Archive for May 18th, 2012

May 18, 2012

Mist and peat bogs on Carn na Coinnich

by backpackingbongos

My luck with the weather finally expired on our last day in Strathconon.  Corrina elected once more to stay at the cottage whilst I headed out with Reuben down the glen under leaden skies.  As we pulled up outside the empty chapel, rain was being blown across the glen on an increasing breeze.  The chapel itself is up for sale and would make a brilliant place to live if it could be converted.  Details here and it is a steal at £90,000.

7.6 miles with 640 metres ascent

I had read that the bridge over the river Meig at this point is often locked.  I pulled on a full set of waterproofs and walked over to have a look.  There is a gate at one end of the bridge and I noticed a padlock, although thankfully on this occasion it was unlocked.  I went back to get Reuben and set off across the rather long and wobbly suspension bridge.  It is only three planks of wood wide and it sways about as you cross.  I turned around and noticed that Reuben had frozen after only a couple of metres.  It took a bit of coaxing to get him across, with legs splayed and belly close to the wooden planks.

Once across it was easy walking along a wide vehicle track to the small hamlet that surrounds Dalbreac lodge.

We followed another track that branched off to the right and slowly began to climb across open moorland.  There were huge numbers of deer here, standing as still as statues watching our every move.  Then suddenly in unison they all turned tail, running across the hill until out of sight.

There was a permanence to the clouds as I put my head down and started the long climb, the path marked on my map actually being a track.  The views back down the glen were not as inviting as they had been on previous days.

The track levelled out on the 600 metre contour amid a sombre landscape of deep heather, black peat bogs and grey rock.  I could see the summit of Carn na Coinnich across some wet and formidable looking peat hags, mist teasing the summit.  I made a nest with Reuben among the wet heather to eat lunch just as wet snow flakes started to appear out of the leaden sky.

Lunch did not last very long as we were both soon cold and shivering.  The peat hags were crossed, not being as bad as they first looked.  With firmer ground reached it was a short sharp climb up the hill.  North of the summit was a terrible mess of tussocks and boggy pools.  With the mist drifting in front of us on a cold keen wind I don’t think I have ever visited somewhere so desolate.

The summit itself was easy to find, the trig point being located on a small rocky outcrop.  It was not a place to linger with the damp air beginning to take its toll on my waterproofs.

The plan was to aim for Loch Gruamach, inconveniently located on a separate OS Explorer map.  This made navigating awkward in the mist and I was glad of a brief parting of the clouds which enabled me to confirm that I was on track.

The walking along the shores of the loch was slow and torturous through oozing black peat hags, wind blowing curtains of mist across the water.  I was thankful when we crested a low ridge and began the descent down rough slopes towards a path marked on the map.  Unfortunately the path did not exist and we crossed swampy ground to get near the infant stream.  Following the right bank a series of deer trails were picked up, easing progress through the deep heather.  Thankfully the sky brightened for a while revealing the hills on the other side of Strathconon, lifting my mood which had began to stagnate.

The deer trails through the heather came and went, either being swallowed up in the bogs or branching off up the hillside.  I spotted a cairn down steep slopes toward the river and set off hoping it was marking a path.  It did not and I cursed to myself as I now could not be bothered to climb back up the hill.  Instead we followed a feint animal track across the steep hillside, high above the tumbling stream as it entered a gorge like section.  Not a place to slip on the wet, greasy vegetation.

Picking up the main deer trail at the corner of a plantation I was amazed at how much the deer had mashed up the ground.  They had created a wide track of deep gloopy mud which was almost impossible to walk along.  I slithered about cursing whilst trying to reach the edge of a steep drop and what looked like dry ground.  I was pleased to find that it was actually a long abandoned track and I made my way down with ease into the main glen.

We were soon back at the bridge, which Reuben crossed this time without as much hesitation.

I drove the few miles back to our cottage at the head of the glen.  Corrina confirmed that it had been bright there for most of the day, the hills largely free of cloud.  It just goes to show how localised the weather can be in the Highlands.  A shame that the last day in lovely Strathconon had been spent battling across a peat hagged landscape covered in mist!