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Cape Wrath Trail - part 1 of 2

Cape Wrath Trail - part 1 of 2

Postby cookachoo » Thu Aug 29, 2013 10:02 pm

Route description: Cape Wrath Trail

Date walked: 29/08/2013

Time taken: 16 days

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April 27th – May 19th 2013

This has to be one of the most exciting and scary things I have ever done. Ever since picking up a book in a charity shop about this trail, I knew I had to do it, one day. Never having done any backpacking in my life before, I had no idea if I was able to walk day after day, with a heavy pack. And navigate and deal with whatever situation arose, all a bit of a scary proposition. :shock: Last year I decided to do a shorter training hike and made up a route of my own through Torridon for one week. It was fantastic, I survived and the weather was amazing. I was filled with hope that maybe I could do the Cape Wrath Trail (CWT). I did another week long hike through the Cairngorms later in the year, this time the weather gave me its worst and I survived just fine. My mind was made up, I was going to give the CWT a go, on my own.

I did alot of research on the web and read other peoples reports deciding on the best route to go and what length of days to have. I wanted to use as many bothies as possible so this also had a lot to do with my route.

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Day 1 Glenfinnan – Sourlies

Distance 28.51 km or 18m
Ascent 1,173m or 3,848ft
Time 10.30 hrs

Blue skies when I left Glenfinnan. I cried when I had to say goodbye, big softie that I am. Had a few snow showers throughout the day, each lasting about 20mins.

Near the top of the high pass up from Corryhully, a stag appeared in front of me and just looked at me instead of bolting. A bit un-nerving as I have heard of rogue stags attacking people. No need to worry with this one as it just casually sauntered on in front of me maintaining a distance of maybe 15 metres until we reached the flat area up by the gate to nowhere, when it veered off to the right, allowing me to pass. Once past A' Chuil, I cut up the side of the forest to the high track. About half an hour along this track, I met my first like minded people doing the Cape Wrath Trail (CWT). I blethered to Keith and Jeff for a while then I headed off, as I would see them later at Sourlies. The track along the side of Lochan a Mhaim was sodden and really really muddy. This took up a lot of time. The rain came on just as I was at the high point, looking down to Loch Nevis, maybe an hour away from the bothy. Got into bothy to find two elderly men in, also doing the CWT. I got a cuppa on and my bed organised before cooking dinner. The two old chaps went to bed after a good blether and I had dinner about 9pm. It has now been raining for hours and still no sign of Keith and Jeff. They appeared at 9.20pm. I was really amazed, that all five of us are doing the CWT. I had no idea it was going to be this busy. I wrote up my diary and bed at 10.30pm.

Started 9am
Corryhully 10.05am
High pass 471m 11.40am
Forest track at Strathan 1.20pm
A' Chuil bothy 3pm
Sourlies 7.30pm

01-27th start.jpg
Me heading off on my big adventure

02-27th 2.jpg
The friendly stag in question

03-27th 3.jpg
Looking back up towards Streap

04-27th 4.jpg
Looking down the length of Lochan a Mhaim

Day 2 Sourlies – Barrisdale

Distance 16.19km or 9 m
Ascent 836m or 2,742ft
Time 8.00 hrs

Rained a lot through the night. Lots of white water coming off the hills across the loch. Had lots of hail squalls today which also brought really strong winds. Each lasted about 10mins. Ground was white at times, just with the hail. Really cold.

The tide was well in this morning. I put a marker down before breakfast and checked it maybe ½ hour later and it was about a foot further out. Not knowing how fast the tide goes out, we all kind of dilly dallied this morning hoping that it would go out enough to skirt round the sands instead of going up and over. It got to 9.30am and it still wasn’t out enough so I decided that I would leave and climb up and over. The two old chaps did the same. Keith and Jeff would give it awhile longer. Climbing up high and round the point was quite exposed and a strong buffeting wind didn’t help any. The ground was sodden, like a sponge. After crossing the bridge at Carnoch and watching the two men wander up and down the now quite big river, looking for a crossing point, I decided to stick to the base of the hills instead of following the river thus avoiding the flat now sodden ground. Reaching the River Carnach again I headed towards the waterfalls and gorge area. Now, I was supposed to cut up towards Mam Unndalain somewhere along here but I obviously carried on along the river side for far too long. I ended up further into the gorge with a near vertical side on my left and a raging river on my right. Mmmmm, not good. I took the first feasible way out as soon as possible up a very steep slope. Now would be a good time to find out exactly where I was. I am using map and compass only, no GPS but had downloaded an app on my phone which would give me a grid ref in case of emergencies. I got a grid ref and pinpointed my location. Way too far East but the good track should be above me somewhere which would get me back on track so headed further up the hill till I hit the track. A welcome sight. That had lost me a good bit of time. The going was good on the track and I caught two people just near the high point of today, the two old chaps from Sourlies. Had a severe hail storm at this point, lasted about 20 mins with really strong winds. Bitterly cold as well. Mainly downhill now all the way to Barrisdale. Got to bothy at 5.50pm. I was now concerned about the time it would take me to get to Kinloch Hourn, which was my original plan. I knew the path along the loch and did not want to get caught out in the dark. If I stayed put that would mean I would have about three hours added onto tomorrow !!!!! Decisions decisions. I decided to play safe and spend the night here. There is a private area attached to the bothy and it obviously had a roaring fire going which was a lovely thought. There was no fire in the part I was in. Me not being shy like, went and chapped the door. I admitted that I was purely being nosey and asked about the part that they were staying in. It is called “The Stables” and sleeps five. They had meant to fill it but people called off and there were only two chaps in it. We talked for awhile and I was invited in for a look and was offered a bed if I wanted it. Well, I wasn’t going to refuse. So, Willie from Kingussie and Barry from Fife made great hosts for the evening. I was given tea/coffee, a choice of drink and a choice of dinner with a sweet. My god, I was living it up, sheer heaven. All I could offer in return were some minstrels. Didn’t go to bed till half past midnight. Mmmmm, and I planned to get up bright and early.

Left 9.50am
Waterfalls 12.50pm
Barrisdale 5.50pm

Narrow track by the river Carnach up near the waterfalls

06-28th 2.jpg
Looking East to Lochan nam Breac

07-28th 3.jpg
View down to Barrisdale Bay

Day 3 Barrisdale – Kintail

Distance 24.50km or 15m
Ascent 1,508m or 4,947ft
Time 10.15 hrs

Lots of hail showers today along with really strong winds. Ended up in really deep snow at the base of the Forcan Ridge.

Set off earlier today. Wasn’t long before I got my first squall and strong winds. I had forgotten about the narrow bits at the Kinloch Hourn end of the path. Right at the waters edge and one bit in particular was an awkward step up a wet slab and of course the wind at this moment in time was blowing a hooley and trying to push me into the water. :roll: Found the track up through the trees and onto the open hillside. Skirted round Buidhe Bheinn and had to get the boots and socks off for the river crossing here then skirted round Sgurr na Sgine. I headed up into the corrie where there was more snow lying and it was getting deeper all the time. Up on the high point Bealach Coire Mhalagain there was still some visibility and I could see the stone dyke running NE into the distance. I was going to follow this to take me over to Meallan Odhar. I headed down a steep firm slope to angle across to it and thud, down I went into a drift of soft snow, right up to my hips. Mmmmmm. :? I had to think about this one for a minute. I carefully worked myself loose and slowly rolled out of the hole. I crawled back up the hill to firmer ground. Contouring for a bit, I picked another line and headed for the dyke. This ended up being torturous ground. It was a boulder field covered in snow, a nightmare to walk on. I spotted someone ahead of me and picked up their footprints with crampons on. Now I’m thinking, this could be a potential lift along the stretch of road below. I put on a spurt knowing that they would need to stop to remove crampons. Managed to catch up and it was a young chap, maybe 18 or so and he had been up on the Forcan Ridge in terrible conditions. It was covered in clag and really strong winds. He stayed in Broadford and had driven down for the days climbing. My plan A was to get to the top of the zig zag path and drop down W to the track down Allt a Choire Chaoil but I knew the rivers were up and I would have another river crossing going that way so had decided on plan B which was the road. Luckily, I had now cadged a lift to Kintail Lodge, where I was booked into the bunkhouse. It only sleeps six and was really good. I ate in the Lodge and treated myself to a Drambuie.

left 7.30am
Kinloch Hourn car park 10.50am
river crossing 1.00pm
Bealach Coire Mhalagain 3.20pm
Kintail Lodge 5.45pm

A local resident of Barrisdale

09-29th 2.jpg
View down Loch Hourn

10-29th 3.jpg
Another hail stone squall coming my way

11-29th 4.jpg
Heading up into the snow and Bealach Coire Mhalagain

12-29th 5.jpg
The road to Sheil Bridge

Day 4 Kintail - Strathcarron

Distance 20.79km or 14m
Ascent 881m or 2,890ft
Time 7.45 hrs

Blue sky this morning but it didn’t last. I had a lot of rain showers, no hail today.

Again, I had sourced a lift. A lovely man in the bunkhouse wouldn’t hear of it when I said I was going to try and hitch a lift along the road towards Dornie. He insisted on taking me. I didn’t argue. He dropped me off right at the end of the Dornie road. Waw, that saved me a lot of time and effort. :) Had a lovely walk up the glen to Camas-luinie. Lovely mixed woodland following the River Glennan. The glen narrows at the top and was a bit like the Chalamain Gap without the boulders. Down on the road, I walked round to Nonach Lodge to pick up another river track along Glen Ling. This one was really wet, puddles everywhere and running with water in many places. Left the river to climb uphill round a couple of bumps and up to todays high point next to small lochan at the edge of the forest. Now into the forest and down to Attadale. Just before Attadale, a fighter jet passed overhead. The noise must have disturbed a bird in the field to my left. It took off, and flew up and over my head. It was an eagle and it had the white tail. I watched it for a while, flying over towards the crags when another bird came over and had a go at it. There was a great ariel display as the two spiralled about in the sky. I spotted another bird a lot higher up which I reckon was another eagle, hopefully it is a pair. Pushed on out to the main road heading for the Strathcarron Hotel where I was booked in. After maybe 15 mins I got a lift from two young boys who were in the area camping. Booked into my room, essentials washed and room like a bomb site I went down to the bar for dinner. Scampi and chips and a half pint of cider was my reward for today’s efforts. There was a young chap on his own whom I heard mention the CWT to someone. Will try and speak to him later. Moved over to the soft couches next to the bar with a book but was really listening to the conversation at the bar. Five or six men were having a good blether. The talk came round to sea eagles so that was my cue to join in. I got up and muscled in, mentioned my encounter earlier and the consensus was that it was a white tailed eagle that I saw and not the sea eagle. Both are now in the area and doing well. Managed to speak to the young chap who was indeed on the CWT. He was suffering from a sore ankle and a sore neck after taking a few tumbles and was feeling really sorry for himself. He didn’t want to walk tomorrow so was asking about public transport to Kinlochewe. His name was Raph, he is Polish and stays in London. I wished him luck and said I might see him tomorrow as I was also heading for Kinlochewe. I have a small blister on my heel and a few tender spots on the base of my feet so will tape them up tomorrow.

left 8.10am
Dornie road end 8.40
Nonach Lodge 11.40am
Glen Ling bridge 12.35pm
Lochan at the start of the forest 1.45pm
Hotel 3.55pm

The lovely wooded glen heading for Camas-luinie

14-30th 2.jpg
Looking down at Lochcarron

15-30th 3.jpg
The Royal Scotsman taking the tourists on a magnificent journey

Day 5 Strathcarron – Kinlochewe

Distance 18.07km or 11m
Ascent 524m or 1,719ft
Time 6.25 hrs

Raining this morning. Supposed to get nicer as the day goes on so no hurry to leave. It got a bit brighter so got ready to leave by 10am. Just when I was leaving, another squall came in so it was waterproofs on yet again.

I had a choice of routes today, all of them fabulous but as the weather was horrible, decided on the shortest one ie. The Coulin Pass. Walked out to the main road and within 10 mins got a lift from a Swiss girl. She was on her own and the car was kitted out as a makeshift campervan. The back seats were folded down and a wooden construction was inserted which gave an extending sleeping platform. She had driven from Switzerland to Germany then ferry to Newcastle and up to Scotland. She had a mountain bike with her and was visiting all the main bike courses in Scotland. She was also booked onto a one week mountain bike holiday leaving from Inverness. She was spending four weeks in Scotland. She dropped me off at Achnashellach station. I took the forest track which joined up with the Coulin Pass. It looked like I was heading into some really horrible weather, really dark grey skies and just on que, a hail storm hit. After 20mins or so, the skies started to clear and blue bits started to appear. It got nicer and nicer as the day went on. I was taking my time now as the mountains started to come into view. Slioch and Beinn Eighe were looking spectacular with the tops all covered in snow. The view and light constantly changed so I was camera happy today, for a change. Had a lot of stops today, just admiring the view and enjoying the sunshine. If I had wished for a blue sky day, it would have been today so how lucky was I. :D The classic view of Liathach came into view with Loch Clair in the foreground. Spectacular. I had to walk down the road for about half an hour then got a lift for the last part to Kinlochewe bunkhouse. Raph, the Polish chap was in the bunkhouse, he had got the train then a bus to here and is feeling better than yesterday. He is going to carry on tomorrow. We chatted over dinner in the hotel and will walk together tomorrow as the forecast is really horrible and there is a high pass to go over. This is Raphs first time in Scotland.

left 10am
Achnashellach 10.50am
Onto Coulin Pass and out of forest 12.20pm
Bridge over River Coulin 1.30pm
Kinlochewe bunkhouse 4.25pm

Still plenty white water about

17-1st 2.jpg
Looking towards Fuar Tholl

18-1st 3.jpg
Angry looking sky before it cleared

19-1st 4.jpg
Beinn Eighe coming into view

20-1st 5.jpg

21-1st 6.jpg
Beinn Eighe

22-1st 7.jpg
Beinn Eighe from Loch Coulin

23-1st 8.jpg
Liathatch from Loch Clair

Day 6 Kinlochewe – Dundonnel

Distance 35.50km or 23m
Ascent 1,140m or 3,740ft
Time 10.45 hrs

It was rain from the word go today. Turned to snow later on. Kept switching between rain and snow. Hills were running with water. Snow falling heavily up at Lochan. By the end of the day I was truly soaked through to the skin. Never ever ever have I seen as much water running off the hills.

It was raining as forecast this morning. It turned to snow once up at the heights of Kinlochewe. Rain, snow, rain, snow. I said that we would make a decision on the route once we get to Lochan Fada. Raph was using a guide book which took a different route than the one I had in mind over to Bealach na Croise. He had the route programmed into a GPS and didn’t know how to amend it. At the loch, I was definitely going to stick with my plan as his book took you up higher and seemed a bit of a dog leg to me. It was snowing hard now. I was heading for Loch Meallan an Fhudair but couldn’t see it once on the bealach. It could be iced over and filled in with snow???? Continued on for a bit as the ground still seemed right. Although the ground fitted with the map I had an uneasy feeling that there was a massif in front of me, somewhere, and there shouldn’t be. We stopped for a confab. I asked Raph for a grid ref to pinpoint our location, he wasn’t sure how to do that so I got my emergency phone out and got our grid ref. Yip, I was too high and too far W. The shoulder of Sgurr Dubh was what was giving me the uneasy feeling. Took new bearing and got back on track. The walk to Loch an Nid was a tough slog as the ground was a sodden mess. Got to the track at the Loch side. Poor Raph was knackerd. This was only our second stop of the day for a drink of water and a bite to eat. Now for the next slog along the loch side in the torrential rain. My next decision point would be at Achneigie ie. whether to go to Shenavall or keep going to Dundonnel????? My plan A had been to camp in this area with plan B being Shenavall if it was wet. Well this was more than wet, so plan C was born. I was meeting up with people from my hillwalking club this weekend who were staying in Sail Mhor bunkhouse, Dundonnell. So I was going to keep going and get there a night early in the hope that a bed was available. I gave Raph the choice of coming with me which would mean, maybe another three hours walking or he could go to Shenavall. I was a bit amazed when he said he would keep going. So now the hard bit, a long tough climb up the hill track which was by now a running stream of water. I was watching out for the big cairn which I knew meant the top of the track. Boy, was Raph glad when I said that it was downhill all the way. If we had walked up a track that resembled a stream bed then we walked down a river bed. It was just unbelievable. I have never seen as much water running off a hill. Eventually we hit the road. This was not going to be nice. Poor Raph. He was exhausted. Told him of the road walk and that we pass the hotel and the hostel is maybe half an hour beyond. Well, at the word hotel his spirits lifted, a bit. He started fantasizing about a comfy bed and a slap up meal. Reckoned we both deserved it he was trying to persuade me to at least go in and get a meal. Also, walking to Dundonnel was taking him further away from his goal, Ullapool, so he decided to definitely stop at the hotel. No one would stop for a couple of drowned rats, I don’t blame them. We had passed the welcome to Dundonnel sign when a landrover stopped. Had to wait on Raph catching up and asked him to drop Raph at hotel and I was the hostel just beyond. At the hotel I told Raph to run in and check that they had a room available oh and to check the price just out of curiosity. He said they did have rooms at £50, so to share one would just be £25 each. I thought sod it, I deserve a treat. So we both booked into the hotel only to then discover that it was £50 each and not per room. Raph had picked him up wrong. So with a room each, a quick shower was had and down for dinner just in time. The owner of the hotel told me that this was the most water he had ever seen coming off the hills as there were white water channels coming down the hills across the other side of the sands that he had never ever seen before. Raph disappeared at 10.30 I blethered on till 11pm. It was still raining.

Left 9.15am
Lochan Fada 12.30pm
Loch an Nid 3.20pm
Achneigie 5.15pm
Main road 7.20pm
Hotel 8.00pm

Looking towards Lochan Fada - the only photo of today - and what a day

Day 7 Dundonnel

Down for breakfast at 8.15am and met Raph. We said our farewells as he would now be ahead of me. He was talking about missing out a bit and doing the last stretch to Cape Wrath. All that I had left to do was to walk the couple of miles along the road to the hostel and wait on the motley crew arriving for the weekend.

Day 8 Dundonnel

Day 9 Dundonnel

Link to Cape Wrath Trail - part 2 of 2 http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=35893
Last edited by cookachoo on Tue Sep 03, 2013 9:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Cape Wrath Trail - part 1 of 2

Postby mountainstar » Thu Aug 29, 2013 11:08 pm

I love reading CWT reports, brings it all back from when I did it a few years ago. It sounds like you had as bad weather as I did in the 1st week, mine was better in the 2nd, hopefully yours is too(not seen part 2 yet) Great report, looking forward to reading Part 2.
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Re: Cape Wrath Trail - part 1 of 2

Postby gammy leg walker » Fri Aug 30, 2013 7:15 am

Fantastic read looking forward to the next instalment.
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Re: Cape Wrath Trail - part 1 of 2

Postby cookachoo » Sun Sep 01, 2013 5:13 pm

Thanks mountainstar and gammy leg walker. This is the first time I have put a report on the site.

Mountainstar - Your report on the CWT was really helpful to me. I used your timings as estimates when I was at the planning stage.
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Re: Cape Wrath Trail - part 1 of 2

Postby mrssanta » Sun Sep 01, 2013 9:22 pm

Impressive especially in all that rotten weather. Waiting for part 2
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Re: Cape Wrath Trail - part 1 of 2

Postby captainslow » Sun Sep 01, 2013 11:31 pm

Wonderful! Hoping that the second half describes you making it all the way!
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Re: Cape Wrath Trail - part 1 of 2

Postby achnasheen » Mon Sep 02, 2013 3:58 pm

thank you. A great report. I love to read it.
I didn't hear about this CWT until I was invited to a wedding in Edinburgh 2 weeks ago. Somebody told me about the hike and instantly I fell in love. Now there's not one day I do not read about it or look at pictures.I January 2001 I did a beatiful round hike in Letterewe. I'm looking forward to undertake the CWT in February.
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