Strontian, a small village in a remote corner of a remote region on the remote west of Scotland, is mostly known for its ancient oak woodlands (prime example of temperate rainforest), craggy mountains and midges. In times-gone-by, minerals and mining played a much bigger part. Sir Alexander Murray discovered galena in the hills the region in 1722 and a mine was opened in 1725, in partnership with Thomas Howard, 8th Duke of Norfolk and General Wade. Various materials were mined, including lead and strontianite, which contains the element named after the village, Strontium (Sr). Strontium, lurks on the left hand side of the period table of elements, below Calcium and Magnesium. Until recently, it was used extensively in the glass on the front of cathode ray tube televisions – it absorbed x-rays so that we didn’t get zapped. Anyway, enough history and science, on with the adventures…
Babs and Heavy started their weekend early (on Thursday), with a view to fitting in a wee hill (Sgurr na h-Eanchainne) before checking into the Ariundle Centre Bunkhouse. However, the “wild tormented rain” defeated them at the car park. Later in the afternoon the sun came out and they explored the wonderful nature trails through the Ariundle woods. The following day, the weather was still wet and so more Corbett plans were binned and instead they headed to Ardnamurchan, where they had a tour of the lighthouse and enjoyed great views to Eigg, Muck, Rum and more.
On Saturday (at 9am sharp!), a large party (Babs, Fiona Duncan, Ellen Cox, Lesley Botha, Malcolm Campbell, Dougall Lamont, Andy Brooks, Alex Wilkinson, Jake Lee and Dan Moysey) headed up Ardgour’s highest Corbett Sgurr Dhomhnuill. The book of Climbs records “A long day with many steep ridges to conquer.” The party split at one point, with some tackling the subsidiary summit of Sgurr na h-lghinn and the rest skirting its northern flank. Everyone gathered on the summit and were rewarded with a 360 degree panorama, including The Ben (shrouded in clag), Glen Coe and the small isles. There was a steep descent to the col between Sgurr Dhomhnuill and Druim Garbh. From here, most of the group descended the valley via to the old lead mines and then took the path back to Strontian. The day was summarised by Ellen (soon to be deported) as “Terrific day, have absolutely loved adventures with the MMC. Come and visit me in Australia!”
Crossing the mighty Strontian River
A resident of the Ariundle Forestry Commission car park
Dan, Jake and Alex continued along the undulating ridge of Druim Garbh to complete an “aesthetic” round. Alex’s Finnish roots drew him to one of the small lochans for a quick swim. The going was somewhat lumpy, but eventually they reached the road at its high point. Downhill all the way…to the cries of “oh my knees [foot/arm/big toe…etc]”. After a mile or so, a car stopped to enquire where we had been. It had barely come to a halt before Jake had taken his seat – “Strontian please”. Dan and Alex walked.
Alan Duncan is ticking Grahams, so that means lots of days out on his own. Today he followed the main group for a while, but then strayed right towards Sgurr a Chaorainn. He was spotted on the top by the main party (so that’s one out of 219 that can be verified). Alan’s original plan was to leave Sgurr nan Cnamb for another day. It’s only a kilometre or so to the south, but there is about 500m of re-assent. But Zippy had said “of course you can do those two together…and take in Sgurr nan Bog and Beinn Rounded Lump… and be back for tea”. A surprising short time later, having achieved both Graham summits (only one verified), Alan met up with the main party on the track back to Strontian.
Graeme “Zippy” Morrison cycled to Lochaline, caught the ferry to Fishnish, cycled to Dhiseig and ascended Ben More. A quick cycle home completed the 73.12568 mile journey. Zippy’s time is not recorded in the Book of Climbs, but I read somewhere that someone has done this particular round in 5 hours 34 minutes and 15.3 seconds…on a penny farthing.
Heavy spent the day on a film set in Fort William. All top secret, but keep your eye on the Shopping Channel over the next few months.
As usual, Sunday’s proceedings are somewhat less well documented in the Book of Climbs. Ellen and Lesley went to Sanna Bay and Ardnurmurchan Lighthouse. Alan, Fiona, Babs and Malcolm ascended the Corbett Carn na Nathrach from near Polloch.
Dan, Jake and Zippy went on a bike ride from Strontian to Strontian. “Shortly after starting we arrived at Salen Pub, and although tempted, we decided to push on before first coffee stop. Being peak season on the west coast, all subsequent coffee facilities were shut, until we wobbled into Lochailort many hours later. Zippy was not for stopping so he headed off on his racing bike, leaving the two mountain bikers to savour their coffees and the journey. The road to Glenfinnan was a bit tedious, but eventually we free-wheeled into Glenfinnan, past the “car park full” sign. Time for second lunch at the foot of the monument. After 60km, it was time to commence mountain biking (that’s a long warm up). The track along the shore of Loch Shiel has potential, but in the pissing rain it had lost some of its appeal. We eventually arrived at Polloch. Great! Only a couple of kilometres and we’ll be home, warm and dry. Unfortunately, there is the small matter of the 350m ascent. It was bottom gear all the way. The sign on the other side said “1 in 4”. The descent was somewhat more rapid, but there was a problem… back home with 99km on the clock. Obviously, a 500m out-and-back along the road was required.”
The ancient oak woodlands