Thursday, 12 April 2012

In the shadow of the Grey Corries

The last time I camped out in the highlands of Scotland was in Knoydart, and I had just returned from Spain cycling the Camino with my friend Pauline.

That was October 2010!!!

So it was long overdue that I packed my rucksack and headed out into the wilds. Just a few weeks ago I had trekked the short but fabulous wildcat trail with my friend Andrew, and it was with his great company again that we ventured out for a 2-day overnight adventure.

Our start point was the remote highland rail station of Corrour. A number of miles before Corrour the train passed by Bridge of Orchy and we sat in silence staring out of the window at several inches of fresh snow. We hadn't planned for this!

However, though Corrour is much higher than Bridge of Orchy, the snow cover was confined to the tops of the surrounding mountains.

From Corrour we headed north to Loch Trieg through very changeable weather and resigned ourselves to walking in our waterproofs for the rest of the day.

The surrounding mountains were glorious and looked all the more impressive as their craggy slopes were picked out in snow. After less than an hour we had reached Loch Trieg and had set this as our lunch stop. As we unpacked the Baby Bel cheese and trail mix we met David, the owner of a North Face tent pitched nearby.

As we chatted away it slowly came out that David, probably in his mid to late 50s, had given up what we call normal life and had lived in his tent in the highlands of Scotland for, wait for it, the past 4 years! Now, last year I lived in a tent for 150 days but that was in glorious dry weather mostly in the USA, and my friend Pauline is still out in the wider world in her tent, clocking up 20 months so far, but Scotland for 4 years!? I couldn't see me managing that. To cap it all David has a heart condition, a serious one at that.

We were impressed to say the least. I asked him if he missed anything after all this time, and he said he didn't, but it was clear as time went on he was trying to keep the conversation going as long as possible. We had a few hours walking still ahead of us before our camp for the night so unfortunately we had to leave. He's still out there right now. I hope he is well.
By late afternoon and under heavy skies, we reached a small bothy in a valley called Larig Leacach, in the shadow of the mighty Grey Corries. The pointed peak of Stob Ban was clearly visible in the late evening sunset.

The following morning we woke early to glorious blue skies, peppered with white cloud. After breakfast we struck our tents and planned our route up nearby Stob Ban. However, by now the weather was once again changeable, and squalls of rain and snow kept sweeping through at regular intervals. We decided that there was too much snow on Stob Ban for us to reach the summit, so instead we left our packs in the bothy and walked to the summit of its shoulder.

There were spectacular views from there to the snow capped ridges of the Mammores and further south to Glencoe.
It was a real pity that the snow cover looked too unpredictable and the weather too changeable that it prevented us from reaching the ridge of the Grey Corries. It has been well over a decade since I trekked its impressive ridge with Pauline.

Lunch over back down at the bothy we set off north along good landrover track to catch our train home from Spean Bridge. Mother nature hadn't quite finished with us yet though, as a loud and impressive thunderstorm came through when we were only half way out.

As for the Grey Corries. They will have to wait until another day.

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