Sunday, 18 October 2009

Achnashellach to Strathcarron via Coire Fionn

The forecast for the weekend looked promising, and so myself, Pauline and Andrew decided to make our way north on the Friday afternoon. We changed trains at Inverness and took the Kyle of Lochalsh train, but alighted at Dingwall, where we stayed in a campsite for the first night.

It was in this campsite, around 8pm, that the most bizarre and most strange event played out before our eyes. As we stared across the campsite and up at the ever-increasing visible stars in the darkening sky, with Andrew pointing out Mars, an event occurred which none of us can convincingly explain.
A series of around eight very bright lights, flashing on and off very quickly, crossed the sky in what appeared to be some sort of fixed formation. However, this formation looked to be many miles apart and yet remained perfectly fixed in relation to each other. It was also traveling at some colossal speed across the sky, north to south.

We did try to explain it away as aircraft, and though this was already a stretch of the imagination, there was one other fact against it; there was no sound from these "eight aircraft"! There is nothing more to add. We have no photographs, only our combined witnesses of the event to tell the story.

It was a cold night, and we awoke early to frost on the tents and low mist on the surrounding fiends as the sun started to rise and defrost the countryside. It was a stunning morning and we headed out of Dingwall on the first train, to the start of our trek in at Achnashellach, a request stop on the train.

The train had no sooner departed than myself and Andrew spotted a small sign pointing the way to a tea room. Not just any tea room mind you, but one that sold hot-buttered toasted crumpets! It was impossible to resist, and impossible for Pauline to persuade us otherwise. And they were superb, a perfect start to the day. What could be better? Perhaps another round of hot-buttered crumpets!? And so it was that andrew and I added to our waistline.

Finally, after much whining, we headed off up the glen following the course of the River Lair, with spectacular scenery reminiscent of north America, and in particular, Yosemite. The sun was shining and everything was resplendent in it's autumn colours. In the distance we could hear the bellowing calls of the rutting stags.

This was the last weekend of the stalking season, but even so, we had to stick to the rights of way for Saturday, aiming to climb the mountain Maol Chean-dearg on the Sunday when it is possible to climb the peaks during stalking season.
As we came over the first bealach at the head of the glen we were rewarded with stunning views across to Liatach and Ben Alligin
in the Torridon range. It was a fantastic walk in, and by 5pm, after about six hours, we pitched our base camp, ready for our climb up the neighbouring rocky peak the following morning, the surrounding mountains now turning orange in the fading light.

At least that was the plan.

During the night the wind started to gather strength, and continued to do so, gusting gale force at times. There was
no sleep to be had this night, and the stags in the area kept up their bellowing calls all night as well. All three of us regularly checked our guys on the tents to make sure we were not going to take off during the night. At around three in the morning, the main front moved across, and the heavens opened!

We all decided to abandoned the attempt on the climb, and stayed in out tents until around 9.30am. It was clear it was not going to abate for some time yet, so we made the move, struck camp, and headed off toward Strathcarron down Coire Fionn.

With the wind behind us we made good progress, and by midday we were out of the rain and the wind, and the skies were clearing. It was too late for our summit, as our train out of the area was at 4pm. On our final leg to Strathcarron Andrew had one more piece of entertainment for us; miraculously, on passing an ankle-high twig, he managed to catch one of his gaitors in such a way, it whipped it clean off his leg and left it dangling in mid-air (the gaitor that is, not his leg!).
You had to be there to see the hilarity of the situation, and
the impossible nature of what had happened. It would have taken him a good deal longer to physically remove the other one himself, yet this happened in the blink of an eye!

During the thirty minutes between our train connection in Inverness back to Edinburgh, we indulged in pizza!

Another fabulous weekend in the Scottish Highlands, thanks to Pauline's organisation. Never a disappointment with my two best friends (I have to say that; they read this blog!).

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