Monday, 28 May 2012

It doesn’t come much better than this!

Family events are preventing me from visiting the hills this week, so I’ve had to settle for a couple of hours on the bike each day. But with the Worcester countryside starting only 200 metres from my front door, cycling along narrow lanes in the sun is the next best thing.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Blackrock Cottage Part 2.

Having recovered from our previous day’s excursion on Beinn Mhic-Mhonaidh, we decided today we would be a good day to have a look at Meall Lighiche. It lies south of Glencoe and is surrounded by other hills, so we hoped given good weather, we’d be treated to excellent views of Sgor na h-Ulaidh, Bidean nam Bian and the Ballachulish Horseshoe.
We left the car by the side of the A82 (at NN119564) and took the farm track to Gleann-leac-na-muidhe. Just before you reach the buildings there are signs instructing walkers to follow a path of poorly constructed of stepping stones, which bypass the farmhouse. Presumably this is to keep the nasty mountaineers well away from the lovely locals. These diversions seem to be on the increase in Scotland; I’m not sure how legal they are, but they’re very irritating and do nothing to encourage harmony between landowners and visitors.
Back on the main track again, as we cleared the farm buildings, we began to get super views of the Aonoch Eagach ridge behind and Meall Lighiche in front.

We continued up the track until we reached the Allt na Muidhe. The water was very low, so we bolder hopped across to the west bank and followed it upstream for a few minutes, before heading towards the north ridge of Creag Bhan.  After the initial climb to a saddle, we went to the right of the next small hump before re-joining the ridge.

The ridge is made up of steep grassy terraces and as with most Corbetts no sign of a path.

At last we came to the top of Creag Bhan but of the small cairn which is supposed to mark the top, there was no sign.

From here you can see the summit of Meall Lighiche and the views were brilliant!

The final ridge follows a line of iron fence posts to the top.

After a leisurely lunch near the summit, it was time to tear ourselves away from the wonderful views and descend. We were tempted to find a way down the northern slopes of the hill, but eventually we took the easy option and returned via our route of ascent. The way back is quite straight forward, but would need care in poor conditions, as there are some impressive drops on the east side of Creag Bhan.
Back at the river crossing, we sat basking in the sun and considered how someone can enthusiastically rent their holiday cottage to walkers, but object other walkers using the track past their farm house?

We felt the logic didn’t stack up, if we’d chosen to cycle to the end of the vehicle track, we’d have been entitled under Scottish access law to ride past the farmhouse anyway! So we determined that on the way down we’d keep to the road and see what happened.
As luck would have it, we arrived at the path just as the landowner came out of his barn, he shouted a cheery hello, but as soon as we passed the diversion he pointed out that we’d missed the path! My brother without breaking his stride, said “ah I’m glad we’ve bumped into you, could provide us with details of your holiday let”? To this our trusty landowner replied “oh in that case PLEASE come THIS WAY we NEVER away a BUSINESS opportunity”!

So we collected a business card from his wife, expressed our regrets that we couldn’t accept a guided tour of the cottage, as we were far too muddy, and carried on our way!

Maybe only a small victory, but it had us smiling all the way back to the car. If we come this way again we will be on our bikes, it will be interesting to see what the guy has to say for himself then!

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Blackrock Cottage Part 1.

When we left my house in Worcestershire the rain was hammering down; it was still raining in the Lakes, but it finally stopped as we passed over Beattock summit.

I used to love this piece of road in the 60’s and 70’s, driving north after leaving work we’d arrive here well after dark. If we were lucky and the night was clear, the stars would look amazing as we headed in to the transport cafe for a bacon and egg sandwich and a mug of tea. Now the old cafe has long gone, bulldozed when they built the new motorway, and the skyline is obscured by overpriced, inefficient wind turbines which seem to be creeping ever closer to junction 13 and Tinto.

As we approached Glasgow, the early afternoon traffic on the M8 was moving well; and before we knew it we were peak spotting, as we drove through the Arrochar Alps.
When we arrived in Inveraray the weather was unbelievable, clear blue skies, bright sunshine and no wind. We booked into the SYHA for the night, then headed off for a fish supper at Mr Pia’s fish and chip shop in West Main Street (£6.50 and highly recommended).

The next morning we drove up Glen Orchy in fine weather and parked by the Bailey bridge at (NN242320), which is the starting point for Beinn Mhic-Mhonaidh.

We crossed over the bridge and walked up the track for about 2km where it reaches a pleasant meadow surrounded by trees. Here there's a sign pointing to a footbridge over the Allt Broighleachan.


The normal way up the mountain crosses this bridge and follows the track for about 200 metres until it reaches a footpath which branches off left, this excellent path is followed for another 2km where it terminates at a stile by some ruined shielings.

By the time we reached this stile I was knackered! Our recent trip to Mallorca (trip report under construction) had left me with a chesty cough, that and a lack of exercise in last few weeks, meant I was really struggling! This general malaise wasn’t helped by the fact that we had managed to turn off the upward track in the wrong place, and had spent ages ploughing over boggy, rough ground, before regaining the delightfully smooth upward track 500m short of the stile.

As we sat eating our lunch the mountainside in front (foreshortened in the photograph) looked very steep, I'd had enough, but my brother was keen to continue, so we set off up the hillside. It was absolute purgatory, I had no energy, my legs were burning and I couldn’t seem to take enough air into my clogged up lungs.

I probably stopped about every 10 metres on the way up this slope, I kept thinking how wonderful it would be to turn around and go back to the car, but for some reason I carried on. The only time I’ve ever been more exhausted, was on the final approach to the Bertol Hut a few years ago, but then I was above 3000 metres, climbing on steep wet snow, in mist and sleet.

Eventually after what seemed an age we reached the crest of the ridge at about 720m, from there to the summit turned out to be easier angled plod.

The views from the summit were superb, but unfortunately I seem to have been too knackered to take any photographs!

The descent is quite straight forward: first, go north east towards a small lochan, then south down the grassy slopes to the stile by the shielings. Then follow the path back to the road, avoiding any unnecessary diversions into the forest.

Back at the car we drank a well-earned can of beer, and both agreed it had been a very tough but interesting walk. 

Saturday, 12 May 2012


I woke early this morning as unusual. Having emptied the dishwasher and set the table for breakfast, I thought I'd spend a few quiet minutes checking my reading list on Blogger.


I know Tracksterman is still in China, BG is around and so is McEff but where is everyone else surely they’ve not all taken of for the TGO Challenge?

If you’re out there let me know, if you’re on the TGO I hope the first day went well, and I hope you have a good FWA for tomorrow because the MWIS forecast is dire!

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

TGO Challenge, Lochaber update.

I’ve just spent the weekend at Blackrock Cottage walking in Glen Orchy, Glen Etive and Glen Coe. Conditions were cold and mainly dry with the odd sprinkling of snow. The ground was very dry and the rivers were the lowest I’ve ever seen them. There were even people bolder hopping across the River Etive rather than walking to the nearest bridge.

Beinn Dorain Group.
Bidean nam Bian from the West.
Looking North East up Glen Etive towards Buchaille Etive Mor.
Ben Cruachan from Loch Etive.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Blackrock Cottage

This weekend I’m off to Blackrock Cottage with the Austrian Alpine Club, the weather forecast is not looking too good, but who cares the opportunity to stay in this brilliant location is just too good to miss!