(Posted from Kylesku)
Today: 19.1 miles
Total so far: 1495.2 miles
Percentage Completed: 89.5%
Morning Route (Click map to enlarge)
I left Oykel Bridge at Hotel Hours (ten to ten) knowing that this was going to be a long one. My schedule told me it was 19 miles with over 1000m of ascent; the guide book also told me there was a lot of rough country to cross. Perhaps I should have started earlier?
Anyway, I beetled along and bumped into some 'trainee' fishermen, being taught the rudiments of fly-fishing on the Oykel. They seemed to be making a fist of it, and their ghillie seemed pleased enough with them - a splendid chap in tweeds, two pairs of glasses and a rather good BBC accent.
The only way I was going to get today finished in a sensible time-frame was to keep going; so I did.
Salachy is no longer at the end of the track as they have lengthened the track, so I doubled back the few hundred yards I had walked on and climbed up through the trees to the upper track. I made Ben More Lodge in pretty good time and gazed wistfully at the Miller Construction crew taking their tea in their cabins - the Lodge is being refurbished.
Lunch was taken on the hoof as I made my way up the Oykel River, and soon I was in the rough stuff that had been promised. The ground wasn't too boggy, but the weather was coming in quite quickly now.
Afternoon Route (Click map to enlarge)
It was a drizzly rain to start with that slowly became a rain with some wind behind it - fortunately, from behind me. As I was climbing up to the steep bealach beneath Conival I played tag with a group of deer - we climbed together, slowly into the windy gap - they were keeping their distance at about 50 yards. They helped me over the pass but once at the top the rain and cold really came in. It was soaking stuff and the boots gave up the ghost and I was sloshing around inside them.
The picture doesn’t really do the pass justice – so I thought a little computer wizardry added after the walk might assist here:
(Click on image to enlarge)
The rocks at the top of the pass on the south side (Breabag Tarsuinn) are incredible - huge bands of folded over limestone and marble in huge waves above me. I was walking on a path of marble chippings until the path gave way to more soaking bog before I cleared the next river in a gorge and made the track opposite.
The descent was straight-forward enough, but it was enlivened considerably by meeting John & Ericka Gorman, on holiday from the west coast. They had taken a cottage on the track and brought with them their two dogs, their cat and a whole lot of doves!
John was originally from Morpeth, and in the intervening years up here has not lost an ounce of his Morpeth accent. You could shut your eyes and hear Pete Shepherd - it was uncanny. He had the same twinkly eyes and passion about the countryside. They both told me about the proposed wind farm near Stac-Pollaidh which it seems the majority of the locals are in favour of! Incredible - to live in one of the World's most beautiful places and to want a wind farm...
John thought it was all to do with filthy lucre - they could all see the pound signs rolling. A wonderful, passionate couple.
I made Inchnadamph as the rain was easing to nothing, and made straight for the hotel. It was 6:10pm. Not bad at all, if I say it myself! A pretty special day. The low clouds and rain actually made the crossing of the Ben More massif a little more magical.
No phone signal here so will post this from elsewhere!