Friday, 14 June 2013

Fisherfield. Loch Maree. Day Three. Meall a' Ghiubhais

With another early start we packed up the tents and set off for Alex's third mountain of the trip. Meall a' Ghiubhais. This is a view of Aultbea and Mellon Charles. Not a breath of wind at sea level.
This Corbett turned out to be the best of the trip for me. Not only was it shorter at around 10 kilometres uphill but it also started by using the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail which is a beautiful circular path of great variety and interest. It is steep and rugged in places but well made. If anyone is in this area with adventurous teenage children used to walking in the outdoors this is a great summer route even in dull weather. It would be tricky in snow or ice due to sections of bare quartz rock.  Beinn Eighe was Britain's first national nature reserve established in the 1950's and a lot of time and effort has obviously gone into this trail to make a viable path through some stunning terrain and natural native woodland habitats.
It was still early when we parked in the purpose built car park on the shores of Loch Maree a few kilometres west of Kinlochewe. This is early morning mist burning off the summit cliffs of Slioch, the iconic cube shaped Munro regally isolated at the  eastern end of the loch.
Next to the wooden visitor information shelter  in the car park you follow a quiet underpass beside a stream flowing into the loch which then leads uphill climbing through rugged terrain.

As you climb higher through the Caledonian pine woods, home to red squirrels and pine martins, the views open out over Loch Maree and its surrounding mountains. It felt nice to be climbing in the shade of the trees in the crisp cool of morning as it was shaping up to be another hot day.
A zoom of A Mhaighdean with the sun just burning off the mist from its summit cliffs.
The shores around Loch Maree  contain a range of seasonal insects that have found a living here since the retreat of the last ice age allowed them to return. As a life form they are almost as old as the surrounding rocks themselves yet only live for a brief fleeting period in a continuous cycle of  autumn death and spring rebirth. Makes you think of how we as a species fit in to the natural landscape when we have the Godlike power to destroy or save this miracle of evolution along with the rest of nature.
The whole of human evolution compared against a dragonfly is measured in the same brief time span we judge their short existence to be. They may live fast, short individual life's on the wing after an underwater stage but their time line history is on an impressive scale. Over 300 million years.
 This modern example is a four spotted chaser, a fast flying predator that catches other insects on the wing. Looks like some sort of fly is on the menu here as a pair of small wings seem to be sticking out its mouth. Hope its a cleg.
 Loch Maree has a fascinating archipelago of wooded islands. One island even has a loch in its centre with small islands within it making it unique in Scotland for this feature. It also has numerous sandy beaches but access to the islands is now firmly controlled as they are home to a variety of rare birds and animals. I 've only visited them once in the early 1970's and access is much tighter now. There is a telescopic observation visitor centre where you can view the islands from a safe distance.
Isle Maree has a long and fascinating history being home in its day to Vikings, Druids, and Saint Maelruba who reputedly lived as a hermit in the ruined chapel here. Queen Victoria visited the famous tree filled with hammered in coins and unfortunate folk were rowed out here in a misguided but well meaning attempt to cure them of lunacy.
 Another of the islands in the loch. this one has inlets and lochans of its own. I've always considered it a unique place and a world set apart.
After the trail led us up through woodlands and amazing slabs of gleaming white quartz we reached a lumpy plateau area filled with stunning blue lochans which hasn't changed greatly since glaciers roamed across it. This is Alex putting on a spurt now that his prize is in sight. Around this point the mountains of Torridon, Fisherfield and the main ridge of Beinn Eighe itself  catches the visitors eye.
A superb panorama.
The summit of Meall a' Ghiubhais itself ( I notice it's down as Ghiuthais on my other sheet 19 map for Gairloch and Ullapool) is a great viewpoint with views over a wide area.
 With a noticeable whirr of wings this flying beetle landed in our laps as we sat at the summit cairn. It's a two banded Longhorn beetle and didn't seem afraid of us in the slightest. Being good weather the air was full of flying, buzzing, biting things. This large beetle prefers wood instead and bores into trees to brood its young. Luckily my fine head of hair repulsed its attack but Alex with his bare dome kept a concerned eye on its movements. Being a mountain surrounded by forest Pinocchio is this post's theme.
On the way down we descended via the Cnoc na Gaoithe and a dramatic deep gorge which felt very similar to Alligator Gorge in the Flinder's Range area of South Australia. All red soaring cliffs and  almost eucalyptus like vegetation. There is a viewpoint here that looks out over Loch Maree and this is it.
The first time I visited this area I was knocked out by the mouth of the Kinlochewe River where it enters Loch Maree. In sunshine in spring and early summer its a fantastic mix of yellow gorse bushes, white sand and blue water. A very special place.
A last view of Beinn Alligin and its horns seen on the left.
Travelling back down the road I've always wanted to capture this view of  Pitlochry seen from the car.
When I arrived back at the house I had a look at my poor feet. Over seventy kilometres of rugged terrain in three days had left the sole of each foot bruised and tender. Funnily enough my toes felt fine even when I seemed to be in danger of losing  both toe nails.
Sorry to put you off your dinner. I'm away now for mine. In the words of a popular carrot muncher. That's all folks!

Might as well end with a final Emilie Simon video. Best known for her skills sitting behind a piano here she straps on an electric guitar to play live in a very different interpretation of the old Iggy Pop Classic.
'I Wanna be your Dog.' Moody and very atmospheric. Beauty, elegant grace, Belle Epoque flair and Rock and Roll. Not often that happens together at the one time.


The Glebe Blog said...

It's no wonder your feet are suffering after a marathon like that Bob. Eat your heart out Ranulph.

Fabulous pictures again, that's a brilliant Dragonfly, competition standard. The terrain up the height looks like it could be on another planet, Scotland must be a dream for the visiting geologist.

Sue Hayton said...

Used to holiday in Gairloch with Loch Maree not far away but rarely such lovely weather! memories!

Neil said...

Hi Bob, I'm not surprised that your feet are suffering, that was some 3 days walking. Meall a'Ghiubhais is one of my favourite Corbetts, an amazing viewpoint for not a lot of effort. It's a few years since I've been in that part of the world, must make the effort to get back soon. There's still some hills there that I haven't done.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim.
Very interesting rock scenery on the higher parts of that mountain trail with what looks like the floor of a seabed studded with tiny fossils. Also large escarpments of quartz pavement. Brilliant walk and not too hard for non hill walkers if they take care descending any steep sections.
I've found the trick with dragonflies is to get them early morning before they become too active. That and pure luck.

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Sue.
Glad you liked it. Scotland is hard to beat for scenery when the sun shines. We went for chips in Gairloch. Pretty place.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil.
Yeah it was tough for an old timer like me but I soon recovered. Cant go wrong climbing most of the hills up that way as they all have great views and spectacular terrain.

Carol said...

Great photos. I've had my toenails drop off before at the end of a hard week of walking - never does seem to hurt - I think they're dead by the time they fall off.

I'd noticed some people spelling the hill with 'th' instead of 'bh' and wondered what was going on!

blueskyscotland said...

Dear Doctor Carol.
Third Time lucky for me. They are only half falling off this time. Don't know if I should tear them off completely to encourage new growth or leave them be. My leg is completely black and putrid and smells rank. I await your rapid response.
Yours in agony.

Robert Craig said...

Great place. Haven't been up that particular route, looks like a good one through the trees. Loch Maree and the Kinlochewe River have such a feeling of rightness about them (in sunshine, out the midges).

blueskyscotland said...

Yeah. It's a lovely place.

Carol said...

LOL! I knew someone once who did let their leg go black (and green and yellow) and putrid! He was an alcoholic and fell asleep with his feet in the oven of his range and burnt his leg through to the bone. As he didn't wish to admit to his doctor he was an alky (he probably already knew though), he refused point-blank to go to see him (despite me and my mate nagging him constantly - we're both women - we can nag! ;-) ). It eventually did get better though I've no idea how. And it must have really, really hurt for months!

Hope your toenail's recovered. I only tear them off if they're so unattached you won't feel it. It is probably better to tear it off if it's dead though as I always find it catching on things is the most horrid part.

I've half ripped my big toenail off on my latest foray in the Loch Quoich Munros by constantly traversing the slopes of one of them so my foot was sideways on and quite wet.