Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Fisherfield Letterewe Day Two. Beinn Lair.

To beat the heat on our second day at Poolewe Alex suggested another 5:00 am start. Poolewe is a lovely little village, especially in Spring when its seen at its best with all the gorse bushes in flower.
This photograph was taken from the tiny but beautiful park sandwiched between the sea loch and the River Ewe.
Although it feels serene and remote now during World War Two Loch Ewe was a busy place.
It was codenamed 'Port A' and was a secret base for the Arctic Convoys helping to support Russia with much needed supplies and equipment, sailing to Archangel and Murmansk from here. Nineteen Arctic Convoys in total braved German U boats and air attacks and almost six hundred ships made the hazardous crossing. Merchant craft being escorted and protected by a guard of Naval warships.
Convoy PQ 17 was one of the hardest hit during that time with only 11 out of 36 merchant ships reaching Archangel.
I learned this from the Information boards and Memorial to all the sailors that died in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.
By the time Alex had his three cups of coffee for breakfast and I had skinned and toasted Bugs Bunny
for a starter before munching a tasty sandpiper sandwich it was 6:00am. A wash and much needed outflow at the Poolewe toilets saw us reaching the car park at the start of the track beside the River Ewe just before 7:00am.
Even the swift act of getting the bikes ready and pulling on boots saw us covered in midge. After an application of midge cream over arms, hair and head they simply changed tactics biting me on the eyeballs, inside the ears and around the lips instead. I wanted to round them all up and put them on the naughty step but the driven man beside me was keen to tackle his mountain for today.
Beinn Lair.
As you can see from the reflections it was a still morning and midge friendly. The great thing about bikes and why I usually switch to cycling during the height of summer in Scotland is that you can create your own breeze and escape the heat and flying hordes around you.
A zoom of An Teallach from the previous day. Fantastic mountain. Got to be in most folks list of the Top Ten  Munros in Scotland.
Our route today started from Poolewe then followed the landrover track along the north bank of the River Ewe past Kernsary then along the base of three peaks. Beinn Airigh Charr, Meall Mheinnidh and finally Beinn Lair Itself. A 30 kilometre round trip today. Yippee!
This is Beinn Lair in the distance. Yippee as I'd already done Beinn Lair and had no intention of doing it again. We cycled in part of the way then left the bikes at the point where the landrover track ended and it turned into a narrow ribbon of track.
The driven man took the lead, pleased he could actually see his carrot/Oops sorry Corbett, in sight most of the way.
As we approached the path leading round to the causeway and Carnmore Crag I hatched a cunning plan for my more enjoyable day out. I was going to take off my socks and boots and then paddle my feet in the cool waters of the Fionn Loch then sit around eating exceedingly fine Apple Tarts while watching Alex sweat up the pass to the start of his hill. That sounded a smashing plan to me but Alex didn't like it much.
' Are you not going to keep me company? It's a wonderful view from the top. We might get a breeze up there. It's getting really hot now. Even hotter than yesterday.'
I handed him my lucky rabbits foot as there was very little meat left on it after our last rest stop.
'There will be a breeze at the beach.' Ta Ta. Have a good day up your lump.'
With that I left him to it and headed here instead. The wonderful expanse of inland sand/golden gravel beside the causeway separating Fionn Loch from Dubh Loch. With the cuckoos yodelling in the background, the skylarks trilling overhead, and the tiny fish jumping in  the nearby stream I soaked my feet and enjoyed the full rigors of Corbett bagging. Its a hard life in the wilds. Maybe another trusting rabbit would hop by. They are very moreish once you get over the numerous bones.
Many years ago in my puppy prime I had climbed Beinn Lair via Wisdom Buttress, V Diff. An esoteric and spectacular rock climb which has scant protection on its 700 foot of slabby verticality. I seem to remember Brian, our bold lead climber in a rope of three, resorting to several body belays on ledges as normal protection on this rock route was conspicuous by its absence. I think we got eight runners in 700 feet and most of them were small wires. Size one or two.
It was almost a solo with a rope on. Real adventurous stuff. A tenuous line weaving a path up, around and under overhangs. It's the classic of this crag and is arguably the remotest climb of its grade in Britain. I see it's up to Severe grade now probably due to the lack of protection and its isolation.
 Above is a photograph of the cliffs on Beinn Lair. Wisdom Buttress is a slender cigar shaped buttress. Nearby is the deep chasm of Bat's Gash , a subterranean route running the full length of the cliff inside a deep narrow crack line at V.Diff/Severe Grade. I've always wanted to slide into a Bat's Gash but it's not happened yet sadly. They keep flying away :(
Had a good chuckle watching Alex toil up this skyline to his hard won prize.
On the other side is the rock climbing jewel of the area. Carnmore Crag. On the same long ago trip Brian was keen to tackle this cliff. Seen here are Fionn Buttress. a classic VS.  Dragon HVS and Gob VS. Unfortunately he was the only one of the party happy to climb at these grades in this setting on such an intimidating cliff so he had to settle for Wisdom Buttress instead then come back a few years later with someone with more ability and less fear. Sorry Brian but at least you shared these great climbs with the right person on your return visit so it worked out well in the end. His wife, who is ten rungs higher than me  if I'm climbing well and she's asleep.
The climbers Barn under Carnmore Crag. Basic but welcome relief from midges or bad weather. Only provided as an overnight shelter thanks to the kindness of the Letterewe Estate. The private Carnmore Lodge is nearby.
The view into Fisherfield from yesterday's Corbett. Ruadh Stac Mor and A Mhaighdean.
The Great Hound that guards the north western slopes of A Mhaighdean, The Maiden, another mountain high on most peoples lists of favourite Munros.
There are bands of Lewisian Gneiss running through the Torridonian sandstone and other material like Cambrian Quartzite in this area which is probably responsible for this startling effect. Very unusual. The rocks in this area are some of the oldest found anywhere in the world.
After visiting here I stayed on the path system and visited the heights above Letterewe reached via the low pass of the Stathan Buidhe as I fancied looking down on the islands in Loch Maree. I'll keep that for Part Three though.
Eventually Alex returned from Beinn Lair and we walked back to the bikes together. An eleven and a half hour day during which I covered as much ground as Alex, just less vertical height. Seen nine other walkers over two days. This still feels like a remote area where anything can take place.
Alex charging towards a stream on the track back to the car.
The scenic River Ewe as it carries the waters of Loch Maree to the sea. We stopped off for a few pints before returning to the campsite at Firemore and the welcoming embrace of the midge.
Really weird pink flamingo sunset over the tents.
Might as well include another gem from Emilie Simon off the same flower themed album 'Vegatal'
Stunning artwork throughout.


Neil said...

Over 11 hours is one hell of a long day. Doubt I could have managed that even when I was younger. If I ever attempt Beinn Lair I think that I will have to investigate the possibility of a boat across Loch Maree. Carnmore looks a bit basic, maybe the MBA should try to take it over!!!

The Glebe Blog said...

Eat your heart out Ray Mears, fresh rabbit and bird to eat here. I think you were just kiddin Bob.
You and Alex must have a good understanding when you can abandon him like that.
We've not been bothered too much with the midges down here in Galloway this year, hopefully they'll stay to the north.
That's a fantastic sky, it looks like one from the Antipodes.
Emile brings to mind Vanessa Paradis, another Gallic beauty who I've admired for her voice and other attributes.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil.
I managed a 15 hour day once of continuous walking but my feet really suffered afterwards. Did this with a girl and she finished stronger than me though both of us had to take the day off work on the Monday. Happy times.
You could probably arrange the hire of a boat for Beinn Lair but I wouldn't think the Letterewe Estate would be up for the idea of the MBA in there. Still a very private sanctuary and always has been.
At least Carnmore now has a full roof on it. Last time I was in it over twenty years ago it only had one thin sheet up at an end and the rest of the barn was open to the wind and rain.
This is a wee dry palace now by comparison. Now they actually make you feel welcome in the landscape :)

blueskyscotland said...

Just getting fully immersed into my Elmer Fudd character Jim. In an earlier version of this post I also put in Alex and I skipped back out to the road, hand in hand. I though better of including that one just in case folk didn't realise that was meant to be a joke as well.
Midges were pretty bad morning and evenings.
Vanessa is no longer with a certain J. Depp so you might be in with a chance there Jim.

Carol said...

An area I still have to visit - about how far is the bike ride to the end of the landrover track before you have to get off and walk on the single track? I wouldn't mind having a night at Carnmore if I could get some decent weather either (I gather it isn't great if it's wet or windy though).