Tuesday, 22 September 2009


Andy and I decided to have a fairly chilled weekend and do some hillwalking instead of climbing.  Must say, I was really looking forward to it.  No stress of abseils, chossy gully descents, cold and wet climbing, fear creeping in, no mental stress whatsoever, fab!
Andy had only 12 munros to do, to complete his 4th round of the Munros, and I was on 99, so keen to get my number 100.   I havn't done any of the ones Andy has left to do, bar Ben Starav, so was happy to go to the edge of Knoydart, at the head of Loch Arkaig, to upper Glen Dessary and bag Sgurr nan Coireachan, Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche, and also possibly Sgurr Mor if we were going well.
My only concern was my knee.  After running over 10km on Thursday evening, my knee had swollen up a little, and probably wasn't helped by going bouldering on the Friday and falling lots.   I'd planned to run up one the Corbetts near the Lecht on Saturday, on the way up to Andy's but my knee was by that point, pretty tender and puffy and I didn't think bounding down hill would help matters, and not even sure if I could have bounded anyway!
Forecast was for showers on Sunday.  Typical!  The rest of Scotland looked rain free, so why the hell were we going to one of the wettest places in Scotland?  The day dawned windier than expected, and we could see there had been rain through the night in the West. 
The road up to and past Loch Arkaig is horrific.  An extremely narrow and twisty track that bends and winds up and down and left and right, until you feel utterly nauseous.  Luckily, Andy was feeling it too, so he wasn't zooming along.  Actually, his driving was very good all the way there, and he was making a big effort not to go too fast round the bends, so it was much more relaxing.
We'd packed the bikes the night before, so we could cycle up to the head of Glen Dessary, to make the walk shorter.  Jeeze I was finding it hard work!  I couldn't work the gears on Andy's bike so I was having to peddle furiously, and I just couldn't manage the up hill bits.  Andy had a look at the gears and managed to put it into a higher gear for me, and it was loads better after that.  Before long we were dumping the bikes and slogging along what has to be the most boggy path I've ever encountered.  We'd decided to bag Sgurr na Ciche first, and the walk along to where you cut up to a col between the Sgurr na Ciche and it's neighbour, seemed to be never ending, and involved lots of leaping about to avoid bogs and pools of water.  At last though, we were trudging up hill, no complaints from my knee, until we had to traverse downwards when I realised that going downhill was going to be a snag.  My knee would only bend back so far before it went, 'ooooh don't do that!'
The walk up to the Col involved going up a Gully, reminiscant of the approach to White Gyll in the Lakes the weekend before.  I wasn't too sure what to make of Knoydart to be honest.   It's supposed to be a wilderness area, and we were far from a road, and it was pretty when the light shone on the hills in a certain way.  But I just didn't get that wow factor that I do when I'm up further North West, and it all seemed a little bleak.  But I think the drizzling rain and cloud didn't help.
By the time we'd bagged the first peak, the cloud and rain had moved in, and was there to stay for pretty much the remainder of the day.  We didn't get too many showers Andy commented, just one that lasted all day! 
The ridge from Garbh Chioch Mhor to Sgurr nan Coireachan seemed to be never ending even though according to the map it was only around 2km before you hit a col.  But it was 2k of up and downing and big steps that my knee wasn't too keen on, and the going was slow.  By the time we were going up to the last summit, my energy was flagging and it was a relief to finally get to the top, even though I had the painful job of getting back down again!  By this point, the wind had picked up and at times there were gusts of 60mph, which would drive the rain into my eyes so I struggled to see, and would blow my hood down, with the chin bit of my hood covering my mouth and making me feel like I was suffocating in a layer of gore tex!
My knee tweaked on a good few occasions when I bent it back too far, but I necked a painkiller and it eased off somewhat by the time we were half way down.  The incline eased off by then too, and Andy had been a darling.  It must have been very frustrating for him, who normally moves fast downhill to have to keep stopping and waiting for me, but I could see him turn round every so often to make sure I was okay. 
Once down though, it seemed to me to take forever to get back to the bikes, I hadn't remembered this section being so long on the way in!  I'm not sure what was best in the end?  To do the munros last after the long walk in, and being a bit tired by the last one, or to do the munros first, and then have a soul destroying slog along the boggy glen on the way out.   Considering that final section felt tiresome, then the way we did it was probably the best way.
With relief we'd reached the bikes and rewarded ourselves with a chocolate break.  I felt a bit more relaxed with the bike on the way out, and was managing to freewheel some of the less steep bits.  Now the gears were sorted, I could cycle on the flat very easily, and manage the slight uphills.  Think I only got off 2x to push a wee steeper uphill.   It was mostly flat and downhill though, so was absolutely ace to cruise along effortlessly at the end of a long day and it was pure pleasure to get back to the car and warm, dry clothes.

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