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Cape Wrath Trail 2019 With Dry Feet

Cape Wrath Trail 2019 With Dry Feet

Postby stevemee » Tue May 21, 2019 9:46 pm

Route description: Cape Wrath Trail

Date walked: 11/05/2019

Time taken: 17 days

Distance: 366 km

Ascent: 11950m

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Cape Wrath Trail – April 25th to May 11th 2019

I have been interested in walking the Cape Wrath Trail for several years, on approaching 70 I decided it was now or never, I completed the CWT a month before my 72nd birthday.

Once upon a time in the 60’s and 70’s I walked and backpacked in Scotland when I worked there. On moving south and the start of a family I did not do any serious walking until my wife unfortunately died nine years ago and I took up walking again. Everything had changed, the kit had changed, the numbers walking had changed and I had changed. I soon got into long distance trails and having completed all the usual I kept looking at the Southern Upland Way and Cape Wrath Trail but kept putting them off as I had not backpacked or wild camped since the 70’s.

Having decided to go for it I bought a tent, sleeping bag etc and took off for a three day walk across Dartmoor to test me and my kit. I had already discarded a lightweight rucksack for a heavier more comfortable Ospray Atmos. The wind was blowing a gale and with the rain heavy the Sawyer mini took an age and whilst putting up my tent I broke the carbon pole, a quick dash into a wood and jury rigged the tent for a very wet unpleasant night. The next day I walked the 18 miles to my next planned stop. I was exhausted and my back was severely complaining, jury rigged the tent using my poles as an A frame. Finished the walk the next day with a long list of lessons learnt.

A month later I was off on the Southern Upland Way (SUW) with my backpack weighing less, aluminium pole for my tent, a lighter pack and an MSR Trailshot. The MSR Trailshot proved no better and I realised how bad the condensation is in modern tents. A fellow walker advised me to keep the flysheet open at night to reduce condensation and use a Sawyer Squeeze. My Jetboil Micromo worked very efficiently until suddenly deciding not to work although worked perfectly a few minutes previously. Luckily I was very near Moffat and an outdoor shop where they very helpfully sold me a simpler Optimus Crux set.

I do prepare all my long distance walks but nothing like the preparation I did for the CWT. I decided to keep the maximum weight of my rucksack complete with food, water, maps, walking poles and everything at 15 killograms including one days food spare. This meant 4 food parcels that my partner Trish would send to me. I spent time identifying the lightest maximum calorie food and ended with a daily allowance of 2,640 calories weighing 560 grams. A check soon showed that using Post Offices for food parcels was not an option, so it was Hotels; I was also informed due to the North Coast 500 they get busy so I would need to book. This meant loss of flexibility in my days walking so I decided to make maximum use of hotels and B&Bs. I checked the weather for the last 10 years, this identified that the driest months were also those likely to be midge free. It showed what temperatures, sun, wind and rainfall to be prepared for. I checked SEPA’s web site for river levels confirming the run off was very quick and any time in spate was very short and well worth waiting, it also confirmed the present levels were low. I watched hours of You Tube and read many blogs as well as the Cicerone guide book and Walkhighland web. Although I used Harvey maps for planning I did not take them with me due to lack of detail. I used 1:25k OS printed on A4 waterproof paper. For each day I identified possible wild camp sites, bothies and hotels, shops, alternative routes, river crossings that had warnings and an escape route. I navigated by map and compass with Viewranger as a means of conforming my position when required. Viewranger, with a backup battery was to be my means of navigating any escape route. I also used my iPhone, always set to airplane mode, as my camera. My luxury was my kindle. I calculated the probable walking time for each day using Google Earth based on 4k/hr if I could see a good track, 3k/hr for faint tracks and 2k/hr for no tracks plus for each 1min per 10mtrs of climb, generally I walked quicker but this was a good starting point. I spent most of my life working in the water industry so I do not drink water straight from a stream. The Sawyer Squeeze gave me my water for dinner and breakfast while a Travel Tap supplied my normal drinking water. I managed to get a pair of Haglofs Grym Keprotec boots in a sale. These were always wet, used with a pair of Sealskinz socks, that were normally damp and sometimes wet but always dried out overnight even in a tent and with liner socks my feet were never wet. Although I enjoy walking with others I really enjoy a wilderness and that is best savoured alone, walking alone I carried my Spot in case of emergencies with Trish my daughter and granddaughter knowing where I was. The distances and climb are taken from my route plotted on Memory Map, the actual is most certainly more as you meander across the rough ground.

Day 1 - Fort William to Gleann Cia-aig – 26.6 km with 505m of climb.

The weather had been sunny and dry for over two weeks but on the day of my arrival it was due to change, unsettled but warm with the weather coming from the south. The sleeper train arrived in Fort William on time, I immediately set off on my walk north with a spring in my step as the clouds lifted to produce a warm sunny day. I had decided to go up the Great Glen Way and then make for Kinloch Hourn due to the Carnach Bridge being removed. Once away from the adjoining villages like suburbs of a greater Fort William, the walk was pleasant. I walked through the houses of Caol to join the Caledonian Canal having no need to visit Corpach. Up Neptune’s Staircase and on, with the gorse bushes in full bloom, a short divert down to look at the Glen Loy aqueduct, a brief look at the Moy bridge and the locks at Gairlochy. Over the swing bridge and into woodland followed by a loch side path, a short road walk, past the site of the remains of a training landing craft, indicated I was nearing Achnacarry and the site of the WWII commando training school. With the weather still good and after easy walking I was making good time to allow me to walk through Achnacarry and spend an interesting hour in the museum and enjoy an ice cream. Onwards, NW through Achnacarry to the B8005, I had intended to go left and up over Bealach Carn na-h-Urchaire but with low cloud forecast for the following morning I turn right and up past the Eas Chai-aig waterfalls and through Gleann Chia-aig as it was lower although longer. I found a sheltered spot to camp as the wind started to increase. Later the rain started and continued for serval hours as I lay in my sleeping bag thinking of the joys ahead. Being mostly the Great Glen Way this was an easy walk that I calculated at 7hr 48min and took me about that time including the time in the museum and other stops.

Day 2 - Gleann Cia-aig to Poulary – 22.4 km with 387m of climb

The day started chilly with the clouds clinging to the hills around me although the morning’s weather was pleasant with some sun, later a few brief rain showers were experienced. Continuing up the Glen I was soon over the deer fences and into rough open countryside after a 6 km mix of faint or non-existent paths and an easy river crossing I eventually reached Glen Garry forest. The recent dry winter had resulted in the going on the open hillside, although still wet in places, being considerably drier than I had expected but the forest was another matter, typical forest, wet with poor drainage. The route east through Glen Garry Forrest was indicated by the remains of some waypoints supplied by The Scottish Rights of Way and Access Society, through the firebreaks and not as the OS map. Soon after turning north a new forest gravel track was reached which was hard on the feet but this improved once I was on the more established forest track leading west. After 11 km of forest walking the farm at Garrygualch was passed and a change to a faint path on rough ground with the River Garry on my right and a deer fence guarding the forest to my left. The path often had to be left as it was too wet and I lost it altogether towards the end and aimed for a small hillock next to the old shielings. Crossed the Allt Choire a' Bhalachain twice where it divides and made for the forest fence. The ground here is flat and boggy but was not difficult to negotiate. A gate in the fence near the River Garry gave access that in turn led to a forest track leading to the bridge over the river to Poulary. I had planned to camp in this area and was beginning to think I may be unlucky when immediately after the bridge a style allowed access to the north of the river and a sheltered spot alongside the Alt na ha-Eiric. I made camp in sufficient time for the evening’s rain that started an hour later. This was a harder day than yesterday but still not difficult, my planned route was estimated at 8hrs 42min while this longer route with less climb took a little under 8 hours.

Day 3 – Poulary to Kinloch Hourn – 24 km with 490m of climb.

Today was as expected an easy day’s road walking with the scenery making it far more interesting than I anticipated. The weather was overcast with a few spots of rain during an otherwise pleasant day. The surface of the minor road started in very good order but as it progressed along the glen it progressively deteriorated and was in a very poor state by the time I got to Kinloch Hourn. The walk led past the dam for Loch Cuaich and its landslip with work continuing, on a Saturday, to complete the opening of the road that had been closed all winter. Loch Cuaich is used for the hydro power station and its very low level and the high flow in the River Garry indicated it was being well used. The road continued and ran through an area of rhododendrons with no sign of any nearby stately home and on to the watershed with its small lochans. More fellow walkers were met on this road than cars, observed by the deer looking down from above. The final descent was down a gorge with the road steeply twisting and the telephone cable run alongside over the rocks with various repair junction boxes, I was later advised the telephone regularly failed and was down at present. The days walk ended at the Kinloch Hourn Farm B&B with a large pot of tea, cake and a pleasant night with a roof over my head. I do not normally suffer from blisters but I had one a few weeks before I left, the new skin had clearly not had time to harden and now my heel was a bloody mess. Adopting a system of three overlapping compeeds and a large covering plaster as protection worked well and enabled me to complete the walk without it giving me any further problems, although at the first opportunity, I had to get Trish to post me some more large plasters. Estimated at 6hrs 42min the walk took just over 6 hours.

Day 4 – Kinloch Hourn to Shiel Bridge – 18.2 km with 979m of climb

Another dry and sunny day with little wind making for good walking weather spent alone except for a number of weekend walkers between Bealach Coire Mhalagain and Meallan Odhar. A short walk to the lodge and a steep climb, made easy by the good nature of the path up Cadha Mor, followed by a pleasant walk with good views around Coire Reidh on a track, becoming fainter, as it reaches Allt Coire Mhalagain and an easy crossing. So far it had been easy walking now it was about to change with the climb up to Bealach Coire Mhalagain by the NW side of Coire Mhalagain using an intermittent, faint rough track, wet in places that ends before the final push. Negotiating gullies and spurs resulted in me being slightly higher than I needed to be. With good views of the Forcan Ridge and surrounding hills and glens it was time to find the path, not as obvious as I expected , to the wall to cross below the Forcan Ridge. After negotiating this very rocky path I had trouble identifying the way down, no paths and steep, I opted for following the burn with its waterfall to the NW of Meallan Odhar. A walk down Coire Caol, to find and join a faint very rough path, wet in places, eventually relieved to cross the Allt Undalain to the good path that was to take me the last 3km down to Shiel Bridge to be met by feral goats that seem to fear walkers but not cars. A short road walk to the Kintail Hotel for the night and my first food parcel. My first hard day, estimated to take 8hrs 36min took a total time of less than 8 hours.

Day 4 The Way Down to Cire Caol.JPG
Day 4 The Way Down to Cire Caol

Day 5 – Shiel Bridge to Maol-bhuidhe Bothy – 26 km with 1,120m of climb

This was the day I approached with trepidation due to my fear of heights. The day was warm and I was starting to wonder if I should have brought lighter clothes and less layers. A quick breakfast and I was down the road and up a clear, again rough in places, path for 13km up to the Falls of Glomach with its 113m fall. A quick look and photo of the falls and it was up to the path to start the decent. I had previously considered alternative routes to Carnach but that would add extra time to an already long day and the weather being dry I decided to go for it. Surprisingly I did not have a problem even though in one place I needed to scramble down I had no hesitation in sitting in water. Finally reaching the allt at the ford I assumed I was down. Wrong, as the narrow path continued ahead and the gorge fell away it was again a narrow path with a considerable fall. Eventually a foot bridge was reached to confirm I was actually down this time, then followed by a second, and the track that led past Carnach to Iron Lodge and up the much rougher track above An Crom-allt. This track took me across the watershed at Reidh Leum na Feithe and followed the Allt na Sean-luibe down to the Maol bhuidhe bothy for a good night’s sleep. Not as hard as yesterday but I still found it tiring. My estimated time was 11hrs 54min including a diversion around the waterfall path, by going down the waterfall path I believe I saved about 2 hours with my total time for the day being 8½ hours.

Day 5 Path Down from Falls of Glomach (2).JPG
Day 5 The Path Down from the Falls of Glomach

Day 6 - Maol-bhuidhe Bothy to Strath Carron – 18.5 km with 510m of climb

Woke up to a cold overcast morning and keen to get going. It was down to the River Ling near Loch Cruoshie, across and to the spur to the NNE past numerous fairly dry peat hags. I climbed higher than initially intended looking for the path that I eventually found just below me. This rough path led me past Loch Calavie with two new bridges, one, on reaching Loch Calavie, the other shortly before Bendronaig Lodge. A Hydro scheme in the area has resulted in new good tracks that vary slightly from the line shown on OS maps. I used this new track as much as possible until I had to leave and make off across the rough ground up to Bealach Alt an Ruairidh following the remains of an old metal fence. This faint, rough and wet in places, path continued all the way to Strath Carran only improving towards the very end after the Reservoir. With the Strathcarran Hotel and my second food parcel awaiting, a large pot of tea, a shower and back to the bar soon to be joined by another CWT walker, my first travelling north. We were soon saying how much harder this walk was from anything we had done before and our prime motivation to keep going was having told our friends at home that we were doing it. On my part my energy was probably at its lowest point and although I did not know it then I was to get stronger as the days progressed even though the weather got worse. Probably slightly easier than the last two days but my tiredness was now showing, with plenty of rough ground, I knew I had done a good walk. My actual time was the same as my estimated time of 7 hours.

Day 7 - Strath Carron to Coire Dubh Mor – 21.7 km with 905m of climb

An interrupted night’s sleep due to a party below, and not being prepared to wait for a delayed breakfast it was off down the road with the clouds well down over the hills. My fellow CWT traveller was staying an extra day to go off route to get food for his onward trek. The day starts with an easy walk along roads and a river path to Coulags Bridge followed by a clear but very rough path up the Leathaid an Aon Bhothain past the Coire Fionnaraich Bothy. Inside the bothy is a photograph of one of its former occupants along with his contract as the 3rd stalker for the estate with his various tasks and allowances. The clouds lift to produce a sunny day as the path climbs, gets rockier and turns east towards Coir Lair. It is time to leave the path and head down across very rough rocky ground to cross the Allt a Choire Ghrannda in search of another path. This path again rocky, indistinct in places but helped by cairns leads down the Cadha na Frianach to the Ling Hut and the A896. I had intended to camp in this area but although tired I felt good and knowing the following day to be tougher decided to walk on and gain some height. I continued up Coire Dubh Mor on a rocky path to where the path crossed the Allt a Choire Dhuibh Mhoir with a Search and Rescue helicopter circling overhead. The weather was changing, the wind was now from the north, still only a breeze but much colder. The occasional showers were still rain but that was to change in a couple of days becoming more frequent and wintry. I was now up to 350 meters, overcast with a cold north wind, so I wild camped in the lee of a large rock, the helicopter moved further up the glen. Probably as hard as the previous day but I felt better and hence found this day easier although still far from an easy day. Again my estimated time and actual time were the same but I had walked further and higher.

Day 8 - Coire Dubh Mor to Kinlochewe – 15.6 km with 457m of climb.

The numbers for the day look insignificant but such is the nature of this walk that this is misleading. The guide book correctly warns that the route is spectacular but very rough and should not be underestimated adding that some think the route should not pass this way because of the difficult country. The day did not start well, as breaking camp I looked up to see the low cloud advancing down the glen leaving me with the decision do I first get my wet weather gear on or finish packing away my tent before it gets too wet. I failed on both counts as the very wet mist and cloud quickly hit. So it was onwards and upwards into the clouds with no promises of the spectacular views for my efforts. With the clouds low I located the waterfalls, my point of leaving this rough path by the noise although as I crossed them the clouds momentarily lifted to show a whole series of waterfalls stretching up the hill. The guide book says to contour walk up the glen for some 6 km but contour walking here is not so easy as you continually go up and down the hillside looking for the easiest route. Eventually crossing the Allt Toll a Ghiubhais and heading upwards in search of a path to take me down to Kinlochewe. By now the clouds had lifted and the views were spectacular, surrounded with near white hills due to bare rock and no vegetation. At long last I could get my tent out and dry it. The clear but very rocky path improved as I made my way down to Kinlochewe for another night with a roof over my head to find the hotel and car park opposite was being used by mountain rescue looking for a walker who had not returned. A reminder to us all these hills are to be treated with respect. A harder days walking estimated to take 8hr 30min but took 7 hours for slightly less distance and climb.

Day 8 Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve.JPG
Day 8 Beinn Eighe Nature Reserve

Day 9 – Kinlochewe to Cnoc nan Righreon – 23.1km miles with 733m of climb

The day started well it was chilly with a north wind but sunny and the path up Kinlochewe Forest, now treeless, was good. Others were out before me as I passed mountain rescue vehicles in Gleann na Muice and when I stopped for a break shortly before reaching Loch an Sgeireach a searcher with his dog came along the path. Leaving the path, and using a point on Loch Fada below me as a back bearing, I struck out for Loch Meallan an Fhudair across rough ground. Shortly I was hit by a brief snow storm, horizontally, into my face, I had no option but to turn round, back to the wind and snow and stand there until it passed. This was to happen one more time while crossing Bealach na Croise and twice more when on the path down but then I was able to put my head down and follow the path. From Loch Meallan an Fhudair I climbed north across rough wet ground to the waterfall and then headed NW for the faint path. This path was rough and wet, as was the path I joined near Loch an Nid that continued to Cnoc nan Righreon. Camped amongst the trees that offered little protection but dripped on to the tent during the time when it was not raining or snowing, it was a wet night. Another hard day but I felt good, estimated to take 9hrs 42min but only took 7½ hours.

Day 10 - Cnoc nan Righreon to Clachan – 18 km with a 746m of climb

Woke up to find another 6 had joined me overnight camping amongst the trees, it was the weekend again and the weekend walkers were out enjoying the hills irrespective of the weather. The morning was showery and a look around showed the snow overnight had increased on the hills just above me. It was cold with the northerly wind and showers continuing. Between showers, had breakfast, passed a few words with the weekend walkers and packed up my gear ready for the off, reached for my over-mitts to find one missing, sure that I had it last night I unpacked everything and searched for it to no avail. With one dry hand and one cold wet I set off up the good track and into the snow at Sail Liath. The snow had settled at this height but insufficient to affect progress while the showers were now sleet and snow. As I continued on down Gleann Chaorachain to the A832 I met a steady procession of weekend walkers coming up, passing pleasantries with some. Joined the A832 at the now full car park, and past the no longer trading Art Gallery, to turn off and walk up alongside the river and up a field. The route here is not clear with no sign of a path through the field while I found the guide book’s description confusing. However, soon found the field and the way up to some very wet muddy paths that improved as I climbed. The paths had very quickly become wet with the change in the weather although being only showery the river levels remained low. As I continued over the hill good views of Strath More opened up below me for my walk down. The wood at Auchlunachan had been felled, deer fences rebuilt and the track down improved although very wet at one point. A path to the south of the houses at Croftown led me to the road and onwards to my B&B at Clachan. As I walked along the road I phoned home and checked in with Trish, my parcel probably had not arrived, still at depot. As soon as I arrived this was confirmed and more phone calls. Trish phoned the outdoor shop in Ullapool and a taxi, within an hour two all-day breakfasts, a dozen energy bars and a new pair of waterproof gloves were deliver to me at the B&B. This had been an easier day, estimated to take 6hrs 24min but took about 6 hours.

Day 10 Sail Liath looking back South.JPG
Day 10 Sail Liath looking back South

Day 11 – Clachan to Knockdamph Bothy – 21.4km with 814m of climb

Went down to breakfast to find two walkers just leaving, we greeted each other with a wave as they were off down the road. Advised by my host that they were from the Czech Republic and were also walking the CWT, my first since Strath Carron. We were to meet up again many times over the next few days to the Cape. The weather for the day continued with the cold northerly wind and showers, wintry on the top. I was soon off and down the road myself, the first part a quiet road then a km of the busy gently twisting road to Ullapool, although the locals give you a wide berth, they drive quite fast and I was glad to get off the road. Down a good track, over a bridge and on to good forest tracks that zig-zag up the hill. To save distance I picked on an old track no longer used by the foresters, it certainly saved distance but I don’t know about time as it now had young trees in the track and it was very wet. After the forest the track up remained good, at the top I met the two Czechs before moving on across the top of the hill with quad bike tracks across the wet ground. After a while I left the quad bike tracks and made my own route across the hill and down to the remains of the buildings at Douchary keeping out of the wet stuff as best as possible. Crossed the Allt Siolar that was virtually dry and started to follow the River Douchary that quickly went into a gorge so I crossed to the east side. The river and its gorge were certainly very picturesque the same cannot be said of the path in the peat that clung to the side of the gorge and continually went up and down. For an easier life I tried walking through the heather further away from the river only to be blocked by further gorges produced by side streams. The river turned north, and a quick look over the Allt nan Caorach, soon identified the easy way down, continuing steeply back up and on across the wet broken ground towards Loch an Daimh. Before reaching the Loch, I cut across to the rough track leading from the Loch and up to join the equally rough track ENE to the Knockdamph Bothy. I made myself at home including opening up my sleeping bag to see my missing over mitt looking at me. I was soon joined by a biker from London followed by the two Czechs, it turned out to be a very cold night with no wood in the vicinity to make a fire, and any thought of bringing the wrong clothes had long gone. A harder day estimated to take 9hrs 12min but took 7 hours, I was now getting more use to the trail.

Day 12 - Knockdamph Bothy to Garbh Ath Chaoruinn – 27.2 km with 464m of climb

A quick breakfast and off down the track, it being warmer on the move than in the bothy. An easier day’s walking on mostly good if stony tracks all day, with the weather continuing with cold northerly wind and odd wintry shower. The initial 7km track to the School Bothy was very rough and wet while a track to the left towards the river no far before the School Bothy and not shown on the OS map could be misleading. A brief visit to the School Bothy, well worth a visit, and then on, with the track much improved, deciding at the last minute to take the lower track through the woods as the track up above looked very rough. The trees were fairly open allowing views of the surrounding hills, this continued for 5km before coming to civilisation leading to Oykel Bridge. I went across to the Hotel to see if I could get a cup of tea, to be informed they don’t open until 12:00, it was 11:00, but were happy to supply me with a tea or coffee. Soon time to move on so it was across the old bridge and up above the picturesque River Oykel along a good track for nearly 10km. Past by an artic delivering to Caplich Farm and waved to a fisherman and some estate workers, the natives seemed friendly as they have throughout the walk. At one point a track leaves and heads down and along the river and is probably an option if you want to walk along the river itself, it returns to the main track further along. After Salachy, the ownership of the estate clearly changes, the good track ends and the fishing spots are now shown to be owned by the Benmore Estate. The track is now grass and in places very wet. I had intended to wild camp near Salachy but having plenty of time, with the weather improved, I had a pleasant rest at a fisherman’s bench then moved on. No Further camping spots were evident until the Garbh Ath Chaoruinn. I had passed one small sign stating CWT into the trees away from the river with no sign of a path, which I ignored. Now a larger sign and a path that the landowner had made along the Garbh Ath Chaoruinn, there being a number of camping spots along this allt I took the path which quickly led to the forest track that ran parallel to the river. In a sheltered hollow I pitched my tent for the night. I went to sleep with warm sun on the tent sheltered from the wind. An easy day only made harder due to my lack of sleep because of the cold, estimated to take 6hrs 48min, took 8½ hours including the extra distance along the river and the pub stop

Day 12 Knockdamph to School Bothies.JPG
Day 12 Knockdamph to School Bothies

Day 13 - Garbh Ath Chaoruinn to Inchnadamph – 18.3 km with 541m of climb

This is another day where the figures are deceptive and harder due to the terrain. Woke up to a hard frost, my tent was white, my water had ice on it and my wet boots that I had left under the fly sheet had frozen preventing me getting them on. Bringing my boots and water into my tent to thaw sufficient to make a cup of tea I had breakfast and eventually got my feet into my boots. Camping in a hollow was a mistake as it prevented the morning sun melting the frost. Shaking as much frost off the tent as possible I packed up and moved off on the good track that took me all the way to the bridge over the Allt Sail Ruathair, the track then deteriorated and became very rough, wet, faint and intermittent as it progressed up the glen. On the way up I met a walker coming down, he had been doing the CWT but was giving up saying he had too much electrical equipment and not enough food. I left what path there was at 340m and continued up the glen climbing up to 520m then contouring to cross the Am Bealach and Bealach Trallgil across very rough wet ground, where ahead of me, I could see the two Czechs. These ground conditions continued down Gleann Dubh with the River Traligill in a ravine and various side ravines requiring negotiating. As progress was made a path, intermittent at first and very rough and wet is reached, which improved the closer you get to Inchnadamph. The weather for the day was pleasant, cold, a light breeze with a few spots of rain or sleet, nothing to prevent drying out my tent on the way up. The views were also good, this was a day of spectacular views with snow-capped Conival and Ben More Assynt towering above the glen. A short walk along the road led to the Inchnadamph Hotel and my last food parcel. A hard day, estimated at 8hrs 54min but took just over 7 hours mainly due to less distance after yesterday.

Day 13 Conival & Ben More Assynt from Loch Ailsh.JPG
Day 13 Conival & Beinn More Asynt from Loch Ailsh

Day 14 – Inchnadamph to Glendhu Bothy – 21km with 1,032m of climb

The weather forecast the previous night was for another pleasant if chilly day. As soon as I stepped out of the Hotel I could feel dampness in the air and stopped and put on my waterproofs, I was certainly going to need them. The 5km walk up to Loch Fleodach Coire was on a clear if rocky path which was just as well as it soon started to snow, being driven into my face by the north wind, requiring me to keep my head down, this time it was not showers but continuous. I met two separate day walkers going down who had each set off early but decided to abort due to the weather. Near the Loch, the path became intermittent and indistinct due to the rocky ground, from there to the Bealach na h-Uidhe I continually lost and re-found the path as I made my way to the top. The views were very restricted although it was not a complete white out but it was having a good try. The path down the other side was rocky, but very clear and not difficult to follow in the weather conditions. This whole area was very rocky with a number of small lochans, in good weather I suspect it was an amazing sight. As I zig zagged down towards Abhainn an Loch Bhig, the snow turned to rain and that was how it was to remain for the rest of the day. The final part down to Abhainn an Loch Bhig does not have a path but it is fairly easy to find your way down between the wet bits and ridges. Abhainn an Loch Bhig was fairly easy to cross and the remains of a fence was used to guide me down to Loch Beag. The path or paths such as they are, are intermittent, rough and wet, going was slow and I often left the paths to try and find a better way. This 3km seemed to take an age and was very tedious, even the high waterfall Eas a Chual Aluinn with its 200m fall, I found a disappointment. This did not end until crossing the wall under Torr na Coille very shortly before the Glencoul Bothy. I entered the bothy for shelter to find a working party engaged in making improvements. I sat down out of the weather chatting to them, having a snack when another CWT walker arrived having walked the other side of Ben More Assynt. He quickly decided to stay the night and pitched his tent, the bothy not being available for sleeping due to the work. After my rest it was back out into the rain for the last 7km over and around the promontory to the Glendhu Bothy. The initial path up alongside a new deer fence was rocky but good. As I walked up two fell runners ran down later to pass me again on their way back. Once up, the path was initially a narrow balcony path, before turning east when it became wet. It was rocky and at one stage disappeared with progress slow taking 3 hours to cover this last 7km. At long last I reached the Bothy, as I approached I thought I could smell wood smoke and entered to find another walker lighting the fire using the pile of wood that I assumed was drift wood there being no trees nearby. Later the two Czechs also arrived. Another hard day made worse by the worst day’s weather of the trek. Estimated to take 10hrs 24min, took 8½ hours.

Day 14 Towards Loch Beag.JPG
Day 14 Towards Loch Beag

Day 15 - Glendhu Bothy to Cam Alltan – 21 km with 969m of climb

After yesterday the weather improved for the remainder of the walk, the sun was out, a cold north wind remained but now lighter and although I could see showers for one more day I escaped them while I walked. The initial loch side track was undulating and rocky but once I turned NE to start climbing the track improved and was good all the way to the shieling at Bealach nam Fiann. All the way the views were good and again, I passed a fishing hut just like those alongside the River Oykel, except this one above Loch an Leathaid Bhuain, was anchored in each cornerwith wires down to rocks against the winds. The path NW from the shieling was faint, grassy rough and in places wet but fairly easy to follow to the flat top of Ben Dreavie. Here not only were the views good but the rock was interesting in that it was like pebbles set in a red concrete. From here there is no clear way down just a general direction to follow, taking into account the terrain and using lochs, spurs and height to keep a check of where you are. When down to 280m I turned NNE again using the terrain to determine my way down, with a loch on my left and the next on my right, and finally following the allt to Feur Lochan. The way down had so far been rough with some wet patches now across to the path coming up from Strath Stack, and along this path it was very wet. Soon to join a clear rocky path heading NE alongside a new deer fence, the path initially undulating eventually took me down to the A838. A short walk along the A838, down the track to Stack Lodge, along a good path to Cam Alltan and I was at my camping spot for the night. This time I camped in the open in case I needed the morning sun. Here whilst getting water, I jumped a drainage ditch but did not make it, my foot slipped back and I was quickly knee deep in a bog, luckily only one foot and easy to get out. Just before I went to sleep we had a brief rain shower, my last of the trek. A hard day although slightly easier than the last two, estimated at 8hr 30min and took just under 8 hours.

Day 15 Loch Stack.JPG
Day 15 Loch Stack

Day 16 - Cam Alltan to Kinlochbervie – 18.4 km with 548m of climb

Woke up to another cold morning, my water again had a layer of ice but this time my boots were inside my tent. The rain that had fallen last night had frozen, the tent was a sheet of ice but the morning sun came to my assistance and by the time I had had my breakfast and got ready for the off the ice had melted. By mid-morning a slight breeze had risen to help me dry my tent. The path initially continued good, although wet in places for 4km, then it was slow going across rough wet ground from one high point to the next until above Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor to cross an Allt and the remains of a fence. I then travelled along the Loch, gradually descending to pick up an intermittent faint rough wet path, and on to the next Loch and Garbh Allt, my first and only river crossing that required serious consideration. Garbh Allt had a reasonable flow and had many areas of deep water to make you stop and consider where to cross; I walked up river and crossed by the bends. Once across I looked back to see my by now two Czech friends arriving at the allt. Across more rough ground to again pick up this intermittent rough wet path along Loch a Gharbh-bhaid Beag. Reached the remains of a boat house with its roof alongside and on with the now, much improved rocky path following the picturesque Rhiconich River to join the road at the Rhiconich Hotel. With gaiters off and sticks stowed it was a 7 km walk along an undulating road with good views along Loch Inchard to Kinlochbervie and its hotel soon to be followed by two Czechs. An easier day estimated at 8 hours, took 6 hours.

Day 17 – Kinlochbervie to The Cape – 24.9 km with 747m of climb

Day 17 Nearly the End (2).JPG
Day 17 To the Lighthouse

The last day was another fine sunny day, although still chilly to start, and a light cold breeze from the north from mid-morning. The first half, by distance, is an easy walk to Sandwood Bay, a road to Blairmore then a good track to end with the bay in sight, short grass section and then soft sand of the dunes and the seashore. After admiring this wonderful bay it was easy to cross the pebble loch outfall and up the hill in front, a few misleading faint intermittent paths lead me further inland than I intended. With the height gained I kept to the high ground and continued with the lochs at Carn Naomhag below me to my left, and Strathchailleach Bothy in sight to my right. The features and hills for the rest of the walk were less distinctive so my compass was in regular use, the area could clearly be very boggy but due to the dry winter it was comparatively dry and walking was easy. Down to cross Amhainn Strath Chailleach where the Allt Lochan a Gheodha Ruaidh joins and then up on a compass bearing to walk between Loch a Gheodha Ruaidh and its smaller sister. This point made a good back bearing as I identified and used attack points to climb hill 180 from when I could see the white warning signs of the MOD fence below. To the MOD fence aiming for NC NC 253 691 where a mentions a stile, I hit the fence at NC 254 and had good views for several hundred meters each way but no sign of a stile. However at this point someone had kindly fitted a short length of tube over the top barbed wire strand. Across and, on another compass bearing, heading between Sithean na h-lolairech and Cnoc a Ghiughais but keeping to the east to miss a large rough broken area, and soon the Cape was in sight. With plenty of time I sat down on the heather and enjoyed the sight and contemplated my achievement of the last 17 days whilst watching the two minibuses move slowly across the distant hill along the track to the ferry and delaying my end to this fine walk. Suddenly to my left, a walker went past making for the Cape, so it was up and off I went, we soon met up and walked the final few kilometres together as we discussed our respective walks, he was three years into his walk around the coast of GB, and today would finish the west coast. Around the hill on the track and the lighthouse comes into view, nearly there, a few selfies, photos of the lighthouse and cliffs and in to see John and his daughter for a welcome tea and cake. The coast walker moved on while I joined a Dutchman, who had finished his walk of the West Highland Way, Great Glen Way and CWT from Ullapool, the previous day. The two of us shared the bunkhouse for the night to catch tomorrow’s bus to the ferry. An easier day, estimated at 10 hours, took just over 7.

Day 17 The End.JPG
Day 17 The End

Day 18 & 19. As anyone who has walked or intends walking the CWT north will know the adventure does not finish on reaching the Cape. Now you have to get off and get home. I arrived on the Cape on a Saturday, as planned, based on the thought that if the RAF or RN were playing with their toys it was a good chance they may go home for the weekend. We were advised the ferryman was not available and hence no late buses on the Saturday or Sunday morning. Was this his time to play, well as he otherwise works 7 days a week who can blame him, certainly not us? Mid-afternoon and the buses arrived enabling the four of us; my two Czech friends had now completed their trek, to take the hour’s bus ride to the ferry with the day trippers. Across the Kyle of Durness and a 6 km walk took me to the Durness Youth Hostel just on booking in time, the Youth Hostel was later busy with weekend walkers. The following day it was up and along the road to catch the 08:05 bus for a 2 ½ hour trip to Lairg Station followed by four trains and with midnight fast approaching I got off the train to be met by Trish for the short drive home to Abingdon.

On looking back I believe I was lucky with the weather, both the dry winter and with one exception it was only sunshine and showers be they often wintry. A local advised that they thought the midges would come early this year after the mild winter but they don’t like it dry or cold, so lucky again. This I am sure had a significant effect on my walk. It was a fantastic walk and well worth doing, all the extra planning and preparation is necessary, you need to be competent in this type of terrain, it is not to be undertaken lightly and you need to be prepared for the unexpected. If it is for you then I would highly recommend you get out and do it. Would I do it again? Probably not, but I do intend to undertake a similar walk across parts of the north of Scotland next year.
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Re: Cape Wrath Trail 2019 With Dry Feet

Postby nick70 » Wed May 22, 2019 10:53 am

Thank you for posting. I have only just skimmed bits the now but will read fully on my lunch break.

The CWT is something I am also considering, my original plan was for before my 50th (next August), but I may be revising that now.

I always find all the walk reports so helpful, more so the ones on the CWT as it is such a long daunting trek.

Many congratulations on achieving and for providing me still with the hope and aspiration that I will one day get this done :clap: :clap: :clap: .



Re: Cape Wrath Trail 2019 With Dry Feet

Postby 3peaker » Sun Jun 02, 2019 10:32 am

Great report and congratulations on your achievement walking the CWT.

I have been looking for a challenge after recently completing the munro`s so the CWT maybe just the tonic.

During the years I have met a number of people on the CWT and can see that having purchased a second hand copy of the guide book it is truly a challenge worth undertaking.

Thanks for all the advice and information contained in your report.

Regards Malc
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Re: Cape Wrath Trail 2019 With Dry Feet

Postby crfishwick » Sun Jun 02, 2019 9:41 pm

Well done. Especially in one go. It's an experience to say the least.
Personally I have tried although packed up although will finish it but only in stages. :(
Again congratulations.

Re: Cape Wrath Trail 2019 With Dry Feet

Postby crfishwick » Mon Jun 03, 2019 4:19 am

Just remembered. I think I met you when I walked out from above Ben More lodge after giving up on the CWT.
Well done once again. Plus I am back there this week to finish the bl**dy walk. :lol: :lol:

"The walker with too much electrical gear and lack of grub"

Ended up walking back to Ullapool! Should have carried on to be honest. :lol:

Re: Cape Wrath Trail 2019 With Dry Feet

Postby ScotFinn65 » Thu Jul 18, 2019 10:09 am

Inspiring !!!!
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Re: Cape Wrath Trail 2019 With Dry Feet

Postby stevemee » Thu Jul 18, 2019 6:10 pm

crfishwick wrote:Just remembered. I think I met you when I walked out from above Ben More lodge after giving up on the CWT.
Well done once again. Plus I am back there this week to finish the bl**dy walk. :lol: :lol:

"The walker with too much electrical gear and lack of grub"

Ended up walking back to Ullapool! Should have carried on to be honest. :lol:

Yes I remember, Your distance to walk off sums up this walk. Glad to see you finished the walk.
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Re: Cape Wrath Trail 2019 With Dry Feet

Postby Kingcrompton » Sat Jan 18, 2020 12:50 pm

great report! a good effort!

you mentioned that you took a4 OS maps.

how did you acquire this as this seems like a very logical thing to do, as I am worried about the lack of detail and don’t want to carry the crazy amount of full OS maps required
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Re: Cape Wrath Trail 2019 With Dry Feet

Postby stevemee » Sun Jan 19, 2020 7:05 pm

Regarding A4 Maps - You need to have OS digital mapping on your computer. I use Memory Map but their are a few others including OS's own version, for most the software is free but you do have to pay for the maps and once you have them it saves buying paper maps. Plot your route on the OS digital map and then just print out. I think the whole route took about 50 pages which double sided is 25 sheets. I used waterproof paper, toughprint is expensive but several others available to buy on line that are much cheaper, I used Ritr A4 Copier laser Paper. As I progressed along the trail I disposed of the used sheets either in bins in the villages or to help start a fire in the bothies.
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