Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Seana Bhraigh and Glenbeg Bothy .

16th and 17th April.

This is arguably the hardest weekend trip posted on this blog yet.At least my body is telling me that.The Canna trip comes close and also that long day on Arran but for sheer sustained effort over a 30 hour period this is the daddy.I be well trashed! Thanks guys.

Stunning weather as usual.This is coming back through the Cairngorms.I was happy to see  two cyclists huffing up hills here.Great to see someone else suffer now I was in my comfort zone again,ie,eating ,drinking and sitting in a car.
Now spring is here it was far north time for the mountaineering club.Alex and I tagged along secretly wondering if we could keep up.
Between west coast Ullapool and east coast Bonar Bridge lies an area of remote glens and high mountains with the peaks of  Beinn Dearg and Seana Bhraigh towering over the landscape of bogs, rivers, cliffs and ridges.Few people live here,only a few farms nearer the coast and isolated inland shooting lodges with vast estates covering many glens.No roads go through this area only a few rough land rover tracks cut into the wilderness to provide access to these lodges and for ease of reaching deer and other game for their clients to have a pop at though these days said clients are getting harder to find due to the changing tastes of the ultra rich.
Super yachts seem to be the big thing now.
Several bothies sit in these hard to reach glens.It was to one of these we were heading.
So...up at 4.30 am on Saturday morning to meet the rest of the guys at 6.00 am on the northern outskirts of Glasgow.A group of five of us with bikes ,panniers and rucksacks set off in two cars towards Inverness.
Alex,Scott,John,myself and new club recruit Alex (a younger model of the old git in case his legs go :o)
We reached our destination of Black Bridge 10 km north of Garve 4 hours later.The plan was to mountain bike in from here along 18 kilometers of rough  up and down track to Glenbeg bothy. On the way John would bag a Corbett above Loch Vaich while the rest of us would carry on until the end of the track.From here the other two,Scott and Alex, would do another unbagged  Corbett while myself and young Alex walked into the bothy and would then decide on a plan.I refuse to get addicted to Corbetts as I know I`ll never finish them and they might finish me instead.Variety,that's the key!

Alex won the prize for the world`s smallest panniers.Two cans of beer or a couple of lumps of coal filled them up. 18 km is nothing on a bike on good smooth tarmac.On hard packed pebbles,grass ,ruts and potholes however it seemed to go on forever climbing up out of one trench,Strath Vaich through into another,Gleann Beag. In a land rover it would be a sweet, easy journey gliding into the far flung mountain lodges of the interior sipping your complementary dram with barely a ripple in the glass.

On a bike though it fairly shook the eyeballs,stressed the wrists and fingers and thumped your bum every inch of the way.This pic above is at the top of one of the climbs.

And this another before the drop into Gleann Beag.
I was cheerily informed by a passing  outgoing veteran mountain biker that there are far tougher routes through the Scottish mountains  on a bike but  this soft bunny has no intention of ever finding them.This was hard enough for me.A living nightmare for every  self repecting sensible couch potato.There a good reason we invented sofas,crisps, coke and telly you know.
Its bloody good  fun!
Three long  hours of bum battering later we arrived at the very end of the track.I`ve never been so happy to start walking again.From here  it was another 2 km of pathless bog slog through humps and hollows to reach the bothy.
Alex and Scott chained up their bikes here and started up their hill.Young Alex elected to do the same as myself and walk in, hand carrying panniers and rucksack.Mad me thought it would be a challenge to shake the damn bike for a change and get my own back on it so I rolled carried, pushed, and heaved it in ,panniers still intact up the glen.It wasn't too bad although I had to wade along in the river for a spell,knee deep in the shallows when steeper hillsides repulsed me.Wonder if any other nutter has ever taken a bike in here?
After a quick rest and  lunch munch Young Alex and I decided on Seana Bhraigh.It would be a new Munro for him and I had a hankering to see those great northern cliffs again one last time.
Climbed from this direction its a very remote Munro indeed though,23 km
 from the main road.The only other time I climbed it was coming in from Bonar Bridge on an east west east again bothy and mountains tour.Some great bothies up here.
Seana Bhraigh is one of the great gems of Scotland but the wide southern slopes seemed  endless as we trudged on and on  ever upwards,already knackered from our bike ride.No time for any rest though as I didn`t fancy coming off this complex and mainly unfamiliar hill in the dark in such a remote area.

Finally we reached the ridge line and the great curved wall of cliffs came into view giving us a much needed lift and a cool breeze. Young Alex was impressed.I don't think he was expecting this after a pretty featureless ascent.

All too soon it was time to head down and we reached the bothy just before 9.00 pm.An eleven hour day of hard bone shaking graft.
Back at the bothy I`d unintentionally caused a problem for John by taking my bike in. He came down off his solo Corbett and noticed the chained bikes of the others.He also spotted mine was missing so assumed everyone was taking them into the bothy when they returned from the hill and proceeded to hump his in as well..oops  :o)
"This is beyond madness!" was voiced by him a few times as he heaved ,carried,lifted and dragged his fully laden bike across ditches, rivers and swamp.
Luckily we were still  up the hill when he arrived so that gave him time to calm down and stress out a bit.
I enjoyed it though.It was fun.

Cooking and eating our tea in the bothy revived us all.We`d carried coal in from the road so had a great fire going in the stove that was the centrepeice of the room.
Not that much banter Saturday night.Think we were all too tired but  quietly happy.Small regular glugs of alcohol reviving us more and more until we no longer felt any pain.

The next morning the weather was fantastic.Blue skies,light winds,hot!     HOT!! IN Scotland!!!!!!!!!!  I was a broken puppy though,every muscle ached as I hobbled about making breakfast.Auld Alex was the same rubbing gel on his sore foot but I`ve got to give him credit.He had his boots on and was keen for a second Corbett on the way out.(Thats also why I don't want to get into bagging them.)
He probably wont be able to walk for weeks now!Curse his addiction!
We cleaned up ,packed the bags and  crawled, waded,walked  pushed and slid out. At the road end our sore buttocks  went back on the ultimate torture devices for bums then new fresh battering commenced.

The highlights of that Sunday for me were....(apart from the company of course)
No 1........Reaching the tarmac road.
No 2......A tasty big plate of  chips at our usual stop off on the way down.Ballinluig transport cafe.A real gem of a place .Five gold stars.A meal munchers delight.
No 3.......Falling on my sofa once back in the house followed by a night of mindless telly as the hardest thing attempted was switching channels with the remote while chewing slowly  though crisps,coke,grapes,cooked chicken legs,yet more chips, then fried potatoes,bacon ,eggs, tatty scones and beans.I raided the cupboards and fridge twice  for two seperate dinners two hours apart. I was still hungry going to bed at midnight so munched a spare packet of cashew nuts before driffing off to sleep,stuffed and content again.
I`ll never leave you again sofa , bed and telly.I promise.You mean far too much to me......kiss,kiss,kiss.
An epic hard trip.The kind you remember for a long long time.
Maybe next week,after all the aches and pains fade to a dull murmer, I`ll discover I  enjoyed it :o)

View of Glasgow on return.Funny thing that.Glad to go away.......Glad to come back again.


The Glebe Blog said...

Glad you're still alive Bob.That was some endurance test.
It looks a decent bothy for one so remote,and there are several you say.
That highland cow by the side of the road looks to be counting you out.
P.s Are you sure you had enough to eat when you got home.

russell said...

Epic journey, Bob. Felt I had to post a comment as Seana Bhraigh has been niggling away at me since last June when I got lost in thick mist after over 3 hours walking from Inverael to try to get to Seana Bhraigh. It was bad enough not getting up the hill but for half an hour or so I thought I would never find the path back to the road and might suffer the indignity of having to be rescued. In a nutshell I walked for about 7 hours with nothing to show for it. Your report has filled me with envy. - Actually jealousy! But I'll forgive you. All the best, Russell

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim.Yes the only other time I,ve been up Seana Bhraigh was also tough.Walked into Glenbeg From Amat Forest.stayed night in bothy.Walked over Seana Braigh munros down to Loch a choire mhor.Stayed night.Walked over Carn ban and down to Alladale(now off limits I think as its an animal park(boars elk etc)Then out to east coast.
Munched plenty after that trip as well.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Russell.Yeah its a complex hill from that end in mist.Its happened to us all.I remember going up the wrong hill completly many years ago(in good weather) as I,d walked off one map,didnt have the other and took a guess at the new munro I wanted to climb.Wrong guess!It was only at the summit I knew it was one I,d climbed before from a different direction.

Neil said...

That sounds like a great trip- I'm envious! I've only done Seana Bhraigh from the north which is a lot easier as you can get the car in a long way. The estate are very friendly to hill walkers. Second time I did it though I added on the Corbett Carn Ban- if I mind right the ground between the two was somewhat rough. I worked on the renovation of The Schoolhouse bothy at Duag Bridge a couple of years ago. Must go back there sometime, its a fabulous spot.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Neil.
Never been into the Schoolhouse bothy.Another good coast to coast route combined with a few other overnight stays up to Helmsdale.

Anonymous said...

We spoke about Sean Braigh and the bothy when we passed a road sign for Kedmore last week. I walked into the bothy via Beinn Dhearg and Seana Braigh when I was a a fit 18 year old. Then walked and hitched back to Ullapool! Easy to do years ago. Couldn't do that now! We spoke about tackling this trip one day by mountain bike.

Anonymous said...

A very long off-road cycle trip I did about 15 years ago was from Black Bridge, along Strath Vaich, along Glen Mor, past Alladale (before Paul Lister bought the place and erected miles of fences), south along Glen Calvie and out at Almess for a car-pick up home. Superb, remote, off-road biking.

Anonymous said...

Oops, that should read Ledmore.

lee said...

do you think you could reach it in winter with a landrover

blueskyscotland said...

Doubt very much if the estate would let you Lee. Anyway,it`s a moot point as it was burnt to the ground by a lightning strike in April.!