Thursday 26 April 2012

Loch Ossian, Loch Treig, a bothy & back. Then the stars.

at least one a greenshank... but not the call..., pencil in sketchbook

After a good sleep with only three of us sharing the 12-bed dormitory I did my yoga stretches outside the hostel and watched the morning birds on the loch. (One I identified almost definitely as a greenshank but getting onto the computer once home I realised the call I heard was not greenshank but some other wader. I'm not sure what.) 

Loch Ossian, early, outside the hostel, pencil & watercolour in sketchbook, 14.5x41cm

I still had time to sit outside the hostel and sketch the loch pine islands before we set off at 10.45. The 20 km we walked took us eight and a half hours, with the return leg much quicker than the outward. From turnaround-point we were only three hours - the coming of dusk combined with gentle drizzle ensured we hardly stopped. If you're a reasonable walker and not prone to halting every time you see or hear a bird you could do it much more quickly, probably as a day trip arriving on the lunchtime train and departing on the teatime one. 

after-lunch coffee-spot, Loch Treig, pencil & watercolour in sketchbook, 14.5x41cm
me sketching at Loch Treig (see watercolour above), photo taken by Paul Phillips, 10th April 2012

bothy, pencil, pen, ink, 41x14.5cm

Our walk was a there-and-back, following a route I took more than ten years ago on my Duke of Edinburgh Award gold expedition. From the hostel we walked to the station then north-west by very boggy track to the long stretch of water that is Loch Treig. Our lunch spot was on the shore before walking west up a beautiful narrow V-valley to a three-room, two-storey bothy at grid reference 296678. Someone had left rice and dried apricots in one of the rooms. Welcome finds for the hungry walker arriving late.  

Staoineag bothy perches on a grassy rise in an idyllic spot - the valley opens here into a bit of flatland with the river Abhainn Rath meandering slowly through. The deep peat-brown water looked like treacle and I felt a dipper should come whirring along it looking for rocks to bob up and down on, or that a kingfisher should flash past. A white sphere sun was trying to break through clouds over the bothy as I sat on the grass down by the water and drew... bothy rising above me, trees rising above bothy, dramatic cloud sky rising above trees.

Kittie sketching, west of Loch Treig -

We had various sketch and food and coffee stops, chatting a lot of the day, discussing what we were seeing around us, discussing the world more distant. When only a kilometre or so from home we watched a 24-car goods train power uphill past the station towards the large metal signs that mark Corrour Summit - the highest spot on the West Highland Lines at 1350 feet (411 m). The train slowed then began to trundle downhill for Loch Treig and Tulloch and beyond. It seemed a toy in such a vast remote landscape. Perhaps it was just an optical illusion but the caterpillar of carriages seemed to bend a little as they crossed the summit, sloping down on either side of the marker signs.

11.20 train to Mallaig having just passed Corrour Summit marker signs

goods train passing Corrour Summit below horseshoe mountains

Other than immediately around the hostel we saw only a very limited amount of wildlife throughout the day. Of course there were the ever-present meadow pipits and corvids and a few buzzards but excepting those our main sighting was four red-breasted mergansers on the water at the westerly tip of Loch Treig. We didn't even see any deer on the moors. It felt like deer territory.

The day finished with a late evening treat when we walked from the hostel to look up at the stars. We stayed out a long time as the sky got clearer and clearer: there was Orion's Belt; there was Venus - atmospheric moisture giving her an eerie green halo; one of my confusions was sorted - previously I thought Cygnus was that large 'W' on its side but in fact that's Cassiopeia; satellites regularly scribed their routes across the sky and completely by chance I saw a shooting star through my binoculars. Talking of binoculars... pick an area of the night sky and look up through a pair. It's amazing how many more pinpricks of light suddenly appear. Imagine what it's like to have a telescope and zoom in still further...

sky at night, Loch Ossian hostel

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