lord Strathcona in the nineteenth century in an attempt to recreate the Pacific north-west for his homesick native-American wife. The lochan nestles in the centre of the wood surrounded by majestic conifers (something mum would obviously appreciate). It is now owned by the Forestry Commission who have way-marked some nice forest trails. The network of paths head up and around the lochan offering superb views over Loch Leven and the surrounding Glencoe mountains.
Glencoe Lochan and Ben Vair
Sgor na Ciche "The Pap of Glencoe"
After returning to the car in Glencoe village I still had a couple of hours daylight remaining so decided to take a trip to Glenrigh forest at Inchree just a mile or so from the cottage. I took one of the forest trails that provided a good circular walk leading back to Inchree waterfalls. There was quite a torrent of water flowing as expected after all the recent rain.
On Tuesday I took a trip up to the outskirts of Fort William to do a small walk along the banks of the Caledonian canal. Starting in the small village of Banavie next to a series of locks called Neptune's staircase. There are a couple of sections were tunnels have been created to allow passage underneath the canal which allowed me to swop sides for the return.
Tunnels under Caledonian canal
The forecast for Wednesday was good so I made an early start with the intention of climbing Beinn a' Bheithir (Ben Vair). After parking at the information centre in Ballachulish I started my walk at seven at least an hour before sunrise but with clear sky and full moon I didn't require a torch to start climbing up the mountain. Just as it started to get the light the weather changed. I could see the dark clouds rolling in so got myself prepared, just as well because it started to snow and sleet. Fortunately it only lasted half an hour and by the time I reached the top of Sgorr Bhan the weather had cleared and the outlook was quite promising.
Sgorr Dhearg from Sgorr Bhan
Sgorr Bhan and Loch Levan from Sgorr Dhearg
Sgorr Dhonuill from Sgorr Dhearg
I stopped on the top of Sgorr Dhearg for a spot of lunch and watched as the mist rolled in and restricted the views.
Mist rolling in again!
Fortunately the mist didn't hang around and soon cleared as I climbed the slopes of Sgorr Dhonuill.
Rocky top of Sgorr Dhonuill
Some handwork required
The skies are clearing
A quick snap before the view disappears
After finding my way through the mist down the western slopes of Sgorr Dhonuill I dropped into the corrie to be greeted by some more snow showers. Further down the path entered the forest that surrounds Ben Vair on all sides. A pleasant walk back gave some nice views across Loch Levan towards the village of Glencoe.
Pap of Glencoe
Exiting the forest it was a sort distance back along the road and into Ballachulish village.
I took a bit of a detour on the way home to take a quick look at castle Stalker before the sun went down. (No sign of the Holy Grail).
Castle Stalker or Castle Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh??
On Thursday I headed a few miles east and along Loch Levan to Kinlochleven.
The fairly dry morning looked likely to change and did so as soon as I got out the car and headed up through the woods to the Grey Mare's Tail waterfall. Mind you the fact that it was raining didn't make much difference when I got near the falls as the high volume of water was sending out a huge amount of spray into the air.
Grey Mares Tail Waterfall through the trees
At ground (river) level
I carried on up through the woods and above the waterfall to Mamore lodge and managed to find some shelter to escape what was know a persistent downpour. After a nice brew and chocolate biscuit I donned my waterproofs again and continued along the hillside to meet up with the west highland way, which I took back down into Kinlochleven.
Friday was to be another big walk, the weatherman had given a partial thumbs up so I decided to head for the Aonachs alongside the mighty Ben.
The walk took me up the beautiful Glen Nevis and past the Steall waterfall I would have had some great views of the Nevis gorge and the waterfall but because of my early started it was still dark and I needed my head torch to help me find my way through the trees.
Sunrise over the Mamores
I had gained a reasonable amount of height before the sun started to show and give rise to a promising start to the day. It was just about 9.30 when I gained the top of Sgurr a' Bhuic, 2 and a quarter hours after leaving the car. The view out east along the the length of the grey corries was quite impressive with the sun light catching the snow on the southern facing slopes .
Sgurr Choinnich Mor
View back to Sgurr a' Bhuic
Ben Nevis shrouded in mist
I had hoped for some good views of Ben Nevis during the day but the mist never really cleared the top although it threatened to do so on a number of occasions. The upper slopes of Aonach Beag and Aonach Mor were fairly well packed with snow, not surprising as these two peaks are the seventh and eighth highest in the UK.
The final approach to Aonach Beag
The mist descended as I reached the top of Aonach Beag and never really cleared as I traversed down, then across and up onto Aonach Mor. The tops of both the Aonachs are fairly flat and it took a fair bit of searching to find the summit cairn on Aonach Beag. The way down took me to the col with Carn Mor Dearg, the slopes were very steep but the snow covering actually helped rather than hindered the descent as I was able to kick in steps as I went, I was still glad to reach level ground all the same, one slip would have seen me sliding a rather long way. Once down the path took me along the watershed of Allt Coire Giubhaschan a very scenic route back down to the Steall waterfall. Even though it had become a rather overcast day the views were still good.
The burn Allt Coire Giubhaschan
Looking back to the lower crags of Aonach Beag
So after a very disappointing start to the week I had managed two long walks with a few short ones thrown in and now all that was left was the trip back across to Aberdeen. I retraced my outbound route with the intention of stopping at "Jon's Kitchen" in Perth for a cup tea, unfortunately the proprietor was out shopping with his good lady wife.
The Tarmachan ridge above Killin
Falls of Dochart
In full flow
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