ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREENA perfect morning a few weeks ago saw us set off for another of Alex's epic Corbetts. Luckily, it was another fine day with high temperatures and hardly any wind forecast. This time it was Beinn na h- Uamha in the Ardgour heartland he was after. No one else seemed particularly keen to climb this one so it was just Alex and his long suffering friend - Fat Boab. As in the Ben Aden trip he could only fit one other person in the car anyway as both back seats had to be flattened for boat then bikes to be loaded inside. This view above of the Big Buachaille breaking out the clouds was only one in a long line of superb views of mountains looking at their finest with the early morning mist lingering in the valleys and the peaks in all directions soaring through this cloud base.
Some of them are roughly outlined here in this photo of the Buachaille Etive Mor. This guide still seems to be available from Cicerone and Amazon and it certainly opened our eyes to the routes you can climb on a mountain provided you have a good head for heights and decent balance, as well as the ability to follow the proper route in the guidebook as it took us into some amazing natural rock architecture with soaring pinnacles, caves and buttresses all around. You wouldn't want to stray off line mind you on some of them as they take you into some serious territory. Better to start off with the easy grades first and then build up your confidence in scrambling. This was our bible for over 20 years.
Our route and hill of choice led us over the Corran Ferry, near Fort William and Ben Nevis, but Alex's plan (he's always got a cunning one up his sleeve) was to dump the car this side thus avoiding the ferry fare and cycle in towards the hill. I didn't realise passengers and bikes go free across this ferry until he told me. Garbh Bheinn, 885 metres or 2903 feet. The second highest mountain in Ardgour after Sgurr Dhombnuill, 888 metres, 2914 feet. The only map I have of this area is an OS classic, well over 20 years old as it cost 44 pence brand new. They are up to £6:50 now with a Go discount card, which is still pretty good, and I see you can buy digital memory maps for the most popular hill areas now as well for around £70. Computer and 3 D interactive probably. This is for the super rich hill walker or gear freak obviously as I cant see it adding that much to actually being there on the ground but I've not seen one in action yet and for £70 its got to be fairly impressive. Many modern cameras now have a built in GPS and Compass so no one should ever get lost anymore. Bit of a shame that as being lost, if only temporarily, is one of the biggest unsung thrills the great outdoors have to offer.
This is us cycling up the mainly traffic free main road from Corran to Sallachan where you turn off up a farm track into the interior of Ardgour. One of our friends, who is also a Corbett bagger (they are breeding !!) had claimed this one recently, without telling Alex, until afterwards, which probably
spurred him on. (Good ploy Mr B.)
It was around this point I got a puncture in my back tire but there was no way I was stopping to change it and get eaten alive by clegs.( a type of large determined cattle and horse fly that sucks blood and is probably the main reason, as well as midges, that highland cattle have a thick coat and a fringe hanging down in front of their face as without this they would be driven completely mad.
Our old friends the dragonflies were out in force as well, but they didn't seem to be eating enough clegs for our liking as there were still plenty around. Can't have one without the other I suppose.
" What are you doing here. This is my area. **** off! Think you're hard! C'mon ahead then! I'll peck your ******* eyes out pal!
It was not a happy little bird but maybe it was being hit by clegs as well and was just trying to get its own aggression out on someone else in the vicinity. No wonder I prefer spring to summer.
After about 4 kilometres of bumpy but stay in saddle track we locked up the bikes behind a tree just after the second ruined house and set off across a dry river on foot. The whole area seemed to be bone dry and windless with a lot of frogs and toads out searching for the last remaining few puddles. An unusual situation for west coast Scotland. Luckily, it rained two days later up here giving the poor amphibians some comfort.
Great zoom into Rhyolite Romp on Aonach dubh (one of the Three Sisters cliffs on Bidean nan Bian)
which highlights this monster traverse line which is not particularly difficult but takes you across some serious and very exposed scenery high on the vertical walls of this impressive cliff guarding the western entrance into Glencoe. A route we last waked on this blog here.
Although I enjoyed this walk, in retrospect, (I always do) the sheer effort involved, the relentless heat, the hordes of biting bugs, especially fixing the puncture on the return when they had a static victim for 20 minutes to get tore into, and the puzzling obsession of my fellow hill walker, which I refuse to share, to only enjoy things marked down on a list instead of a pleasant cycle ride around a cleg and midge free environment started to get on my nerves a little. "Why the **** cant you enjoy easier pursuits?" I wondered, as I also like cycling and walking well away from the west coast hills, especially in the summer months when they are not that pleasant even to a dedicated masochist. I'm normally mild mannered but I started to crack up on this trip at his inflexibility as I always enjoy my solo bike trips in summer. To me enjoyment is what the outdoors is all about. The video below is my comment on what makes us tick.
Video this week is Donnie Darko and the song Mad World. A cult film which is memorable for the giant sinister rabbit that predicts the main characters death. A complex movie about time travel, worm holes, mental illness in teenagers and the large amount of powerful prescribed drugs routinely used in America then to control various mood swings and disorders in that group. Quite an influential film that introduced most of the general public to talented young brother and sister Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal and love interest in this film Jena Malone who have all gone on to carve out successful careers in the film industry. The long freewheeling bike ride down the mountains (seen only for a second in this clip) at the start of this film is one of my favourite introductions to a movie ever as it just captures the sheer joy of cycling. The pedal bike. Still one of mankind's greatest inventions ever.
Well, on a tarmac road, when you can pedal fast enough to get away from the clegs.