Altbeithe, Glen Affric December 2006

  Helen Rose  Hill Diary:

Photo: Altbeithe Hostel.Altbeithe is one of the Scottish Youth Hostel Association hostels termed as rustic. In this respect, ‘rustic is a euphemism’ for very basic! However, it is basic with lots of charm and like many bothies is located in a beautiful remote glen with no road access. Altbeithe provides a perfect base to bag some very remote Munros and the two in particular I was interested in were Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan and Mullach na Dheiragain known affectionately as Chrysanthemum and Jeringen respectively. These mountains are located between Kintail and Cannich and can be accessed from both directions.

In Spring this year I had my first visit to Albeithe Hostel in thick snow walking from the car park at Glen Affric along the loch shore to Strawberry Cottage and then along the track to the hostel, a walk of about three hours with a heavy pack. All food had to be carried in along with a sleeping bag. Unfortunately, it was not possible to climb these two hills as the snow was too thick and soft to attempt it so we settled for An Socach instead in sun and snow. It all looked Alpine.

In the autumn, I returned determined to conquer these two Munros. We arrived at the hostel in the dark after passing the warden who was visiting locally. The head torches were invaluable as the track is fairly rough. We turned a corner and there was Altbeithe with the wind turbine whizzing around and smoke coming out of the chimney from the kitchen fire. Considering the remoteness, the hostel is very comfortable and we were fortunate being in the dorm in the main building. The dormitory in the outer building has no heating.

A hen party from BBC radio in Inverness welcomed us with tea and brandy! The kitchen was warm and cosy and we soon had dinner on the go. It was early to bed as we had to set off before dawn to have enough day light to climb the hills before dark. David was up first in the morning to bake bread. Well, you can’t let standards slip even in the wilderness!

The path started from the back of the hostel and led up to the col between Chrysanthemum and An Socach and it was then an easy pull up to the summit of Chrysanthemum.  We had our usual lunch stop and left the summit down a very exposed rocky  path to the ridge leading to a minor top of Carn nan Con Dhu and then a long straight walk out to Jeringen.  The weather forecast for the day had been high winds and we seemed to have been lucky until Jeringen when the wind gained strength. As we returned to the col, it was very gusty. 

The plan had been to go up again to the summit of Chrysanthemum and descend by the more westerly side to give a different view on the return journey. As it was so windy, David considered the ascent on the exposed path to be too dangerous so we descended from the col towards a little lochan and over Bealach na Daoine to rejoin the path back to the hostel arriving back just before dusk. We crossed the little wooden bridge over the burn built as an art project by a walker stranded at the hostel in bad weather!

InversionI enjoyed the stay at the hostel and I was impressed at the efficiency of the warden   who kept very high standards of cleanliness. The hostel does have a flushing toilet and a shower although hot water is dependent on the kitchen fire and heating on the solar panels.  It is all very eco friendly. One word of warning, beware of the shooting season as the gillies were not too happy about us climbing these hills in October. The stalkers use the tracks for taking the clients on ATV vehicles to find the deer.

I don’t know that I will be back in Glenn Affric for some time having spent a lot of time this year bagging Munros there!


Coming attractions;  Mullardochs, Xmas in Perthshire and the Island of Gigha.

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Thanks to Tony Pitson for the photos