Six weeks on from the move, and we're probably now at a point (with us both working - albeit part-time for me) where reality sinks in and the holiday feeling leaves. And yet we talked about it yesterday and both agreed that life up here is just lovely, we feel right at home and we can't see ourselves ever moving back down south. But who knows what the future holds?
Any, living in the present, we headed out for a first "proper" hill day on Saturday, Rufus in the care of Russell the dogwalker for the day!
On Thursday, after much speculation, they announced the location for this year's LAMM...and it was only 30 miles up the road from us, starting at Inverlael Farm. It seemed opportune to go and do the circuit of the four "Beinn Dearg" munros and, at the same time, enjoy watching LAMMers heading all over the hillsides in search of flags and dibbers!
It dawned a beautiful morning, and we were parked up not long after 9am, having seen various groups being driven out on buses to start their LAMM at locations up near Loch Glascarnoch. Some started at Inverlael, and the last few were just setting off as we headed into the forests. Before setting off, we headed over to the start field to see if we could pick up a map - it'd be good practice to follow the courses at some point. A very kind marshall supplied us with 2 laminated maps....plenty to keep us going and I've already spent considerable time poring over it!
It was warm as we trotted the initial path in bright sunshine, through the forest. We emerged on the other side, and followed the path almost all the way to Lochan a Cnapaich before heading north-east up onto the summit plateau, where plenty of people were dibbing at the summit. A wonderful view from the summit, taking in the Fannaichs to the south, An Teallach standing majestically to the west. Beyond that, the hills of Torridon could be picked out, as could the Fisherfield Six and Slioch. The the north-west, the magnificent Sutherland monoliths stood in all their glory - Stac Pollaidh, Cul Beag, Cul Mor, Suilven, Canisp and Quinag. And, closer at hand, there were fantastic views across to the remote munro of Seana Braigh.
Having taken in the views, we headed down south-east to the bealach, passing plenty of LAMMers on the score event going the other way, before turning south-west and making our way through rocky crags to the second munro of the day, Meall nan Ceapraichean. As we did so, I spotted a ptarmigan close to us amongst the rocks. It made no move, despite our close proximity. We found out why a few seconds later, as 3 tiny ptarmigan chicks trotted out from behind a rock close by! At this, the mother turned agressive (as far as you can when you're a ptarmigan!) and flew towards us then started making as much noise as possible, following us until we were well away from her babies! What a wonderful privilege to see them.
Beyond them, a wee bit of rock-hopping brought us to the top (and another LAMM dibber). Again, wonderful panoramic views, with the cliffs of Beinn Dearg now prominent (together with the incredible "destitution wall" which runs along the ridge.
From there, it was quite a drop down to the lochans below Cona Mheall. It was a tough slog up there, through shattered screes near the top, to a summit which lays bare the whole, wild landscape of this area. The coire between it and Beinn Dearg must be one of the finest in Scotland, the ridge coming up from the south-east looks terrifyingly narrow with precipitous drops on both sides.
We returned to the lochans and headed across to the wall which runs up through rough, scrambly ground almost to the summit of Beinn Dearg. We both enjoyed a little use of our hands as we toiled our way up, then emerged onto the vast summit plateau of this big mountain.
By now, the weather was starting to change and rain showers could be seen all around. Cloud was lowering as well and we didn't hesitate in making our way off down the ridge, following the wall. It's rough going though, very little chance to run, and progress was slow initially. Eventually we dropped down to a flat section, where steep, heathery slopes to our right led us down to the main path through the valley. In increasingly heavy rain, we trotted down, enjoying the chance to stretch our legs but feeling slightly fatigued from a rough day out.
We got back to the car and dived for cover, sparing a thought for those still out there or still setting up tents at the midway camp. They were in for a rough night. The rain was very heavy as we drove back, to our beautiful house, a warm fire, homemade Thai curry...and chips! All washed down with a Glencoe stout, the perfect end to a perfect day!