Friday, 7 May 2010

Slioch and Gairloch Weekend

Since she was a wee little girl... many moons ago ( I'll die for that comment! ) Kate has wanted to climb Slioch so when Steve and Elaina suggested an OM Meet in Gairloch just down the road it was destined to be! We took four days off work so we had an easy day for travelling there and back. Kate stayed over at our new abode on the Thursday night after travelling up from her place in South Wales. As soon as she arrived the tone and general conversation seemed to deteriorate, from salivating with Nicky over Diego Forlan's chest while watching the footy with pizza to actually cheering in our house when Liverpool scored! She got a right look from me when that happened I can assure you! Unfortunately this wasn't the last I would hear of Diego's chest as this came up in conversation a few times on the journey up! Packing the next morning was complicated for all as the MWIS weather forecast had it down as snowing and -2 on the summits so despite it being May we had to take gear to cover all seasons. The journey up was an easy affair with the 40mph section at Cumbernauld being the only slight obstacle. We decided also to drop in on our friend in Kendal Kendal Mountain Services's Iain Gallagher who promised us tea and fruit cake, if I nipped in on the way up to collect the bits I left in the bunkhouse on our Winter Skills weekend. Iain supplied tasty fruit cake and tea as promised and we had a good chin wag with him. This added an extra hour and half to our journey though and we were determined that Steve and Elaina would not be the only ones with enough time to fondle the Haglofs gear in Escape Route in Pitlochry. We made good ground and by the time we got to Pitlochry Steve was already looking to the ceiling with an Escape Route brew in his hand while Elaina made up excuses for buying yet more delicious Haglofs gear.

Slioch over Loch Maree

It just so happens that one of the reasons I had to stop was that my Montane Terra Convert Pants had a huge rip in that I hadn't fixed yet. I therefore had an excuse to buy new pants and it wasn't long before Elaina had routed through the bargain section upstairs and found me some perfect Haglofs Lite Split Pants for half price at only £40. From Pitlochry we had to speed our way to Gairloch as we had made a 7:30pm table booking in the hotel. I will not comment on Steve's driving, but I will say this, I'm sure Elaina would have loved the views through Strath Bran from the passenger seat had she had a chance to see any of it and I have absolutely no idea where he gets his mythical reputation of Captain Sensible! We made it in good time and made our table for a lovely meal of local Venison, Beef  and Seafood all washed down with An Teallach Real Ale. Alexander drove down from Aultbea to meet everyone for the first time, and agreed he would come and meet us for the Slioch walk on Sunday. We were staying in the apartment at the Millcroft Hotel in Strath in Gairloch. The accommodation is well priced and ideal for several walkers though was let down by a simple and easily fixed problem of having one tank powered by an immersion heater which only enough hot water for three showers, hmm! Its a shame as apart from that small but also rather important problem it is ideal, I just hope they get it changed.

Keisha my long loved walking buddy

I must also give a mention at this point to my longest serving hill buddy. Several years ago I was going through a bad patch in my life and needed to get away from life. I needed to buy a car to get away and spoiled myself by purchasing the car I had longed after for some time. She is a lovely sporty black Astra Special Edition 1.6i that I named Keisha. I got her at a well discounted price as my employer at the time had a discount scheme with Vauxhall. Keisha changed my life forever, we went on our own fortnight long adventure with no planning to Scotland in the middle of winter and had a fortnight I will never forget and that literally changed my life for the better forever. I did my first proper hike on this trip and have since climbed hundreds of mountains and met new friends and lived a far superior life. Keisha has taken me to so many amazing adventures and like the mountains has never let me down. It is Keisha who has been on more of my walks than anyone else. On our way up to Scotland this last weekend I looked down at the mileage gauge to find that the old dear, now seven years old, has done a whopping 90,000 miles. She is an absolute star!

Port An Amaill jetty at Rubha Reidh

After scanning the MWIS weather forecasts we decided Slioch would be best done on Sunday. Saturday was a day for sea side frolics. Elaina and Steve wanted to explore the road up to Rua Reidh Lighthouse at the Rubha Reidh headland. The road out was fairly bumpy in places though better than you'd have thought if you had scanned the OS map and seen just a Landrover track. The light house itself is in a great location and has its own visitor centre and accommodation. We met a friendly walker who had walked across the peninsula from its eastern side at Midtown. He had taken a 'fantastic' route along a track that passes a 'fantastic' forest at Loch an Draing and told us about a 'fantastic' bothy he had seen by the shore at the 'fantastic' Camas Mor. As you can probably guess, he said 'fantastic' a lot. I'm taking the mickey but he is absolutely right though, this place is fantastic. We walked from the lighthouse to the old jetty at Port An Amaill, the rocks here are great with that classic western coast slant and the rough sea made it all fresh and invigorating. We just stood and stared for ages mesmerized by the waves crashing over the rocks.

Waves crashing over the rocks at Port an Amaill 

We left Rubha Reidh and made our way back down the road. One place we wanted to go after reading many positive reviews and recommendations from friends and family was the Melvaig Inn. In bad weather you'd probably miss it as it is hidden off the coast road on the edge of the cliffs. We arrived and were immediately amused by a flashing mannequin and what appeared to be a masturbating rabbit in the window, at close inspection we realised it was an innocent rabbit holding a carrot. The Melvaig Inn was brilliant! You have to go and see it to realise how great it is. It is so different to most highland establishments, like a breath of fresh air with its wacky decoration, yummy food, tasty ales, friendly owner and chilled out atmosphere. In a way it is like a teenagers bedroom with memorabilia, pool table and darts board. While we are on the subject of darts I feel I must point out that I won the darts game and was rather unbearably smug after, even though neither of us had anything to be proud of after our rather shocking performances. We left the comfort of the Melvaig Inn and decided that for the rest of the day we would go and explorer the road up the other side of Loch Gairloch that leads to Redpoint, with the intention of eating at the well reputed Badachro Inn.

Steve playing darts in the Melvaig Inn

As we passed the Badachro Inn we nipped in to find it busy and booked up for the night, but with one cancellation that had just come through so we took it for 8pm which gave us a few hours to go and explore Redpoint Beach. We got to the end of the road and instead of taking the easy option of the beach just a few hundred metres from the car park we decided instead to hike to the further along beach which to be fair was a good decision. We combed the beach for treasure and looked out towards the panorama of the Trotternish Ridge on Skye before taking a not so good route back to the car. We ate that night at the Badachro Inn and had my favourite dish of the weekend, instead of cooking their Mussels in the usual way they instead smoke them and they were absolutely delicious. We washed them down with a few pints of An Teallach again and went home to sleep ready for the next days adventure. Of course it was only right of us to do our usual best to annoy one of the locals, or in this case she did her best to annoy us, apparently if you walk away from a spot and leave it for fifteen minutes in this place, then it is still yours, so after we moved towards the fire after said spot being vacated we apparently got some sarcastic comments about pinching their place! Luckily I didn't hear this comment and was only told about it later, I suspect we may have annoyed the locals even more if I had heard this when it was said by the 'Daft Blonde Bint'... as she was later crowned!

Coire na Sleaghaich

The next day we woke to a sunny panorama from our well positioned breakfast table over looking Loch Gairloch. We set off on time, which is unusual. Driving along Loch Maree and looking up at Slioch, it looks daunting at the best of times as it is simply massive, but when you know you are about to climb it then it gets really exciting. We drove through Kinlochewe and to the car park at Incheril where Alexander was waiting and ready to join us on the walk. We set of along the easy path that skirts the east side of the enchanting and beautiful Kinlochewe River. The path was streaming with bird life, the sun was shining and across the glen were views of snow topped Beinn Eighe. Just after we reached Loch Maree the path crosses a wooden bridge over the Abhainn an Fhasaigh. From here the path goes up stream into the wonderful Gleann Bianasdaill, wow is the only word to describe the huge wall of rock on its south eastern side, it is truly amazing. What was even more amazing is the view that took our breath away once we topped the bealach between Sgurr Dubh and Meall Each. Coire na Sleaghaich is an awesome sight! Many corries in Scotland are described as amphitheatres but this really is justified, stood in the centre of it you feel tiny and turning 360 degrees you go from the shapely Sgurr Dubh along a ridge to the huge bulk of Slioch then along another ridge to the pointy Sgurr an Tuill Bhain before coming right round to the opening where you eyes can only focus on the huge wall of rock above Gleann Bianasdaill. What a place natures glaciers have created here!

Myself on Slioch above Loch Garbhaig

From Coire na Sleaghaich we took the switchback path up the wall to the two Lochans between Sgurr Dubh and Slioch. From Loch Maree now thousands of feet below us Slioch could be described as a mountain on top of another mountain and at this point by the two lochans you realise you now have to climb that second tier of the mountain. The climb up was stiff but nothing that difficult with plenty of paths. After dropping down to another smaller lochan we then tackled the final ascent to the second summit of Slioch. After talking again to the crazy guy carrying thirty litres of water who was training for an Alaska trip we moved across to the true summit and had to cross a large snow field at the top of one of the gullies. On the true summit we all gaped our mouths open at the incredible views. From the summit of Slioch we could see Beinn Eighe, Isle of Skye, Fisherfield Forest, An Teallach, Beinn Bearg, The Fannichs, Torridon, and hundreds of Lochs and Lochans for miles. After eating and taking in the views we decided not to descend the way we came up but instead did a complete horseshoe walk taking in the surprising ridge to Sgurr an Tuill Bhain.

Alexander, Steve, Elaina, Nicky, Kate & Myself on Slioch Summit

After standing on top of this pointy mountain top taking in the sights we then took a rather steep and pathless descent over heather and boulders back to Coire na Sleaghaich. The only highlight of that descent was the small Ptarmigan who came to greet us. We took the same descent path over the bealach between Sgurr Dubh and Meall Each and were amazed when two rather tame Red Deer stood and watched from only a dozen metres away as we crossed their path. We got back down to Loch Maree and followed the same route back to Incheril. As we passed under the rocky cliffs and gullies below Meallan Ghobhar the infamous Slioch wild goats crossed the path in front of us and made their way up the hill. We all got back to the cars feeling jelly legged as it was a long walk in and out as well as a tough ascent and descent. There was only one thing for it really, another trip to a tasty establishment to eat tasty seafood and wash it down with real ale so we did so at the Kinlochewe Hotel. The long journey home the next day saw us dropping in at Escape Route in Pitlochry again. Kate tried on a rucksack she is considering and I took a fancy to a pair of cheap Seal Skinz Merino liner gloves, especially as I had £4 discount from my purchase on the way up.

For my photos of this trip click here. Kate's photos here and Elaina's photos here too.

Route Map...

6 comments:

  1. Ooh, you're going to die for that comment, Jamie! Great report on a fantastic weekend - how lucky we were with the weather.

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  2. Ah, sounds like you had a fab time, one of my favourite areas up there. I almost feel like I've done all the hard work too.. but escaped the aching feet!

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  3. Just a fantasic mountain Was my first munro way back in the 80's Red Point is like a second home as went there every year for hols

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  4. Great report Jamie, not sure about getting sentimental about your car though! ;-) Wish we were back up there!

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  5. Ah yes a great weekend and you as entertaining as ever Jamie :-)

    BTW, was there a lump in your throat when you were writting about Keisha? ;-)

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  6. It is an amazing place and one I will be revisiting soon. Slioch is a top five UK mountain for me. Glad you got the views. They are incredible.

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