GUIDE TO THE RIVER PEAN
NAME OF RIVER: Pean.
WHERE IS IT?: OS Landranger 40 'Mallaig & Glenfinnan'. The River Pean runs for about 10km east from Lochan Sagairt (NM900915) into the west end of Loch Arkaig at Strathan. Access is via Gairlochy (no shops or anything) and the B8005 which runs along the north side of Loch Arkaig - a narrow, roller-coaster single-track road with plenty of opportunities for a head-on collision. Leave vehicles a kilometre east of Strathan which is 25 miles northwest of Fort William.PUT-INS/ TAKE-OUTS:Park on the verge at the end of the road where a private road continues northwest tio Glen Dessary. Fork left towards Strathan buildings, over the Dessarry river bridge (see below) and into the forest. Walk as far as you can be bothered before putting in. Some canoeists and packrafters even portage over from Loch Morar. You will end up back on Loch Arkaig near the car.
APPROX LENGTH: Depends on where you're coming from or how far you're prepared to walk in and paddle back. It's about a 10km from the car park to the source lochan (last 2km boggy); 8km to Glenpean bothy (last km through thick woods; follow tape markers); or less than 3km to the Cuirnean confluence wooden bridge - the most sporty bit.
TIME NEEDED: Up to 2 hours paddling and at least as much again to walk in.
ACCESS HASSLES: Even during stalking (Estate sign at the gate near the road end) the entire valley bottom remains accessible.
WATER LEVEL INDICATORS: Best after a night of rain.
GRADING: Grade 1 - 2.
MAJOR HAZARDS/ FALLS: Don't be alarmed by the 'waterfall' marked on the OS map near the lochan - it's coming off the hillside. However, you might want to know about the only two significant rapids which are very close together. One is right at the wooden bridge by the Cuirnean river confluence (NM968906). The other is visible about 100m downstream from the bridge where the river passes through a bit of a defile. It's easy to get to this spot for a quick inspection by walking south from the main forestry track to the river following a quad track which starts about 300 metres directly north of the bridge. If the bridge rapid is too boney and downstream appears full of exposed rocks, there's not really enough water, but it can still be a nice meander down from the bothy to the bridge, with a bit of wading and dragging. On how to get round these rapids (say, in a canoe or non WW-boat), see below.
Note that below Glenpean bothy there is a stepping stone ford which may cause a bit of a riffle or require lifting over, depending on water level.
GENERAL DESCRIPTION: As long as there is enough water, this is a pleasant ride down a remote highland valley, with the opportunity to spend the night in the bothy. Going right up to the source lochan means following a faint boggy quad track, all the boggier if the river is at a level good enough to run right through to Loch Arkaig.
From the lochan it's a fast meander down past the bothy and below the plantation to the wooden bridge where it briefly gets interesting/dodgy, depending on your outlook and boat. To avoid the bridge and defile rapids, take out on the left on seeing the bridge (could be awkward in fast flows - best inspect and make a plan on the way in), then walk to the bridge, cross it to the south side and follow the bogtrack a short distance downstream past the second, defile rapid after which even a canoe or IK can manage the 2-3kms down to Loch Arkaig. In the right boat you might then want to carry on down Loch Arkaig to the dam (19km) and the River Arkaig into Loch Lochy.
OTHER NOTES: As you cross the main bridge at Strathan and head into the forest, the Dessarry river rapids may catch your eye. Chances are whole of the Dessary is a very similar run to the Pean: easy track access and a tame meander in high water from another bothy (A'Chuil, NM944924), and all ending in a neck-breaking flourish as pictured at Strathan bridge!
CONTRIBUTED BY: Chris Scott.