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Cluanie Forest

18th of February 2004. Scotch mist, sunshine and not much snow.

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My plans for this week included the hills above Bridge of Orchy with a wildcamp in Coire Daingean between Beinn an Dothaidh and Beinn Achaladair. Somewhere around Strathyre I was struck by a terrible thought, had I packed all of the tent? I could remember rolling the inner, pegs, poles and groundsheet protector together but it dawned on me that I had forgotten to put the flysheet in. A brief stop in a lay-by confimed this calamity and I quickly rethought my plans. I drove on past my first objective towards my second. Stopping the night at the independant hostel at Invergarry. I made my way past Loch Garry the next morning through typical Scotch mist.

The drive to Cluanie mirrored how the walk would be, climbing up into the sunshine before dipping back into the mist. I parked at the end of the old Tomdoun road and walked along it as far as the telephone mast and then struck off up Druim Shionnach to gain the ridge — I had walked the extreme eastern end of the ridge last year. Coming out of the mist part way up I noticed an opportunity to project my brocken spectre onto the mist and walked along the sunny crest of the ridge to photograph the view over the mist to the other side. As I climbed more and more clothing was transfered to my pack, it was well below freezing in the glen but spring-like on the tops.

The warm weather had done for the snow and there were just patches left. This was the first walk of the week and I lugged my ice-axe and crampons up there for no good reason. As it turned out, even the patches that couldn't be avoided were soft enough to traverse in safety without them.

Once up onto the Glen Shiel Ridge the view on towards Aonach air Chrith beckoned me along and I was soon striding along taking in the view south across the glens to Beinn Bhan by Loch Arkaig, an ascent of which had had featured in a winter skills course I did a few years ago, and beyond to Ben Nevis.

Just before Aonach air Chrith the ridge dips and turns northwards to hide the summit from view for a while but the path soon leads you back to the edge of the corrie and on to the airy (trembling?) ridge above Coire nan Eirecheanach, perhaps the narrowest part of the South Glen Shiel Ridge. After this gentle scramble the ridge flows wide and grassy, for the most part, on to Maol Chinn Dearg.

On the approach I took the chance to photograph Aonach air Chrith with the shadows and snow patches making pretty patterns in the evening light. From Maol Chinn Dearg I made my way off the ridge by way of the stalkers' path to cross the headwaters of the Cluanie River to reach the main road at a lay-by about 3·5km from where I had started. from here a wait of about half an hour produced a lift back to my car.

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