Thursday 2 November 2023

Glen Feshie: A Camp & A Landslip & Beautiful Trees

Soon the autumn colour in the trees will blow away in a gale or simply fade as the leaves fall and turn grey and brown. The brilliant magic never lasts long. Before this happens I wanted to see Glen Feshie again, for a proper walk this time with enjoying nature and the landscape as the aim not photographing gear as described in my last post.

In a stormy last week of October just the final two days looked like they might be dry, though still windy. The first began with mist and drizzle but in the afternoon the skies began to clear. I set off up the glen watching white clouds racing overhead and admiring the dazzling yellow birches.

After all the recent rain the ground was wet and the streams coming down from the mountains were fast and full. I just managed to keep my feet dry crossing the first one, the Allt Fhearnagan, but failed on the second, the bigger Allt Garbhlach. After that I just splashed through everything. My sodden boots were not going to dry. Keeping moving and a good pair of wool socks kept my feet warm. For camp I had dry socks.

My plan was to camp far up the glen, near the last trees, ready to climb Mullach Clach a’ Bhlair via the east flank of Coire Bhlair. It was not to be. Steep slopes line the east side of the glen, in places reaching right down to the river. Landslips occur at times, but none had ever stopped me. This time one did.

The narrow path was running across steep slopes high above the river when it stopped abruptly on the edge of a short drop into a deep ravine of stones and earth. Across this fresh gash I could see the path continuing at the top of a near-vertical wall of earth. I clambered down into the new gully. Below the earth wall a slick steep slope ran down into a tangle of stone and tree roots below which was the river. I didn’t fancy slipping down that. Climbing the earth wall looked difficult. An ice axe would have been handy. Or a spade. It was dusk now and the light was fading fast. Going on seemed unwise. I turned back.

Off the steep slopes and in a wide area of magnificent old granny pines and thickets of saplings I found a good spot for the tent under a grand gnarled tree. Finding good camp sites in the glen is harder than it used to be due to the reduction in grazing by deer and the resulting growth of young trees and thick undergrowth. The large areas of deer-cropped grass have gone. The glen is wilder now. This is good but it does make camping a little harder, as it should be.

Moonlight filtered through the trees as the last clouds cleared. The temperature fell, dropping to -2°C by dawn. There was ice in my water bottles. The laces of my boots had frozen and my wet socks were crisp and crunchy. But there was blue sky above and soon it was sunlight rather than moonlight filtering through the branches. Overhead the few clouds were still racing fast.

The glen was beautiful. Rather than climb to the windy heights I decided to spend the day here. I wandered down to the river then back to the landslip. I ventured in again and looked at the climb out. I had been right to turn back. It looked precarious and uninviting. There was no sign anyone had been up it.

The landslip had started at the path, above it was a wide gully full of loose rocks. There might be a way out of that higher up and then down through the trees to continuation of the path. Maybe. The rocks were loose and I couldn’t see an easy way off to the side. An alternative would be to wade through the river below the landslip. But there’d need to be far less water in it than there was today before I’d try that.

I returned to camp where I sat outside for lunch in the cold sunshine. Not many weeks earlier I’d have been eaten by midges if I’d done that. It might be chilly but I’d rather sit outside in an insulated jacket than a head net.

A lazy lunch over I packed up and ambled back down the glen, wandering about to look at the trees, the river, the hills. There was no need to hurry. There was no better place to be. 

 If anyone is going that way the landslip is at Grid Reference GR NN 85050 91330.

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