Thursday, 12 October 2017

Scotland September 2017, Days 3 and 4.

The main reason for our trip to Scotland was to backpack and wild camp in order to complete a round of The Fisherfield 5, the most remote Munros (mountains over 3000 feet) in Scotland.  The Fisherfield Forest has an alternative name of The Great Wilderness of Scotland and also has, allegedly, the worst bog in Scotland.  To make matters worse it is guarded by river crossings of which the guide book has to say: in spate these rivers can trap the unwary!  A daunting prospect in good, settled weather, but in the prevailing conditions we held out little hope of success.  Nonetheless we opted to 'go and have a look'!!!  The support team dropped the four of us off at the beginning of a landrover track which led up through the beautifully wooded Gleann Chaorachain with the sound of the river thundering through its gorge to our left.  The weather, however, was optimistic at this point with the sun putting in an appearance and lowering clouds looking as if they might clear from An Teallach towering above us.  Soon we left the trees behind us and climbed steeply past impressive waterfalls to pull up to the high point of our walk in.  Here we left the landrover track and followed an ever fainter and increasingly boggy path across the shoulder of An Teallach before descending steeply to the bothy at Shenavall with excellent, if murky, views into the Fisherfield Forest and our campsite for the night.  We were still full of hope at this point and the weather looked as if it might not be too bad so we pressed onto the river.  At this juncture the wheels came off. Despite wandering up and down the river and getting our boots full of water in the process, we could find no possible crossing point without having to swim.  What should have been an ankle deep paddle at the crossing point had turned into a waist deep swirling current.  Although  disappointing and frustrating, it was not entirely unexpected; at least we didn't have to face the bog!!!  We opted to return to the bothy and, if necessary, put up the tents for the night.  In the event the heavens opened and we decided to retreat into the bothy which, for the time, we had to ourselves.  This was no hardship for me as this remote croft is well-known in mountaineering circles and in 1950 the famous mountaineer/explorer, W.H.Murray, stayed here while he made a winter traverse of An Teallaich; the bothy being in much the same condition as his description.

During the night I have never known such rain, the noise exacerbated by the fact that we were sleeping underneath the tin roof.  We felt ourselves fortunate that we hadn't managed to cross the river.  Early the next morning when I went out we were surrounded by red deer, what a beautiful experience.  After breakfast we packed and then went to have a look at the nearby loch where the river entered - we should have needed a boat to cross!!!  What a stunning situation this was, though, surrounded by magnificent mountains and the furthest from a road it was possible to get anywhere in the country and the most remote ordnance survey grid square.  Wilderness indeed.  At the loch I had a most enjoyable time studying and photographing an amazing moss and lichen covered bog pine, perhaps thousands of years old.  Eventually there was only one thing remaining: a very wet and boggy walk out and when we we finally got a phone signal to ring for the cavalry to come and pick us up.

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