Ben Armine and Creag Mhor. May 2012.

Date: Saturday/Sunday 19th/20th May 2012
Distance: 26.7km + 17.4km
Ascent: 1050m + 150m

Signs of high pressure building from the north, although pinning down the forecast as to where would be best was rather hard work. It seemed like Saturday would be best in the Far North so we wheeled out a plan for some remote hills in Easter Ross.

I had some doubts about this trip – Scotland provides horizons that stay reassuringly close – much the Flow Country is as flat as many parts of our Southern neighbour. Time to test my agoraphobia. πŸ˜‰

The drive N from Inverness took 2 hours – I’d forgotten how far away this is. Did see a cuckoo, a mantling Sparrowhawk on the verge and a female Hen Harrier on the drive.

Parked up at Badanloch Lodge at the start of the private road to Loch Choire Lodge. Set off at the rather late start time of 1130. At this time of year there’s more daylight than I can put to good use. The sun was out but it still felt quite cold.

Boats at Loch Badanloch – Ben Loyal behind:

The road is of good quality and progress is fast. It’s about 6km before the hills being approached are seen, after curling around Creag an Alltan Fearna.

Passed a nice wee spot at Gearnsary with sand martins in attendance before continuing on to the track which runs south on the east flank of Creag Mhor and Ben Armine. This track is fairly good quality.

Views open out across the prairie. Spotted my first meadow pipit nest of the year as a nervous parent flitted out of the vegetation on our approach.

The track passes under the cliffs of Ben Armine – one Golden Eagle was circling around the summit of the hill.

The track:

We followed the track to the Allt at NC 689 260 and dropped the camping gear here, carrying on over some initially peaty ground up the easy slopes of Creag Mhor.

A few lizards here and there:

H climbing Creag Mhor, Ben Klibreck back:

The summit is flat and the views are as open as they get in Scotland.

H on summit, Ben Hope behind:

East to Morven:

The NW Highlands looked a lot cloudier – we were squinting to identify Assynt and Ullapool hills in the gloom.

The cliffs of Orkney could be seen behind the Griams:

[JRRT]The shadow crept across the Brown Lands[/JRRT]. The clouds spread quickly our way and it was clear our hours in the sun were up.

Dropped back to the camping gear and followed the Allt uphill to 630m where we collected water.

Ascended the last 70m to the large, flat summit of Creag a Choire Ghlais. A case of existential angst for the true summiteers here – at least 3 rather unimpressive cairns.

A pair of ptarmigan kept their distance – as did a number of dotterels who ran around for a while.

Pitched the tent on a very comfortable mossy surface and cooked tea. A view to Loyal, Hope and Foinaven from the door.

Foinaven:

The sun hit a gap in the clouds low to the west and lit up the Flow Country briefly.

Griams:

Shadows and light:

Shadows and Nallo:

H and Loyal:

And so to bed. A cool night with frost forming on the tent but slept well. Poked my head out at 0130 – still light enough that the starscape was unimpressive. A few streetlights in Thurso on show.

Due to inadequate research the alarm went off about 10 mins after sunrise at 0450:

The sun ran straight into cloud so I went back to sleep til the sun re-emerged. A nice morning.

Morven:

Ben Klibreck:

The Cairngorms were clearly visible to the south – the pic is a bit indistinct but they are in the half way up the photograph. All the Northern Corries were discernible, not bad for 80 miles.

Nallo and Klibreck:

Leave no trace – better go back for Hazel:

North across the flatlands:

Headed for the peaty bealach with Meall an Aighean, reclimbed 50m and then turned NE for the track to return to the road back to the car. The terrain is reasonable all the way.

Ben Loyal:

Stags and Griam Mor:

Then it’s the small matter of 12km or so back to the car. Ben Griam Mor enlarges over the hours:

The day clouded a bit as we returned, but there was still a bit of wan sunshine.

Hope and Loyal over Loch an Alltan Fhearna:

Back to the car in good time for a long drive home. Pleasantly surprised by these 2 – a long way from anywhere but an interesting new view.

Not ones for the agoraphobics though.

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