Thursday 24 July 2014

TGOC 2014 - Day 5: Fort Augustus to Chalybeate Spring

Tuesday 13th May 2014 

A day mainly on tracks up Glen Doe and on into the heart of the Monadhliath Mountains 

Distance: 27km; Ascent: 1020m; Dry and sunny, with a brisk breeze; Mainly with John B

I had a relatively easy day planned, almost entirely on tracks, to take me from the Great Glen into the Monadhliath Mountains today - therefore I was in no rush to set off from Fort Augustus this morning!  I enjoyed a breakfast of porridge in the hostel before chatting to my daughters using Skype via a somewhat more reliable WiFi connection than yesterday evening!

After packing up I wandered down into the town centre to pick up a few supplies and post my Knoydart BMC map home.  I finally set off walking that morning shortly before 10:30am and followed the B862 out of town around the southern end of Loch Ness before ascending steeply to around 200m to reach the start of the hydro road up Glen Doe.

Fort Augustus locks
Loch Ness
Entrance to the Glen Doe Hydro Road
I soon passed SSE's "Soft Peat Storage Area", which was surrounded by warning signs - I wondered what they were storing it for?  Around 500m up the hydro road I stopped for a quick break to apply suncream and re-hydrate - it was turning out to be hot and sunny today!  Here I met John Braide, Chris Townsend and Tony Hobbs, and it was good to chat to them all as we continued on past a small lochan and on up into Glen Doe.

Soft Peat Storage Area!
Soft Peat Storage Area!
Lochan below Borlum Hill
John and I continued on up into Coire Doe at a slightly faster pace than Chris and Tony, with increasingly good views back to the snowy peaks of the north-west highlands as we ascended along the track.  Soon we caught up with Alan & Phil, whose cheese & wine party I was heading for this evening!  John and I opted to stop for a lunch break part way up the steep ascent of the head of Coire Doe to enjoy the views on this lovely sunny day :-)

Phil & Alan on the hydro road in Coire Doe
View back to the snowy NW Highlands from the Glendoe Hydro Road
Whilst we were resting, Alan & Phil and Chris & Tony passed us on their way to the reservoir.  After we felt suitably refreshed, we continued on ascending via a series of broad zig-zags to reach the highest point of the hydro road near Lochan a'Choire Ghlais.

Snow poles on the highest part of the Hydro Road
Lochan a'Choire Ghlais
It was now noticeably windier and less warm than on the way up Glen Doe, and the sky had also begun to cloud over.  We descended south along the track to reach the memorial cairn above the new Glen Doe reservoir, where we met many other challengers: Chris, Tony, Alan, Phil, Andy, Vicky & Toby, most of whom seemed perplexed that John & I were walking in shorts today!

Approaching the Glen Doe Reservoir
Andy, John, Toby, Vicky, Phil & Alan by the Glen Doe Reservoir cairn
Alan & Phil by the cairn
John and I continued to walk together as we headed east along the northern side of the reservoir heading further into the Monadhliath Mountains.  There had clearly been a lot of work done around here in relation to the construction of the reservoir, as most of the burns we encountered appeared to have been canalised, presumably to increase the water flow into the reservoir so as to maximise the hydroelectric output.

Glen Doe Reservoir
New wetland at the east end of the Glen Doe reservoir
My original plan for the day had been to detour off to the south to bag the Corbett of Meall na h-Aisre, however I was still feeling tired after my three long days Munro bagging in the NW highlands at the weekend so I instead opted to skip this hill and stick to the track instead.  This therefore meant that a few kilometres east of the reservoir, John and I parted company as he headed off into the hills to the south for a remote overnight camp.  I instead continued eastwards along the reasonably level track to catch up with Alan & Phil.

Looking ENE over the Monadhliath Mountains towards Glen Markie
Phil & Alan heading for the Crom Allt
We chatted as we continued walking east, with Alan telling me what the area was like before the construction of this very long vehicle track through the wild land.  It's a great shame that this was likely to have been my last opportunity to walk through this area before the construction of the controversial Stronelairg Windfarm, which is due to cover a large amount of this remote mountain and moorland landscape.

Allt an Dearg Lochain
The Crom Allt
We crossed the Allt an Dearg Lochain and the Crom Allt to reach a track junction on the far side, where we headed SE for a little under a kilometre to reach our planned campsite for the evening just beyond Chalybeate Spring at around 6:15pm.  Here we met several other challengers and soon there was a collection of green, yellow and grey tents scattered around a lovely grassy spot near a stream confluence.

A gathering of tents at the cheese & wine party
The cheese & wine party
More challengers arrived over the course of the next hour or two and we enjoyed a very sociable evening with plenty of cheese, biscuits, wine and whisky :-)  After the sun had set the temperature dropped dramatically due to the clearing skies, so I soon decided to retire to the warmth of my tent for the night.  Yesterday and today had certainly been a pleasant change from my first three days of my crossing when I hardly met any other challengers at all!


  1. Some wonderful pictures of the Monadh Liath - showing the contrasting wild beauty of the landscape and the terrible scar of the Hydro track. The Stronelairg wind farm will mean another twenty miles or so of those tracks criss-crossing the landscape, nailed in place by colossal whirling turbines.
    Desperately Sad.

    1. Thanks Alan. It will be terribly sad once the construction of the Stronelairg wind farm starts :( I'm glad I walked that way on this year's TGOC, but I suspect I may end up staying away on future crossings!