Thursday, 10 July 2014

Somebody arrived in the middle of the night, a German I think, stomping around in his jackboots on the wooden floor. I left him in bed in the morning. For the first time on the trip I didn't need waterproof to start the day. As I wandered along the path to Kinloch Hourn the day just got better and better. I treated myself to a cheeseburger and coffee at the cafe, first non freeze-dry food of the trip.

A couple of K's from the village is Loch Coire Shubh. Here I take a path off to the north at first through a forestry plantation,  deer fences on either side. I'm thinking "this is not so good", but I'm soon out of the woods and into an open Coire,  Coire Sgoireadall. The gradient is nice and easy, the path good I'm making good progress. I head for a bealach at the head of the coire. This takes me into another equally wild coire, Wester Glen Quoich. I'd hoped I could contour around the head of this coire but no chance, I dropped down and started climbing again. I camp for the night a couple of hundred meters below the Bealach Duibh Leac.
 In the morning I have two options up to the bealach and down to Sheil Bridge if the weather isn't good or up to the bealach and along the south Sheil ridge if it's good. It was good. I'm on top of Creag nan Damh by 08.00. I don't see anyone else till midday, then as the day goes on more people cross my path their all doing sections of the ridge. I drop off the end of the ridge looking for somewhere to camp above Loch Cluanie but all the streams are dry it hasn't rain for two days. I ended up by Loch a'Mhaoil Dhisnich only two km from the Cluanie Inn but I didn't want to camp by the road.
A red deer hind was staring at me when I opened the tent next morning only yards away, she barked and ran away. I had planned to cross the valley and "do" the north side over the next two days but my body was saying. "No, That would be a ridge too far". I dropped down to Sheil Bridge and got the bus home.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Unfortunately it rain in the night again, in the morning it was drizzly, warm and wind-less, midge heaven. I was a prisoner in my inner tent, outside between me and the fly sheet were thousands of tiny biting mouths. Full waterproofs, hat, headnet, gloves. But, you have to lift the veil to eat so breakfast was taken running around in circles.   
 So who was Jimmy Watts? Why was he in Knoydart building paths? They are good almost as good as Inca roads. Some sections are beginning to be engulfed in bog but what isn't in Knoydart. This one cuts diagonally across the hillside following a steady gradient up to the bealach leading into Gleann Unndalain. This would take me onto Barrisdale on the shore of Loch Hourn, I'd given up the idea of climbing any peaks today as the weather was so bad. Then as I climbed the rain stopped, the clouds lifted and the sun came out, just a bit. At the bealach I turned left off the path and climbed up the east ridge of Luinne Bheinn and over the many summits.
 At Mam Barrisdale I'm back on a well made path which I saunter down to Barrisdale. I've camped here before and remember it as a midge infested swamp. I couldn't face another midging so paid my £3 and stayed in the bothy.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Knoydart continued.

I'm camped just above the Allt Coire na Ciche in a very impressive and wild coire. Once again I start the day head to toe in waterproofs, at least there's no midgies. I follow the stream down and soon come to a huge moraine wall right across the coire. (Not long ago, geologically speaking, there must have been a fantastic glacial lake here). The stream diverts around it to my right, yesterday I'd seen the other side of this wall and know that there is a spectacular waterfall there. I contour around left to the top of the moraine wall, here and there I see quady bike tyre marks. Soon I'm on a zig-zag path that takes me almost back to where I'd camped the night before last. 
This time Sourlies was empty, I could have come here last night but would never have found that track in the dark. I push on, Eilean Tioram once a isolated skerry now forever aground in a sea of mud. Behind it salt marches, it's stopped raining now but the brooding sky and steep sides to the valley give it a dark other worldly almost Patagonian fell. Only bracken standing in for Tossack grass.
The swinging bridge over the river Carnach, it's ropes dreadfully rusted, it's planks rotten. It creeks but takes my weight, not one to bounce about on I think. The sun is trying to shine through the cloud cover, it's turning into a nice day. Up stream the river bends around to the right and enters a gorge, the path peters out. I'm scrambling over boulders again but this is quite fun if a little midgy.

 Once past the gorge and up a little rise past a waterfall and I can see the Lochen nam Breac. I climb up the north side and find myself on a track, Jimmy Watts path. I camp on a small hillock to try and catch the wind - to keep the midgies away. Time for a swim and sit out side the tent drinking tea, life is good.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Knoydart trip days 3-

Again it rain in the night, and again head to toe in waterproofs but not for long this time. Just down from where I'd camped is a gorge and waterfall, I was on the left bank which turned out to be a mistake. The path descended to the riverbed and I carried on scrambling over bolder and climbing along the side of the gorge. All of a sudden this was getting hard, I must have gone wrong somewhere. I climbed out of the gorge to try and find the path but couldn't see it, then I looked over to the other side of the river - there was a nice wide well made path. Sheepishly I re-climbed down to the river and up the other side. 
At Sourlies bothy there was the usual resident nutter, this one was still in his sleeping bag with a rather large sheep-dog pup! I didn't stop but climbed up following a stream behind the bothy up to the main Druim a Ghoirtein ridge of Sgurr na Ciche. At first I seemed to gain height quite quickly up to the Lochan at 450m. After that the clouds closed in and visibility was down to 10m or so. It just felt like one lump after another, up one side down the other with no height gained at all. Eventually I came to one lump higher than the rest 750m said my altimeter, this one is marked on the map which was reassuring. Up one side so it should be down the other side only where had the ridge gone? I must be dropping off down one side of the ridge. I retraced my steeps and got the compass out, sure enough I'd been 90 degrees out.
Onward and upwards, the ridge now started to get steeper more scrambley with scree and rocks intermingled with vertical grass and heather. By now it was raining and the wind was getting stronger, at one point I was bridging wide up a wet chimney. "I thought your on your own, with a big pack on, it's raining what are you doing?" I climbed down and tried again around the corner, a little easier this time.
The summit, it was already past 4 o'clock, the plan had been to traverse the mountain and descend the Loch Quoich side. No time for that now not in this weather. Then I found a path, it lead off right (southeast). "If there's a path there should be a way down". It lead to a bealach (col) between Sgurr na Ciche and the neighbouring peak Garbh Chioch Mhor. I could see nothing on the Loch Quoich side but there was a faint path leading down toward Glen Dessary. I took it and soon found myself down climbing a waterfall in true gill scrambling style. I was very glad to reach the bottom of the fall and the gentle angled coire floor. I found a flatish, firmish bit of ground by a stream, "it'll have to do". tent up, kit in, water bottle filled, I'm in my little nest for the night.  

Friday, 4 July 2014


The idea was to go away without the car carrying everything for eight days, just to see if I could still do it. I took the train to Glasgow then onto Glenfinnan. There was a funny American family on the train "Gee look kids, sheep". Once at Glenfinnan I walked up to Corryhully bothy and finally off the tarmac. 
Just beyond the bothy a very indistinct path lead away to the left and uphill to Sgurr a Choire Riabhaich 852m (NM 908 871) and onto Sgurr nan Coireachan 956m (NM 903 880). All the way up on the train it had been bright sunshine, as I'd walked up the Glen clouds had began to appear as I reached half way up the hill I was enveloped in thick clagg, by the time I was on the top it was raining hard. Many years ago I'd climbed this hill from the north, from Oban bothy on the shores of Loch Morar by a good starkers path. I was hoping to descend this route but could I find the start of the path in this light - could I hell. In the end I found a gully which seemed to have a run out at the bottom so I slowly and carefully down climbed this, it took ages. By now it was 20.00 I found a flat, dry spot by a stream and pitched up for the night. I was at the head of Glen Pean (NM 898 896). This was about 3km east of where I'd planned to camp but I was happy just to be out in my tent in the hills.    
It rain heavily all night. Next morning dressed head to toe in waterproofs I made my way west towards Loch Morar. There's a small lochan marked on the map, it's only 6 inches deep more of a bog than a lochan. Scrambling along the rocks at the side of the mud proved interesting, beyond it I entered a nether world of house size blocks covered in thick mosses and buried under lush vegetation. Where a moments inattention could lead to a snapped leg bone as the many animal bone scattered about attested to. After following several dead ends I finally emerged from this strange under world, the stream now flowed west and at last I found the starkers path. The rain stopped, the gloom lifted and I began to fell better. working around the shore of Loch Morar was fun, one minute pushing through head high bracken the next friction climbing across rough slabs of schist. At Kinlochmorar is an old shieling - what would life have been like at such a wild spot?

 My route now turned uphill away from the Loch, up Gleann an Lochan Eanaiche and what a spectacular glen it is you'd have to pay good money to see such waterfalls in Wales. Beyond the Lochan is a strange deep cut stream bed the gradient is so shallow that the water hardly moves at all but for two or three kilometers it makes for some nice easy walking for a change. Eventually the stream disappears all together the next one is flowing away into Glen Dessary. A thick wall of forestry plantation blocks the way, at first I can't see a way through, then off to the right two, three hundred meters away  I spy a style. When I get there, there is no fence just a style standing on it's own guarding nothing, behind it an ATV track takes me deep into the woods. The track criss-crosses a stream following it down stream it takes me to the River Dessary and a wide ford. I'm now at a Y junction, the steam leads off along the river following it downstream, I'd come in on one arm so the other one must lead up stream out of the midgie woods and the way to Sourlies.

To say this is a good track would not be entirely accurate, it's easy to see where it goes but to follow it, up down, up down over rocks, jumping stream, through bogs, twisting and turning always onward never straight. Just past the two lochan's I'd had enough and pitched the tent sat on a rock brewed some tea and cooked some food, after that I felt much better.