Day 4 (22nd April) – 6.2 miles with 690m ascent
It was cold in the bothy when I woke during the night with my watch showing the temperature at 3c, it must have been pretty chilly outside. I got up early and peered out of the condensation covered window and was relieved to see flawless blue skies. Richard had already vacated the bothy and I found him sitting on a boulder in the middle of the river, plugged into his ipod with a cup of coffee in his hands. What a perfect start to the day!
Damp gear from yesterday was hung outside in the sun whilst breakfast was eaten and we had a leisurely first part of the morning just enjoying the location. I took a photo of the old bothy which stood more comfortably in the landscape than the newer tin one we had stayed in last night.
Our packed rucksacks seemed a bit lighter this morning than they had done in the last few days, we were now wondering if we would have enough food to last rather than thinking we had brought too much! The plan for today had been fairly elastic with the aim of getting to Coiremor bothy by the route most suitable for whatever the weather would throw at us. The stunning blue skies and warm sunshine decided on the route for us, we would bag Seana Bhraigh.
We were soon squelching up the Abhainn a Ghlinne Bhig in really good spirits, even a peat bog that tried to remove my boot could not spoil the morning.
From the bothy I had identified a spot where the cliffs on the north side of the valley gave way to steep grass slopes which were deeply cut by the Allt Feith na Slataich. It looked ok from the bothy but appeared to get bigger and steeper the nearer we got to it.
It was certainly good exercise climbing up to the 6oom contour with frequent breaks to gasp for breath and look back down the valley to the bothies.
The scenery was getting better with each step and finally the gradient eased considerably as we reached the base of Meall Feith na Slataich and stopped to fill our water bottles and our stomachs. The ground on the hills surrounding us was pretty rough and peat hagged as we continued with the climb.
The climbing became easier as we gained the ridge. We constantly had to find boulders to sit on where we could just relax and take in the view. What would be the point of rushing a day like today?
We were now surrounded by a panorama of peaks. It was good to see Ben Wyvis far off in the distance guarding the way we had already walked. Beinn Dearg was the most dominant peak and it still had some large patches of snow and cornices along its edges.
Lunch came early when we found a spot sheltered by the wind before we walked to the col between Seanna Bhraigh and Creag an Duine a spectacularly pointy and airy peak.
The wind and the scenery literally took our breath away. The strength of the wind blowing through the col made it difficult to stand and we were aware of the enormous cliffs a few feet away. Impressive as the scenery was it was time to get moving. Its strange how the wind acts because only a minute away all was calm again. As we climbed we kept close but not too close to the edge of the cliffs to get the best of the views. The remaining cornices were still pretty impressive.
The summit cairn is placed only a few feet from the edge of the cliffs which drop very steeply straight down to the floor of Luchd Coire. I could imagine that this could be a fairly dangerous place in winter when the summit is covered in snow and there is a cornice extending out into space. No such problems today and the views in all directions were exceptional under blue skies in crystal clear air. My eyes kept getting drawn to the Coigach and Assynt peaks which dominated the north west. There was also a very impressive spiky looking mountain to the south east that could only have been An Teallach, a mountain that is definitely on my list. I could also not resist getting on my stomach and peering over the cliffs to the Coire far below.
Whilst comfortable in the bothy I had toyed with the idea of climbing Carn Ban as well as Seana Bhraigh as it did not look to far on the map. However from here it looked miles away and the ground in between looked very rough with loads of bogs and lochans to navigate. At least I can come back one day and walk Glenbeg to Coiremor via Carn Ban!
We descended the north east ridge which was much easier than it looked on the map, which made it look like there may be a little scrambling. Initially the cliffs dominated the walk down until we reached a small lochan at the col.
We continued along the ridge for a bit before starting a very steep descent into Luchd Choire where we got a good view down to Coiremor bothy next to Loch a Choire Mhor.
The descent was punishing on the knees but we soon reached the floor of the coire where we could follow the stream down to the edge of the loch. During this descent we had a keen eye on the river flowing out of the loch. It looked very wide from here and I had read that it can often be difficult to ford. Standing next to it it was as wide as we thought it would be but we managed to get across dryshod.
We were soon arriving at Coiremore bothy and were more than ready to get the stoves on for a hot drink and some food.
There are actually two bothies here joined together. The smaller one on the right hand side is maintained by the MBA and although nice and cosy was full of old manky looking sofas. Not sure why someone would want to bring a sofa to a bothy as it just ends up getting damp and dirty and full of mice. A substantial part of the building was Magoo’s bothy which had been rebuilt by the RAF to remember a guy who was killed in action. It is a homely bothy which is really well maintained and looked after. There is even a seperate little bothy inbetween Magoo’s and the MBA one with it own wood burning stove. The major problem was deciding where to sleep! Richard took a bunk in Magoo’s whilst I slept in the little bothy next door. Not often that you can have a bothy each! Dinner was cooked on the large table inside Magoo’s and the bothy books were read cover to cover, so many interesting stories there. As with the night before we did not bother lighting a fire as it was not really that cold. It would be rude to use the bogwood someone had taken the trouble to collect and dry out without topping up the supplies. We really could not be bothered to go collecting in the bogs at the end of the loch. I spent the evening feeling sick, I had not been purifying my water during the day so it may well have been that. I retired to my sleeping bag before it got dark, not before popping outside to check out the magnificent view of Creag an Duine towering over the Loch and bothy.
Map of the route (click to enlarge)