Wrong!!!


'In Glen Lochay'

'In Glen Lochay'

As we walked back along the track in Glen Lochay last Sunday afternoon, we met a chap who was looking for his wife.  They’d been descending from Beinn Heasgarnich and had somehow drifted apart.  At this very minute Nita spotted a loan figure on the hillside close to the path about half a kilometre ahead …and after a check with the monocular it turned out to be the lady in question.  The gentleman set off to catch her up and later we met them sat on a rock discussing which of them had taken the correct route and which had not!  The wonders of navigation?!

HOWEVER, ……we could not feel smug about these folks minor predicament.  Far from it in fact.  We were at the time returning from our own much larger piece of navigational bungling.

Now then, you may be reading this and imagining this was one of those typical grey, misty, wet and windy west highlands days and under such circumstances a few errors in route finding can perhaps be accepted.  But to my shame, I have to report that this was the finest day of the year so far.  There wasn’t a cloud in the sky,  there wasn’t even any haze …the air clarity was superb and the mountain stood out clear and beautiful.

 

'In Glen Lochay'

'In Glen Lochay'

Our plan,(not even patched together, more like plucked out of the air at about 11 pm on Saturday evening) was to drive to the end of the road in Glen Lochay and then walk Creag Mhor.  This hill along with its neighbour Beinn Heasgarnich are two of the Munroe’s in the southern Highlands that we’ve yet to walk, but I’d previously checked them out in the guides and seemed to remember them being relatively straight forward….no problem on what was to be a clear and beautiful day.  To make matters worse we changed our start time back an hour ….we’d both been working all day on Saturday and were working again on Monday.

'In Glen Lochay'

'In Glen Lochay'

So then, there we were after our late rise and a fairly long drive, setting off on our walk at about half past ten.  The glen looked stunning in the bright sunshine and the hills looked amazing. We’d realised that morning that we’d not got a large scale map of the area …only the usual 1: 50000 Land ranger maps …and Creag Mhor sits right on the edge of two of them!  Even with my magnifier I struggle to see these and am normally organised enough to print up enlarged sections of the route ….but of course didn’t bother this time …Nita could see the map.

To be honest I’m really not quite sure how we went wrong.  We had to walk 5 km along the glen and then ascend steep slopes to gain Sron nan Eun, and from there follow a path along the ridge to the summit.  We’d decided simply to return the same way.  Instead, we walked beyond Sron nan Eun and tackled the much steeper and very craggy Sail Dhubh.  I can only put it down to the fact that on top of our lack of planning and preparation we were just taken up with the beauty of the situation.  We’d only been in the glen once before and that was on a rather grey day …and on that occasion we’d only walked a couple of  kilometres before crossing the River Lochay and heading up Sgiath Chuil.  On Sunday as we walked up the glen we had amazing views of Ben Challum looking steep and dramatic and with patches of snow higher up.  It was just wonderful and navigation was the last thing on our minds!

Not that alarm bells weren’t starting to ring in my head …we’d taken much longer to do the 5 km than I’d estimated and I certainly had no recollection of there being any mention in the guide book about unduly steep ground and the need to find a way through large crags!  Indeed, as we approached these very dramatic crags it appeared that the only way up was to tackle a fairly long and wet looking gully that disappeared up into deep shade.  This was certainly not what I’d had in mind and was rather too severe for me …and at the base of the gully I sat down and refused to go any further!  Nita said she’d go and take a look and after a short time she returned to say that it ended in a wet and slippery bit of rock.  Apparently there was a way around it by traversing out on a grassy ledge but she said she’d not guide me up that …to which I replied that I’d not go even if she did want to take me!  And so that was it, we moved into the sun and just sat down to enjoy the wonderful location.  We certainly weren’t going to get to the top now.  In times like this when you just know you’ve dropped a clanger, it’s time to get the GPS out and find out exactly where you are and exactly how big a clanger it is you’ve dropped.  As clangers go, well, this was of epic proportions …we were on the wrong bit of the hill completely!

'In Glen Lochay'

'In Glen Lochay'

I guess that if you’re going to get lost then it’s best to do so on a beautiful spring day with lots of hours of day light and this rather amusing episode only goes to show that you must never become complacent when it comes to the hills.  With us heading up to Assynt shortly, this was a timely reminder that we need to tighten up our procedures again and not get lulled into a false sense of security by a warm clear day and a fine forecast.

Despite all this, we had a wonderful day.  We saw a little bit of Scotland we’d not seen before and off course we saw no other walkers for much of the day …no one else would have been stupid enough to go that way!

Photos by Anita Groves

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