Backpacking the wilderness of the Attadale forest pt 2

by backpackingbongos

It’s a couple of weeks since I posted part one, you can find it here if you want.

Day 3 – 7.8 miles with 1,000 metres ascent

I awoke to one of those mornings that you dream about when you are sitting at home, it was perfect.  I took a steaming cup of coffee and went to stand outside the bothy in the early morning light.  There had been a slight frost and there was a light mist drifting over the surface of Loch Cruoshie.  The air was perfectly still and the silence was broken every now and then by the roaring of a stag.  If you could bottle a minute I would go back and chose one from that morning.

Maol-bhuidhe bothy occupies an enviable position right in the middle of glorious nowhere.  It is simply miles to the nearest public road in any direction and surrounded by dramatic mountains.  I cooked my morning noodles outside, sitting and chatting to Mike who had spent the night in the bothy and the two guys who had camped outside.  I was reluctant to leave this spot and I had to force myself to pack my sack and set off back to the river Ling.

The night before Mike had told me stories where he’d had to strip down to his undies to wade across this formidable river.  However as the day before the water levels were low enough for me to boulder hop across dryshod.  I turned back to look at the bothy one final time and could see Mike high on the hillside collecting bog wood, zipping with ease across the rough ground.

I now had my own rough ground to contend with as I made my way towards Loch Calvie.  I did not want to climb too high to then descend again, however the lower ground was riddled with peat hags.  I eventually got myself to the river exiting from the loch to find one of the worst examples of a bridge that I have ever seen.  It was simply two sturdy fence posts joined together by what looked like wire you would make a fence with.  It wobbled alarmingly when you try and put any weight onto it.  I was too lazy to take off my boots and socks and have a cold wade so I gingerly made my way across, my pack doing its best to unbalance me.  I was ready to jump at any moment and was glad that the river below was not a raging torrent.  I am glad to say that I made it across without falling off.

I now had Lurg Mhor in my sights, reputedly one of the remotest Munros with a very lengthy walk in for anyone who wishes to climb it on a day walk.  I went straight up the steep hillside to the west of the Alltan Ban, sweating profusely in the still and very warm October sunshine.  I had chosen to wear a pair of Paramo Cascada trousers on this backpack which had done a very good job of making it not rain.  I did not have anything to change into and my legs were now uncomfortably clammy with the steep climb.  I decided that seeing as I was on my own and I was pretty unlikely to see anyone else, that it would be nice to take them off.  I have to say that climbing a remote Munro in your underpants is strangely liberating.  Give it a go as I am sure that you will like the experience, at the very least it would be a good conversation starter?  The walking in my pants bit only lasted a short while due to the whole climb higher, get colder effect.  As I climbed into the shallow Coire at the top of the Alltan Ban I noticed the sheer numbers of deer.  When they spotted me it looked like the hillside was moving as they ran away.  It appeared that every rise was occupied by a stag silhouetting their antlers against the sky.  A magical wildlife moment.

As I approached the summit of Lurg Mhor the cloud rushed in on a cold strong wind, the sun still shining above.  It was too cold to hang around so I made a quick descent and then ascent to the next summit, Bidean a Choire Sheasgaich with its narrow summit ridge.  Unfortunately the weather had decided to ruin the highest points of this trip and I only managed to get a couple of photos from high up.

A descent directly north off of the hill is meant to be a tricky proposition with bands of rock blocking the way and a real risk of becoming crag bound.  Instead I descended a short way to the small lochan to the north of the summit before following its outflow down through Coire Seasgach.  This in itself was not easy through bands of rock and narrow gullies until I reached rough moorland below.  It was getting late as I continued on to the Abhainn Bearnais, the descending sun lighting up the sky and surrounding hills.  A time that was just as magical as dawn earlier on that day, the exception now was that I had to find Bearnais bothy before it got dark!

Bearnais bothy is a little gem, although this time there was no smoke coming through the chimney as I approached it.  There is no fuel supply in the local area and with nothing left by the previous occupants it was a long dark night squeezed onto a narrow bench to keep myself up off the floor.  During my time there it became apparent that Bearnais has a bit of a mouse problem, everything chewable inside had been chewed, even one of those glow sticks.  I made sure to hang everything up, even so I was kept awake all night due to the nocturnal habits of the bothy mice.  I could have sworn that they were wearing hob nailed boots……………………

Day 4 – 10.4 miles with 860 metres ascent

I was blessed with yet another absolutely beautiful morning, clear blue skies bearing down on the brown hills and glens.  Another stunning bothy spot, although I would advise you to lug over a bag of coal if staying during the winter months.  I would imagine it would be dead cosy inside with a roaring fire.

My thoughts started to turn towards more mundane, humdrum things.  Would my car still be where I left it, will I get back in time to meet Hannah and Charlie, will they get back in time to meet me?  These thoughts kept me occupied as I climbed the path towards the pass below Sgurr na Feartaig.  It was one of those climbs that seemed to go on for ages.

The ridge itself is a dream, narrow but not precipitous, the sort of place where you can stride out and take in the views on both side without having to worry about falling over.  I tend to fall over a lot when backpacking.  The views were staggeringly good from up there.

Then there came the descent which did its best to destroy my knees and I could feel my mood slipping a bit.  I then did something I had never done before, I popped on my headphones and walked to music.  It was a bit of a revelation with the surrounding mountains providing a movie backdrop and King Creosote singing in my ear.  Superb.  The bridge across the Allt a Chonais had a sign that made me smile, seeing as the sign was on the other side and only noticeable once I had crossed.  The bridge made superb use of a tree with you exiting between two trunks.

As I marched down the track with dusk on its way I was treated to another of natures light shows, shafts of light bouncing off the hills once again.  However death tried to sneak up on me when a mountain biker sped past at a stupid speed only inches from me.  With my headphones on I nearly fell over with fright, what if I had decided to move a few inches at the last-minute?  Would it not be courtesy to slow down a little bit when passing a half asleep backpacker?

With a moon rising it was a long old trudge along the A890 back to Achnashellach station where Hannah and Charlie were waiting patiently next to the car.  They too had an excellent few days bothying, they had walked into Camasunary bothy on Skye.  The journey back home was filled with bothy tales.


15 Comments to “Backpacking the wilderness of the Attadale forest pt 2”

  1. That’s a really good trip and excellent pictures too. Thanks for that.

    The river at the exit of Loch Cruoshie can be a real swine to get across in bad weather. You had magnificent weather for the trip.

  2. Great 2 part series! Enjoyed them very much. Thx

  3. Lovely, James. Just what I wanted to read with excellent images to boot. I’m lying ill on a friend’s sofa (never happens!) at the mo and it was great to be transported to Attadale for a wee while. If you’re lucky with the weather, October can be a wonderful month. Speaking as a mountainbiker myself, I’d happily shoot that variety of twat who thinks it’s smart to whizz past walkers as happened to you. It’s no exagerration to say that you could kill or maim someone behaving like that. Walker’s are sometimes intolerant of MTB’ers, but I can understand why when they have this kind of experience.

    Anyway, an irritating episode in what looks to have been a wonderful, remote few days in an outstanding area. No self-portrait tackling Lurg Mhor in your undies then?

  4. Maol-bhuidhe is a fine bothy. The hills there are majestic. I look at the photos and think Northern route on the Challenge yet I am thinking also south out of Oban. Damn I hate choices. Cheers for that James.

  5. You have to love that bridge…

    Ripping stuff and great photos James. We had a similar experience on the TMB just after Refugio Bonatti and a collision with a moronic MTB’er left my hiking bud needing trekking poles to do the rest of the trek. I’m a part-time MTB’er and that incensed me…

  6. I was very lucky with the weather there Alan and relieved to see that the river was low and easy to cross. An area well worth visiting.

    Cheers Steve.

    Hope that you are feeling better soon Pete, not making a nuicance of yourself on your friends sofa I hope? That mountain biker really gave me a fright as I was cocooned in my own little world and had not seen anyone all day. You always get one inconsiderate oath. Sorry no pics of me in my undies on Lurg Mhor, maybe I could set up a seperate blog for that?

    Choices are good Martin, just very difficult to make when there is so much stunning scenery to choose from. I think I am going to go for the middle ground and start at Sheil Bridge, loads of options from there.

    Maz the bridge was a shocker! There was plenty of room for that MTB’er to have given me a wide berth, even better he could have slowed down a bit.

  7. Maol – bhuidhe is one of my favourite bothys – spent 2 nights there ,cutting turf , and listening to the home service – the private resisdence of Pait lodge was not so welcoming – big dogs blocked my path to a footbridge and the people inside refused to come out and call them off – I had to cross the river instead.
    However if the UK ever gets a zombie infestation the people who inhabit Pait lodge should survive – its the most remote house in all of Scotland !!.
    The estate owner of Bendronaig Lodge is a fantastically friendly and entuastic person who keeps that lodge in fine nick at his own expence I beleive.

  8. Hi Keith, I agree that Maol bhuidhe is one of the best bothies, so remote and spectacular scenery. I am always on the look out for a hiding place during the apocalypse. Its not a case of if the zombies take over but when………….

  9. Maol Bhuidhe is a fine bothy … but BEWARE! .. the last time I visited (7/11) an elderly gentleman appears to have taken over the smaller (better) room making it his own space (also he’s a bit of a bore!!) ..this wouldn’t matter so much but in his wisdom(?) he has blocked up the fireplace in the other larger room … this means that if you arrive off the hills wet and cold with coal or fuel you will not get dry or warm unless you negotiate with the old guy!!! Maybe take a crowbar and correct his DIY

    • Hi Gary. I wonder if it is Mike the guy that I met in the bothy. Is it the left hand room (when you walk in) that he has taken over? If it is the same guy does he talk endlessly about doing up bothies, going into great details? It is a bit of a no no taking over space in bothies, not fair on other users who rely on the shelter after a wet and cold day on the hills.

  10. Sounds like it… has an inflated sense of his own importance .. has done some paint work on the bothy and thinks it gives him occupancy rights .. has a big stash of dried food in the corner .. I guess he is homeless and is abusing bothies … really not on as his occupancy and his ‘DIY’ is vastly reducing the potential of the building

    • A shame when people go against the bothy ethos, I did get the impression that I was invading ‘his’ space when I first entered. Hopefully he has now moved on. It really is a lovely wild and remote spot.

  11. Re Patt Lodge..If the dogs are the two I met .. their bark is very much worse than their bite … give them a ‘clap’ and a friendly word and their tails will soon start wagging! the occupents were Ok when I was there … they found me sheltering in the back porch boiling up water for a much needed freeze dried meal… and once they ascertained I wasn’t up to any mischief they were fine, not so the frantic swallow whose nest in the porch roof I seemed to be creating out of bounds … but it is Gods own country ..even if the overflowing burns can be a ball withering nightmare!!!

  12. you lucky beggars we’ve just done the sojourn to Maol Bhuide and it was hell on earth ( apart from warmth!) Keep the dream alive!

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