Saturday, 19 July 2014

Beinn na h -Uamha. In Wildest Ardgour with a Committed Bagger.

A 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.

The Blackmount near Bridge of Orchy. It's a dirty job but someone's got to do it.

Seeing the cracks and lines on the Glencoe peaks so clearly put me in mind of the scrambles on the various cliffs a group of us used to do when we were working our way through " Scrambles in Lochaber", Noel Williams brilliant guidebook to easy rock routes in this area, climbable without a rope.
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 is a beautiful run in over an old daisy covered bridge then down the south side of Loch Nan Gabhar on a rough track which the mountain bikes just about managed.(Incidentally, I watched the Tour de France bike race recently, (the Yorkshire section was amazing with big crowds, fantastic scenery and great support) but it was interesting to see a few in the crowd standing with their back to the race so that they can get a good selfie with the bike race a mere backdrop. It is something that is going to happen more and more as people now live in a virtual world with the real one becoming less important or less interesting. I've read plenty of science fiction books that predicted many of the things happing now 30 years ago and that was one of them. A lot of intelligent science fiction become science fact somewhere down the line. Young people will be able to do a multitude of tasks at one time but concentration levels and attention span focused on just one event will disappear. Roger Daltry of the Who said recently that people come to the shows now then either blog it back live, take endless selfies, or experience the whole event through a smart phone sending it out to other parties elsewhere. It's already a strange new world we live in now that is half real life and half virtual.

Meanwhile, back in the real world of Ardgour we were getting attacked by hundreds of biting clegs who call this boggy waste their home. Not for the first time in mid summer in the west highlands did I hear myself commenting - "how can something this beautiful be so grim."
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.
I think this might be a  rather scruffy Redstart and a noisy one, kicking up a real racket for a small thing. (misplaced my bird book somewhere for the moment so it's just a guess.) In bird language it seemed to be saying
" 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.
Alex in wildest Ardgour, halfway up the hill. It was almost a carbon copy of the Ben Aden ridge but with a little less scrambling involved. Scorchio today though with a lighter breeze.
View back towards Glencoe.
Alex on the summit drinking orange. We nearly ran out of liquid up here as there was no drinkable water anywhere around, except back down in the lochs. Must have been close to 30c all afternoon. A hard day and a long one under a burning sun.
 The Great Ridge of Garbh Bheinn. I climbed this V Diff rock climb ridge years ago with Alex and others in big boots with packs on and on one occasion the midges were that bad we un-roped and scrambled the last part, preferring to fall off rather than suffer any more. We all wanted to do the classic rock route of the crag, the imposing Butterknife VS, but that was one dream that never happened and now we are all too old to shuffle up it. Such is life.

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.
Zig zags on Bidean's Gearr Anoach face near to the Lost Valley. Another good but easy scramble which is just really a walk up several twisting ramp lines to the top. Good in winter or summer at very little change in grade provided you have ice axe and crampons with you. Grade 1 only. One of the first scrambles we attempted in Noel Williams book.
Another cracking day out with uncle Alex. This is the hospital above Glencoe with the Mamore peaks behind it. I think he has 20 Corbetts to go now.
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.


Unknown said...

Fab report as per with the usual great pics, your wee birdy isn't a redstart tho', it's a male stonechat.

blueskyscotland said...

I stand corrected Paul.Couldn't find my bird book and didn't think a redstart was quite right due to the white patches and lack of a white head stripe but was too lazy to start hunting through images at 2:30 in the morning. Thought I'd have time to adjust it on Sunday :o)

The Glebe Blog said...

A magnificent climb Bob. The full size pictures are crackers.
I wondered about the house/hospital and I see it's now a luxury hotel.I'd need to win the lottery at those prices.

I reckon this is the best version of Mad World though I have a liking for Sara Hickman's version too.

Unknown said...

Forgot to ask did you come across any caves for which it is named.

Carol said...

Can I pinch yet another photo off you? The Gearr Aonach zigzags? I'm thinking of doing that sometime and it's nice to see the route picked out - I think it's hard to follow isn't it?

About the only 'scramble' I'd fancy on your Buachaille pic is probably the Great Gully Buttress one - and I'd still want a rope for comfort!

Superb photos on that post Bob - especially the first one (and, by the way, you're definitely Fat Boab!)

I know what you mean with the tough walks in hot weather though as I've been having a lot of those myself recently - unfortunately, as an out-and-out bagger, I'm as bad as Alex really...

Carol said...

By the way, I went limestone climbing today for the first time - the easiest grades were Severe (2 grades above what I'd done before) so I ended up doing 3 of those. I wasn't brilliant though - can't see me making much of a climber unfortunately...

Kay G. said...

I love the photo of the daisies on the bridge with the mountain in the distance, that is gorgeous.
Also, I think the bird is a young one, that would explain why it would look a bit scruffy and why it might be making a racket.
Funny thing, that stonechat has the same coloring as the Eastern Towhee, I just did a post about this bird recently! Perhaps they might be distant cousins!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Jim,
We both commented on the way past " I don't remember ever seeing the hospital so clearly."
They must have cut down some trees to give the new hotel clients a decent view over the area. Need to look up Sara Hickman as I'm always on the hunt for new artists I haven't heard of yet.

blueskyscotland said...

Hello Paul,
Nope. Not One. Seen plenty on other limestone hills though especially at the back of Glencoe where there is a thick band of it and the descent hole leading into the deepest cave in Scotland, the exploration of which with a group of friends takes up a chapter in my book. "Swallowed by the Earth."

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Feel free. The dotted lines are just a rough guide only(don't follow them exactly) but an actual path runs up the zig zags and if you follow the obvious grassy ramps all the way up it's never that exposed or hard. 90% per cent walking. Around the same grade as that ridge up Ben Lui.
Cheers. Having been very skinny most of my life being called fat is still a novelty. Severe grade is good for limestone rock climbs.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
It's surprising how many bird and animal species resemble each other on different continents and usually fill the same role in nature many of whom evolved in complete isolation.Insect eater,Pollen gatherer, seed and nut hoarder. It's as if patterns run through the natural world with invisible guide lines that are standard everywhere with set perimeters to follow.

Carol said...

OMG! I've just re-read my first comment - I didn't mean to say you 'definitely were Fat Boab' - I meant to say you definitely WEREN'T! Sorry :-o