Setting off at seven, there were still a few midges around in the lulls in the breeze, so packing up is a bit of a rushed job. When they came it was in their hordes. The Smidge repellent seemed to work; they'd settle for a short while and then choose somewhere else to settle - my head net. The morning was overcast, for which I was grateful as yesterday I had caught the sun on the back of my neck and top of my hands, as I use walking poles. I wasn't sure what to apply first, the sun cream or Smidge; it all mixed together in one delightful slick.
|[CLICK TO ENLARGE] DAY 2: GLEN AFFRIC TO ALLT A' CHROINN - PURPLE DASHED LINE|
|08:48 NORTH AFFRIC HILLS AND THE BEACH. CLICK TO ENLARGE|
|08:48 LOOKING WEST UP GLEN AFFRIC|
I deliberately took things slowly as I knew this could well be a bit of a struggle. However fit you are it's worth taking your time as the views opening up are wonderful. You shouldn't really lose the path but you do have to keep your wits about you to locate the double-backs, as animal tracks can lead you astray.
|09:08, AFTER ANOTHER SWITCHBACK|
|09:47, BECOMING A LITTLE HAZY|
The path peters out where suggested by the mapping and then there's a fair bit of rough ground and bogs to reach the bealach which has the remnants of a Victorian fence along the ridge. I recall both Phil & I were very relieved to reach this spot last time, and celebrated by having lunch.
However this year I was all too aware that I still had quite a long way to go in the afternoon and the clouds were now lifting, so it was going to be a lot warmer. It's 750 feet of a plunging descent at first, to the Allt Garbh below where I would have lunch and fill the water bottles. It's tough on this Softy-Southerner's unfit, untrained knees.
|EARLY LUNCH AT THE ALLT GARBH|
|LOOKING NE DOWN THE ALLT GARBH FROM THE ASCENT OF BEALACH AN AMAIS|
Clearly, in the intervening years I had forgotten what a bastard the ascent to Bealach an Amais had been last time. It's a mere six hundred feet of ascent over half a mile, but over the roughest, boulderiest (yes, that's now in the dictionary - well, mine at least) and peat-boggiest ground you can imagine. Foolishly, this time I took a more direct line than that chosen when I planned the route (look up at the map) which meant climbing the bogs by cutting up and across the very steep side of the hill. It was stupid, and stupidly tough going. When I finally made the bealach I was just about all in.
Cursing myself soundly I sat and took on lots of water, chocolate, jelly babies and cashew nuts as I was well and truly bushed. Anything really, to try and cheer myself up. Giving the map an intense scrute, I established that I had about eight and a half miles to go, most of which would be downhill. It was only 12:30, so the afternoon should be okay. To make life easier, the track up from Gleann Fada had been extended by almost two miles virtually to the top of Bealach an Amais to make the walking that little bit more relaxing.
Now, what was it that Lionel Blue said again?
|NOT YET ONE O'CLOCK. THE CIRCLE MARKS THE START OF THE TRACK|
The extended track from the bealach was in fact all rather horrid. It comprised lorry-loads of rounded cobbles loosely scattered, broadly resembling a track. From far away it indeed looked like a track. From close up it was an ankle turning nightmare. But hey, it was down hill so as long as I kept my wits about me it'll be fine. As there was lots of time available I sauntered down the glen in a fairly relaxed manner, taking lots of stops for drinks and snacks, determined to decrease the weight of my rather large food bag.
I very quickly exhausted my supplies of water, picked up from the Allt Garbh, when about four miles down the glen, just past the rather nasty Glen Doe Run-of-the-River small hydro works, that now seem to be infesting the Highlands. It was also getting very warm as the clouds had disappeared and the sun blazed down on me. No problem I thought to myself, I'll get some water from the Doe...
Oh no you won't! came the stern reply. Obviously, when permission was granted for the hydro works a condition must have been set to 're-wild' this part of the glen. The river was the other side of a very sturdy, very tall timber and steel wire Berlin Wall. No gates. No stiles. I could hear the water gushing to my left as I trudged disconsolately down the track, I could almost smell the water, but there was not a drop to drink. And by now it was getting very hot and I was quite thirsty. The streams coming in from the right were all completely dry.
It really isn't a grand idea to get this thirsty as it's a sign that you're quite dehydrated, and I had Megan's new kidney on board to look after. New kidneys should be looked after, wrapped in cotton wool, loved and cherished. A few beers perhaps, to cheer it up? At my turn-off two or three miles later there's a bridge over the Doe. I'll get down to the river there, I thought.
No. That was behind iron curtains as well. No matter, I'll get some from the very large Allt Bhuruisgidh, I thought cheerily to myself.
Fat chance. I was faced with a very large diameter concrete pipe - part of an old Large Hydro Scheme from the thirties, I would guess, presumably intercepting rivers, starting with the River Doe, to take to a large Hydro Electric Power Station's reservoir miles away. There was absolutely no way I could get to the stream. I had noticed when planning the route that this track I had chosen to follow was beautifully level, I had not realised that it was to service this massive concrete pipe, that was not marked on either the 1:50 or 1:25k maps, that I was now to follow for the rest of the day.
|THE WATCHERS, WAITING TO POUNCE AS I DROP FROM DEHYDRATION...|
At every stream interception there were ancillary works that swallowed up the water into the pipe. Some very, very parched two miles later, the ghastly pipe allowed a small amount of the Allt a' Chroinn to run over the track to a little weir to fall into a mini reservoir. The rest it swallowed greedily.
With a little effort I managed to fill my large water container from the inch-deep water running over the track. I reached my camp spot around an unexpectedly late six o'clock, very dehydrated and very very tired indeed. I must have been walking at a snail's pace. Since the Bealach, including stops I had averaged two and a half kilometres an hour - downhill!
|LOOKING WESTWARDS AT 6:40 PM. THE PIPE ACTUALLY RAN UNDERGROUND, BENEATH MY SHELTER.|
I was so knackered I couldn't be arsed to fire up the stove and cook, so decided instead to finish off the rest of today's snacks and have tomorrow's lunch instead. Lunch tomorrow would be this evening's meal. Oddly I didn't miss having a hot meal at all... Ian definitely has something here.
|DAY TWO CAMP SPOT|
You will have seen a picture of cattle looking down at me from atop their hill. That was a mile or so back along the track. To the left of my camp-spot photo you can see there's a bit of hay scattered about the ground. The cows came to visit me at about three o'clock in the morning. There was some very loud breathing and grass being ripped by its roots just next to my head. I lurched out of my shelter to shoo them away - I'd heard tales of cows rubbing themselves against a tent thinking it was something solid to have a good scratch against, and promptly flattening the tent. I had had enough of hospitals for a while so I didn't fancy that outcome at all.
Note to Self: Find out if there is any truth in that.
Tomorrow had to be better day, surely?