Frost, Sunburn and a Free Map on the Affric Kintail Way

May 12, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

I posted this walk report on the popular Walkhighlands.co.uk website last year under the pseudonym CrampyChris.... I thought I might as well share it here too.

Having walked into Knoydart the previous spring with my pal Bob, we had decided on another spring trip and we eventually settled on the recently opened Affric Kintail Way.  It was decided to walk it over a leisurely four days between Thursday 16th April and Sunday the 19th April 2015. On the Thursday morning we left very early and dropped a car off at the Ranger station at Morvich. After speaking to a very helpful guy who was with a Rangers work party, he gave us the all clear to leave a car there and took a note of the route that we were taking and when we were due back. He told us that it was the official opening ceremony of the Affric Kintail Way on Friday - that did not bother us as Bob and I reckoned that the ceremony would be miles from wherever we would be on the 44 mile route......

We parked at Drumnadrochit about eleven and then headed off out of the town and into the woods. At the first Affric Kintail sign, beside a magnificent redwood tree, we high tailed it up the hill - at this point Bob realised that it was the wrong route, so we had to double back and rejoin the route - lost in the first half hour!  

This was a pleasant walk on good tracks through the forest and I realised that my heavy boots were probably not the best choice for this walk and I would wear lighter ones next time! After passing the wee settlement of Shenval we eventually hit the main road and both of us stomped along accompanied by the sounds of chainsaws in the woods! The verge was good on this road so you could get out of the way of oncoming traffic - I suspect that this verge will become a fairly decent path in time.

By tea time, we had reached the village of Cannich and the low cloud that had hung about all day had broken and it was nice and sunny. Reaching the campsite and after speaking to the friendly owner we got our tents set up and then high tailed it to the Slater's Arms for a bite to eat and beer! The food and drink went down well and after a few more beers and a wee single malt nightcap, it was time to retire to the campsite - as soon as I had zipped myself into my sleeping bag, I was out like a light.

I was woken up very early by a magnificent dawn chorus, it was fabulous, it was very loud and there were so many different participants. It felt like all the songbirds in the world had gathered together and they were all singing above my tent! After listening to it for a while I drifted back off to sleep... I awoke again to find it was about 10am - the night cap was very effective... So after having breakfast and packing up our tents, we left the camp site, sheepishly, at mid-day

It was a lovely afternoon leaving Cannich and the sun was out as we followed the woodland path towards Glen Affric. Eventually emerging out of the woods and heading down the hill towards Dog Falls, I had realised it was getting cloudy again and we decided to stop there for a quick snack. We had noticed a guy with a camera standing there, and he had a proper camera, two in fact and he looked professional... As I took the first bite of my Pepperami a load of vehicles turned up with people in it, Bob and I both realised that this was something to do with the opening ceremony when Cameron McNeish (a well known outdoor writer and broadcaster) jumped out and started walking to the bridge with a crowd of folks - I took this sneaky picture.

Affric Kintail Way opening partyThe Affric Kintail Way opening partyThe inevitable happened :)

Sitting at our bench trying to keep our heads down, a couple of people came over talk to us and ask us if we were walking the route. When we answered yes, they went away and came back with more people who are involved with this route and the opening ceremony. I was handed the excellent Harvey Maps XT40 Affric and Kintail map which, I was told was "hot of the press" - I think it was maybe Mrs Harvey herself who handed it to me! Bob and I then had our picture taken by the man who runs the website and he posted our picture on their facebook page - I need to practice smiling...

After we said our goodbyes and after I managed to straighten my face back up, the opening party took off over the bridge, for another picture opportunity up the hill. After all this excitement, we headed off up the hill and trudged on until we reached the viewpoint of the way ahead.

The view ahead to Glen AffricThe view ahead to Glen AffricA great view but a pity about the low light

Bob Marches aheadMarching onwardBob marches on why I try (and fail) to take a decent picture!

After finishing stage two of the walk, we did not go to the car park but headed further up Glen Affric looking for a place to camp. Passing the lodge, I quickly realised that the loch was fenced off and at the height that we were, there appeared little opportunity for camping spots due to the healthy heather and bumpy ground. Eventually a suitable camping spot was found by a burn (stream) and it was a relief to be able to pitch our tents. I had been hoping for something a bit closer to the loch for some sunrise photo opportunities, but by this time, I was just relieved to have found somewhere to sleep in good time and lochside sunrise photos would just have to wait for another time. We pitched the tents, had our food and I got a couple of shots in of the fairly disappointing sunset before retiring for the night.

Wild Camping in Glen AffricWild Camping in Glen AffricTents pitched + food eaten + sun setting = bedtime!

I awoke around 1am with my big nose and face freezing cold, I stuck my head out of my tent and realising that the tent was covered in frost, I then looked up at the sky and was instantly mesmerised by the stars. It was fantastic, it was crystal clear in the cold air and as my eyes adjusted, I first thought that there were clouds obscuring the stars, until I realised that the clouds were actually clouds of stars and I could even see beyond these star clouds to the stars behind them - it was incredible. I considered for a second setting up my tripod outside and taking pictures with my tent lit up from within, but I decided instead to just enjoy the view before eventually zipping up my tent and going back to sleep.

Waking at first light and unzipping my tent, I could see the thick layer of frost on the tent - this picture gives a good idea of how frosty it was!

A frost covered tentA frost covered tentFrosty morning in Glen Affric I hang out of the tent in my sleeping bag and fired up my stove which, was pretty sluggish in the cold, but I eventually boiled up enough water for some coffee and porridge. Bob was still sleeping in his tent so I decided to venture out with my camera to see what pictures could be taken, just as the sun was starting to break over the hill. I quickly realised that where we had camped was ideal for photos in the morning; if we had camped lower down we would have seen nothing due to the mist hanging over Loch Affric. Last night I had been disappointed but now I was delighted as the setting and timing was now perfect to capture the sunrise.

Glen AffricGlen AffricWe wild camped in Glen Affric and after a frosty starlit night I awoke to a glorious morning Here comes the sunHere comes the sunEarly morning in the beautiful Glen Affric as the sun rises above the hill and illuminates the trees and mist. Sgurr na Lapaich from Glen AffricSgurr na Lapaich from Glen AffricA beautiful frosty morning in Glen Affric Sunrise in Glen AffricSunrise in Glen AffricThe sun peaks over the hill illuminating the ancient Caledonian Pines
By the time I had finished running about like an excited child with my camera, Bob had awakened and was finishing his breakfast. We spent a while defrosting our tents in the sunlight before packing them up (still wet) and heading off.

We set off a bit later than expected but, this stage seemed quite short so the delay was not a problem. As we marched onwards looking over Loch Affric, the sun got warmer and it was quickly realised that the forecast for cloud was not going to happen, it was a beautiful still and sunny day and the loch was like a mirror. As I like to take photos I winced a bit at having to march on and not stop, as I could have spent all day here taking pictures - I will be back, but I will be lucky if it is like this again! We kept walking down Loch Affric - the pictures are below...

Walking in Glen AffricWalking in Glen AffricYou can see the young trees growing here in the foreground. Glen Affric is fenced off so Deer and sheep cannot get in. This is allowing the ancient forests to regenerate and renew.

Marching along  Glen AffricMarching along Glen AffricWalking above the loch on a hot April morning

Loch Affric, like a mirrorLoch Affric, like a mirrorHaving to walk on when I really wanted to go down and take pictures. I hope to return someday.

At the end of Loch Affric, we eventually caught site of Strawberry Cottage.

Strawberry Cottage in Glen AffricStrawberry Cottage in Glen AffricStrawberry Cottage is owned by The An Teallach Mountaineering Club and is a hut at Athnamulloch in Glen Affric Near Strawberry Cottage, we took of our boots and soaked our hot feet in the cold river whilst eating lunch. With fresh socks and booted back up, we crossed the bridge at the cottage to upper Glen Affric. After climbing a rise, the route ahead confronted us.

Halfway to AltbeitheHalfway to AltbeitheAfter crossing the bridge at Strawberry Cottage, we reached upper Glen Affric

The glen was still, there was not a hint of wind, the sun was following us as we walked and the left side of my face and ear was getting very burnt! This was unexpected as the weather forecast when setting off had been for continuous cloud, so the sun cream was not packed! Marching on, good progress was made despite the heat.

The top of the GlenThe top of the GlenThis is the view as you approach Alltbeithe Youth Hostel which stays out of sight until you get quite close.

Eventually we made it to Alltbeithe Youth Hostel. We stopped briefly and spoke to the resident there who was in charge for the next 8 or so weeks in this remote location. Arriving at Alltbeithe Youth HostelArriving at Alltbeithe Youth HostelIt is an 8 mile walk from the nearest road to get here - Bring your own food! We then headed on in the heat towards our stop for the night - Camban Bothy, on the way we stopped to speak to a heavily laden man who was sweating profusely with his burden and he told us that he was heading to Ullapool! Carrying on, I took pictures on the way. The bright sun however, made it very difficult as the light was very harsh.

On the way to Camban Mountain BothyOn the way to Camban Mountain BothyBob stomps ahead whilst I laze about and take pictures.

FionngleannFionngleannA stiched panoramic taken in harsh light. Walking on the path with the sun still out :)

In sight of Camban Mountain BothyIn sight of Camban Mountain BothyWe climbed over the prow of a hill and caught site of Camban bothy in the distance. Our home for the night.

Reaching Camban Bothy, no one else was there, it was still early so we killed some time pitching the tents and allowing them to dry properly. Whilst they were drying I took some more pictures in and around the bothy.

Open to all - Camban Mountain BothyOpen to all - Camban Mountain BothyThe fantastic view from the front door of Camban Bothy

A cyclist joined us in the bothy with his dog just as night fell and he was planning a circular the next day, we just had the final leg to do and our plan was to leave early so we could get back in good time for the drive home.

In the morning, after breakfast, I went outside and washed my porridge pot in the stream and restocked my water. As I was filling my bottle, the sun burst over the mountains and I sat there beside the stream filling my bottle in the middle of nowhere and enjoying the moment. 

We headed off about 8am for the final leg and this bit was my favourite as the rough path was easier on my feet than flat tracks or road, the walking was also entertaining too with some steep drops at the gorge.

KintailKintailAfter leaving Camban mountain bothy, we walked the final few miles of the Affric Kintail Way. We were confronted with this wonderful scenery on our way to Morvich.

Path at Allt GranndaPath at Allt GranndaThis is the narrow that runs above the steep drop at the waterfalls at the head of Gleann Lichd

After we descended past Glenlicht House, there was not far to go. We walked right into the middle of lambing time so careful negotiation of Gleann Lichd was required as we did not want to upset the new born lambs and come between them and their mothers - it was really busy here! Approaching Morvich, suddenly my phone burst into life (I had switched it on at Camban), the phone was beeping with notifications and texts. This was quite symbolic for me, as this meant I was back in my "normal" world. We finally reached the Rangers station - it was time to go back to civilisation and work the next day. We were very lucky with the weather and the scenery was fantastic - I certainly enjoyed myself. The Harvey map we received when we bumped into the opening ceremony was excellent too, I have it as a memento now.

The Rangers Station at MorvichThe Rangers Station at MorvichThe Rangers Station at Morvich is the official end / beginning of the Affric Kintail Way.

 


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