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Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 2

Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 2

Postby papa smurf » Wed May 07, 2014 9:20 pm

Route description: Cape Wrath Trail

Date walked: 16/04/2014

Time taken: 13 days

Distance: 338 km

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Thursday 24 April 2014.

Kinlochewe to Strath na Sealga 27 km

I left to start the second stage at 1000 hours and Shona and Brea walked the first part with me. I was feeling rested and fit and my rucksack felt lighter. Started off in Paramo but after half an hour changed into shorts and t shirt. Walked up to heights of Kinlochewe then up the track. Seemed to be going quite well, was this the effect of three days fried
breakfasts ? I followed the track towards Lochan Fad with views of Slioch, the Spear looking very spear like and the Fisherfield 6 ahead of me. The Fisherfield 6 include some of the remotest Munros in the country and completing all six in one day is a grand expedition which I managed one long hard day, twenty plus years ago from Shenavall Bothy.

Slioch across Lochan Fada


I had a spot of lunch near Lochan Fad and the guidebook said to go past then climb the hill past Creag Ghlas Bheag then contour round to Bealach na Croise. The logic was that the ground lower down was wet, boggy and difficult. From where I sat I was going to lose precious height going to the Lochan then the ascent looked quite tough. I reasoned that with the recent drier weather, the low route might be tenable and easier. And so it proved and I scampered up to Bealach na Croise and down the other side towards Loch an Nid. Once past Loch an Nid I began to get spectacular views of An Teallach, earning its name ‘the forge’ today as it was wreathed in smoke-like cloud.

An Teallach

A short distance past the loch I came to a mystery. A large blue plastic bag was lying on the track and contained clothing. I never really looked that closely but was grateful for my own propensity to treble check everything, including after a stop.

I found a great camping spot at Strath na Sealga where the track from Shenavall Bothy meets the landrover track going up to Coire Hallie. As I pitched the tent and opened the rucksack, I discovered that the toothpaste had burst and gone all over the contents of the rucksack. I spent a happy time cleaning up the mess, which was at least water soluble. On the other hand everything smelled nice !

The threatening rain had still not materialised and I had a nice evening sitting on the ruins writing up my notes. I had had a good day and felt I had reached my intended destination easily and early and the rain had held off, so I was nicely set up. Dinner was the first of my Adventure Foods cook in the bag and it was the first time of the whole trip that I felt I enjoyed my dinner and actually felt full. You live and learn. Expensive but worth it. Interestingly I had also just about used up all of that days food which meant my rucksack was getting lighter. I lay in the tent watching the evening sun on An Teallach.

An Teallach from tent

Friday 25 April 2014. Ansac Day.

Strath na Sealga to Knockdamph Bothy 37 km

Very bad condensation during the night and it was actually dripping on me. I gave up about 0620 hrs and got up. It was dry , bright and coldish with a breeze but I was disappointed in the tent. I was away by 0745 hrs and walking well. I walked up the track with glorious views of An Teallach and Shenavall Bothy. I dropped down to Coire Hallie then back up the other side to head for Inverlael. It was hard work getting to 500 metres then dropping down to sea level repeatedly.

An Teallach from Coire Hallie track

Going towards the summit of the pass near Loch an Tiompain I met a guy going the other way. We stopped to chat briefly and it turned out he was doing the Cape Wrath Trail, north to south. He explained it was simply that he had received the offer of a lift to the north and it made sense. I had thought about it too and it had some attractions but arriving at Fort William didn’t seem as good a finish as the Cape. He had just walked up from Ullapool having had a day off and was heading towards Shenavall Bothy but I told him it was shut for maintenance which at least allowed him to work out his options. We parted with a handshake and cheery good luck messages.

I reached the phone box at Inverlael but had a mobile signal and made some calls and texts. Then worked my way through the forest tracks to take the track over to Glen Douchary. The track out of the forest was steep then contoured over the shoulder of a hill with no name just a height of 665 metres. Eventually I was off path, navigating carefully as the mist came down and the wind rose. I arrived at the ruins not marked on the map at NH244901 and it would have been a good place to camp. However my heart was set on Knockdamph Bothy so on I went following the east bank of the river. At first it was OK then it got rougher and rougher. Then the side streams got steeper and then dropped down steeply to the next. First thing in the morning it might have been OK, but at that time of day on a 23 miler, covering hard terrain it was simply horrific. It was also raining and blowing a hoolie. The river goes through a series of deep gorges and on a summers day with nowhere to go it would be idyllic. I kept thinking that once I got over the next rise, I would see Loch an Daimh but it was just refusing to come out and be seen. I got through it but agree totally with Paul that this was the worst stage and it was a very relieved me that finally hit the landrover track and lurched along to the shelter of the Bothy. It was no night for camping.

I got to the empty bothy at 2030 hours and got some hot food and drink inside me. I then turned my attention to the fire and there was wood aplenty and coal. There was no kindling but I managed a belter of a fire and stayed up way past my normal bedtime staring at the fire. There is nothing better than a bothy fire, especially when you deserve it !

I felt I was going well and feeling fine. This had always felt like the big day and by reaching it in one go I felt I had stolen a day and opened the way to success. It was a hard day but I was here and the way ahead was clear. Game on !

bothy fire

Saturday 26 April 2014 .

Knockdamph Bothy to Loch Ailsh 26 km

Knockdamph Bothy

Up at 0730 hrs to take the bothy spade for a walk. There was a strong, cold wind and heavy rain. Not good.
Had a good sleep last night, after staying up late at fire. I had a slight dehydration headache, understandable after last nights exertions but everything else felt fine. The plan was to move up the River Oykel and hopefully the weather would clear. If not find a sheltered spot or a fishermans hut. I decided to take the ashes out and bury them, so the fireplace was clean and welcoming for the next visitors. Common-sense said leave it but standards are standards. I carried out the grate to the door wearing my wet Paramo waterproofs and this is so obvious now……… as soon as I opened the door the wind blew the ashes all over me which stuck to my wet waterproofs. My lovely new Paramos ! However the rain was so heavy that as soon as I started walking, I was washed clean.

It was wet and windy with driving rain but i got on with it and felt good, surprisingly after yesterdays efforts. Stopped at Schoolhouse Bothy, Duag Bridge for coffee and a break from the weather. Nice wee bothy but no fireplace. Am I the only person that thinks the main point of the bothy is the fire ? There were a couple of school desks and things showing the heritage and it must have catered for kids from all around. It's still well away from the beaten track.

Schoolhouse Bothy

Carried on and almost got confused in the forest but got there without mishap, A cuckoo was singing loudly ' cuckoo, cuckoo ' and I wondered if it was right and I was ? I got to Oykel Bridge and again got a mobile signal, which was good because the phone box was up the hill a bit. Followed the river past all the numbered fishing beats of one of the best and most expensive fishing rivers in the country. Loch Ailsh was pretty with Benmore Lodge looking very grand on a promontory overlooking the loch. Its supporting cottages formed a nice wee hamlet.

Benmore Lodge, Loch Ailsh

One of the blogs I had read described a perfect camping spot in the woods just past the lodge and I found it. It nestled in a small clearing beside a bend in the burn. The grass was damp and it could be midgie hell in summer but it was perfect that night and I had another nice evening with some late sunshine.

camp near Loch Ailsh

Sunday 27 April 2014.

Loch Ailsh to Glencoul Bothy 22 km

It started cloudy and dry but brightened up becoming hazy sunshine, nice walking weather. I had only just started when I met a father and son from Reading camped just off the track. We had a nice chat. They had been ahead of me at Knockdamph and I had seen their bothy book entry. While chatting they asked if I had seen a bag of clothing near Strath na Sealga. Mystery solved. They had camped at the same spot as me, realised they had lost a bag and went back to look but never found it. They then had a detour to Inverness to re-equip as it contained their waterproofs. Ouch ! It was nice to chat to some like minded people. They were heading for Inchnadamph but I was bypassing it and going out to the east past Loch Carn nan Conbhairean and on to Glen Coul and Glencoul Bothy.

I walked up a good track past Loch Can nan Conbhairean to Loch Bealach a Mhadaidh. I had lunch then threw myself down the hill off -track to Gorm Loch Mor . I was having some problems with one of my poles because the basket had broken and it kept sinking into soft ground. Whilst contouring the rough ground there, I fell when the pole sank, my body pitched forward but my left leg stayed where it was and struck a rock. It fairly smarted and I said ’oh dear’ and I emerged with a graze and bruise just above my shin. However the good news was that my waterproof Paramo trousers were rolled up and they were undamaged !

The open ground from Gorm Loch Mor to Loch an Eircill was very hard, rough and up and down. Every time I crested a ridge, I thought I was getting there only to have my hopes dashed as yet again, I had to descend before yet another ascent. Eventually I reached the Loch and a good landrover track which I followed into Glen Coul. As I approached Creag an t-Sniomha I saw an obvious eagle soaring. Although I could not identify what type, it was clearly huge and soaring gracefully with little or no wing movement.

Loch an Eircill

Glen Coul

The descent to the bothy was very steep and there were lots of large stones which were rolling alarmingly under my feet and it was a very grateful and somewhat footsore walker that emerged just to the right of the bothy, as another cuckoo performed. The bothy was occupied by Louis from Montreal and his girlfriend Marjory from France and again we chatted. They were in the main room with the fire and I took the other room which had no fire-place. I noticed a very obvious memorial on the hill above the bothy and I went up to pay my respects. It commemorated two Elliot brothers killed in the Great War and was very poignant. Two brothers from such an isolated spot was a heavy toll and must have been a grievous loss.

Glen Coul bothy

Memorial to Elliot brothers

bothy from memorial



There was a beautiful sunset and then yet another enigma. I was getting ready to retire and was staring out into the loch when I saw a commotion. The water was frothing and heaving and I thought I could see a fin. I summoned the others and we ran down to the waters edge then walked barefoot for a few metres onto a tidal island. Even with my monocular we could not really see. At times I thought I saw a fin, at others a flipper and at others a seals head. I came to the conclusion that it was possibly two seals playing but it was hard to see but went on for a while. It was still going when we walked back to the bothy.

There was piece of possible divine intervention in the bothy. Lying on a shelf in my room was a basket for a walking pole. What a co-incidence or what ? It didn’t really fit but I jammed it on and hoped that pushing it down into the ground would reinforce the fit.

The stars were brilliant again.

This variation on the route was a good choice. I enjoyed the walk but also benefited by not dropping down to Inchnadamph and climbing back and undoubtedly saved a full day. More important than the time, I did not have to carry a full days rations !

Monday 28 April 2014 .

Glencoul Bothy to Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor 32 km

The day started awry when I found I had left my cup in the other room and not wanting to disturb Louis and Marjory I had to wait for my coffee till they got up. I left at 0815 hrs and found the path which rose steeply in zig zags up the hill. From the bothy the hills fell so steeply into the sea it was hard to believe that there was a path. But there was and it was a good one, with great views across Loch Glencoul to Quinag. I reached the high point of 205 metres and changed into shorts and t shirt before continuing to the head of Loch Gleann Dubh and round to Glendhu Bothy. This was a walk of three or four miles and in my schedule I had allowed this to be a rest day from bothy to bothy but by now I was in full flight and in no need of a rest day. I had a pause at the bothy and signed the book then continued.

Quinag across Loch Glencoul

Glendhu Bothy

The smell of gorse was overpowering but lovely in the hot sun. It reminds me of coconut shampoo.


I followed the track along the loch then up steeply on a new track past Loch an Leathiad Bhuain heading towards Achfary. The path seemed new and was much more distinct than what was marked on my OS map and it appears to serve an underground electricity line, as there were markers every so often. I followed this ever ascending path, passing two walkers and having a brief chat before arriving at a shieling. My choice then was to walk down easily to Achfary, then a bit of road walking to Loch Stack. Alternatively I could walk easily over Ben Dreavie then after a bit of rough ground, pick up a track to Loch Stack. I chose to go over Ben Dreavie which had a landrover track all the way up. The views from the top were great, if a wee bit hazy and the day was very hot. Arkle and Foinaven were to my right and the sea was to my left with various small islands poking out. The landscape ahead where I was going changed dramatically and became very rocky with lots of surface water. The best way I could describe it; is to say that the earth's skeleton was showing and each rock looked like a greying bone. Very dramatic and a hard and alien landscape. I was also very happy to realise that as I moved off the summit of Ben Dreavie I was going on to my last map, OS sheet 9. Getting there !

Ben Stack from summit of Ben Dreavie

skeleton of the land exposed

There was no track on the other side of Ben Dreavie and it was hard, hard going but I got down steeply to the track that leads to the road near Loch Stack and made my way down to the road. As I came down I saw a patch of green grass to my left near the road and wondered about a camp spot but kept going. I stopped at the road briefly and went down to the river near a cattle grid and dipped my feet. I considered camping but thought I’d get too much noise from the cattle grid as cars passed, so moved on. I went past Loch Stack looking for a spot but saw nothing, so kept going. And going and going ! There was nothing that even in desperation I would use as a camping spot. By this time I was right under Arkle and travelling north west but there was nothing. I was footsore and hungry. Eventually I came to the point I had to cut across rough ground to reach Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor which would lead me to Rhiconich. I thought I might get a spot there so I kept going and found a spot near the loch that in any other circumstances I would have rejected out of hand, but needs must and I pitched up. I was immediately assailed by insects and was picking them off me in droves. I also had a tick merrily feeding on my right ankle and another came marching in aggressively to join the feast. I took great pleasure in killing them both. Uuuugh ! My dreams that night were haunted by insects and I did not sleep well.
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papa smurf
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 2

Postby floma » Thu May 08, 2014 9:20 pm

papa smurf wrote:
A short distance past the loch I came to a mystery. A large blue plastic bag was lying on the track and contained clothing. I never really looked that closely but was grateful for my own propensity to treble check everything, including after a stop.

Posts: 40
Joined: Nov 11, 2012

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