Archive for July, 2010

July 30, 2010

Cruach Choireadail and Corra-bheinn (Isle of Mull)

by backpackingbongos

Ok now that is not the most snappy of post titles but it does do what it says on the tin.  Anyhow I was originally going to call it ‘Cruach Choireadail, Beinn a’ Mheadhain, Corra-bheinn and Cruachan Dearg from Teanga bridge’ but you may have nodded off before you even got started.  I had spent another rather peaceful evening and night in the Bongo even though the main road had moments of very heavy traffic.  There seemed to be a pattern which involved a couple of hours of pretty much nothing then all of a sudden there would be a convoy of about 50 vehicles stuck behind a caravan.  I have a funny feeling that these bottle necks were the result of a ferry docking and then everyone finding to their dismay that a caravan got off the ferry before them.  Anyway I revelled in the fine sunny weather which extends pretty much into the middle of the night.  I even heated up some water out of the river and got myself smelling a bit fresher.  As usual the rather attractive bit of grass I had parked next to was a tick metropolis, but being in the van meant that I did not have to commune with them.  They really do like hanging out together, some areas have none whilst others are infested.  What you can count on is the fact that they usually like that cropped nice tent sized piece of grass that you fancy erecting you tent on.  The one that probably had some tick infested deer having dinner a little while before.  This is one of the main reasons why I have always favoured tents over tarps and sometimes a campervan over a tent.

Anyway this is the last of the Mull days out, I need to get a bit quicker on the write ups.

8.4 miles with 1,180 metres ascent

I have to admit at being a little bit disappointed at finding out that this walk was less than 8.5 miles as it really was a tough day out.  I spent a fair few days feeling a little tender and it goes to show that you should count the contours after cobbling together a mountain route.

It was hot already when I set off up the main road through Glen More, although this main road was single track.  Somewhere between the Allt Ghillecaluim and Uisgeacha Geala I left the security of the road, climbed a steep bank and hopped over a rusty fence.  Already Ben More was dominating the view and would only appear bigger throughout the day.

All that I can say is that this section was steep and very rugged in terms of vegetation.  After reaching the 150 metre contour I can remember thinking to myself I had climbed a considerable height until the illusion was squashed when I checked the altimeter on my watch.  The view opened up to Ben Buie which I had failed to climb on my first day on Mull.

The 300 metre contour brought an easing of the unrelenting steepness and I was on course for the stream at a pleasant little waterfall.  It now felt really hot and I sat at the top of it, filling up my water and wetting my cap in the cold clear water.

With some altitude under my belt the climb to the summit of Cruach Choireadail was not too bad and the vegetation was now composed of short rough grass.  For a ‘small’ mountain the views from the summit cairn were pretty extensive.  Ben More dominated much of it but there was a great view down the entire length of Loch Scridain and the Ross of Mull.

My next aim was for the pass of Mam Choireadail, contouring and bypassing Cruachan Beag.

Not exactly a huge drop but enough of a descent to get the leg muscles working.  The climb to the summit of Beinn a’ Mheadhain was on easy grass and the small cairn gave more big views, pretty much the same as from the last summit but with a slightly different perspective.  I was not even at the magic 2000ft but I definitely felt like I was on the summit of a mountain.  Just below the summit cairn there was nice grassy space against a blocky boulder where I wedged myself in to eat lunch.  I decided that I should move on when my eyelids started to get heavy!

As I was leaving the summit I noticed a figure approaching from the distance, for me this sort of spoiled the feeling of wildness and isolation!  I started the descent towards Mam Bhreapadail and really started to regret not counting the contours whilst planning this walk.  The pass lays at 390 metres and the mountain ahead rises to 704 metres, a pretty big descent and re-ascent!

At the bottom of the pass the slopes of Corra-Bheinn appeared even steeper and I headed for a ‘nose’ like ridge that sticks out of the main slope.  The climb however was worth it and leads to a pleasant ridge where Ben More is framed perfectly between the twin peaks.

The summit of Cruachan Dearg is a perfect cone and the approach from Corra-bheinn makes it appear steeper than it actually is, from here the view across to Ben More is breathtaking and you can appreciate what a beast of a mountain it really is.  It’s just a shame that the weather was not as good when I climbed it a few days previously.

As I dropped height down to Carn Cul Righ Albainn a gusty wind appeared out of nowhere and I had to remove my cap to prevent it being blown off my head.  A herd of red deer were watching me nervously from a distance before suddenly deciding that I was simply too dangerous and legging it off into the distance.  At the col a feint path continued in the same direction heading for the summit of A’Chioch, although I could not work out how it would ascend its steep summit cone.  I instead turned left at the large cairn and started the descent into the valley of Allt Teanga Brideig getting one final glance up at the summit I had just descended off.

I was struck whilst descending just how green the grass was, I am not sure what word describes a green that green and this photo really does not do it justice.  The colour was absolutely stunning, a colour I have never before witnessed whilst out in the British hills.

The path soon brought me out into the wide Glen More with a lovely late afternoon view up the valley.  I could see the Bongo not that far below, I was tired but at the same time wanted to drag out the time I had in the mountains.  Today was my last day on Mull and I would be sad to be heading off onto the mainland and the long drive home.  There was still much more fine walking to be done on the Island and I had only just scratched the surface.

That evening whilst at the campsite at Craignure I was treated by one of the finest sunsets that I have seen outside of India, the horizon was on fire.  What a fine way to remember an outstanding week on Mull.

The following morning whilst queuing for the Calmac ferry back to the mainland a member of staff let me know that the ferry had blown up and all reservations had been cancelled.  The replacement was much much smaller and it would be first come first served.


July 24, 2010

Treshnish peninsula and ‘S Airde Beinn (Isle of Mull)

by backpackingbongos

I got a bit carried away today so you get two walks within one post…………

Unfortunately the mountain weather forecast was spot on.  I awoke to a dull grey world, the cloud gently drifting just above the van.  I really did not think that cloud base could be this low and I was left wondering what I could do considering that pretty much everything on the island would be invisible today.  I gazed across the sea loch at the cloud capped north shore and decided that a coastal walk was in order, at least there was a chance that the cloud could lift a few metres and I would not be totally enveloped.

The single tracked ‘B’ road that leads to Calgary bay probably has some of the most spectacular views as it twists and winds its way across the west of the Island.  All the time it is climbing and falling with hair pin bends and the occasional steep drop down to the sea hidden in the mist.  The south shore of Loch na Keal although very cloudy had been dry, this part of the Island was very damp with the mist being composed of a fine drizzle.

6.5 miles with 385 metres ascent

I parked up the Bongo in a disused quarry just before Ensay and had a quick debate as to whether I should wear a waterproof or not.  It was very warm and muggy and I had to decide if I wanted to get wet through sweat or wet through the fine damp mist.  I decided that it would be more comfy getting wet from the outside.  A track crosses the Ensay Burn and heads towards Treshnish cottages, most of which appear to be available to rent as holiday homes.  I really could not see very much at all as I joined the track onto open country and almost considered turning back as the combination of no views and muggy dampness was not filling me with the joys of summer.  I decided to continue and passed Haun cottages which are located around 2 miles from the road.  These are also holiday cottages that can be rented and are in a lovely remote location.  I can’t vouch for their views because there still was not one.  I was only 60 metres above sea level and firmly still in the clouds!

A short distance later a gate led to a lovely firm cropped grassy track and an actual view of the coast below.

I followed the coast for a couple of miles taking time to explore all of the nooks and crannies, the landscape was exceptional.  At times I would walk above the cliff tops at other times I would be on the sea-shore.  There is no one defined way to go, simply pick and choose.  Every now and then the cloud would lift a few more metres giving more of a view out to sea where I could make out the Treshnish Isles on the misty horizon.  The photos below give a flavour of the coastal landscape along this part of the Mull coast.

I decided to go and hunt out the ‘Whisky cave’ that the OS map fails to mark.  A bit of scrabbling around contouring above some cliffs and I found it just below a rocky gully.  From above it did not look that spectacular and I could not be bothered with scrambling down greasy looking rocks to explore its innards.  However the clouds did lift enough for a moment to give a great view to the north with the second tier of cliffs becoming visible.

My next objective was the deserted village of Crackaig perched high above the coast on the moorland above.  As I left the coast and was walking inland I looked back out to sea and spotted something sticking out of the water.  It quickly disappeared and then reappeared further along the coast.  It was triangular in shape and it was then I realised it was a large fin.  I really regretted not having binoculars with me.  I watched for a while as it circled around in the shallows before noticing that there was a smaller fin like shape a few metres behind it (a tail fin?).  Whatever I was watching was definitely large and it soon attracted the attention of a boat that started to circle it.  I sat and watched the boat watching the wildlife and fancifully decided that it could be a basking shark.  I soon got bored of watching a distant fin so began the steep climb along a zig zagging path to the deserted village.  An erie spot with well preserved houses scattered among the misty moorland.

Higher up the path crossed a boggy plateau where luckily there are wooden planks to cross the deeper more smelly sections.

The path goes around the back of a cottage with a great big view and onto its driveway.  Stomping along something caught my eye and I stopped to notice a small adder a few feet away.  I fumbled with my camera and approached a little closer to try and get a photograph.  In response I got a hiss before it quickly slithered off into the heather.  It was not as keen as the slow worm a few days earlier to be photographed!

Anyway it was then a quick and easy walk along the road to the waiting bongo, as usual as my walk was drawing to a close the cloud had finally lifted and was now sitting at a pretty lofty 200 meters.  I now had another decision to make, where to spend the night in the Bongo.  Any old spot would not do, I wanted somewhere special to park up for the night.  Somewhere quiet and with big views.  I had read a lot about Calgary bay which has a white sandy beach and a designated ‘wild’ campsite.  Being just round the corner I decided to Bongo on down and have a look.  Spectacular it was but the campsite was a bit too crowded for my liking and rather spoilt by giant motorhomes.  Time instead to go off and look for my own patch.  On the misty drive earlier on in the day I had noticed a cairn at the highest part of the road with space for a bongo next to it.  It turned out to be a lovely spot, especially when the sun came out in the evening and the views returned.  Another peaceful undisturbed night followed.

1.8 miles with 160 metres ascent

Some days even very keen hikers would rather just chill out and look at the scenery rather than get muddy within it, this was one such day.  It’s just a shame when such days occur when the weather is looking much better.  During the last couple of days I had been craving fish and chips and I thought that if anywhere on the Island would sell fish and chips it would be the capital Tobermory.  After a lie in I decided that I would head to Tobermory for a late lunch via a short walk around the extinct volcano ‘S Airde Beinn.

As usual the driving on Mull was driving at its best, very narrow roads with hair pin bends.  They would be much better if there was no other traffic but I did not mind stopping every now and then to let people pass with such good scenery to look at.  Between Dervaig and Tobermory there is a succession of lochs, the middle one Loch Meadhoin has a ruined cottage next to the road where there is space for a couple of vehicles to park.

‘S Airde Beinn is a volcanic plug with a crater in the middle of it and although not particularly high at 292 metres it is meant to have the best view on north Mull.  A simple walk it was too, it was only when I was half way up that I realised I had left my map in the van.  No worries, you just follow the  path up to the hill directly ahead, then clockwise around the crater.  You could be up and down in less than an hour but I sat at one of the cairns for a while and drank in the views.  I wished I had remembered to bring binoculars to Mull as there were a few people up there watching something I could not see!

It was then food time in Tobermory!  Famous for the children’s programme Balamory the town in picture postcard pretty.  However for me I found the village rather bland, it is the sort of place that has no ‘real’ shops just ones selling tourist crap.  Being midweek it was not particularly busy but the people milling around were of the very slow, browsing at shops selling crap variety.  Not really a place for someone in dirty clothes who is just beginning to turn fragrant!  Anyway I cursed the lack of a fish and chip shop and consoled myself with fresh bread in the local Co-op.  I like the Co-op in principle but local experience in Nottingham shows that they are completely incapable at manning a till successfully.  We usually have 6 members of staff stacking shelves and one flustered one at the till with a huge queue.  People usually get cross and storm out, sometimes bad words are used.  It was the same in Tobermory, it must be company policy.

It transpired that the chip shop is a van hidden behind the war memorial.  Pleased I filled my belly and moved on.

I took the long way round to Glen More where I parked up next to the old road by Teanga bridge.  A lovely spot surrounded by mountains, the following day was going to be a hot leg wobbling epic!

July 19, 2010

Bilberry fingers

by backpackingbongos

On Saturday I was clumsily sliding my way down a very steep vegetated slope.  There was a fair amount of vegetation scrambling taking place, taking my life in the hands of some poor plant clinging to the thin soil.  At the bottom I noticed that my hands were rather purple.  This means that summer is drawing on and bilberry which covers some of our uplands is fruiting.  The heather is just about coming out and our moorlands will soon look at their best.  Unfortunately in my mind this means that summer is slipping away.  I must get out for more backpacks before those nights start drawing in again.

Talking of bilberry fingers have you ever met salad fingers?  Now this is wrong on so many levels and if you are of a nervous / sensitive disposition please do not go any further.  Dark, creepy and ever so slightly scary.  This has absolutely nothing to do with hiking or backpacking.  There is a whole series out there to explore………………

July 18, 2010


by backpackingbongos

Today was an ordeal.  Last night we pitched our tents on the south ridge of Arenig Fawr at 690 metres above sea level.  A great evening was spent climbing to the summit to take in the huge sunset views.  Just after midnight it started to slide down hill, a big wet and windy down hill.  Come first light I was lying in a thrashing Akto that sounded like it was being blasted by a  firemans hose in a wind tunnel.  The temperature started to rise and the humidity made everything inside damp.  I began to fear a thunderstorm, not good on an exposed ridge.  Just after 7.30am I got up and woke my friend and suggested we move off sharpish.  Thankfully a thunderstorm never arrived but the wind and rain was horrendous as we struggled with map and compass to get off the hill, navigation skills were tested to the limit.  Modern clothing technology was no match for the Welsh rain, even my underpants were uncomfortably soaking wet.  I fear I have an adult version of nappy rash!  We spent five hours in the weather and there was not even a glimpse of joy, just grim determination to get back to the van and put dry pants on.

The day before was nice though, a full write up when the Isle of Mull series is finished.

July 15, 2010

To head north or west?

by backpackingbongos

My backpack is all packed and sitting by the door.  Tomorrow afternoon has been booked off work and I will be heading into the hills with Rae for a weekend backpack.  The thing is that we are not sure where we are headed!  That is going to be decided tomorrow lunchtime at the time we set off in the Bongo.  We will either be heading north up the A1 or west along the A50.  The deciding factor is going to the weather.  To be honest the forecast for this weekend has been pretty poor during most of this week, with there being degrees of crapness to the forecast.  We are going to hedge our bets.  It will either be the Howgills / Eastern Lakes or Snowdonia.  What has happened to summer?