Drumnadrochit to Glen Mazeran
Tuesday 13th May
Start 7:00, finish 4:30, 28.9km
To catch the 8:00 am ferry meant an early start and no hotel breakfast. Fortunately there was a kettle in the bedroom, so I could make a cup of tea. I was packed and out of the hotel by 7:00. I left myself plenty of time to get to the Temple Pier. In the end, Temple Pier was easy to find (a sign gave a clue!).
Already there were Colin Lees and Ian Smith. Loch Ness was dead flat calm and the sun was shining. Beautiful. Ian Adamson and Jen Wheeler arrived. I was surprised that Ian knew me; the perils of writing a blog. He was interested in my Scarp mods and other bits and pieces I’d posted.
Charles and team arrived, then the ferryman, himself, Gordon. The passenger list was ticked off and we climbed aboard. This was the cue for some ducks to arrive expecting to get fed. A couple waddled along the glass ceiling at the rear of the boat.
Gordon cast off and we were off along Loch Ness. We passed Urquhart Castle and Gordon gave us an interesting talk on various aspects of Loch Ness as well as giving Alex Salmond a shellacking. As we moved towards Inverfarigaig, the Ft Augustus end was shrouded in mist, giving it the appearance of a glacier. Spectacular.
We were warned that the jetty at Inverfarigaig was not in good condition. In the event, it was not as bad as I expected and we all disembarked easily. The others moved off as I had a chat with Ian and Jen.
After a gear faff, I started the walk along the minor road to Errogie. A little way along the road, there is a memorial to the famous geologist, James Bryce, who was killed by a rockfall nearby. Coming in the other direction, I met Mark, who I first met at the Cannich camp site. He was not on this year’s Challenge (having done the previous year’s) but was up here to meet a friend for a walk (who I subsequently discovered was Ray).
The road to Errogie is through a pleasantly wooded gorge, which made for a good start to the morning. At Ault-na-goire, I met Ian Sommerville again and we ended up walking together for the day. To start with, Ian and I walked with a group of other Challengers. At Errogie, we found a telephone box which doubled as a library.
From Errogie, Ian and I had an interesting chat about various topics. When next we looked behind, the other Challengers were far behind us. We were both heading for Glen Mazeran, so it made sense to push on. Although we were walking on roads, the scenery was surprisingly attractive. In places it was also quite pastoral.
Around Dunmaglass Mains, we saw increasing evidence of work for the wind farm at Dunmaglass. The road had been resurfaced and widened in places. Every so often a heavy lorry passed us. At Aberarder House, it began to rain, so we put on waterproofs.
Not long after, we turned off the road and followed the track up the Allt Mor. The lower section of the Allt Mor had some fabulous places to camp. There was also quite a lot of bird life in evidence. It must be a good place for twitchers as there was a bird hide a bit further up the track.
By now the rain had stopped and the sun was shining, so it was off with the waterproofs. We were very lucky with the weather for the rest of the day. We could see heavy showers around, but none of them bothered us.
As we climbed up, the Allt Mor became a spectacular example of a glacial meltwater channel with a wide, flat bottom and steep sides. Where the sides were eroded, the glacial till was exposed. At the end of the track, there was a lunch hut. Conveniently, it was 1pm, time for lunch! It was good to have some shelter from the wind. Ian ate some real food, while I stuck to unreal food.
We dallied for an hour or so and then continued our trek. As we climbed above the hut, we spotted another Challenger coming up the track. The next section was peat hags surrounding a lochan and made for slow progress. In mist, it might have been tricky, but visibility was good and posed no real problems.
Once through the peat hags, we picked up one of the feeder streams that leads into Glen Mazeran. The green banks made a delightful walk down to the glen proper. Soon we were on a LRT leading down upper Glen Mazeran. We bumped into an estate worker who seemed to be keeping an eye out for something. We later found he was keeping an eye on us Challengers to make sure we didn’t set off any traps.
Upper Glen Mazeran is jaw droppingly beautiful. I was sorely tempted to camp there, but I had a schedule to keep. Further down the glen, we spotted Andy and Kate setting up their palace. They were too far away to hail. Further on, we stopped for a minute or two to look at some birds nests hollowed out of a sandy bank (swallows?).
A little later, we spotted an Akto by the bridge. This was Mike Knipe manning his Cafe Akto. We stopped for a chat with Mike who told us that the game keeper was keeping a close track on Challengers to make sure they behaved themselves. Ian decided that he wanted to camp by the river. I spotted some attractive greenery by a stand of trees.
I wandered off to investigate camping possibilities. The spot by the trees turned out to be a bit lumpy. Around the corner, there was flatter ground, but a bit damp. I decided to have a look up a partially wooded slope. A little way up, I thought I found a shelf flat enough for my tent.
This turned out to be an illusion, but I went ahead and pitched my tent and unpacked my rucksack. Lying inside the tent, I tried to convince myself that the slope wasn’t that bad. After about quarter of an hour, it was obvious that I had suckered myself into an exceptionally poor bit of camp craft.
I went down to the valley floor to have a scout around. There were a couple of flat areas that weren’t too wet and would be better than my existing pitch. I repacked my rucksack and took down the tent. Back down in the valley, it didn’t look particularly enticing.
Before committing myself, I decided to climb the opposite bank and have a look through a stand of trees. On the other side was an unenclosed field which was obviously used for grazing. The short cropped grass looked ideal. Although most of the field sloped, there were enough flat areas to provide a good pitch.
I went back to retrieve my pack. I re-pitched my tent on a very slight slope of short grass that had no lumps. Perfect. By now it was getting quite late and I hadn’t eaten. After my meal it was too late to go and socialise, so I settled back to do a bit of writing and think about the day.
I popped a small blister on the ball of my right foot, which was probably the result of walking on hard tracks for two days. Fortunately, that was the last problem of any sort that I had with my feet. It had been a very enjoyable day indeed. I was now getting into the rhythm of the walk and feeling relaxed. I was looking forward to the next day and the walk over the tops to the Dulnain.