A thousand shades of brown in the far north

by backpackingbongos

There is a certain amount of relief in Reuben’s eyes as he lays in his bed this evening.  Finally a day when he is not dragged up a wind-swept mountain or up to his belly in bog.  The car is outside cooling down after a 1,193 mile round trip to Sutherland in the far north of Scotland.  I shudder to think what the final petrol bill is.

A total of eight days were spent backpacking among some really wild and empty landscapes, with an atmosphere totally unique to the far north.  The autumn colours are at their peak up there, I did not realise that it was possible to get so many different shades of brown.  The autumn light shining on all those yellows, reds and browns resulted in a real treat for the eyes.

Two backpacks were done in the company of Pete and our dogs Reuben and Dougal.  On our third backpack we were joined by his wife Fiona (aka TLF).  Three different backpacks enabled us to explore and experience three very different landscapes.  A photograph and a few words from each:

We started off by heading for three days into the vast Ben Armine Forest.  This is a huge sprawling area of high moorland that reminded me of the Monadhliath mountains.  We climbed to the summit of Ben Armine itself which is reputed to be the most remote Graham (for non hill baggers this is a hill between 2000ft and 2500ft).  The view from the top was breathtaking, with the Flow Country laid out at our feet.   The photo above is from the Bealach Easach looking towards Loch a Bhealaich.

Our second backpack saw us heading across the Flow Country itself.  This is a land of huge skies and it was slightly unnerving heading across what felt like an endless bog.  The reward was a lovely bothy at the end of the day.  The photo above is of Pete making use of the argocat track that thankfully went in our direction for a couple of miles.

Our final backpack was for three days amongst the rugged peaks of Assynt.  This is a real primeval landscape, the raw bones of the earth being thrust high into the sky.  The map is a chaos of contours, rocks and lochans begging to be explored.  Thankfully the weather was kind enough to let us climb high and enjoy the views.  The photo above was taken on the ascent of Beinn Leoid.  The Stack of Glencoul is in the middle distance with the mighty Quinag on the horizon.

As time allows I will put up three separate trip reports.  In the meantime I will leave you with my impression of a new bit of gear I took along.  I wore a brand new pair of ‘proper’ leather walking boots.  Eight days of wading through some of the sloppiest ground imaginable and my feet remained dry, comfortable and blister free.  I also did not fall over once.  Was that a deep intake of breath from the back?

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35 Comments to “A thousand shades of brown in the far north”

  1. There was that time when you slid gracefully to the horizontal when we were descending towards Glendhu though, Mr Boulter. Not really ‘falling over’, I suppose, more of a ‘effortlessly and unexpectedly achieving a reclining posture’.

    Great pics, looking forward to your tales of the far north

    • Technically it is not falling over unless your bottom touches the ground. I was peat skiing but I got the parallel turn wrong………..

  2. ooooh…looking forward to those trip reports. Salivating in anticipation in fact…what a brilliant part of the world!

  3. Boots? Oh no. You’re never going to hear the end of this on Twitter…

  4. It’s the way forward, honest, those on twitter just don’t know it yet.

  5. Very nice. Get writing. Most envies. As for boots. We like you so we wont mention it any more 😉

  6. LOL Nowt wrong with boots! I use em – in winter at least. Big proper leather ones, too. Can’t beat it for marching through snow etc. Look forward to the trip reports mate 🙂

  7. Old Skool James, red socks and breeches soon 😉

    What are they then?

  8. That’s the week’s reading sorted then. Get to it! No rest for the wicked.

  9. Ooh, proper ‘roughie-toughie hillwalker boots! Whatever next? Breeches?

    I love the far north of our wee country and look forward to reading your trip reports.

  10. I’m with you on the boots – tried some fabric KSBs years ago, but soon went back to my good old leather ones. There’s no excuse for wet feet these days! Pictures look great, hope there’s going to be some of Reuben putting up the tent etc now he’s carrying his share of the gear?

  11. And the jealousy rises ever more… Looks like you had a fine time there Mr Boulter.

    As for boots, I’ll happily admit to loving and using my Scarpa SL’s. Equally, my fell shoes are great for walking in too. It’s just a case of assessing things on the day, and also whether I can be bothered to deal with wet feet or not.

    • Both are good Charlie, it all depends on the ground conditions, temperature etc. At the end of the day its about getting out into the hills and having a good time!

  12. An area I know little about so looking forward to looking forward to the reports – looks amazing, wild and lonely territory.

    I’m afraid I’m old school, leather boots for me in all but the driest conditions – hate having wet feet – mind you finding a decent pair these days is pretty hard without re-mortgaging the house. I used to have a pair of corduroy breeches back in the old days of the 80’s, boy did I get the pish taken.

    • Get some photos on your blog Andy of you modeling your breeches, I’m sure that they looked fine! We backpacked in an amazing area – trip report up later this week.

      • Maybe, maybe! I have a whole host of old photos I plan to scan and post about to embarrass my mates and me. Just as a taster, one of them used to wear – I kid you not – lemon-yellow leg-warmers when out on the hills.

  13. Proper boots…dry feet…have you ‘seen the light’?
    Look forward to the reports.

  14. Ben Armine, thats impressive, I’ve been putting that two Grahams off for a long while. With the pic of Beinn Leoid, I’m thinking you had a stay in Glencoul bothy?

    • Ben Armine is a rather remote spot David, miles from anywhere. Unfortunately we did not manage the other Graham as darkness was approaching. We did stay at Glencoul, another fine spot.

  15. Great stuff James. Having just recently had a first taste of the far north I can’t wait to see your more detailed accounts and all the photos. It really is an incredible, wild and beautiful landscape. I’m very eager to get back up there with the tent and it looks like some of your routes will be ripe for pilfering 😉

  16. Hi James

    Thanks for all your accounts etc, jealous you have so much time to get away. I have told my kids there leaving home at sixteen lol. So yes your accounts are keeping my sanity…….cheers

    Stuart(we meet at Cougie on the TGO,i asked if you had a staffie called Ruben)

    • Hi Stuart thanks for popping in to the blog. Having a child free household does mean that we can pretty much choose what to do with our spare time, which is nice! (I don’t have any more holidays than the average chap though). Hope that you have finally dried out after the TGO Challenge?!

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