Sunday, 31 January 2016

A Window in the Weather

After the storms of the last couple of days we needed to seize the opportunity of the break promised for today to walk in the hills. Today's forecast promised light winds, low cloud, and minimal rain so we looked for somewhere to walk which was as dry as possible, which might be difficult after the 80mm that has fallen in the last five days.

So we parked the car at the top of the track that leads down to the big sheep fank at the south end of Loch Mudle, and then climbed the steep scarp on the other side of the glen....

....looking back across it to a Ben Hiant whose head was lost in the low cloud.

We then we followed the scarp crest southwards, climbing steadily, in absolutely ideal walking conditions as the slopes on either side had drained the land quickly.

The B8007 road climbs the opposite side of the glen to a low saddle before dropping off into the Basin.  Just out of sight behind the hill to the left is the turn onto the track that goes up to the big wind turbine on Beinn Bhuidhe.

Far more snow had accumulated on this side of Ben Hiant than the Kilchoan side, and we caught it just as it had melted enough to pick out every rock, fold and feature of the landscape. With a light wind, no rain, and the going easy underfoot, this was joyful winter walking.

The red deer stags, having spent months in the latter part of last year fighting each other, are now gathered in bachelor groups and not too worried by the occasional passer by - unless you stop and point something at them, even if it is a camera.

This picture looks across the saddle to the lower slopes of Ben Hiant. The snowy scar across the hillside at top left marks the path followed by most people to the ben's summit, while the hill away to the right is Beinn na h-Urchrach.

Just before we came to the wind turbine track, we reached a small summit called Tom a Chapuill, where we stopped briefly for coffee and to admire the view across the Basin to the south coast of Ardnamurchan. A snow-capped Mull, and Tobermory Bay, is at centre, Morvern is the dark land to the left, in front of which the bay of Camas nan Geall is just visible.

We then joined the wind turbine track, following it down to the road but then crossing it and climbing again to another knoll beneath which are the remains of several, mostly circular buildings, one of which is significantly larger than the others. They may be a group of shieling huts but, since five of the peninsula's ancient trackways meet at this saddle, it has been suggested that this may be a staging point for the drove road that ran from Bay McNeill eastwards to the markets at places like Falkirk.

We're so pleased we managed a good walk today as the forecast for tomorrow and Tuesday are about as bad as any we can remember. This is XCWeather's version, which shows average wind speeds tomorrow evening reaching force 9, with gusts over 70mph. The BBC is even more pessimistic, suggesting gusts to 81mph - anything over 72mph is hurricane force.

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