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Wild camp in Caithness (Maiden Pap, Smean, Morven, Scaraben)

Wild camp in Caithness (Maiden Pap, Smean, Morven, Scaraben)


Postby foggieclimber » Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:07 pm

Route description: Morven and Maiden Pap

Grahams included on this walk: Morven, Scaraben

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Maiden Pap, Smean

Date walked: 10/04/2010

Time taken: 9 hours

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Hills: Maiden Pap, Smean, Morven, Scaraben
Date: Saturday 10th April / Sunday 11th April
Company: Just me
Time: 9.5 Hours (walking)
Dog friendly: Yes


An ascent of Morven and Scaraben has been on my wishlist for a number of years. Given the good weather forecast for this weekend, what would be better than to include a wild camp, and an ascent of not only Smean but also Maiden Pap.

On Friday afternoon, I drove to Sutherland and ascended Beinn Dhorain from Glen Loth. Beinn Dhorain provided an appetising preview of Morven and Scaraben. I subsequently drove to Helmsdale, where I spent the night at Helmsdale Hostel (really nice, friendly place).

On Saturday morning, I left nice and early for the drive to Braemore in Caithness (turn off A9 just before Dunbeath to get to Braemore).

I have included the route I took below. This route allowed me to store all my camping gear at Smean and go-light over to Morven, and back.

Route:

approx-route.gpx Open map in GPS Planner  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts



There is room for 2 or 3 cars near the telephone box at Braemore.

Starting point at Braemore:
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Bridge over Berriedale Water at Braemore:
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A few hundred metres after setting off and I was already feeling the weight of my rucksack (13kg!). Made me think, “I’m getting old :roll:.”
Thankfully, after a couple of kilometres I had got used to the weight :).

Maiden Pap from Braeval:
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Maiden Pap from Braeval:
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From Braemore/Braeval, I could see that Maiden Pap was aptly named. I was surprised however, as I walked further along the track towards Corrichoich, that the single pap became a pair :shock:. I opted to ascend Maiden Pap up the cleavage.
The ascent was as steep as it looks and hard-work with the heavy pack – I used heather as hand-holds several times.

Maiden Pap:
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Morven from base of Maiden Pap:
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It didn’t take long to reach the col, where I stopped for a minute to admire the strange conglomerate rock, before ascending easily to the cairn-less summit.

Smean and Morven from summit of Maiden Pap:
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Berriedale Water from summit of Maiden Pap:
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From the col on Maiden Pap, I descended South and then South-West, across moorland towards Smean. (If you want an easy ascent of Maiden Pap it is less-steep on its’ South-side)

Looking back to Maiden Pap:
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My map indicated that the ground between Maiden Pap and Smean was marshland. I didn’t find it too bad - any bog was easily avoided.

En-route to Smean:
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Looking back to Maiden Pap:
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The closer and closer I got to Smean the more impressed I was with its’ tors.
Some of the tors are at least 20m high. Not sure if there is any climbing interest on them - conglomerate isn’t always the best for climbing.

Smean:
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Tor on Smean:
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Tor on Smean:
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Summit tor of Smean:
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The ascent of the summit tor is straight-forward. Go up the grassy ramp to the right of the tor in the next photo.

Before I ascended to the summit, I removed all my camping gear from the rucksack and stored it between some rocks. I would retrieve it later in the day after ascending Morven.

Summit tor:
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Again, I was really amazed at the rock. Maiden Pap, Smean and Morven tors are all conglomerate. Scaraben was however different – quartzite.

Morven from summit of Smean:
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I liked the view back towards Maiden Pap from the summit.

Looking back to Maiden Pap from summit of Smean:
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Scaraben from summit of Smean:
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I made very quick progress towards Morven from Smean. On reaching the base of Morven, at the col between it and Smean, I found a feint track which I followed up the initial steep slopes.

En-route to Morven:
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Morven:
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Maiden Pap, Smean and Scaraben from slopes of Morven:
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The feint track eventually disappeared and the next section of ascent was over boulders.

Conglomerate boulder-field on Morven:
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During the ascent, I thought that the large tor at the top was the summit. It isn’t. The summit is on easy ground beyond the tor, which can be bypassed to the left.

Tors near summit of Morven:
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I spent some time at the summit soaking in the views. Orkney was just visible although I couldn’t make out the Old Man of Hoy. I could see Ben Loyal, Ben Hope, Ben Klibreck and I think possibly some of the Assynt hills. Nearer to the summit were Ben Griam Beg and Ben Griam Mor.

Can just make out Orkney in distance:
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Ben Loyal, Ben Grian Mor and Ben Griam Beg from summit of Morven:
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Small Mount and Ben Klibreck from summit of Morven:
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Ben Grian Mor and Ben Griam Beg (zoomed) from summit of Morven:
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The view back towards Maiden Pap, Smean and over to Scaraben was great.

Maiden Pap, Smean and Scaraben from summit of Morven:
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I descended back to the col between Morven and Smean initially via the same route as in ascent but as I approached the base I descended towards the stream that leads to Wag. My water supply was already low and I needed to top-up for camping.

Tor near summit of Morven:
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Looking back to Morven:
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I spent over 20 minutes filtering water at the burn. As I did some movement caught my eye. Initially, I thought it was a mouse. On getting a second look I could see it was a stoat/weasel. It was quite inquisitive as it watched me filtering the water.

Stoat/weasel:
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After re-filling my Sigg bottles I ascended back to the summit of Smean where I collected my camping gear from its ‘store’.

Heading back to Smean:
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Morven across bog:
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Maiden Pap:
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The descent to Scaraben was straight-forward. On reaching the col between Smean and Scaraben I could see a nice grassy shoulder where I thought I might camp. On reaching the shoulder, I stopped for a while to pitch my tent before carrying on again with a much lighter pack to the summit of Scaraben.

En-route to Scaraben:
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Looking back to Smean and Morven from camping spot on Scaraben:
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Final ascent to summit of Scaraben:
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Trig point and shelter at summit of Scaraben:
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From the summit of Scaraben, I returned to my tent.

Room with a view:
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After an hour or so of lounging around, I cooked my luxury item – tin of soup.
Yes, I know Cup-a-soup is lighter but it doesn’t taste as good :lol:.

Tea:
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I spent the next hour or so, looking forward to watching the sunset. I wasn’t to be disappointed :D.

Waiting for sunset over Morven:
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Sunset over Morven:
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Sunset over Morven:
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Sunset over Morven:
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I settled down for the night around 10.00 and woke-up around 4.45. It was already light enough to see without the headtorch. So I started packing-up everything and was ready to go by 5.20.

Packing up tent just before sunrise:
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From the shoulder of Scaraben, I returned to Braeval to the East of Maiden Pap, alongside the Allt Aoil. As I made my way back, I was also lucky enough to enjoy a nice sunrise.

Pre-sunrise view of Smean and Morven:
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Sunrise:
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Looking back to Scaraben from cairn beside Allt Aoil:
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From the shoulder of Scaraben it took me about 90 minutes to get back to Braemore.

Approaching Braeval:
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This is a seriously good walk.
Last edited by foggieclimber on Tue Apr 13, 2010 6:11 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wild camp in Caithness

Postby fingeez » Sun Apr 11, 2010 6:41 pm

Hey Foggieclimber

Looks like an amazing trip!! Def one i'll remember for myself in the future.

Love your second last pic of the sunset, stunning to say the least, love the 3 diferent distincts shades of the 3 lines of hills along with the clouds amazing.

But wait did i hear you say theres no cairn nipples on the paps :shock: thats not right poor poor maiden, someone needs to help her with a lil surgery hahaha

Great report

Ross
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Re: Wild camp in Caithness

Postby Gable Gable End » Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:20 pm

fantastic stuff! absolutely stunning rise/fall
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Re: Wild camp in Caithness

Postby foggieclimber » Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:21 pm

Gable Gable End wrote:fantastic stuff! absolutely stunning rise/fall


Thanks.
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Re: Wild camp in Caithness

Postby Dundreich » Mon Apr 12, 2010 7:57 pm

Tomato soup? Cullen skink would provide more calories :wink:
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Re: Wild camp in Caithness (Maiden Pap, Smean, Morven, Scaraben)

Postby eharbottle » Wed Apr 21, 2010 5:27 pm

Thanks for the great report, I live near Hopeman in Moray and can see Morvan across the Firth and thought it would be a good adventure with wild camp for me and my young daughter. You have just shown that it indeed would be - thanks.
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Re: Wild camp in Caithness (Maiden Pap, Smean, Morven, Scaraben)

Postby kevsbald » Fri Apr 23, 2010 12:02 pm

Brilliant report - just bloody brilliant.
So much character in the wee hills too.
Love the pic of old stoaty. But tomato soup - made from a chicken??? :lol:
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Re: Wild camp in Caithness (Maiden Pap, Smean, Morven, Scaraben)

Postby tmansteve » Sun Jun 13, 2010 2:23 pm

Hi there,

As I live in Caithness, I really enjoy the hill climbing but have always wanted to camp out at Braemore. I have to ask, did you have to inform anybody or get permission to camp there??

Excellent report as well. Tried Morven the other week and had to stop as thunder and lightening with very heavy rain forced my wife and I off the hill. Well, it told me one thing, that our old boots were not up for the job so got new ones ready for the next time.

Steve :)
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Re: Wild camp in Caithness (Maiden Pap, Smean, Morven, Scaraben)

Postby foggieclimber » Thu Jul 15, 2010 1:59 pm

No. You can wild camp pretty-much where you want within reason.

See the Outdoor Access Code for full details.

Extract:
Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place. You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply but help to avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic structures. Take extra care to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting. If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek the owner's permission.

Leave no trace by:

•taking away all your litter
•removing all traces of your tent pitch and of any open fire (follow the guidance for lighting fires)
•not causing any pollution.
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Re: Wild camp in Caithness (Maiden Pap, Smean, Morven, Scaraben)

Postby Penguin » Thu Jul 15, 2010 3:55 pm

That is such a brilliant report. I want to be out there right now, enjoying the hills, solitude, and freedom. Instead, I'm stuck here. It's really motivated me to go out and do it. Just need the oppotunity now...!

The report and photos were really amazing. Not enough superlatives to do it justice.

Penguin
8)
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Re: Wild camp in Caithness (Maiden Pap, Smean, Morven, Scaraben)

Postby weemistermac » Sat Oct 23, 2010 4:26 pm

Great report and photos! I live on the side (kind of!) of Ben Rinnes and regularly have clear views across Cromarty to the hils from the top of the Ben. I wondered what the pointy hills were over that way and you've answered my question for me! I don't know that part of the world very well at all but a wild camp might be the answer.
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