Mad Dogs and Englishmen

Beinn Lair – 859m
Beinn a’ Chaisgein Mor – 856m
24th and 25th June 2009
Distance: 34 miles
Ascent: 2, 550m
Time taken: 36 hours
Weather: Hot, hot, hot
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Andy, Molly and Meg (Andy’s dog)

At the end of May, Andy and I stayed at Shenavall Bothy, we climbed the Fisherfield Six, Beinn Dearg Mor and Beinn Dearg Bheag under sunny blue skies and in stifling heat and he was instructed to ensure some decent weather for this trip as well. Now there is good hillwalking weather and sometimes the weather simply takes the mickey. This was to be one of those occasions.

You could not imagine a team less well equipped to cope with excessive heat; a short podgy woman, an ex-ginger and two hyperactive Border Collies.

We left the car park in Poolewe under the scorching mid-day sun, with hindsight, not an altogether sensible start time. After a bout of doggie dunking in the River Ewe we started cycling along the tarmac road alongside the river towards Kernsary. After Kernsary we entered a short section of woods, this was to give the only relief from the sun for the next 36 hours.

After a short respite we emerged from the forest to open ground with Letterewe in its full glory ahead of us.

Letterewe beckons


The tracks and paths were good even for a reluctant cyclist like myself but I had the feeling that the estate were taking the piss.

In your dreams

However, not in any way deterred by my complete lack of cycling prowess, we decided to continue up the path as far as we could. The first section is a gently undulating and relatively smooth narrow footpath, but after about a mile the fun starts. A rough path with lots of wide drainage ditches to cross, plus a couple of large burns. I excelled myself and only managed to fall off four times. In my defence, most of the falls were due to being blinded by the copious amounts of sweat running into my eyes. As a lasting memento I returned home with an impressive assortment of grazes and bruises to complement my collection of cleg and midge bites.

If it got any hotter and Molly and Meg would trip over their tongues.

A welcome break from cycling
Rock fall on Beinn Airigh Charr.

Eventually common sense prevailed and we dumped the bikes just before the burn coming down from Strathan Buidhe. The joy to be walking again was indescribable – at last I could savour the views and enjoy the flora and fauna.

Lesser Bee Orchid
Carnmore Crag, Carnmore and the bothy

We walked to the junctions of paths below Bealach Mheinnidh and dumped most of our gear behind a rock to allow a lightweight ascent of Beinn Lair; water, almost liquid choccie bars and some dog biscuits. We took a risk and left our jackets, hats and gloves behind!!

View back to Fionn Loch and Dubh Loch.

There is a very good path all the way up to the Bealach Mheinnidh where we turned sharply to follow the rim of the cliffs to Beinn Lair’s huge summit cairn. The cliffs were just as stunning from above with deep, dark gullies and ridges inviting exploration. Climbs on these cliffs were pioneered by climbers many years ago when men were men and sheep were frightened.

Beinn Lair’s gullies and ridges.

Steaming, sweaty walker en-route to summit
Beinn Lair’s summit plateau

We reached the summit at 5.45 p.m. after a very leisurely walk but the temperature was still 25 oC at the summit and the views were awesome.

A heap of perspiration leans against a pile of rocks on Beinn Lair’s summit
Views to a distant An Teallach
Beinn Eighe

After a lengthy break we retraced our steps back to our camping gear and followed the path around to the Fionn Loch causeway to Carnmore. Thankfully the cold water thoroughly revived the dogs and two very hot and sweaty walkers arrived at Carnmore Stable accompanied by two very bouncy dogs.

Molly and Meg have the right idea
Andy crossing the Fionn/Dubh Loch causeway
Cliffs above Dubh Loch
Carnmore Crag
A look back to Beinn Lair

We planned to stay in the stable at Carnmore and I have to admit I was somewhat apprehensive about what we would find, having heard several horror stories about the state of the place. Apart from being hot and midge infested it was tolerable for one short night, no rats as previously reported and decent water supply about 100m away. 30 minutes of smoky coils rid the room of midges. The floor is just soil; there are three raised iron bedsteads for sleeping and an interesting collection of ferns growing in one corner, but surprisingly a fully equipped first aid kit.

Carnmore Lodge and the manky barn

We feasted royally on Vesta Beef Risotto (guaranteed to contain no actual traces of beef) and chocolate brownies. But frankly even the dog food would have been tastier and have far more nutritional value than the Vesta risotto. When we went outside we were greeted by the colours of a glorious west highland sunset. This more than compensated for any deficiencies on the dietary front.

By the morning there was a strong breeze and the area was mercifully midge free. There was once other inhabitant in the bothy (a geologist) who happily fried up sausage and bacon whilst Andy and I tucked into a couple of wholesome cereal bars for breakfast. Bastard.

Beinn Lair early morning
Dubh Loch

We left our gear in the bothy and by 6.45 a.m. were away up the stalkers path beside the Allt Brutach an Easain which provided welcome relief for the dogs as it was already 23 oC. At about 500m we left the path and climbed up the easy grassy slopes of Beinn a’ Chaisgein Mor.

Meg has the right idea

The views were enhanced by a layer of low lying cloud.

Again, we had a lengthy stop at the summit playing spot the hill and enjoying the benefit of the cooling breeze.

It was well worth the effort

A happy walker. The realization of the long walk back to Poolewe had yet to sink in

From the summit we retraced our steps back to the bothy for lunch. If anything the weather had got even hotter for the walk back to the bikes and both dogs and humans indulged in a couple of bouts of paddling on the way back.

Much to my disappointment our bikes were still where we left them and the cycle out was even more purgatorial than the cycle in but despite this I only managed to fall off twice.

The Post Office in Poolewe was duly relieved of much of its stock of cold drinks and ice creams before the weary foursome drove round to Dundonnell for a well earned meal. We were hot, sweaty and none to fragrant but we weren’t even asked to leave!






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