After scaling two unfashionable hills the day before it was time for another one – Gairich. After a leisurely I drove up from Spean Bridge and we arrived at the Loch Quoich dam for about 9.45am. Given the weather forecast and the late start I had expected to see a car or two parked at the spot just past the end of the dam. But no.
After a bit of fiddling around rucksack on back, camera at the ready and Jet on the lead we were ready for the off.
I should have read the few previous trip reports on WH. About 45 seconds later we were confronted with the locked 5ft high gate at the end of the dam. So, off with camera and rucksack and the small matter of getting a dog over the gate. Well I managed it and then I followed. There are plenty of notices warning of the risks of drowning. But I guess you would have to be very determined to achieve this as the path across the dam has 4.5ft walls either side.
I suppose it was not surprising that after weeks of rain the normally wet ground between the dam and the foot of the Druim na Geid Salaich was well, wet. Actually very wet. Within a couple of hundred yards I was slipping and sliding like an uncoordinated break dancer and within a mile my left leg had disappeared twice into the goo. To be fair, the path does get a bit better half way along but it lays traps for the unsuspecting with pools lying across its sinuous way – each one requiring careful prodding with a walking pole to determine whether or not the ground was firm or a bottomless pitch of black squelch.
Eventually the hazards were passed. We dropped down to a stream and a broken gate at an old (wet) grass track. That is followed to the left for 60 yards or so before a path breaks off to the right partly hidden by bracken.
The path lifts you nicely up on to the ridge. And we had our first nearer view of Gairich. Looking back at the way we had come I could see no sign of anyone following.
The path as shown on the map stops at the 470m contour. It does. After then it degenerates into a quagmire. For the next mile along the ridge beyond Bac nam Foid I looked for any sign a fresh footprints. I had thought that given that the previous few days had been good weatherwise the place would have been swarming with other walkers. But no, the few prints that I saw were obviously quite old.
The cloud had lifted of the tops and before the final pull to the summit we paused to take in some calories. There were views to Gleouraich and Spidean Mialach and back along the ridge towards Ben Tee.
Suitably refreshed we started up the 900ft or so to the summit. With the steeper ground the path became much dryer, though in places deeply cut into the ground. There were a couple of scrambly places, at one of which I had to haul Jet up. The light became darker and sod’s law determined that I was not to have a view from the top. The final views were back to the dam…
and down to a silvery River Kingie.
Well we reached the top and stopped for 30 minutes in the hope that perhaps the cloud would clear and we might see Brocken Spectres like others were elsewhere in the hills that day.
But the cloud stayed determinedly down.
So back on down. Only a couple of hundred feet from the top we popped out of the cloud to some glowing autumn light.
To start with I kept further to the north side of the ridge. The ground was a bit better over there and Loch Quoich remained in view. Eventually though it was necessary to swing across the squelch to find the top of the (proper) path. It was then a straightforward stroll back to the broken gate where I geared myself for the final assault of the bogs.
I still had not seen anyone all day. That was a surprise because once up on the heights there are wide views. I speculated that, perhaps, others had not been so lucky and the bog had consumed them before they could reach the hill. I kept an eye out for signs of walkers flailing their arms for help. But I saw none. Somehow the return did not seem quite as bad, though this time my right leg disappeared twice.
Approaching the Loch I decided that the dog needed to return to his proper colour. A quick swim should see him clean. So I lobbed a few sticks into the water and Jet duly obliged and fetched them back for me.
The sun was setting behind the hills by now, though it was still before 4pm.
I kept to the Loch side as long as I could before braving the last couple of hundred yards to the dam. There was then the matter of scaling the gate again…
… and the long drive home to Yorkshire with work the following day.
Another blog involving an ascent of Gairich, this time from the west, is here.