Friday, 13 June 2014

The Far North

I am sitting at home, having cycled here from Little Wyvis and have a little time at last to update my blog before going onto Strathfarrar.
Assynt and the Far North held lots of  challenges.
Going from Cul Beag to Cul Mor on the first day in Assynt Rob and I struggled to find the joining route and after Rob's achilles started to play up and he headed back to the car , I decided to go for the direct line up Cul Mor finding some very interesting rock and vertical heather in the process! The lesson here is read the guide books. It is still kinda fun though, in retrospect anyway.
The first

real horror was later that evening after enjoying a 3 course meal cooked by Rob and being left on my own with the midge. I pitched my tent very quickly and jumped in, only to find a hole about the size of a mobile phone in the inner. I have know idea what happened but it looked as if a little animal had chewed its way through. A hasty repair was carried out with duck tape but I still slept rather fitfully that night, with visions of a tent full of midge.
The next few days were spent wandering over mountains in the mist with some sunny cycling moments thrown in, with Rob appearing here and there, doing an excellent job of  keeping me fed, watered and motivated.
The next big challenge was Meallan Liath Coire Mhic Dhughaill. In haste the evening before I had given Rob some maps to put in my bike for my next cycle drop at Strabeag Bothy. Unfortunately this included the main map of this hill which lies over 3 maps but I had only noticed 2 until I was in my tent in a glen with no phone signals. The morning was wet and misty and it was with some trepidation I decided to go for the hill anyway. Don't try this at home, 9 hours later a very wet and weary Lorraine(see summit pic) put up her tent in a breeze and scoffed a fine evening meal outside at Lone.
Slow again the next day on compass bearings in the mist going over Arkle and Foinaven but payback in the late evening as the sun began to go down and the cloud and mist dropped. Foinaven had let me in. I was not in a hurry to leave the cloud inversions and Brocken Spectres on the summit ridge and it was after 10 before I returned to my wee tent at The Bealach Horne.

After the day
without a map and moving so slowly in the mist on Arkle and foinaven, I decided it was time to step up a gear and was up early the next morning in the sunshine to climb up Meall Horne before meeting June and Geoff again. They had also been on Quinag when I was there, and Arkle the previous day but are DEFINITELY NOT doing all the corbetts. I still had to do the long trek down to Strabeag bothy to climb Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnlaidh.  The Gods were not with me, however, and again not knowing the ground, I dropped over a bealach early and spent hours bog trotting to get to the bothy whereas with a bit of local knowledge I would have stayed on high ground until close by. All was not lost however and mid afternoon saw me heading into the bog again on the way to my next 2 hills. It was a hot day and hard work and initially when I heard cries I thought it was a lamb, then I thought it was a baby but as they became more insistent I realised that I was hearing cries for help.
I turned and realised that the cries were coming from a crag on the south side of Loch Eriboll and started heading towards them not giving too much heed to the bog until suddenly I was in up to my hips and finding it really difficult to get back out and for five minutes all the ground round about me looked like it was breathing and I was sinking. Fear for the girl who was screaming help overcame my own fear and I eventually dragged myself out of there looking like a creature emerging from the deep. I started calling to the girl that I was on my way and then spotted her clinging on to a bush halfway up the crag. She was not hurt but had got stuck on the crag, I could see a bag at the bottom and thought she had been climbing although she was alone. Still convinced she had climbed up there and the ground looking pretty steep, I said I would get in touch with mountain rescue and she was a little calmer. I then spotted 2 lads who had also heard the screams climbing up towards her in their wellies. I had some trepidation about this as the ground was really steep and said I would alert mountain rescue anyway. I went along the track as far as i needed to send the text then returned. The lads had managed to get to her and were helping her climb out of the niche she was in and around the side of the crag. I retrieved her bag and went to join them. 
Natalie was a geology student who was mapping the land above the crag, when her bag had fallen she started to make her way down to get to it when she started to get stuck. She had been screaming for over an hour to try to alert people on the road but there was no one around until the 3 of us arrived. She was shaken but unhurt and when her heroes, 2 brothers from Tain, Gary and Martin suggested a beer and some whisky to calm things down, I decided the hills could wait till the morning and after retexting mountain rescue all was okay, I joined them. The lads had been about to go on a fishing trip to drink a wee glass or 2 of Jura in memory of their friend Barney who had died the previous year. They were happy to be sidetracked and to take Natalie back to her lodgings in the full knowledge that Barney would have enjoyed the tale.  Well done lads.

The next morning i was up at the crack of dawn and up Cranstackie and Beinn Spionnlaidh before cycling to Tongue with all my kit in some torrential downpours and head winds. A drowned rat was very happy to spend a night in the hostel there and catch up with my friends Dave and Wendy who know how to look after a lass. Steak with chilli and red peppers was washed down with a fine Corbieres and some cheese and a 1999 Connoisseurs choice Caol Islay to finish. My taste buds are now working overtime and this was amazing, as was the banter. Not so great first thing the next morning as we cycled off south to climb Beinn Loyal, the weather was closing in but we managed to make the summit and were treated to some cracking views before the rain arrived. The day finished at the Crask Inn, one of my favourite places run by Mike and Kai, two wonderful people.and we were joined by Rob for another very fine meal before all cycling south in the morning. I said goodbye to my friends at Bonar Bridge and headed off towards Glen Calvie, a little sad to say goodbye to the far north.


  1. Lala, Lala, Lala… spent the last couple of days catching up on all your posts and learning a heck of a lot about the last 18 months/two years!

    Have really enjoyed the adventures so far… this sounds even more fun than your Munros walk (is that possible?) and am loving all the stories about the folks who are helping out left right and centre and wishing we could be 400 miles further north this summer to muck in. I reckon it's the folks who make the memories, and the landscape is just the finest backdrop to friendships anyone could wish for.

    And Clare at the helm!! Fabulous! Great to see a pic of you Clare, it's been a while!

    Your cause already means a lot to us as you'll know but it means even more now, having read of your own experiences.

    Keep bagging them hills, keep having fun, and keep sharing your adventures.

    Much love, John, Steph, Sierra and Jack

  2. Great to hear from you John. Yes sorry your not up this way, I could do with some more of those chocolate eclairs Steph brought to Cruachan. Shall try and make it south of the border this autumn. (before we need a passport!!)