Hillwalking - No Better way to imagine a day

Beautiful Streap - hillwalking.
Beautiful Streap - hillwalking.

Thank goodness I’d brought my tent...things were not as I remembered!

It had been many years since I’d first climbed Streap. To my mind Streap, at 909 m and one of Scotland’s highest Corbetts, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful, well overdue another visit.

My intention, given that I was relying on public transport, was to cycle in for an overnight stay at the bothy in Gleann Dubh Lighe. Since it wasn’t a long ride in I’d brought the tent against the unlikely possibility that the bothy might be full. (On my previous visit the bothy had been empty).

A few yards off the A830, by the entrance to the glen, there’s a convenient picnic area for any who might need it. The track into the glen itself is a good one. It treated me to a pleasant ride through forestry and alongside the crystal clear waters of the river that bears the glen’s name. There were brown trout galore.

I followed the track to a bridge and crossed; the bothy was only a few more minutes walk away. Except that it wasn’t! I learned later that it had burned to the ground a few years ago. It had gone the way of too many fine howffs over the years. The estate had been in the habit of kindly supplying logs for the fire; you guessed it, some over enthusiastic stoker had set the lum alight and there aint no fire brigade out here. Hence the tent. No hardship, the lovely sward of grass I remembered outside the bothy was still there. Dawn and a leisurely breakfast. Then back to the bridge to pick up a short side track onto the grassy hillside, and the toes of Beinn an Tuim.

It was a rough and far from straightforward traverse along the foot of the hillside until, by following a stream upwards and west, I found myself on the floor of a lovely and familiar grassy corrie. My walking was carefree and pleasant as I wandered toward the corrie headwall and the obvious col above.

In fact, rather than make a bee line onto the col, I opted for a steep grassy rake, up left, which brought me onto the skyline nearer the top of Meall an uillt Chaoil (844 m), just south of my day’s first objective, 887 meter high Stob coire nan Cearc. High ground achieved I gained, amid its own scattering of rocks and boulders, Tuim’s little cairn. Here, with the pyramid of Cearc filling my onward vista, enjoyed my first tea break.

In fact from the cairn that rocky pyramid of Stob Coire nan Cearc looked somewhat formidable. But not so. Having wandered down to the col I discovered bits and pieces of path which wended upwards through the crags. Hardly did I need to put hand to rock; I was up in minutes.

Although there was barely a cloud in the sky the atmosphere was hazy, of distant mountains I was offered but watery hints. What lay close at hand more than compensated however. To my left I saw the Corryhully Horseshoe; Sgurr Thuilm seemed almost close enough to breathe on. Its connecting ridge to Beinn Gharbh and Meall an Tarmachan, led my eyes to Sgurr nan Coireachan and its own long ridge terminating above the glen of the Allt a’ Chaol-ghlinne. At its farther end I could see Loch Beoraid, isolated, lonely.

Ahead, seemingly throwing down defiant obstacles in my path, Streap’s ridge narrowed to a rocky blade. Around that ridge, Streap Comhlaidh, a mere eleven metres lower, actually looked higher than her mistress. Completing the scene on my right, the long grassy ridge of Braigh nan Uamhachan, shut all out eastwards save the double peaked Munro, Gulvain. Such were the views that were to accompany me for the remainder of the day.

And so to Streap. In fact, and though some guide books suggest that some walkers may benefit from the comfort of a rope, (especially in winter conditions), the going was easy. I remember my first visit here, expecting a bit of a scramble, I had been disappointed!Certainly, as I neared the summit cairn, the ridge narrowed, almost sensationally; certainly enough to warrant care.

But it was walking all the way. The connecting ridge to Streap Comhlaidh, went in similar fashion. In fact the northern corrie above which I now walked was a rocky paradise, the scenery was superb. Yet as I made my final ascent of the day, I found myself once again on easy turf, the ‘tasty bits’ had been short lived.

As I’d done on that first visit, I couldn’t resist the urge to wander out along the north ridge, on flat accommodating grass. I say ‘wandered’; on that first visit I ran, but then I was younger and less inclined to ache...It was worth that half kilometre ‘wander’. There before me, beyond Glean Pean, ranged the old familiar hills of Glen Dessary and all, memories of long days out and unexplored horizons; how the mountain years crowd in.

My way back was via Streap Comhlaidh’s south ridge, a long and gentle, though pathless, descent; a descent easy on the knees and evermore summery as height was lost. From Streap’s south west ridge I’d looked down into Coire Chuirn, at the huge jumble of rock known as ‘The Castle’, the result of some gigantic rock fall in some distant past.

It’s said that foxes are apt to take up residence here, and very hard they are to flush from the labyrinths they are, once cunningly installed. In descent I came close to ‘The castle’; no sign or whiff of Reynard did I get though!

I headed for the damp looking meadows and fords indicated on the map. By a ruined sheiling began a track. Some guide books suggest that the walker should come this far along the track, (having crossed the river by the aforementioned bridge), before striking up for the col to the south of Stob Coire nan Cearc. I believe my option offers slightly more seclusion.

A final look back at the rocky tops of the day and then the bothy, sorry! tent-bound track. And a good track it proved to be. Easily, for some distance high, on the lower flank of Braigh nan Uamhachan, it led me south through ever gentler lands, first moor and then forestry. Soon, on its welcoming green sward turf, sat the tent. A soft breeze murmured, just enough to keep away the midges. No better way can I imagine a day should end other than with boots and socks off, walking on the softest, soothing lawn.