Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Glen Shiel, Scotland: Sunshine & Wise Choices

We caught up with Alasdair, another Glossopdale Harrier at the campsite in Morvich on our second day in Scotland. Together we cycled down the valley for dinner, where plans were hatched for the following day. It was to be the Forcan Ridge - a 'difficult but classic scramble' where the exposed parts can, if necessary (ie for me) be avoided. It sounded like a challenge, but doable for me knowing I had the guys there to look after me.

heading up the valley
The three of us set out early, before 7.30am, so a civilised early for a day on holiday. The car was left at the campsite near Glenshiel Lodge and we made our way alongside the river in a vaguely southerly direction. At some point we'd left the path to take the first left valley, and the terrain underfoot was somewhat challenging. After working out we needed to cross the river and traverse under the nose of Sgurr na Creige we were on boggy, marshy, tufty unrunnable ground. It was already hot, but the majestic views distracted me. Tim and Al were clearly stronger than I was on such terrain, but we were all out for a good day so there wasn't any rush.

Across the river again, and we spied a delightful looking plunge pool which we picked out for later in the day, if we returned this way. A trod was found (yey!) and moving upwards we eeked towards 6km out in nearly 1hr 10mins. I was struggling. The heat was immense, the views distracting, but the tiredness and realisation that we'd only just about got to 400m dawned on me. I wasn't going to get up to Sgurr na Forcan (1010m) and The Saddle and across the ridge. I would be moving way too slowly and knew I'd run out of energy and water. I admit, I was gutted to make the decision to turn back. I reckon the previous day's adventurous walk/scramble/run in the baking Glencoe had drained me more than I realised. At only 13km long but with 1300m+ of ascent that was a big day for me. Plus the heat was really intense, damn you nice sunny weather!

Running up the decent path
(Sgurr na Creige? at the head of the valley)
Bummer. I really wanted to give the Forcan Ridge a decent go. I bid a teary bye to the guys and insisted they carried on. Them returning with me was never an option.  I wasn't going to get lost retracing my steps, and was in no hurry to return to camp so I slowly descended back to the trod, back down the valley and found a lovely shallow spot to cross the main river, before picking up the decent path back to the campsite. I eyed up the plunge pool as I went past, but decided against it....cold water isn't something I choose to dunk myself in, especially when alone in a remote part of Scotland. I loitered a little as I crossed the stream lower down and cooled off with lots of splashing instead.

I had a brief pause to chat to some campers and find out the best route back to our camp, then had a very steady 5km road/track run back. Looking at the kilometre split times I clearly wasn't up to much, barely managing to keep a 6:30min/km pace. Back at our camp I barely had time to shower, have some food and sit down before Tim and Al were back. They'd had a super time across the ridge, had an interesting down climb where I wouldn't have been very happy (exposure and heights would have brought out the safety rope for me no doubt). Once recovered and refreshed we broke camp and set off for the next instalment of our Scottish adventure....Skye-ward bound.

Tim and Al looking for a path....or a good point to cross the river
Lovely little yellow flowers....to be identified!
Sgurr na Creige, hiding the Forcan Ridge behind

Hard terrain to run on, honestly!
Enjoying the shade before entering the sunshine
View from my high point looking towards the Forcan Ridge
Although I was really unhappy to turn back and not head up the ridge it was the wise choice. The mountains will be there another time, and I was only on day 3 of 12 of our Scottish holiday. No point totally wearing oneself out so early in the holiday.

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