Crossing a watershed between Ardlui and Butterbridge17th November 2008
Over the weekend, I was lured north to Scotland by thoughts of seeing its magnificent countryside lying resplendent in bright sunshine, however fleeting that might have been. However, that halcyon dream was merely just that because the predict continual improvement in the weather on Saturday proved to be more gradual than had been predicted by the forecasters, so much so that it could have been called an illusion. That mountains can make their own weather may not have helped my cause either.
The weather that I did encounter was more reminiscent of that which I got while out walking around Arrochar and Tarbet in February or March. Then, I got heavy showers that got more progressively slow moving and frequent as the day wore on until they grew into the sort of irritant that made me glad that I was leaving when I did. On that day though, there was some good sunshine at times to make up for all the wetness but my last excursion was bereft of any such succour, even if holes in cloud did allow glimpses of blue sky and the sun did make feeble attempts to get through. It wasn’t to be a day for photography, particularly since making pictures of wide vistas was utterly out of the question.
When I got off a coach at Ardlui, there were grey skies but it was dry after a passing shower. I then made my way down a wet A82 to Garristuck cottage, a little south of Ardlui train station. After a short spell along a track that passed two houses, I was into a field and making my way up the hillside. The path that I was following may have been faint but that was sufficient to steady any navigational waywardness. The plan was to reach a coll between Stob an Fhithich and Stob nan Connich Bhacain and then drop down to reach a path that was to take me over paths and dams to a 4×4 track that would land me on the A83 near Butterbridge, between Cairndow and Rest and Be Thankful. However, the sight of the crags of Stob an Fhithich resulted in a change of direction and I went round to the other side of that hill to traverse gentler slopes. The gradient may have been manageable but gentleness wouldn’t be a quality that I would ascribe to the terrain that I was crossing. It was waterlogged and grassy with occasional crags, bracken and scrub encountered before I dropped into Srath Dubh-uisge, looking very much part of the catchment area for Loch Sloy. For a while, this was to be the type of walking that could be a more effective workout of the leg muscles than any gym and in much more interesting surroundings.
Picking up that informal path (a wonderful description that I found in Walking World Ireland and it was used to describe something similar), needed a bit of searching to locate it, even with the sights of dam railings and such like; it was merely a line of trampled grass that soon enough brought me onto a good track. Up to this point, I only had one passing shower during the hike but things were to intensify on the weather front while the walking actually got easier. It was just as well that I was by now well on the way to Butterbridge. Even with the greyness, the murk, the heavy rain and strong winds, the colours of the countryside showed themselves. All the while, my waterproofs and my boots very usefully kept out the dampness while I proved that I too could cope with the conditions as well as my gear did.
I continued my way down Glen Kinglass regardless and started to encounter the only fellow walkers that I’d met all day. Any wonderment as to where they might be headed was partially answered by a sign for a track to Ben Vane that I was to see later on. Because of the conditions, I could only imagine how my surroundings might look their best as weak sunshine attempted to brighten things up while I made out the road up to Rest and Be Thankful. The A83 came soon enough and I awaited my coach back to civilisation while among high hills that need to be surveyed on a more suitable day. I reckon that I was out among them a day too early and, annoying though that might be, it’ll take another visit to see them at their very best and I might even cross that coll between Stob an Fhithich and Stob nan Connich Bhacain too. I may not have left with wonderful photos but I have something equally valuable: more ideas for future outings. Those hills won’t go away anytime soon so I hope to be able to stage a return at some suitable juncture.