Clegs and heatstroke on Seana Bhraigh

Wafting my map case in front of my face allowed a little respite from the flying beasties. I smothered myself in Smidge before I left the van in preparation for an attack of the midges but instead it was the clegs, or horseflies that plagued me. They still bit me on my bare arms, hands, shoulders, ribs, anywhere they could get to. If I stopped trying to splat them away from my face they bit there too. Including trying to get in my nose, mouth and ears. They laughed at Smidge.


An Sgurr to the left and Seana Bhraigh to the right
An Sgurr to the left and Seana Bhraigh to the right

This is my first bike and hike, using the resurrected Felt DD70 with original rigid forks. However, before the bike in, I had to get to the parking place. Which turned out quite a drive. I left the public road at Oykel Bridge and continued on to forestry and estate tracks. They were rough. Whatever speed I went Florence was rattling around considerably. Surprisingly 5miles of such tracks at about 15miles an hour takes appreciable time. More than you expect as subconsciously you expect timings more appropriate to tarmac. Eventually I made it to the walkers car park just before Corriemulzie Lodge. As I leapt out to survey the surroundings of the glen I made my first acquaintance with the clegs. Not really annoying, just buzzing around.

As I was getting the bike out a car pulled into the car park. Another walker heading for Seana Bhraigh. We chatted and ended up setting off together on bikes for the 4.5mile ride to the bottom of the hill. I struggled right from the outset, a steep slope out of the car park gave me no opportunity to warm up. Once we were up that it wasn't too bad. A few burn crossings were fun with enough water thrown up to get me quite wet. Despite being overcast for most of the ride in I dried very quickly.

Lochan on the way to Seana Bhraigh
Lochan on the way to Seana Bhraigh

We left the bikes at the start of the track onto the hill side. The clegs were ready for us. It was dump the bike, lock it in one swift movement and run! With the sun now out and the temperature rising rapidly I was already hot. First mistake was that I didn't immediately take off my windproof. Clegs or not, it would have helped. I left a water bottle in the bikes frame bag. This would be needed when I returned to it.

Clegs were really bad. Biting at my face, trying to get in my nose, mouth and ears, or under my sunglasses. I'd totally forgotten I had a midge net in the top of my rucksack. I should have put that on when I slipped the windproof off. That might just have helped ease the annoyance. So now I was hot and bothered. My friend pulled away from me. We yo-yo'd a few times then he pulled ahead properly. His bug spray was deet, it was better than Smidge but he still got the odd incoming attacker.

Seana Bhriagh summit shelter
Seana Bhriagh summit shelter

I slowed down, wafted my map case vigorously, and kept on going. The end of the track came eventually, dumping me on a flat area. Bearing left to climb the steep slopes towards the ridge to the summit, I plodded on. My water was dropping rapidly. I finished the first half-litre. Reaching the lochan I filled the bottle from just below the outfall. It looked clean, smelt clean, and tasted okay.

Slowing down even more I realised I might actually be in trouble. I've never knowingly had heat exhaustion before but it crossed my mind I might have it now. Headache, and nausea being the obvious candidates. I just did not feel right. I plodded on. A cooling breeze came over the edge of the ridge just in the nick of time. It wasn't much but it helped a bit.

The summit wind shelter came up into view as a surprise. I managed to snap a few photies. There was a lot of haze and I had little opportunity to change lenses - I'd have still had a cleg trying to get into it! I didn't hang about. I was dog tired and hot, and it was a long way back to Florence.

Some way back down the ridge I realised the breeze had increased, it then stayed with me all the way down to the bike. Still a case of getting the bike lock key ready, quickly unlock and jump on it as there were plenty of clegs about. Heading into the breeze now was soo nice. Mostly downhill I made good time. However the odd ups were hard. I got off to walk a couple of them and the clegs had at me again. Eventually back at Florence I dived in opening the top vent to get rid of the heat and opening windows to let in a through draught. The anti-bug nets deplored.

It had been a hell of a bike and walk.

Tags: munro, outdoor, scotland Written 30/06/18 

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