Hills: Creag Mhor and Ben Armine
Date: Friday 21st and Saturday 22nd August 2015
Company: Just myself
Distance: 49.4km, Ascent: 1180m
Time: 12Hrs 45Mins
I was hoping to ascend Creag Mhor and Ben Armine this weekend, however the Thursday MWIS forecast was somewhat off-putting. On Friday morning, I decided to check out the MetOffice forecast instead to find that the weather was forecast to be good from 3pm onwards. I therefore quickly packed my tent, and all the associated paraphernalia, and set off Sutherland-bound aiming to arrive at Kinbrace around 3pm.
The drive from Inverness up to Helmsdale was fairly unpleasant; lots of heavy rain. Would the weather really improve by 3pm? It wasn't looking likely! However, as I made my way inland towards Kinbrace, the weather improved quite dramatically.
I parked just off the B871 at Badanloch near the start of the private road leading to Loch Choire.
From the outset, I found the walk hard-going as my pack was heavy. In my urgency to get ready, I had packed a good bit more than essentials. However, after walking a few kilometres, I started to get used to the weight.
Start of private road at Badanloch:
The private road leading to Loch Choire is in much better condition than many of the nearby public roads. Many undertaking these hills opt to use a bicycle which can be used for circa 26km of the overall distance covered. I however would be undertaking the full circa 50km on foot.
Ben Armine in the distance:
I really enjoyed the walk along the track, skirting round Loch Bandanloch and then alongside Loch an Alltan Fhearna. There were literally hundreds of dragons and damsels darting about above the track
Seeing Ben Loyal and Ben Hope to the North and Ben Kilbreck to the West was a good reminder of just how far North I was.
Ben Loyal in the distance across Loch Badanloch:
Looking towards Ben Klibreck:
The good track made for fast progress. According to Viewranger, I was walking at 5.7kph which I thought was not too bad given my heavy pack.
Loch an Alltan Fhearna:
Looking back towards Ben Griam Mor across Loch an Alltan Fhearna:
Ben Klibreck (zoom):
Creag Mhor and Ben Armine:
After circa 1Hr 30Mins of walking, I reached Gearnsary Bothy. The bothy looks nicer on the outside than it is on the inside. On seeing the inside of the bothy, I was glad I had taken my tent. If you wish to use a bothy in this area, Loch Choire bothy is nicer than Gearnsary bothy.
Inside Gearnsary bothy:
From the bothy, I continued walking another 5km along the private road.
Looking back towards Ben Griam Mor:
Ben Loyal (zoom):
On reaching the track junction, circa 1km beyond the Halmadarie Burn, I left the private road to follow a vehicle track towards Ben Armine and Creag Mhor.
As I had only taken 1 litre of water, I needed to refill. I stopped at the Halmadarie burn to collect a couple of litres which I sterlised with my Steripen.
I then continued along the vehicle track passing Gorm-loch Beag. It was now after 7pm and the breeze I had enjoyed for much of the walk was rapidly diminishing to nothing. The midge were starting to appear in their thousands.
Morven across Gorm-loch Beag:
From the vehicle track, I took a right-turn to follow another vehicle track leading up to the col between Creag Mhor and Ben Armine. It was my intention to set up camp here for the night.
I decided to pitch the tent on a grassy area next to the burn; a nearby water supply. Within seconds of stopping I was being pestered by midge. Within minutes I was being consumed in a cumulonimbus of midge. Every square inch of me was covered with at least 10 midge.
I endured the attack as I put up the tent but could not avoid them getting inside the tent. Cooking tea outside would have been an impossibility unless I wanted thousands of midge in my tea. I therefore just stayed inside the tent for the remainder of the evening. Now I recall why I enjoy camping from October to May!
Before sunset, I stuck the camera out of the tent to take a very quick photo.
Sunset from camp:
I enjoyed listening to some music on my phone before going to sleep. I set my alarm for 7am but was up and away walking by 6am.
I decided to leave the tent pitched and go out and back to Creag Mhor with a light pack.
Creag Mhor capped in cloud beyond tent:
It was a beautiful morning albeit Creag Mhor and Ben Armine were both capped with cloud.
Ben Armine during ascent of Creag Mhor:
I had to negotiate numerous peat hags during the ascent of Creag Mhor. They were however mostly dry.
On reaching the summit of Creag Mhor, I got no views. I didn't hang around waiting for the cloud to dissipate which was good as it did not dissipate for another couple of hours.
At the summit of Creag Mhor:
View during descent from Creag Mhor:
On returning to the tent, I decided to also ascend Ben Armine out and back with a light pack.
Looking back to Creag Mhor during ascent of Ben Armine:
As per the summit of Creag Mhor, I also got no views at the summit of Ben Armine. The summit of Ben Armine is featureless although there are at least three small cairns up there.
Small cairns near the summit of Ben Armine:
Looking back to Ben Armine during descent:
On again reaching the tent, I packed up everything and collected some more water from the burn before beginning my descent.
Looking back to Creag Mhor:
I returned to the car via exactly the same route that I had undertaken the day previous.
Looking back to Ben Armine:
The walkout was hard work as it was very warm today. Despite packing everything but the kitchen sink, I had forgotten to pack suncream.
Ben Hope and Ben Loyal:
During the walk back, I took repeated cramp in my thigh. I've not had this previously so I assume it was due to a mix of heat, dehydration and tired muscles.
On reaching Gearnsary Bothy I knew I had only 8km further to walk to reach the car.
Approaching Gearnsary bothy:
Long walk out:
During the walk back, someone from the estate stopped to question where I was heading and where I had been. There was stalking going on as soon thereafter a 4x4 passed with a dead stag in the rear.
Boats at Loch Badanloch:
Dam at Loch Badanloch:
Reaching the car was great. Boots off, bliss. Really glad I decided to
ignore MWIS and head out anyway