Saturday, 28 May 2011

Day 11 - (Forest Way bunkhouse) Inverlael - Schoolhouse Bothy

Thursday 28 April

A nice comfortable night passed to the sound of rain pattering against the window but the rain had halted by the time we got up. The alarm went off att 7.30 and we got up and had a none cereal related breakfast and then packed up.

We chatted to the Dutch women who were in the room next door and who'd come in late the night before as they'd been stuck the other side of the fire for about four hours. They had come over to pick up their husbands who had just finished the CWT - one of them had tried to do it a couple of years before but been forced to turn back at the Glomach Falls. They said that their husbands had been finding it hard going and had had trouble near the start with river crossings - again reinforcing how lucky we were being with the weather.

Iain gave us a lift out to Inverlael and we started off into the forest tracks after putting on suncream as the clouds had cleared after the earlier rain - this turned out to be premature as the skies clouded over for most of the rest of the day. The track walking was mostly straightforward but there was a tricky bit where a path was supposed to head up to cut through on to a higher track but there was no way of getting through the trees and the undergrowth so we had to hack back up a track that was overgrown and rambling and then go back up to hopefully hit the track we wanted to be on - which we were luckily. These forest tracks are painful.

After exiting the forest we followed another rubbly track up and up (at somewhat of a cracking pace and for most of which Dave was far far ahead) to join up with the Allt Badan Seasgach where the track (which was boggy enough) completely ran out and we forded the river and had only faint quad bike tracks to keep following. In an attempt to get out of the bog we tried to get high, keeping the Allt na Lairige on the right and then contouring round into Glen Douchary where we headed down towards some ruined sheepfolds. Behind us there was the impressive ampitheatre of rock around Cadha Dearg with clouds gathering.

We followed the eastern bank of the River Douchary along, via an impressive jump, and then along more invisible path bog land (i.e. a path of the map but nothing visible on the ground beneath the peat and heather). Most of it was a trudge but there was one quite scary descent into a gorge (crossing the dry Allt nan Caorach) where the end of the heather appeared to disappear into a precipice - not so deep but steep. The descent wasn't so bad after all but the ascent was grim, following a thin path that sloped and eroded off back into the gorge and my heart was racing wildly when we reached the top.

Eventually we hit the western end of Loch an Daimh and followed the shortline along the expanse. This is where we would have arrived if we had taken the easier route straight out of Ullapool. At the eastern end of the loch we had a little break at Knockdamph bothy (about 3 till 4), making a cup of tea and having some food sitting on seats in the entrance of the bothy and watching the intermittent drizzle.

We'd decided to try to make it to Oykel Bridge tonight despite feeling a bit dislocated after our break. And anyway, Knockdamph was too early in the day to quit and the bothy was not quite alluring enough to tempt us to stay. So we repacked and continued along the straightforward track. After a little while we saw the next bothy glinting in the sunlight ahead of us and then the clouds pulled in so that it was soon clear that it was about to rain. We made it to the Schoolhouse Bothy just as the clouds dumped a few hours of rain on the ground. The original idea was simply to shelted in the bothy and to use the dry post to change in wet weather gear. But the rain carried on and we soon decided that we might as well stay where we were. The bothy has been recently done up and the room we were in was wood lined like a sauna and very cosy - it was another one we had to ourselves.

Once the rain had stopped the evening became a lovely one, that dark treacly golden light sliding across the countryside and rainbows ahead of us. The river passing under Duag Bridge was suddenly a torrent, several feet higher then it had been not so long ago.

We ate and slept and passed another easy night.

Time on feet: 10.30 - 5, 6.5 hrs

Distance covered: 26km

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