Saturday, 11 July 2009

Post number 20-The Best Munro

At the suggestion of Barrett Bonden I now plan to do a few posts singling out particular Munros. No doubt The Worst Munro will shortly follow, but this needs a sort of map drawing and I have now done an experiment proving that I can do this in Photoshop then save it as a JPG and then get it into Blogger like a normal photo.

The knee is still painful and a recent visit to the surgeon who did the arthroscopy did not give me much hope of being able to do serious walking in the future and there was very little he seemed to be able to offer. He said that a replacement knee joint would not be any good for me at the moment and it would not stand up to the kind of walking I want to do. Yesterday I had an appointment with the physio which was more constructive and I have been given exercises to do so we shall just have to see.

The Best Munro Day

Eidh nan Clach Geala and Seana Bhraig
17.8 miles 5624 ft. of ascent

The latter of these two has a claim to being the most remote Munro, but this is debatable, although that aspect certainly contributed to its high place in my memory. These Munros are situated in the huge wilderness of Easter Ross to the east of Ullapool, and the walk starts from near the southern end of Loch Broom at Inverlael.

First of all, some years before I climbed these two Munros, my friend and neighbour Dan in Preston, with whom I have shared various outdoor adventures on land and water, invited me to go and search for Dotterels. Dan had heard that these rare birds stop off on the summit of Pendle Hill in Lancashire only for a day or so within a small time frame as they are returning north from their migration. They stop to feed on the specialised vegetation on this hill before continuing to Scotland where they breed. Although I said to myself we would have little hope of seeing the birds I humoured Dan and off we went. On approaching the summit of Pendle Hill we saw a group of half a dozen people with tripods and other ornithological gear, and as we came close we saw that there were several pairs of Dotterels only a few yards in front of these spectators unconcernedly nibbling at whatever it is that they like up there – they were quite tame, and I was somewhat confounded by our easy good fortune.

The two Munros in question were ascended on 21st May 2002. It is a long hard march to the summit of the first one and it was a cloudless and hot day of extraordinary visibility, which I have often found at that time of year in Scotland.

Just after the summit on Eidh nan Clach Geala I noticed some birds in the heather a few yards ahead, and of course they were Dotterels, so not counting seeing these birds wintering in Africa or wherever, I had now completed a sort of circle from my previous viewing several years before, and I found this particularly satisfying.

This was a very long day, and I was still six kilometres or so from Seana Bhraig, which is located on the far side of a U shaped glen with very long sides reminiscent of High Cup Nick and the route follows the rim of this feature. The views from Seana Bhraig were stunning – I could see The Summer Isles about thirty miles away, and the feeling of remoteness was heightened by not seeing another person all day.

Last year my Land's End John 'oGroats walk took me through Inverlael along part of the route for these Munros then further to the north. I could not say this was nostalgic because I saw nothing. I walked all day in the most apalling wind and rain relying mainly on the compass before finally arriving at the very welcome Knockdamph bothy.

I saw Dotterels again on Beinn Bhreac in the southern Cairngorms on 9th June 2006.

2 comments:

Barrett Bonden said...

I would expect a very rough reception at the Knockdamph bothy. Just looked up dotterel in my bird recognition book. It offers one of those clues I find so infuriating: "eye-stripe prominent." Fine if you come upon a clearly staged dotterel "event" as you did; less so if the bird's 100 m away, is back-lit and presents itself as a silhouette. I have checked the name of your Munro several times and each time the words slide into oblivion. Why did the Celts get the wrong end of the stick with the letter h?

Sir Hugh said...

BB.
If you visit a bothy during a normal day's walking without the need to stay there you may turn your nose up at the thought of doing so. If you arrive there to stay after a hard day of driving wind and rain it is a most welcoming place. A strange aside to this stems from one's thoughts on approaching a bothy. One half of you hopes to find the bothy unoccupied, and the other half welcomes the idea of some company. The latter option of course will be pleasant or otherwise depending on whether the occupants are kindred spirits or mindless nerds. On the occasion referred to the bothy was unoccupied

For your information the correct pronunciations of the two Munros are: aydee nan klach gyala and shena vry. On checking this information I realised I had misspelt the first name writing Gaala instead of Geala.

Bird recognition has always been a problem for me - there are too many variables between male/female, adult/immature, winter/summer plumage etc.