The Club’s June meeting was a return to the superbly located Strawberry Cottage, leased from Forest Enterprise by the An Teallach MC and sitting in what is a normally serene location five miles from the nearest public road at the western end of Loch Affric in beautiful Glen Affric. Nevertheless, the hut boasts electric (solar powered) lighting, gas cooking facilities and a wood burning stove. 7 members attended the meet:
James Fraser, George Henderson, Susan Henderson, Paul McGrandles, Alan Orr, Norrie Shand and Gerry Weir.
On this occasion, the serenity would be disturbed on the Saturday by around 800 walkers, joggers and runners taking part in the annual 50-mile duathlon between Kintail and Beauly – the first 20 miles on foot followed by a 30-mile cycle. With land rover ambulances and helicopters in the air, a festival atmosphere would ring round the normally quiet backwater.
The club had been having a bad run of luck as far as weather was concerned on their recent monthly trips. Once again, a slow moving depression was predicted to dominate the area that weekend – but enough about the Club Secretary, the weather forecast was pretty gloomy as well.
Only George and Susan took to the hills on the Friday, revisiting the Corbett of Sgorr na Diollaid, accessed from Glen Cannich. This fine little mountain has no path and boasts a superb rocky summit which involves some mild scrambling.
Following their excursion, they met Norrie in the Glen Affric car park, having successfully negotiated the convoy of construction vehicles heading back out and who’s drivers seemed to be involved in a re-make of Wacky Races.
They soon rattled down the rough track to just short of the hut and were quickly ensconced and fortified before shortly afterwards, Gerry, James and Paul arrived. Alan was going to be a bit later due to work commitments and had elected to cycle in from the car park, having first ensured that the others had brought in supplies to ensure he wouldn’t get too thirsty.
As usual an entertaining evening of tales and tunes followed.
As forecast, the next day dawned with the driechometer touching nine. Paul, Norrie and Alan could not quite raise the enthusiasm to climb any Munros in these conditions and sipped coffee as James, George, Susan and Gerry went through various stages of preparation.
There followed a staggered start as first James headed westward on the path, followed a bit later by George and Susan, then finally Gerry setting off last in their wake.
George and Susan planned to tackle the remote Munros of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan and Mullach na Dheiragain – and take in a couple of demoted Tops just to make life interesting. The Corbett of Sgurr Gaorsaic was a twinkle in their eye but was wisely left for another day in view of the conditions.
James’ intention was broadly the same – minus the demoted Tops – and there was some intermittent companionship as they teamed up for parts of the expedition where their goals overlapped. Despite the pretty horrible conditions, they navigated their way round the potentially confusing terrain with expert precision (or so it was reported).
Gerry was ploughing a furrow of his own but successfully negotiated his way up on to the Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan ridge. A fortuitous misty encounter with George and Susan saw a few words of advice come his way which helped him to safely locate the summit and descend harmlessly back down to glen and the long traipse back to the hut.
In the meantime, Paul, Norrie and Alan had set off from the hut in a south westerly direction up Gleann na Ciche with the vague intention of possibly climbing the nearby Corbett of Carn a Choire Ghairbh. It was clear though that the summit wouldn’t be – so they decided to leave the ascent for another time. There followed a not-quite-inspired idea to walk through to the Cluanie Inn and see how quickly they could reach the limit on Alan’s credit card. A quick look at the map proved that this was not really on, so an amble back to the hut was agreed instead.
On their return, the Highland Cross event was in full swing with a few walkers having passed the hut on their way eastwards as the elite runners (who had started a couple of hours later) began to race past. A bench was hauled over towards the track and the three had a hugely entertaining couple of hours as the walkers and runners passed them in various states of euphoria and distress. Of course, as it was now afternoon, the bar was officially open and the tormented mood of some of the participants wasn’t eased in the slightest by the sight of three jokers sipping their refreshment and calling out their “encouragement” as they passed.
Some of the Highland Cross entrants gleefully engaged in the banter but a sizeable minority merely grunted out a barely audible response and there were numerous hand gestures proffered – some involving as many as two fingers.
At one point club member Bill Dallas, representing Braemar Mountain Rescue sailed past, refusing his pals’ offer of a refuelling stop. Nothing was going to prevent him achieving the best time he could – either that or he was struggling to make his reservation time in the Beauly curry house.
With the show over, the three had a relaxing afternoon waiting on the others’ return with Paul taking a stroll down to the recently constructed boathouse on the loch.
Later in the evening as the four mountaineers returned and suppers were cooked and eaten, a pleasant but low-key evening followed. With Norrie’s mojo still lost in Gleann na Ciche, it was up to Gerry to provide bit of background music.
Conditions had eased slightly by Sunday morning but no one had the appetite to tackle any hills that day – so Alan set off first on his trusty bike to be followed out by the others. With fingers crossed for better weather next time, everyone set off for the long drive back home.