Monday 28 July 2008

Off path!

The mountain we see in the distance from the sitting room window is called Beinn Dearg. In Gaelic this means red mountain, because sometimes when the sun is setting it lights up the mountain in a warm red glow. We've been meaning to climb it for ages. There has been a week of inactivity in the house (more of that later!) and that combined with the good weather and feeling the need to get out in to the open spaces prompted the decision to put our walking boots on and get going.
We started at Inverlael just on the other side of lochbroom. This way takes you up through forestry commission owned land, up a long monotonous logging track through all sorts of mess and mayhem. As well as logging, there is a hydro electric scheme in the making and improvements being made to the supply of water to Ullapool and district
It didn't take Niels (I won't show him this bit!) long to lose the path and we ended up at a dead end with a concrete and pipe dam construction thing in front of us and a long way to retrace our steps further back down the hill.
But Niels being ever resourceful spotted, (a long way down) a blue rope tied to a tree going across the water which fortunately due to very dry weather conditions wasn't the raging torrent it could have been
Overboard with health and safety
Niels said it all looked very straightforward. We only had to get down the bank, get across the water, pull our selves up on the other side, carry on up the hill - about a mile upwards and we would be back on the path in next to no time! I wonder, does he crash on ahead in these situations because he believes me to be the capable wife? Or, does he simply forget he's taken his wife with him?!
This is my right foot feeling nervous and thinking that at least I have the lunch in my rucksack.
But eventually I made it down the slope on my bottom in a cloud of dust, hung grimly on to the rope, and got to a point on the other side where I could hang on and look up...
... at the mile upwards we still had to go. I'm of the opinion that old people should really stick to the foot paths!
After lots of hanging on to tree stumps and bracken to pull ourselves up, and being bitten by insects we made it out in to the open but the more discerning will notice there wasn't much path to speak of! And more importantly after 2 hours of scrabbling about, Beinn Dearg looked as distant as ever
It was hazy and hot and not the best day to have chosen for views
We walked on across vast tracts of moor which normally would be boggy and have you sinking up to your knees; but which were now dry. The lichens and moss were as dry as dust in places.
After what seemed an age of walking and the mountain only moving the odd half centimeter closer we began to home in
Its amazing that these pretty little flowers survive. They seem too delicate for this harsh environment
And these. When I first came to Scotland I thought this was sheep's wool that had come off and stuck on blades of grass - I probably hadn't got my glasses on! Is it bog myrtle? I thought bog myrtle was a green bush and good at keeping midges off. I suppose you could flap this around in the event of a midge attack?
At last we've got to the base of the imposing summit. It looks very bleak and a little hostile
but even here there are lochs with crystal clear water and a wealth of beetles and dragon flies and other crawly insects
and lots of frogs in all different colours and sizes
You can just see Niels in the distance - he's probably gone to join the quicker party
I (Niels has disappeared by this time) reach the snow line. Beinn Dearg is 1084m high - just a little higher than Snowdon. In parts of the Highlands they have asked people to keep a look out for Ptarmigan, a mountain bird normally found at 750m and above. Climate change is pushing the birds to higher altitudes. I know that Ptarmigan have been seen up here as earlier this spring one of our visitors who did this walk captured photos of them on his mobile phone
The last section of this walk is tough. There is a way up following an old stone wall, but it means climbing up over large rocks and boulders.

It is amazing to go up mountains. However much it hurts and you want to sit down and forget you ever wanted to do it in the first place, it is such a brilliant feeling when you get to the top
And there it is just up there
And that old boy looks familiar
I would replace this cairn with a nice cosy cafe selling steaming hot mugs of tea and huge great slabs of home made cake.
It's an enormous empty area. We met people coming down as we were still coming up! I'm surprised I didn't meet Niels!
I'm not sure but I think this is a bit of very old rock
The cloud is moving in
and it's time to go back down - and I see Niels has already started!

It was a brilliant walk and on the way back down we even found the path!

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