Scotland · Travel

Scotland Hiking: Day 3 – Lairig Ghru

When Jacqueline and I woke, the rain that had plagued us through the previous day’s hike had subsided, and we were met with beautiful blue skies. It was now that we could truly see the magical place we were in. We had camped next to the Corrour Bothy, a small hiker’s hut in the middle of some of the tallest mountain ranges in the UK. Our goal for today was to head north back towards civilisation, in particular navigating the Lairig Ghru pass.

We breakfasted and packed up our stuff, as the other hikers at the bothy were doing similar. They were on day hikes today, so didn’t need to carry all of their stuff. We still needed to carry all of our clothes and sleeping supplies out of the valley.

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We set off, the first part of the path was relatively dry and straightforward; nothing like the bog and swamp of the previous day. We walked along the base of Ben Macdui, the second highest mountain in the United Kingdom. However, we shortly started to reach some trouble. The path was basically made up of large stones which meant a lot of stepping up and down or leaping onto often unstable stones. Jacqueline began to struggle; her knee was playing up and she was finding it very painful to walk the path. Unfortunately, there simply wasn’t really many good places to stop.

We had earmarked the Pools of Dee as a place for lunch. This was at the top of the Lairig Ghru pass. However, as we got closer we were dismayed to discover that we had to scramble over a large boulder field to get there. Jacqueline soldiered on through the pain, but it was slow going. When we eventually stopped for a bite to eat, some passing hikers indicated that there would be another seven or so boulder fields further along the path. The news was not good.

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We had no choice to continue on, ever so slowly inching our way through the pass. Jacqueline had to put her weight on my arm through many of the steps up and down over the boulders. Even the path itself was uneven and rocky. There were no trees and no shelter, and nowhere really to sit down. Our goal was to make it to a forest marked on our map; surely there would be somewhere to camp there and recover somewhat by the morning. But it seemed a long way away, and all we could do was keep inching forward.

We reached a small river crossing and met a local hiker heading the other way. Through his very thick Scottish accent, he told us that at the rate we were going, it would take us many more hours to reach the forest. We had no choice but to keep going, there was simply no flat place to camp. So step by painful step we went on, fuelled by a bag of chocolate chip cookies in Jacqueline’s pocket.

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The mountains around us began to shrink, becoming mere hills instead. We could see the forest, but we didn’t seem to be getting any closer. Eventually, we finally started to descend down a path that started to be peppered with more and more trees. Was this it? We were now starting to race with the sun that threatened to set behind the hills a long way away. The path started to become easier; flatter, with less rocks but more tree roots. However, we were still a long way above the river with no clearing in sight. Ideally, we would have found a place near to some flowing water, but there didn’t seem to be any. Eventually, we found a tiny clearing large enough for a tent, and decided it was time to stop. So we hastily set up our tent, and crawled into bed, to tired to even make ourselves dinner.

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