Archive for July 3rd, 2010

July 3, 2010

Beinn na Croise (Isle of Mull)

by backpackingbongos

There is no getting away with it, Nottingham to Oban is a long way to drive.  The boredom of the motorway was broken up by setting off after work on the Friday and spending the night next to a reservoir in Weardale.  The next day I really thought that I was not going to make it, whilst driving up the hill to Killhope cross (at over 2000ft) the temperature gauge shot up.  It turns out that I had lost coolant and it was a nervous Bongo driver that was stopping every now and then to check things out and top up the radiator.  Three litres later everything was ok and the van got me onto and around Mull and back home without incident.  However the Bongo is now in hospital having a new radiator fitted as the leaky old one was the culprit.

The ferry to Mull leaves from Oban, a bustling tourist town which satiated my desire for fish and chips.  These I sat down to eat by the harbour when I suddenly felt a massive whack to the back of my head, followed by a gull almost getting my fish.  I have to say that I was rather nervous after that each time a gull got anywhere near.  Bloody hooligans they are and I had a lump on my head for the rest of the week!

The ferry to Mull takes less than 45 minutes and I was soon disembarking and turning left whilst most other vehicles were turning right to Tobermory.  The main A849 soon turned to a single track road with passing places until I turned off onto a rougher even narrower road that wound its way along Loch Spelve.  The scenery was simply sublime and I was pleased with myself when I found a disused quarry just before Loch Uisg where I parked up for the night.  A night that never really came being so far north and west during midsummer.

8.3 miles with 625 metres ascent

The views had all but disappeared when I opened the blinds the next morning.  A fine drizzle was falling and the hills were shrouded by low cloud, down to below 100 metres on some hills.  I had known that there was the possibility of a weather system coming through but had hoped that it would not as I planned to climb the two shapely and very rugged mountains of Ben Buie and Creach-Beinn.  Not particularly high but not hills to be wondering about on in thick mist, plus the reason to climb them was the outstanding views they are meant to have.  I was left pouring over my map that morning trying to plan what to do.  In the end I decided to drive down to Lochbuie and walk along the coast to the deserted farmhouse at Glenbyre.  If the weather picked up I could climb the hill Beinn na Croise to check out the views.

The ‘village’ of Lochbuie was not exactly teeming with life that Sunday morning, just a few very tame birds looking for the possibility of scraps.  I followed the public road to its end and scratched my head for a bit at the start of the track to Cameron farm.  It said that it was strictly private which pissed me off a bit as the track also continues past the farm onto open country.  I ignored the sign and passed the farm without incident, stopping to admire the very green scenery around me.

The track climbs up and away from the shore winding its way around a beautiful landscape of trees, streams and rocks.  It eventually enters an open boggy area and it was here that the negative effects of being in Scotland in summer took hold.  The horseflies were out in force, hunting me down.  They are deviant creatures, you only have to look at them when the settle on you for them to fly away.  For some reason they really like the backs of the hands.  There was much slapping but somehow I got away unscathed without a bite.

My map showed that a path ascends the shoulder of Beinn nan Gobhar and contours high above Glen Byre.  The drizzle had now stopped and the clouds were slowly clearing, time to head for the hills rather than dropping back down to the coast.  However there was one small problem, the path simply did not exist on the ground and the bracken was out in force.  I had made a decision so was going to stick to it, so finding what looked like a good line I bashed my way uphill until I broke free of the damn stuff.

Above me the cliffs surrounding the summit of Beinn nan Gobhar were impressive, for a small peak it looked pretty impenetrable from this angle.  Once free of the bracken I still could not find any vestiges of a path and had to make do with a rough rising traverse towards the head of the valley.

The next section would have been a bit complicated in mist as I contoured around the southern flanks of Beinn nam Feannag to reach Mam an Trotanaich, a wide pass with a small lochan.  I image that the views to the north would be good on a clear day but the island was under a blanket of low cloud.  I could just make out a glint of sea and the eastern end of Loch Scridain, the long sea loch that separates the Ross of Mull from the wild and rugged Ardmeanach peninsula.

It is then an easy climb to the summit of Beinn na Croise which gives a great impression of being pretty much being in the middle of nowhere.  At only 503 metres it is well off the radar of most hillwalkers.  I wondered to myself when it was last visited?  However I was pleased when looking it up on the internet when I got home to find out that it is a Marilyn, so I get a tick in my book.  Ok that may be a bit sad, but it keeps me out of mischief!

A last bank of low cloud drifted by and suddenly a great view opened up.  The peaks that I had originally planned to climb were now completely free from cloud and looking rather grand.  I was kicking myself a bit for missing out, however I was still pleased to have got up into the hills.

I debated whether to continue along the wide ridge to the coast or drop down and follow the burn through the scoop of Glen Byre.  I could remember the bracken covered slopes spotted whilst traversing the other side of the valley, which I was keen to avoid.  I therefore decided to descend the steep grassy slopes at the head of the valley.

Glen Byre was a delight to walk through.  I initially found some animal tracks that let me contour above the river before descending to some old ruins beneath a long cascading waterfall.

As I approached the coastline my heart dropped a little.  In the distance was a long line of people with absolutely massive backpacks.  Most of them had bright orange pack covers on which made it look like they were carrying dinghys on their backs.  This could mean only one thing, DofE students out on an expedition.  I found a rock to sit on and admire the scenery whilst they receded into the distance ahead of me.  The old farm of Glenbyre is in a great position, overlooking the calm blue waters of Loch Buie.  It’s a shame to see buildings such as these fall into ruin.

The track back to the car hugs the coastline and gives a very pleasant and easy walk, with the sun shining and the dense vegetation it felt like I could have been in the tropics.

I soon passed a small splinter cell of the DofE students who stopped me politely and asked for their photo to be taken with their camera.  It’s a shame that whenever you meet DofE groups that they are nearly always very white and middle class.  I feel that a week in the wilds would do many youngsters a great deal of good.  I wish they could ship the teenagers that skulk around where I live into somewhere wild and remote.  I am sure it would be a good character building excercise.

As I approached where I had left the van there was a large encampment of DofE teenagers on a grassy patch by the shore.  Looked like they were having a great time, the only supervising adult was hiding out at the mini bus a few hundred metres away.  The Bongo was parked up in a really idyllic spot and it was tempting to spend the night there.

The weather was now absolutely stunning and it was forecast to stay that way for a couple of days.  Instead I drove back to the village of Craignure and the rather expensive regimented campsite there.  Not my cup of tea but it meant that I would be in an ideal spot to climb the Corbett of Dun da Ghaoithe direct from the door the following morning.