The Club’s meet on 16th/17th March took us to pastures new – the Kinlocheil Outdoor Centre situated right by the side of the A830 which runs between Fort William and Mallaig. The Centre sits towards the west end of Loch Eil and is ideally situated for the Munros of Gulvain and the Corryhully Horseshoe – as well as the plethora of stunning Corbetts situated to the North and (even more impressively) the South of this spectacular highway.
The building itself is an old schoolhouse and has a well-equipped kitchen/communal area with a separate entrance leading to the bedroom and bathroom areas.
Jim Aire, Raymond Evenden, James Fraser, George Henderson, Norrie Shand, Lorn Smith (Saturday), Gerry Weir
Caroline and Javier (Saturday)
In the run up the weekend the “Beast from the East” was refusing to lie down and die and the chilling winds were forecast to continue for several days.
George had taken a day off work on the Friday though and, picking up Norrie en route the pair headed northwest – after a break at Morrison’s in Inverness for coffee and a re-up. Stopping off briefly at the hut to dump most of their stuff, they continued west along the Mallaig road to the Rhu peninsula just beyond Beasdale Station. Perched on a promontory on the south side lies a small but wonderfully located bothy known as Carlotta’s Eyrie named, apparently after the second world war Special Operations Executive trainee saboteur who first built it. A walk west from Druimindarroch then south by the Dubh Loch led the pair over some higher ground then down to the crag where the bothy is located. Not many bothies will have better views with a dramatic outlook over the Sound of Arisaig to Ardnamurchan.
A beachcombing return round the coast followed, which proved fairly fruitless in terms of a potential sea-food supper. The biggest disappointment though was the profusion of discarded plastic which had been washed up onto the shoreline.
On the way back to the hut they stopped at Glenfinnan and took to the high ground between the road, the railway and the River Finnan in search of the inscribed rock where – it is claimed – the standard of Charles Edward Stuart was raised heralding the start of the ’45 Rebellion. After a bit of head scratching they finally stumbled on the historic site.
Soon they were settled in back at the hut and before long Raymond and Jim arrived, followed a while later by Gerry and James. The other three attendees would be driving up on Saturday morning.
A pleasant evening was enjoyed, with the musical instruments eventually making an appearance as a few songs were sung. In the meantime, that evil seductress Old Rosie was leading George down a painful path as he and Raymond appeared to be making plans for an ascent of Carn Brokebhac.
Bright blue skies greeted them on Saturday morning as Lorn arrived very bright and early from his drive north. He, Raymond and Jim were looking to tackle the Corryhully Horseshoe – a 23K trek taking in the Munros of Sgurr Thuilm and Sgurr nan Coireachan. They had the foresight to take bikes with them and were able to cycle in beyond the Corryhully bothy which sits 4k up the glen.
With the strong and biting easterly wind adding a massive complication to the day, they decided to tackle the horseshoe in an anti-clockwise direction which would see the wind at their backs most of the time. These Munros have great character and are reminiscent of their near neighbours to the North in Knoydart.
The snowy hillside had taken a considerable battering from the storms over the previous weeks and the icy slopes required a donning of crampons. Although it was colder than a well-diggers’ rear end, the visibility was superb, and the three marched onwards and upwards enjoying sensational views of snow-covered peaks in all directions. At one point they even managed to find a natural shelter between the drifts and the rocks, so they could enjoy a few minutes respite from the wind.
Bravely they bared their fingertips to the chill to get some stunning photographs before their descent and cycle back out down Glen Finnan.
Gerry and James had picked out an ascent of Gulvain for their day and Norrie, having persuaded George to lend him his bike decided to join them. The bikes were a great asset as they made good progress up Gleann Fionnlighe towards the foot of this lone Munro. A Fraseresque detour saw them lose the path for a short time but before too long it was relocated, and they slowly plodded up the steep slopes. The snappy wind as well as being stinging was make it difficult to maintain balance and, at around 500m Norrie decided that his re-ascent of Gulvain could wait for another day as he sounded his retreat.
Gerry was also happy to head back down but James was determined to reach the summit. Not wanting James to continue without a carer, Gerry decided to accompany him on his upward journey – at times on all fours to escape the worst of the blasts. Although progress was anything but rapid, they gradually made their way up past the trig point at 961m, and with the wind finally easing, headed up to the true summit 1k to the North East.
A scamper back down followed before the bikes were retrieved and they free-wheeled (mostly) their way back to bottom of the glen.
In the meantime, George, having shaken off the effects of Old Rosie’s attention targeted the Corbett of Streap. Although “just” a Corbett, this hill falls just short of Munro height and is a much more formidable challenge than many higher hills. George’s intended ascent route took him up Gleann Dubh Lighe past the rebuilt MBA bothy which was destroyed by fire back in 2011.
With brutal slopes rising directly ahead, decent progress was initially made, despite the howling gusts, until the snowline was reached. With the snow being crisp and icy and with a very steep gradient ahead it was time for a re-think. Without his crampons to hand, George decided to take the sensible decision and retreated back down the glen, leaving his re-ascent of Streap for (hopefully) a better day.
Caroline and Javier also travelled up on Saturday morning – and not having access to bikes chose a walk which didn’t require a cycle in. Their choice was the two magnificent Corbetts sitting between Loch Shiel and Loch Eilt, Beinn Odhar Beag and Beinn Mhic Cedidh. With their faithful collie, Lobo in tow they set off over the rough ground, steadily climbing up the rocky terrain until they too reached the snowline. Despite the wind’s icy assault, they enjoyed stupendous views over to the multitude of nearby and distant peaks. On reaching the summit of Beinn Odhar Mhor though – a subsidiary top of the Corbett, they realised that they would not be able to proceed further as, although they had crampons, Lobo did not, and the poor hound would have been struggling to make progress on the frozen slopes. They therefore decided to call it a day and retraced their steps back to their car.
Another fine evening ensued in the hut – aided to no small degree by the bottle of Spanish brandy which was donated by Javier. It being St Patrick’s Day, the full repertoire of Irish songs was belted out in turn by Norrie, Raymond and Gerry with everyone else joining in as usual. Lorn had to return home that evening but was rewarded with some great scenery unfolding as he headed south.
On Sunday morning, everyone headed more or less directly home with the exception of Caroline and Javier. Keen to expand their knowledge of the Scottish hills, they stopped off at South Ballachulish with the intention of tackling the “Bheithir Pair”, the twin Munros of Sgorr Dhearg and Sgorr Dhonnuill. They made it up to the col between the two peaks, but once again further progress was not possible due to the icy conditions being too difficult for the four-legged mountaineer. Despite that they enjoyed some great views before finally heading back down.