Days off Around Fort William – Blackwater Dam

13 08 2016

June 2016
Another ‘day off’ Richard and I had during our week’s stay at Bunroy Log Cabins. We’d both decided we weren’t hill fit enough but didn’t fancy actually going up a hill so I took him on this high level route I’d done a few years back to reach a winter Corbett.

Click on photos for full size/resolution

We parked in the Grey Mare’s Tail waterfall carpark as it’s free and right at the start of the walk. We didn’t visit the waterfall this time as, it being so near the road, we can see it anytime we’re in the area and I was keen to get out on our walk.

There is a plethora of paths setting off in the immediate area all with the same start. As the paths all split to head for different places, I almost always choose the wrong one and dither around map in hand for a while. This day was no different but, luckily, as we dithered alongside two foreign walkers, a local came down the path with her dog and confirmed we were on the track for Loch Eilde which is the one we wanted.

The path rises steeply and gains lots of height above Kinlochleven in a short time.

Pap, Loch Leven & Kinlochleven

I only took four photos that day and the above is one of them – all the rest are Richard’s digi-photos. I think I was enjoying my walk and couldn’t be bothered with the camera that day. Richard took several photos of Loch Leven from the top of the ascent and his have come out better than mine anyway!

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both R Wood – Loch Leven with A’ Chailleach on the right

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As we neared Loch Eilde, he took this photo back to A’ Chailleach

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Shortly after reaching Loch Eilde, the path was hijacked by some hydro works going on. It was closed off but I couldn’t see any alternative so we clambered past the signs and continued along it – it soon disappeared. I knew where we should be heading so we just set off across the bogs until we reached the bridge over the outflow.

The Mamores were in cloud and neither of us thought the loch itself particulary scenic so we didn’t take any photos along here at all but romped along the good path at the far side of the loch to the high pass over to Blackwater Reservoir.

Pretty soon, the distance and height gain started to irritate Richard and he started grumbling. I pointed out to him that the walk was 12 miles and we were only a third of the way round and with quite a bit more height to gain. I suggested he might want to turn back and follow our outward route back down but, still grumbling, he decided to continue. I even offered to carry his pack for him as I was feeling pretty fit for a change but he wouldn’t let me.

As we neared the summit of the high pass, the Corbett I’d done previously, A’ Glas Bheinn, was only just across to our left and very easily reached from there. I kept mentioning it to him hopefully as I wouldn’t have minded a revisit to it but he didn’t take on.

I was relieved to reach the summit of the pass as I knew Richard would be happier as, in addition to now descending, we’d start to head gradually back to Kinlochleven. We descended the path until we crossed a burn where we’d decided to turn down a ridge heading towards the reservoir. Everyone must think the same way as, when we reached the ridge, a path set off that way.

The path was pretty clear to start with as it had been used by motorbikes but eventually it disappeared into the bogs. The ground got quite rough towards the dam – last time I came this way I was atop the snow and it was firm and lovely and I ran the whole descent!

We passed an amusing boulder with a mossy cap which I insisted Richard photographed – I didn’t really want to waste a film shot on it…

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He also took this shot down into the murk towards the reservoir – pretty gloomy!

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and an equally gloomy shot towards the Glencoe peaks…

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Soon the dam hove into view at last – even I was thankful as I’d decided that was where we were going to have our first and only break..

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We had a sit for coffee and flapjack while we watched a mountain biker cross the dam top with his bike – nice to know you can get across this dam – some you can’t… It was so dry this day you could also cross easily underneath it too (still Richard’s photos)

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We found a very amusing old tree stump on the rocks here – I said it was a tripod and insisted Richard photographed that too..

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We debated which side of the valley to descend – the far side is a driveable track but longer, the nearer side a narrow but pretty track. I was a bit worried about one of the side burns you have to cross on a bridge though as I was sure the bridge would have gone in the winter floods and I seemed to remember it was a tricky spot…

In the end we decided that as the mountain biker (who was probably local) had taken the smaller, prettier path, we must be able to walk it and we set off after him. I have to say that on some of the steep and rough descents I was surprised someone had cycled down it! He must have had no teeth by the bottom!

There was a pretty little lochan with an island which we both took photos of (mine first)…

Loch Below Blackwater Dam2

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I loved the cute square peak behind it! We soon reached another gloomy but beautiful lochan and again both took photos (mine first again)

Loch below Blackwater Dam to Garsbheinn

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I do find these film/digital comparisons interesting!

There was little water in the falls below the dam so we got to see just how large the rocky barriers below the dam, normally covered in water, really are! They look quite fun for scrambling (my photo)

Waterfall under Blackwater Dam

Not much water down this one (Richard’s photo – as are all the rest)

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Presently, we reached the steep corner into the gorge where I found I was right – the bridge had been wrecked!

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I didn’t do it honest!

The path coming down to the bridge is fairly ‘exciting’ and, I think, if we get many more flooded winters, will disappear altogether – on the photo below it’s on the middle shelf halfway up the crag wall!

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The path from here seems very long indeed back to Kinlochleven and when I commented on it, Richard said it was a ‘female path’. I asked him what he meant, thinking he perhaps meant sinuous? No, he said, it was that it went on a bit! 😆

There was an interesting chimney from an old mine I think – I thought it looked like a pepperpot or a liquor bottle!

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Just where the gorge becomes softer and was obviously nearing civilisation, we saw another beautiful waterfall off on a side river…

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We were both pleased to reach Kinlochleven and the car soon after this – the path does go on a bit really!

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22 responses

21 08 2016
Blue Sky Scotland

Walked over from Kingshouse Hotel across the Blackwater Dam then down to Kinlochleven years ago thinking I was fit from a summer backpacking holiday in the Alps. After a few pints in Kinlochleven we ( a mate and I) walked back over the same way and I couldn’t believe how long or hard it was on the return. Maybe it was the three pints plus pie, beans and chips for lunch but both of us were completely knackered by the end. Put me off that track for 20 years after that. I do remember the Buachaille Etive Mor looked superb and huge seen side on from the dam.

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21 08 2016
mountaincoward

No, it really is quite a long, hard walk! It’s nice up there though…

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19 08 2016
fedup

I can vaguely remember walking to the graveyard and dam with my mum & dad – I think I was about 8 or 9, so its interesting to see what it actually looks like (can’t really remember a thing!); might have to have a wander up 🙂

Cheers Si

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21 08 2016
mountaincoward

try our route – it’s a nice walk

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22 08 2016
fedup

Will save it for a day when the tops are clagged up – which is usually pretty much anytime I walk near a Scottish hill whilst on holiday! I”m finding spur of the moment day trips North are much better for getting the weather.

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23 08 2016
mountaincoward

A spur of the moment trip was the subject of my next failure… sorry, trip report/post!

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19 08 2016
Simon Howlett

Looks a fantastic walk Carol. I’ve visited Fort William a few times but never got further on foot than Neptune’s Staircase – hope to explore the area a little more next time! Transited the Caledonian Canal in a patrol boat back in the 1980s when sailing from Belfast to Rosyth with the Royal Navy – one of the best days of my life.

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21 08 2016
mountaincoward

A trip right through the Caledonian Canal would be pretty good!

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16 08 2016
tessapark1969

Nice report. Haven’t done any walking in that area for ages.

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16 08 2016
mountaincoward

thanks Tessa. We hadn’t been for years until we went back again last year…

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14 08 2016
smackedpentax

Looks like a fantastic walk Carol – and Richards photos are superb. It is ages since I was last at Fort Bill.

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15 08 2016
mountaincoward

We really like those log cabins and the site they’re on so have started going again. We hadn’t been for quite a few years until last year when I revisited the area for a few Munro Tops.

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14 08 2016
Mark

I’ve done variations of this route myself. The graveyard on the far side of the dam is definitely worth a visit. Along time ago I’d read Patrick MacGill’s semi auto-biographical Children of the Dead End and the novel Moleskin Joe. The latter is considered is critically acclaimed as something of a minor classic of working class literature. The goings-on of the main protagonist Moleskin Joe with Red Billey, Hellfire and Gahey have long captivated me. For years I’ve intended to visit the small cemetery below the dam. It’s the resting place for about 24 workers who were killed working on the site or fell victim to the grossly insanitary conditions in the workcamp. It’s a bleak little place on its own small hill. A low picket fence has been placed round it to give it an air of respectability.

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15 08 2016
mountaincoward

They found quite a few dead navvies after each winter out on the moor after they’d gone across to the Kingshouse and not made it back when ‘full’. I’d love to visit the workers graveyard the other side too. Now I know you can nip across the dam top, I might do that next time – I really like that walk.

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14 08 2016
underswansea

Very fine post. Sounds like a great day. Liked the photo of the tripod driftwood. Quite a site of that old chimney. How old do you think it is? Enjoyed the photos. Always like your film photos. Even now, film has more information than digital, it is just a little more difficult to access. Like everything good, I guess. Take care Coward. Bob

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14 08 2016
mountaincoward

I don’t really know about the chimney as I can’t find anything about it in Google – perhaps 1800 onwards? But I’d be guessing. I’m the same with analogue music as I am with film – I much prefer it and, as digital is only samples of the soundwave, it has to be more accurate. I’m pretty much a Luddite all round really 😉

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13 08 2016
mark c adams

Comparing the lochan photos, the digital shots are much better, but that may be that his lens is better than yours. Your lens suffers from heavy vignetting (dark edges) and worse blown highlights (he captures the sky better). Regardless it’s much easier to correct lens faults with digital. Why film? So inconvenient.

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13 08 2016
mountaincoward

I’m not sure whether my lens is suffering from vignetting or whether it’s just because I’ve been quite heavily under-exposing all my shots recently due to the lack of film quality nowadays – it’s gone sort of see-through with no saturation. Well, the Kodak film has – I’ve started experimenting recently with Fuji and Agfa films which are slightly better. But film quality has taken quite a dive – I suppose due to not many people buying it nowadays.

Richard’s camera is an Olympus so probably does have a great lens. Mine is a cheap Zenith with a Cosina lens so probably isn’t such good quality. Richard’s camera is a point-and-shoot which I generally won’t entertain even though they do a lot of averaging and correcting as I like my results to be from me and not the camera as far as possible. I’m definitely no photographic expert though – just, if a shot does come out nicely, I can at least think I’ve done well if I’ve done the whole thing myself 😉

Why film? I don’t find it inconvenient at all really. Having only 24 or 36 shots (or usually slightly more as I usually carry a spare film in my camera case) means you have to be more selective. I get quite agitated at the sheer amount of photos I have to sort through from Richard’s digi-forays sometimes, especially as he sometimes takes 3 shots one after another to see if one comes out slightly better – that leaves me a hell of a job choosing what to use! I then have to compress each of the photos to a sensible size before I can use them online.

I find film more detailed and, providing I manage to keep still enough when I take the shot, it looks sharper to me. Maybe not on these shots as it was a lousy day so I wasn’t taking much care really.

I also find digi-cameras awkward to use. I could never afford a DSLR and I hate using other than SLRs – my SLR was £40 and a further £100 for the lens. I can’t see a thing on the ‘viewfinder’ of the point and shoot digi cameras and I can’t keep them anything like still as they’re not up against my face. I also find the shutter takes an inordinate length of time before it actually ‘goes off’ on a digi camera (well, all the ones I’ve tried) so I often miss things like wildlife. The Zenith pretty much has a hair trigger.

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13 08 2016
mark c adams

Thanks for your interesting explanation. I sympathize, but suspect your view on digital cameras was formed in the early days. They’re much better now. Point and shoots, even phone cameras, are fantastic these days. I think your number 1 objection is the lack of full control, but you’re wrong about that. Just put the camera in manual mode (M on the dial) to get full control. I’ve just had a quick look on Amazon and both digital point and shoots and dslrs are extremely cheap new and used. One thing about p+s’s is that the lens should be perfectly matched to the body. Always get one with a swivel screen (why, later).
I take your point about Richard’s profligacy with photos. I’m the same since the marginal cost of another shot is zero. But you should force him to make the most crucial edits which are delete, delete, delete. Keep too many shots and you don’t see the stand-outs.
If you do go digital I recommend 2 accessories which will dramatically improve your shots:
1. Table top tripod, eg Manfrotto pixi for £17.
2. Wireless remote shutter release, eg Amazon basics £7.
These weigh nothing and work well with a camera with a swivel screen. My standard practice is to leave the little tripod attached, then compose the shot on the ground or a rock with the screen tilted up, then use the remote shutter release with the 2 second delay to avoid all vibrations. It may sound like a palaver, but it’s very simple and your results will be in a different league, especially in dull light.

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14 08 2016
mountaincoward

Thanks for the digital advice and I’ll look into those options when I finally come off film. I have to say I’m losing patience a bit with the low quality of many films now – if you look at some of my much earlier posts, perhaps under my photography category, you’ll see that my photos used to look much better than they do now. But I may never come off film until I’m forced to – I’m really used to my film camera and don’t really like learning new stuff much.

I agree the digi cameras cope with low light levels much better (or perhaps that’s also my lack of skill)…

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13 08 2016
McFadzean

That’s a nice walk, Carol. Wouldn’t it be nice to canoe out to that little island and spend a couple of nights there. I always want to do that when I see those little islets in Scottish lochs. Must be the Robinson Crusoe in me.
And that chimney stack is great. I photographed an almost identical structure over Creetown way a few years ago. I think, originally, they must have had a wooden shed-like structure around them. It’s amazing what went on in these places. I bet we don’t know the half of it.
Cheers, Alen

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13 08 2016
mountaincoward

I could nip my little inflatable boat up to it easily enough 😉 I think you’re right that the structure around the chimney probably was wooden

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