Friday 5th July 2013
Weather/Conditions: A day of cloud lifting gently above the summits, and eventually sun. Bit non-descript on Gairich, dull and misty.
Distance/Ascent/Time: 11.1km / 1150m / 4h 45m
15.1km / 900m / 6h 20m
Accompanying: First pair with Andy, Gairich in the evening with Liam
In most conditions, it feels a gently hostile place. In bad weather, it could be frightening. But on my visits in the last week, I feel I've come to know the area so well. Kinloch Hourn no longer feels as isolated as it used to. An understanding of the place goes a long way. But even then it's hard to shake off the stark emptiness, the drowned shooting lodges, the stray rhododendrons that are the lodge's only visible remains. A walk by the loch shore showes masses of felled pine stumps. You get a feeling that this place must have looked so different once.
In the morning, Andy and I climbed Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach, a day of cloud lifting gently above the summits. The path up Gleouraich is pretty spectacular, and we headed up to the summit in lifting cloud and eventually sun. It, and Spidean Mialach were simple hills to do - a lot of character, but not a lot in the way of complication. Just two more off the list, and two that I climbed a few years ago and hadn't been back to since.
But all morning, Gairich was over my shoulder. For the benefit of the schedule, it would have to be done today. Dougie and I had missed it out of the Knoydart trip and I'd have to go back for it - it's not a short walk either...
So once off the hill, Andy headed for home. Soon after he drove off, Liam appeared up the Kinlochhourn road to join me for the next bit. We cooked up some food in an area out of the wind, and headed off up Gairich at 5pm. We met a guy at the car park, who asked if we were heading up. "Yes", and then he checked his watch and pulled that face of "bit late, no?". Hehe...
Well, we had 5 or 6 hours before darkness really came on. It was a good walk, but long and boggy, up the long arm by Loch Quoich. I wonder if this hill would have been a lot easier before the valley was flooded by the dam. I'm not sure, but it's often the case that Highland hydro schemes have flooded the area and cut off access to the mountains. If a ferry service operated on these shores as they do on Loch Mullardoch, Sgurr na Ciche would be an easy day out! Gairich would be a much easier mountain (and probably more satisfying) if you went direct across the water in a kayak.
We got to the top of Gairich in semi-gloom and in mist. The summit was gained, and I'd be happy to get down and get to bed. I was feeling pretty tired by this point, as Liam was quick to realise - I didn't say much on the last stretch, just the occasional grunt and reply.
My original plan for the following day was to do the ten Mamores, and then Gulvain the following day. But the weather forecast suggested I switch these days, and thus it was a relief to have a short day (Gulvain) to follow instead of the Mamores, which is a monster 10-Munro link-up.
So much of the Munro Round is about piling on the pressure when there's an advantage to be exploited, and trying to ease the pressure when the time isn't right (due to bad weather or fatigue, usually). By relenting the pressure on the Gulvain day, I could prepare for the Mamores the following day which would no doubt take a lot from my system again.
Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich
(0.00) 9.40am Parking
(1.55) 11.35pm Gleouraich
(2.40) 12.20pm Creag Coire na Fiar Bhealaich
(3.30) 1.10pm Spidean Mialach
(4.45) 2.25pm Parking
(0.00) 5.10pm Cuaich dam
(3.45) 8.55pm Gairich
(6.20) 11.30pm Cuaich dam