Monday 25 April
Alarm went off at 7.30 in time for breakfast of egg in a roll from the hotel kitchen back door. Ours was the second alarm to go off - Toby (the Munro bagger from Carlisle) had already headed off towards Fisherfield to try and get 6 Munros in the bag. Gradually everyone got up and got their stuff together, chatting a little but mostly all looking a bit tired still. It was eerily quiet overnight and the lack of snoring in a room full of men was more disturbing to me than anything else.
Chatted finally with the guy from Glasgow doing the CWT and found out that he'd had similar problems with the marked path, the deer fence and the river - glad it wasn't just us!
Finally we set off about 9.30, along the road and then along the path following the Kinlochewe River towards Loch Maree - admiring the bright yellow of the gorse flowers against the dramatic cloud ringed mountains to our left and back towards the Beinn Eighe nature reserve.
The relative flat didn't last long and we were soon ascending up the Gleann Bianasdail with steep ranges either side and dramatic views. Yet again there was a simple path to follow up and up and more up along with some scary bits of eroded path. At one point an eagle soared overhead.
At the top of the pass we plateau'd and then started to descend to Lochan Fada - a truly dramatic looking loch isolated amongst the hills. Clouds swept across the otherwise blue sky and the day couldn't seem to decide whether it should be steaming or freezing.
We crossed the outlet of the lochan as it flowed back down the way we had come up - supposed to be potentially the trickiest crossing according to the guidebook but relatively shallow and eased by stepping stones for us. Skirting round the lochan was easy enough and we even found a couple of white-pebbled beaches and spotted an incongruous motorboat hidden away.
Then there came a confusing stage where our direction was not obvious and where the guidebook directions were a bit hit and miss - we needed to locate a particular small loch to descend from otherwise we could end up in the wrong valley, and this is a land full of various bodies of water - even with the dry weather. Dave did a fantastic job of navigating and exploring (though it would have been a lot more difficult given bad visibility) to find the right bit of the hillside to descend, rise up to the bealach and then to descend further down -criss-crossing the river as usual, slogging around bog and trying to find the path of least resistance down Allt Cul Doireachan until we reached Loch an Nid.
We followed the path along the western side of the loch and admired the sheer grey slopes of rock, patches of snow still clinging near the tops. A deer herd watched us carefully. It was still early so we decided to ignore the possible camping spots, hoping to make it as far as possible so that the next day's walk to Ullapool would be shorter and we could enjoy the so-called 'fleshpot' of the big lights.
We did make it a few more kilometres along the river but then came to a spot which seemed too good to miss - a scenic bend in the river with hills all around, the sun going down and a curved log made for two to lean against. Plus the track we would follow was just about to start and we couldn't spot an obvious place further on to camp. And we were a bit battered by the wind and the fluctuations in temperature and the trudging along.
So we stopped in a lovely but breezy spot and Dave fought with the stove to make us our usual three course tea.
When the sun went down the spot turned out to be chilly and damp but still beautiful.
Time on go: 9.30 to 5.30, 8 hrs
Distance covered: about 20 km