Sunday, 8 May 2011

Day 5 - Shiel Bridge to River Ling

Friday 22 April

Alarm went off at 6. And then again at 7. Still, we were up in time to see the sun rise over the top of the mountain behind us and warm the tent before it was packed up.

What a day! We headed, with no others in sight, up the lovely valley along the Abhainn Chonaig - bright flame colours of the dead bracken and the sideways morning light - up through a little bit of Dorusdain Wood and then a slog of an ascent on a contour along the gorge of the Allt an Leold Ghaincamhaich towards the Bealach na Sroine. Already the sun was blaring down on us and the pine trees of the forest behind us had a strange visual affect that made us feel dizzy or tripped out.

From the bealach it was a steepish descent down towards the big attraction of the area - the top of the Falls of Glomach. The noise of the water rushing over the edge was heightened by the gale force winds that gusted as we (tentatively in my case) approached the drop off and tried to look down.

This was not my sort of place to be. I hate heights and I hate exposure to heights. Now our way forward was to skirt along a perilous path to the side of the waterfall. I quote from the guidebook - 'Take great care, as a slip may mean not just a broken leg but a fall of a hundred metres or so into the ravine.' Nice.

Strangely enough it still didn't occur to me to back off and, as Dave was well aware of my trepidation, we took the path carefully. Dave took control of the camera though I refused to pose for pictures apart from on the sturdiest part of the path - once we'd found the actual path rather than the way that takes you down for a better look at the falls. It turned out, despite the wind and the occasional bits of erosion, that the path was not so bad after all though I wouldn't want to attempt it in wet and muddy conditions.

The path clung to the side all the way down to the forest to the foot bridge and we even met a couple going up the other way at one point - much to our surprise, we'd got used to not seeing anyone during the day.

We joined the track leading along the Glen Elchaig and I enjoyed the flatness for a while though it was getting unbearably hot again. It was a long walk without the distraction of trying not to plunge to our deaths but it was made more entertaining by our first encounter with a herd of highland cattle - mums with young calves. We walked carefully past them where they were feeding but then, feeling a little safer, stopped to consider taking a photo of the cuties. One of the cows took umbrage at this and started rushing towards us but didn't have to go far before our flight reactions kicked in and we were off up the road. Thank goodness we'd gone past them first...

Otherwise, crags along the route gave Dave something to look at. I hadn't realised before this trip how much he knows about different sorts of rock - it's all climbing related but impressive to me at any rate.

Finally, hot and fairly bothered, we made it to Kililan where we sat for a while pondering where we might end up for the night. The change to road walking had made both our feet ache. Dave removed a tick from my ankle and we had some more 9 bars and fruit and nuts. There was nothing in Kililan to hold our interest apart from the newborn lambs and the strange tree that was so full of bees you could hear the buzzing from a way away and so we walked on, thinking that we might find somewhere nice to wild camp around Loch an Iasaich.

First there was a little bit more road walking out of Kililan and along and right towards Nonach Lodge before we followed the signs to skirt round some cottages and on to a boggy path that followed up the River Ling. The river is 'gorgeous' (Dave's accidental pun) with lots of plunge pools and rapids and rocks and white water and clear pools and after a couple of kilometres we found what seemed to be the perfect place to camp - it was relatively near a burn to get water and was also near the perfect swimming spot where we cooled off a little in the cold water before setting up camp. The plan was to bivvie out but the clouds were coming in a little so we put the tent up just in case. Dave built up a fire using some stones that had obviously been used before for the purpose and we ate in front of the fire as the dusk fell.

At one point we looked up to the hillside behind us and saw a pair of deer watching us from the top, their outlines slightly hazy against the failing light. Dave said that they were our deer spirits watching over us, I said that they probably wanted to drink and we were in their spot.

As the night got darker we huddled into our bivvie bags and watched the stars come out. For about half an hour we stayed out but then, as Dave gently snored beside me, I watched the clouds pour over the stars and felt the first few drops of rain. I waited, hoping that they would be a test only, but it was not to be and the rain came down. It didn't take too long to get drily in to the tent and back to sleep and the rain, which went on all night, didn't take away from the beauty of the spot.

Time on our feet: 9 to 6, 9 hours
Distance covered: about 26 km

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