Monday, 6 June 2011

Day 14 - Kylesku to Loch a'Garbh-bhaid Mor

Sunday 1 May
Alarm went off at 6 but neither of us wanted to get up so we continued to doze quite happily, comfortably and tick free, until about 9.30. Had a great night's sleep on flat ground and in an interesting location. There wasn't so much traffic and the view was great.
Finally got going, after cereal and tea, about 11.
The first part of the walk today involved crossing the Kylesku Bridge that we had camped under and then carrying on up the road for a while until we took a right turn towards Kylestrome and some sort of forest centre before branching left up a track through some trees and out on to the hillside where we ascended up and along with great views back towards the lochs, the village of Kylesku, and the looming shadows of the surrounding mountains.
We also started to see glimpses of the sea proper.
The track was good but again it was blue skies and hot, not helped by our late start, so it was hardish work going up hill - but seemed like a million miles away from our early days in Knoydart. The ascent continued till we hit the Bealach nam Fiann and then a quicker descent, still on good track, towards the Reay Forest. Going down the track we bumped into a Cape Wrather going north-south on a route completely of his own devising. He was a light weighter too - made more so by him managing to lose various parts of his kit on his first night at the bothy near Cape Wrath. We chatted for a bit and then wished him luck and carried on into the forest - enjoying the dappled shade of the pines and marvelling at the moss covered lumpen shape that looked from a distance like a transformed troll just waiting and biding its time until we got nearer.
Through the forest we went past Lochmore Lodge, with a huge lump of mangled lead nearby, and then emerged onto the shore of Loch More before turning along the road for the short walk to Achfary. The little village seemed deserted, definitely no cafe or pub, apart from a little girl playing outside a house and an older man sitting in a boat who we didn't even see until he greeted us as we turned from the main road up towards the forest track that was to lead us up along the Allt Achadh Fairidh. It felt like the hottest day of the walk so far and we were already nearly out of water so we paused for a little while in the shade of the plantation to have a quick snack.
Further up, once we were out of the shade, we refilled our water bottles and trudged on up the track towards the end of the valley before heading off right and following a deer fence along and down a quicker descent towards Stack Lodge.
Before the descent to the road we admired the strange rock pillows of the area in front of us, the area we were going to be working our way around. If you look on the map the craggy rocks almost look like city blocks that have been flooded with puddles.
At the road we found a path down to the foot bridge to cross over the river and then a path led towards and around the lodge before skirting the edge of Loch Stack and continuing NE and then N. It was starting to get a little late now and we were both tired in the heat. But ahead of us was the large expanse of Arkle and then later was the grey expanse of Foinaven - so there was something interesting to look at.
Eventually we had to leave the rough but easy track and head off towards the Loch a'Garbh-bhaid Mor where we were hoping to find somewhere to camp. This section was boggy even after all this time without rain and it wasn't clear where we should be heading - small rises blocked our view forwards. And then there were parts of the ground that were so dried out they crunched whe you walked on them.
After a little bit of bad tempered scouting about we found the loch and headed down a little gully towards it. It was very soon clear that there was no flat or dry ground to camp on so we set up the groundsheet on the small strip of sandy beach and hoped it wouldn't rain.
A quick strip wash later, in the last of the still hot sun but in freezing cold water, and we'd discovered that Dave was covered in more ticks - including in some very intimate places and on his windpipe. Nasty. Between us we got rid of the little beggars and then had tea.
Even when the sun disappeared behind the ridge to our left and a chilly breeze picked up it was still hugely pleasant (and despite the many tiny spiders that appeared all over the place). As it got darker and the stars came out we listened and watched as the birds of the loch settled in for the night by flying swooping traverses of the loch, squeaking as they went. The sun was going down to the north and formed gorgeous colours of deep red and orange in the v shape that showed our way forward for the next day.
At one point a bird we couldn't see flew past us and landed with a plop at the edge of the loch, then ran across the shoreline splashing and squawking loudly at us before panicking as it got close and turning tail and running back again - like a roadrunner but noisier. It was the funniest thing we'd seen all walk.
And so we tucked ourselves into our sleeping bags, and bivvies just in case the weather turned as it had last time we'd tried to sleep out - especially as we had no tent to retreat to, and fell asleep under a billion bright stars.

Time on feet: 11 to 7.30, 8.5 hrs
Distance covered: about 24k

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