Wednesday 10 July 2024

An Interesting Visit To Loch Eanaich

Camp in Gleann Eanaich

On a trip with Tony Hobbs back in February I was blasted out of Gleann Eanaich by fierce winds,  ending up camping down in the shelter of the forest. Over four months later I returned, hoping the forecast for lighter winds and lessening rain would prove correct. The first was, the second wasn’t.

Clouds over the forest

On a showery evening I walked through the wonderful old pine forest and out into the wide boggy moraine-strewn glen. The Am Beanaidh, the river that drains Loch Eanaich, was roaring down in surging brown and cream waves. I’d chosen this route in part because there were no major fords and I knew the rivers and burns would be high after the heavy rain of recent days. Even so I soon had wet feet as the ground was sodden and there were many deep puddles. In places the path was a stream., Every burn that crossed it was full and fast.

The Am Beanaidh

After crossing the Am Beanaidh on a bridge that is developing holes in its flat metal grid panels I was approaching the biggest side stream I had to ford, the Beannaidh Bheag, when I saw two walkers dressed in black waterproofs coming towards me. They managed to cross the stream on rocks then asked me how long it would take to get to the road at Whitewell. They told me they had climbed Angel’s Peak (the now disused Victorian name for Sgor an Lochain Uaine) and had been on the summit at 3pm in thick mist. They said their phones and GPS hadn’t worked properly (they didn’t have a paper map) so they weren’t sure which way they’d gone. It was now 10pm. The most direct route from Sgor an Lochain Uaine to the Beannaidh Bheag is about 10km. It had taken them seven hours. What route they’d taken I couldn’t work out. Sgor an Lochain Uaine is an unusual peak to climb from Whitewell anyway and I wondered if they’d actually been up Braeriach or Cairn Toul. What was clear was that they were lucky to have made it down to the glen safely. There are many places they could have got into difficulties.

Loch Eanaich & Sgoran Dubh Mor

Telling them it had taken me two hours from Whitewell to here seemed to cheer them up a little. One of them said they’d come this way. The other didn’t seem too sure. I told them about the lower path just above the river as the forest is reached, which avoids a steep climb on the wider ORV track. They didn’t know about that.

When I told them I was camping out they looked startled. Then they strode off down the glen and I turned and sloshed through the water, not bothering with the rocks as my legs were soaked below the knees anyway.

After the rain

The forecast had said the showers would cease during the evening. They did, they turned to steady rain. By the time I reached Loch Eanaich it was hammering down. I pitched the tent near the outlet to the loch, filled my water containers, and was soon inside enjoying hot soup and listening to the rain on the flysheet. I’d look at my surroundings in the morning.

Loch Eanaich

I woke to grey light at 4 a.m. It was still raining. Back to sleep. Three hours later I woke again. The sky was still cloudy but the rain had stopped and there were glimpses of blue sky. A gentle breeze was blowing but high above the clouds were speeding past. It would probably be windy on the tops. On the walk in I’d developed a sore calf, probably strained when I slipped slightly, something that happened several times on the wet ground. I thought it might ache even more on a long descent and could be a real problem if it became really painful. I had planned to go up Braeriach. Maybe that wasn’t a good idea now.

The foxglove

I decided to go for a walk along the lochside and see how my leg felt. Above the dark water the cliffs and corries echoed its blackness as they rose towards the paler grey clouds, dramatic and impressive. Not all was grim and foreboding though. A scattering of colour lined the banks. Yellow buttercups, lilac orchids, a single tall foxglove, the first purple bell heather. Close to the shore the water was shallow and golden brown, turning suddenly black in the depths further out. Sandpipers occasionally called from rocks and flew low over the water. I saw no other birds.

Shades of water

Back at the tent my mind was made up. My calf was already hurting more. Climbing a hill didn’t appeal and was probably irresponsible. I would walk back down the glen.

Before doing so I tidied up my campsite. Not from any thing I’d done but by moving rocks left by previous campers, some quite recently as the grass underneath was still green. It took me over half an hour to carry the rocks to the river or the loch and chuck them in. I do wish people would put rocks back if they have to use them to weigh down tent pegs, something rarely necessary. There was a fire ring burnt into the ground too but all I could do with that was scuff up the surface.


I had more clearing up to do on the walk back down the glen. Shortly after entering the forest I noticed something well below the path on a small flat area amongst the pines where I had camped in the past. I went down to investigate and found a structure of interwoven sticks round one side of a deep fire pit. I guess it was meant as a heat reflector, as used in bushcraft camping in cold weather. It had been well-made with sharpened stakes driven into the ground, the sticks cut with a saw, and the whole thing bound together with cord. Someone had carried an axe and a saw here, some five kilometres from the road.


I couldn’t leave with it intact, so I set to work to dismantle it and scatter the sticks. A large ring of rocks surrounded the firepit. I shoved these into it. There are no stones nearby and I assumed these had been carried up from the river, which was a fair way below. I could have done with a shovel to fill in the pit and bury the rocks. At least I didn’t leave something that could be used by others or encourage them to think such things are acceptable.

This vandalism angered me. As well as spoiling a wild place having a fire here was a big risk. Campfires should never be built in forests or on flammable ground. This was on both. Next year a ban on campfires will come into force from March to October in the Cairngorms. I am saddened by this but understand why when some irresponsible people behave this way.  I am much more saddened when a wildfire destroys a forest though. Campfires aren’t necessary.


The negative feelings engendered by the mess slowly dissipated as I continued through the forest, calmed by the greenness and the quiet. Heavy showers fell, interspersed with bursts of warm sunshine. My waterproof jacket went on and off. Above the clouds hurtled by. Soon the walk was over. A short but satisfying trip.

1 comment:

  1. These 'bushcraft builds' and firepits really do bug me. I've lost count of the number I've dismantled and cleaned up in some Dark Peak woodland near to home. I persevere, but their proliferation points to an area under too much stress. So much so I no longer camp there.