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Weasels' Cape Wrath Trail Adventure -Part One
by weaselmaster » Sun May 22, 2022 8:53 pm
Route description: Cape Wrath Trail
Date walked: 04/05/2022
Time taken: 15 days
Distance: 406 km
Ascent: 15300m25 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
The CWT has exerted a pull on me for years now. I think I first learned it was a "thing" back in 2013 and by the following year I was sure I wanted to walk it. Why? I think because of the length and relative wildness of the terrain - it became some form of test of my mettle. Problems like being able to manage food requirements, walking a relatively long distance day after day and surviving hideous weather day in day out were there to be overcome. I originally planned to walk it myself when I retired back in 2017, in October of that year. I did the WHW in 3.5 days in May 2017 and found that easy enough, but then there isn't really a comparison between the two routes. I didn't really plan for the CWT then, and it would have been a poor choice at that time of year, given the midges and stalking issues. So it went onto the back burner for a while, a long while.
Over the last few years (Covid times excepted) Allison and I have extended our hill bagging walks to take in more wild camps and it became a more frequent occurrence for us to do three full days out on the hills. Our kit got a bit lighter, which helped, and we became more familiar with the routines and pitfalls of walking and camping for days at a time. Over the course of our journeys we had been on many of the sections of the CWT, which gave us an appreciation of the terrain and the appetite for the whole thing was whetted once again.
Allison turned 50 in January of 2022 and wanted to do the WHW for her birthday, as she'd never walked this. This turned out to be a useful tester as to whether we could carry a big load and do 25k or so a day for more than 3 days at a time. We were carrying winter kit and heavier loads of clothes and we managed the Way in 6 days in the first week of January. As far as I was concerned, the CWT was definitely on now, once the better weather came along.
With both of us being vegan, the issue of food in terms of re-supply along the route became a major issue, possibly the major issue for us at the planning stage. Even if you are omnivorous, there's only limited opportunity to stock up on food along the route, so we knew we'd need to carry almost all of what we'd be eating on the trail. We'd watched videos of folk doing the trail and existing on seemingly tiny amounts of food - like Haze Outdoors, who seemed to have no breakfast and nothing to eat apart from an energy bar til late afternoon. Stuff that! - regular readers will know that she and me like our grub, and indeed I tend to break the day up, psychologically speaking, into "how long til lunchtime?" "how long til we can have our evening meal?" and of course, what can we nibble on with our whisky at night...so food was going to occupy a large place in our minds and - sadly - in our rucksacks. We decided on a - for us - Spartan regime of porridge with chocolate and a biscuit with coffee for breakfast; couscous and a Trek bar/coffee for lunch; Huel Hot and Savoury and chocolate and a biscuit with coffee for dinner. We wouldn't be able to carry crisps, which usually accompany our meals, due to the bulky nature of the packets. We'd need snacks of some sort - I thought nuts/ peanuts and raisins / dried mango / sweeties would be alright, plus an extra energy bar for each day. When I prepared all the food into daily amounts, it was clear that we could not physically fit 15 days worth of food into our rucksacks, let alone carry it, so we'd need to do a re-supply halfway. This meant Kinlochewe. I'd read of people sending packages on to the PO or shops in Kinlochewe, but when I contacted the garage/shop there my request was refused "we get about 10 such requests a week and can't handle that". I did think of suggesting they should offer this service for a fee - nice little earner - but there you go. Luckily we knew a lady in the village at whose holiday cottage we'd stayed a couple of times, and she was happy to hold a box of provisions for us. Whew!
Other decisions that needed to be made were:
1. When to go - we decided on early May as statistically May is a fairly dry month and it's before the midges become a problem. We wouldn't contemplate doing the Trail in full midge season. We reckoned that inevitably whenever we picked our dates, the weather would be fine either side of the fortnight we were actually walking and would be grim to horrendous for at least half the time we were away. Our experiences of last year's holiday in early May 2021 didn't fill us with confidence. The starting date is also an issue as more people will begin at the weekends, meaning bothies and camp spots will be busier as the bigger groups go round.
2. Light or heavy? A lot of reports we looked at featured various light to ultralight gear loads. I can understand not wanting to carry more weight than you need, but it seems to me that there's also a kind of masochism involved in folk taking such stripped-back gear that they can't possibly enjoy themselves on the route. It's for two weeks, for heaven's sake! or maybe the suffering is enjoyable? Well not for us. We were not going to be lightweight and would pack enough home comforts to have a chance of keeping our spirits up over the journey. So bigger rucksacks with better load-carrying ability, proper waterproof jackets (our Paramo Altas), the Jetboil instead of some tiny slow alcohol stove and room for sufficient whisky for us both. Things like tent, sleeping gear etc were already sorted, we'd use what we normally used on weekends. I do have one of those ultralight tents, a Z Packs hexamid duo, which weighs about 500g and goes up with poles, but I never really trust it and wanted the reliability of the Hilleberg Niak.
3. Which route? The Great Glen variant was never seriously in the running, being dismissed as way too boring, even though we were pretty familiar with much of the route from Cona Glen to Morvich. We wouldn't visit Ullapool, we would take in the Graham of Beinn Bhreac , and if we were making good progress, we'd possibly clamber over Foinaven, being one of my most favourite mountains. Neither of us were very keen on using bothies, just from the sheer unpredictability of who else might be inside them, but we reckoned that we might succumb in wet weather. We'd not be using B&Bs or Hotels, or campsites we could help it, although we'd need to do something about washing - three or four days without washing is one thing, two weeks another.
Once we'd whittled down the date of starting to the beginning of May we tried to make some specific preparations physically for the challenge ahead. In an ideal world that might include some gym work or core strength building, and to her credit, Allison did use gym equipment twice a week for a couple of months before. I was way too lazy. We did make a point of going out for 3 day hikes every weekend we could manage, which got us used to carrying a bigger/heavier pack (although not the actual weight we'd be shouldering on the Trail). There was a balance to be struck between improving fitness and avoiding injury. It also meant that we could try out different bits of kit and techniques to manage. Simple things like using a flat washing up sponge to dry off the tent before packing it away; not carrying drinking water in a bladder but filling up as you went along; using a chest pack for stuff you need to access frequently; getting lighter dry bags for kit etc.
We also spent time looking at each stage on the map, thinking abut camp spots we already knew about and how far we might realistically go on each day. As the terrain varies considerably in different places, we knew that time to go a set distance would also vary enormously. We did watch a number of YouTube videos about the CWT - I mostly watched the ones about kit, Allison watched others about each stage. I found some very useful tips in those that I watched. I was tempted to get the OS app for phones to use for navigation, but left this too late in the day to actually get and practice with, so ended up taking the trusty Satmap 20 with the expectation of using it only in a few locations where the route was tricky, or if visibility/weather was getting in the way. We had the Harvey maps of the CWT to keep us right the rest of the time.
Last Minute Preparation
As our appointed date drew nearer there were some final adjustments made. A wet weekend's walking just before we left meant that I had to change my plan for the boots I'd wear on the trip. I had a pair of Hoka One Ones that I'd bought back in 2016 specifically to do the CWT (when it didn't happen) and had been largely unused apart for some trips to the boggy hills around Largs during Lockdown. They were very comfortable for trail walking - sadly they had also lost any waterproofness they'd once possessed and my feet were saturated. I could have used my Scarpa Mavericks, my Plan B boots, but I wasn't sure they'd do either. So it was a call into Tiso's in Perth on our way down the road from Ben Armine and the purchase of a pair of LaSportiva UltraRaptor boots. I wore them around the house and garden in the couple of days before our departure - they seemed alright, but new, untried boots immediately before the trip wasn't something I'd intended to risk. I also purchased a new pair of Berghaus Deluge waterproof trousers as the elastic drawstring on my old pair had gone and I was sick of them ending up halfway down my legs when wet. A few late additions to kit - like cream for athlete's foot, coconut oil as a foot moisturiser - were also popped in. I found myself watching a few CWT YouTube videos, to get ideas about specific sections of the trail that would be new to us, including possible camp spots. I also read quite a few blog accounts, most of which annoyed me - the folk were either too fit (ultralight packs and doing it in 10 days or less) or they were moany and slow (more than 3 weeks) and one account included numerous sections where the couple had hitched long stretches of the route. There were also quite a few blogs with planning notes for the trip but no completed trip report...
I did start to wonder what my real motivation was for trying the CWT...was it a defiance/denial of ageing, like men taking up squash in their 50s? Was it about wanting to "join a club" of people who had completed it? Possibly a bit of both, to be honest. More, however, seemed to hinge upon being able to backpack for 14-15 days without a break; the rhythms this lifestyle would demand from mind and body. And so much - in terms of arduous or benign - would be dictated by the weather. The forecast suggested we'd have rain the first two days of our trip then a dry weekend, before more rain... After a very dry and sunny April, this was a bit galling...
70EF7A03-0A2F-45B1-90C3-F953ED7AE808_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Setting Off - Corran Ferry to Cona Glen 8.5k
We decided to begin at the Corran Ferry rather than the Camusnagul one basically because it was easier - Allison's hubby had offered us a lift up and the Corran Ferry runs all the time. It also removed the anomaly of starting a walk to the far North West by walking South, as you do if yo take the Camusnagul boat. I hadn't really thought about starting from Inverie, although this also would have been nice. Craig arrived with Allison at about 3pm on Wednesday 3rd, last minute checks done we bundled the stuff into the car and set off. When we arrived the ferry was just setting sail, and we missed the first boat, but it was busy and no sooner had it crossed the loch than it returned and we boarded. Didn't even have time to take a starting off picture. We wolfed our sandwiches on the boat, then sat on the pier Ardgour side finishing off with some delicious GU desserts - last "real' food for a while. Shouldering our packs, we set off along the road for Cona Glen, with Allison complaining that her rucksack had gained 5kg since we weighed them last weekend. That was true, sadly - some last minute additions and 1.5l of water each had bumped the weight up - she was starting off with a fully laden weight of 18kg, me with 19kg.
It was a dry, cloudy early evening as we walked the six or seven km to the opening of Cona Glen. I rescued a new-born lamb, which somehow had become separated from its ma on the other side of a mesh fence - I think ma was giving me grateful looks as she was reunited with baby. Awwww. On we went. Having never been at this end of the glen before, I was hoping we'd get camped somewhere, and indeed there are numerous fine spots along the river, once you pass the estate houses, where the trees are marked on the map. Cuckoos were making up for their absence in the last few weeks, with three birds echoing each others' calls. How far should we go tonight? It was a pleasant evening and the forecast for the coming days was rain. We chose a nice spot beneath a tree just after 8pm. The tree was literally vibrating with bees - we hoped they wouldn't swarm into the tenting claim it as a new hive, but they left us alone and we settled down for the night. I reflected that it felt more like being away for a normal weekend with a heavier than usual pack than the beginning of a much anticipated two-and-a-half week holiday.
89D29C7B-4C4E-4186-A36F-1BCC915497AA_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
F3DC86AA-C94C-4340-83A7-3B4CFD99F364_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Day One - Cona Glen to CorryHully - 26.5k
(NB - the route maps are approximations, not the actual route as I didn't have my GPS on)
Rain overnight continued when we woke up, and we used a brief lull to pack away the tent and set off. Our neighbouring tree was still buzzing as we left and there was a cuckoo on each side of the glen, calling in unison, with an intermittent interloper adding syncopation. We passed lots more good camping spots over the next 2km until the trees dwindled and tussocks dominated. We passed the estate bothy at Corrlarach, which had a few lads inside. Wetter as we continued along the gleaned started to climb at Ruidh Meall Diamh - back in familiar territory now. We paused for lunch by the gate nd continued on to Callops - I was surprised how quickly we'd reached that part of the track. We passed the spot by the bridge we've camped in often before and continued on forestry track towards Glenfinnan Monument, chatting to a friendly timber lorry driver. The walkway to the monument is closed at the footbridge, and it required some nimble footwork with the big packs to get over the barriers. We reached the massively extended car park at the visitor centre which was awash with Harry Potter fans, most of whom seemed to be French and our approach towards the viaduct co-incided with the arrival of the Hogwarts express steam train passing over it. After which the assembled crowds all began to leave whilst we reached the track up Glen Finnan. We met Alistair, the estate manager, on the way - he correctly identified that we were on the CWT and complemented my rucksack packing. He also became convinced, somehow, that Allison was from Skelmorlie and waxed lyrical about North Ayrshire. I think he's a bit of a ladies man, is Alistair. He said he'd be dropping by the bothy later with some logs. We reached CorryHully about tea timed decided to stay there rather than camp higher up the glen and have a wet night in the tent. Inside were Ray and Martin - Ray was quite experienced in walking, Martin had never wild camped before, and the two had met online in an attempt to do the CWT. Ray had tried twice before, ending at Shiel Bridge on one occasion, and at Glenfinnan (!) on the other, but was quite sure they'd have a good chance this time if they set a slow pace of 12 miles a day. Martin had bought loads of new kit, but wasn't entirely sure how to use it. As we were nattering away, in comes Markus, who has just flown in from Vienna and was come off the train at Glenfinnan with the expectation of doing the CWT in the same time frame as us. We have a nice evening, get the fire going and settle down to sleep in a comfortable warm bothy, listening to the rain hammering down outside. Nobody else arrives during the evening and although I haven't spent a night in a communal room bothy before it feels ok tonight.
Morning in Cona Glen
A2B2DBEB-FDD0-48F6-8367-B4129E7D8C3E_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
6606B075-AE33-4F79-8BEB-DD835EBF5C46_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
We'd see a lot of this stuff in the coming fortnight
99AC2ABF-2011-4448-9B3E-F25CFDD15F2F_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
14571759-BE32-41F6-A3E3-002253799664_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
39254AD5-D2DF-402C-8D51-FB627AB19AE2_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Day Two - CorryHully to Carnoch Ruins - 27k
The rain continued heavily all night, and we heard what sounded like the rescue copter going over the bothy during the night. Ray snored gently, but the others made no noise - I didn't sleep much being a little uneasy in communal settings. Everyone got up at about 7am - looking out the door we could see the River Finnan in spate outside, white crested and thunderous. We had some concern about getting down to Glen Pean. Alistair had told us, when he called in at the bothy last night, to ignore the map route and stay on the east side of the river as we descended from Bealach a'Chaorainn - we'd not get across the river and the bridge shown on the map was long gone. Markus asked if he could accompany us over the next stretch, which we were pleased to accommodate. The river was just a torrent as we walked up to the bealach, ut less fast flowing once we started down into Gleann a'Chaorainn. We met three Eastern European lads who'd come from A'Chuill bothy and saw a party of four on the other side of the river, seeking a way across, in vain as it turned out. We walked over the bridge spanning the River Pean and walked through the trees onto forest track, heading for A'Chuill bothy. This took longer than I'd imagined and we ended up stopping for lunch. The bothy book revealed that "hordes" of folk had been here at the weekend to start the CWT - one of the advantages of a mid-week start is that your stopping places may be quieter. We walked on towards Sourlies, a route that we knew well. The ground was sodden underfoot, but my new boots were performing well. Markus opted to stay in Sourlies, with another young chap, Ian, whilst we went round to the Carnoch ruins where we'd camped previously. The tide was out so we could walk over the sand, but the meadow was just awful to cross and we made the mistake of heading for the bridge rather than hugging the hillside, where it is drier. camped in a sheep-fold. I felt quite happy with our progress today and Allison's ankle, a source of concern before we left, seems to be holding up so far.
Markus looking worried outside CorryHully
2DD7FC75-07F8-4327-A9C8-8614F0E4C11A_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Wee streams across the path...
6EAC5A5A-6606-4F6D-B4CB-2AC6E796FB98_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
D46F95BC-882F-4C2C-8297-674B6773B96F_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Day Three - Carnoch Ruins to Loch Hourn shore - 18k
The rain continued intermittently overnight and various birds - snipe, cuckoo and something warbling that I didn't recognise sang their songs. By the time we got up it was dry and we had a nice view of Sgurr na Ciche and Ben Aden out of the tent door. Markus had arranged to meet us about 8.45 but he arrived earlier than expected so sat and had a coffee whilst we packed our gear away. The start to proceedings was marshy and boggy, following the "estuary" of the Carnach River, then quite demanding walking along its course. The weather was dry, becoming quite warm as we laboured along the ups and downs of the shore - I did think of swapping my tights for shorts. A quite strenuous climb from the river to the stalker's path took us up to Mam Unndalain - we followed the WH route rather than the map. We stopped for our first couscous lunch beside the river and I reflected that "mam" must refer to the highest point on a path, which might - or might not- also be a bealach. From Mam Unndalain it was a pleasant downhill walk into Barisdale. Markus said he was exhausted and decided to stay the night in Barrisdale bothy, where we also met Ian from Norfolk who was intending to go as far as Ullapool - he'd ttried and abandoned the CWT last September at Shiel Bridge after four days of awful rain and was hoping to get further this time. We did suggest to Markus that tomorrow would be a big day and he didn't want to fall too far behind schedule early in the route, and set off with the intention of reaching Kinlochhourn, or at least somewhere along the loch side (we had scouted out possible camp spots when last here a few weeks ago). The late afternoon weather was fine and sunny and we opted to pitch by the side of Loch Hourn, after walking about 2 hours from Barisdale - in what looked a really nice spot. We had been able to look across at tomorrow's route up the south of Sgurr na Sgine. Ian passed by, having decided to make it to Kinlochhourn and having failed to persuade Markus to accompany him. The evening was warm and only marred by the multitude of tiny ticks that were swarming around our campsite. We were able to dry off our wet gear and enjoy a whisky (the first section is fuelled by Lagavulin 8yr old). An early night was had, as we knew tomorrow would be quite tough and we had a booking for food at the Kintail Lodge that we didn't want to miss.Lying in the tent, door open, looking over to Sgurr na Sgine and Beinn Fada was lovely, a moment to remember from the trip. Watching the ticks crawl up the outside of the tent inner was maybe one to forget...
View from the tent - Sgurr na Ciche
216AED77-394C-440C-980E-9863BD709350_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
BB8CC0EB-7F62-4D9A-B1F8-DE621FEF4AF2_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
C09EB7CF-758F-4F51-8540-48DD9B2DE219_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
FC974CA1-7873-40E6-A800-E440FCEEA91F_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
A023C49A-B6AB-412E-9E87-6F139C897466_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Descent to Barisdale
1401A788-C707-4D15-BBD6-B2CCF29D075E_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
0AA8D15A-399C-48E0-989C-34E47438E311_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
45690A6B-F77D-4FA7-B236-8141D1173E16_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Day Four - Loch Hourn to Shiel Bridge 23.5k
Slept better last night and woke to a bright, almost sunny morning. Having completed two thirds of the walk from Barisdale to Kinlochhourn, we only had one more "up and down" to go, then the rhododendron forest to negotiate. Walking past the car parking area we were heartily greeted by Mr Tamura, a Japanese gentleman who recognised us from these pages and seemed delighted to meet us. He was heading off to climb Beinn Bhuidhe, his 220th Corbett and would be the first Japanese national to complete the Corbetts when he finishes, I think, on Rùm next month. We talked about how bad the ticks had been last night and he told us he'd never had a tick. Astonishing, especially doing Corbetts in this part of the world. We wandered through the campsite, which now has an honesty box rather than directing you to pay at the Stalker's cottage, and we began the steep climb up to the pylon track. Many of the huge old trees have fallen across the track up, thankfully now cleared to one side as they'd present a challenge to climb over. The ascent felt quite tiring, but the sunshine helped it pass. We met a couple with two collie dogs who were doing the CWT in sections and were heading for Inver. They knew us from WH and we chatted for a while - about sharing a small 2 person tent with two dogs. Their dogs both had packs on, partly to carry their own food, but when some of that was eaten, other items were "slipped in" which the dogs didn't seem to mind. We'd never walked into Coire Mhalagain from the south - I said to Allison that it would be another option to ascend Sgurr na Sgine using the stalker's track - this would avoid any potentially hazardous crossings of the Allt Coire Mhalagain without excessive extra ascent. "Aye, right" or something she said...Heading into the coire wasn't actually as bad as we feared, deer tracks and the occasional human footprint helped us keep on track til we got to the river's edge. We'd heard tales that a girl was doing the trail with her pack pony and wondered how she'd fared up here.
Once we reached the lochan at the bealach we were back on familiar ground and we followed the stone wall round to Bealach na Craoibhe, noting there had been a crag collapse since we were last here, huge boulders having smashed against the wall. It was pretty windy as we headed along - we saw quite a few people up on the Forcan ridge despite the wind. Ahead we could see a familiar figure - we'd caught up with Ian, who'd stayed in Kinlochhourn campsite the night before. We walked together towards Shiel bridge, not entirely sure whether we'd stay there, or at Morvich, or wild camp, but we were sure we'd be going for something to eat at Kintail Lodge. We'd nearly reached the campsite when who comes practically running up behind us than Markus! He'd gained two hours on our time, having stopped for cake at the tea room in Kinlochhourn and was really pleased to have caught up with us. We were impressed and decided we'd all stop at Shiel bridge campsite, have a shower and head to the lodge. It's the first time I've stayed at the campsite since it changed hands and there have been a few improvements - ground a bit better drained (only a bit, mind), better showers. I washed my shirt and pants and refreshed, we walked the mile along to Kintail Lodge. Staff shortages and beer shortages were an issue there, but we had an enjoyable meal and chat. The bar does about 8 vegetarian options, of which only two are vegan. We enjoyed the starter of buffalo cauliflower but the main of haggis, Mac and cheeze was a bit disappointing. Finished off with a round of whiskies as dessert. We sat and watched the BBC Weather video from the week ahead, which did not fill us with much joy - the next 4 or 5 days were to be very wet and windy. Ah well - it wouldn't be the CWT if we didn't encounter some bad weather...
Our route ahead - between Sgurr na Sgine and Sgurrr na Forcan
9E298E1D-B0BF-4E52-AF41-7A5C5C38E40B_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
CB17B813-AA75-4A34-AC2F-B44CE0F95419_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
No problems with the river today
8648EB59-9742-46E6-B390-8AEA35CB4E0B_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Up to the bealach
1BF6D437-C634-4519-BB03-8E018AB6EDB6_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Markus and Ian join us for a meal in Kintail Lodge
AA1D1AF3-AD0D-4D54-9872-40A229AE5F5C_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Day Five - Shiel Bridge to Maol Bhuidhe 27k
Rain overnight heralded a grey morning with clouds down over the hills. Drizzle followed us as we set off, with the plan of getting to Mail Bhuidhe bothy. Ian was keen to walk with us along the Falls of Glomach as he'd been a little concerned about this part of the route. Markus was suffering from his exertions of the day before and was finding water getting through his jacket. For some miles he plodded unhappily along but in the upper section Dorisduain woods he decided he was turning back. He needed a rest day. We discussed options whereby he could rejoin the route by getting transport to Srathcarron or Kinlochewe, but he wasn't sure what he would do. I think the effort involved in Scottish trails (ie bog) had surprised him a bit. He hadn't acquired the essential characteristic for Scottish walking of gritting teeth and getting on with it, despite the terrain and weather. Ian, on the other hand, was uncomplaining, cheerful even. We walked up the sodden trail to Bealach na Sroine, being pursued for a time by someone on an Argocat. We stopped just before the Falls to have lunch, in the wind and rain, then carefully descended the slippery path down by the side of the Falls. We'd done this, fully laden a short while ago - the stream crossing was alright and we reached the footbridge with a sigh of relief.
3CDAF2AB-2BD2-49F2-8376-4911F8563514_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
7951E7FE-8EC3-4709-A194-7D1F60ACCBFC_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Track to Iron Lodge followed and we then began heading up the rough track between Faochaig and Aonach Bhuidhe. It was raining heavily now and I couldn't believe we'd only reached 470m in height when we finally reached the bealach - we seemed to have been climbing endlessly. The path now deteriorated into an even wetter swamp, with recent footprints however. Getting to Maol Bhuidhe from there took an eternity and we were relieved to see the ghostly white walls of the old building. We were less relieved to see the speed of water in the river we had to cross to get there. I stupidly stopped to fill my water bag before crossing and slipped when trying to carry that and my poles over. Wet feet only (well let's face it, everything else was wet after the day we'd had). Inside the bothy was dry and welcoming, even if we had no fire. The wood panelled main room with skylight window was bright and cheering and we decorated it with many wet things before preparing our tea. Outside the rain continued to hammer down, the river became much more swollen and we didn't think anyone else would get across it in that state. We were a little fearful as to how we'd manage the river crossing to the north of the bothy in the morning but that's for another day. The bothy book reported that it had been busy as a stopping place for many "Wrathers" over the preceding few days - and a dirty lot some had been too - the grate was stuffed with plastic rubbish, meal pouches and the like. We managed to burn a little of the rubbish but lacking wood, couldn't get a blaze going. Allison and I took the wooden upstairs platform and lay watching the rainclouds scud by, tinges of a sunset somewhere and seeing the occasional star when the clouds parted We listened to the wind tear at the roofing like a predator toying with its prey.
First sight of Maol Bhuidhe
2DB6FE77-114D-49EF-8F0D-AF01DD9FE438_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Need to cross this first
86D730BD-3F5E-4793-B8C3-F46EDA361A77_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
68487BCE-0641-4184-B992-B70989025001_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
7D2081B0-98AA-49BF-AB87-D610A985099E_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Day Six - Maol Bhuidhe to the Pollan Buidhe 19.5k
Bright light filtered through the Velux window as I lay watching a spider trying to build its web across the window frame but being blown back and forwards by the breeze coming in. We had a leisurely breakfast with Ian and we'd all really enjoyed staying in this bothy - the sense of remoteness and the refuge from foul weather helped, I'm sure. Now we had the ford at the west end of Loch Cruoshie to cross...I found this quite exciting - needing a change into water shoes and a wade in a strong current over our knees to get across. We looked wistfully back at the bothy as we left it behind climbing up the southern flank of Ben Dronaig, heading for the stalkers' track. The rain-washed bothy gleamed in the weak morning sun. More boggy sections til we reached the footbrige and track at Loch Calavie, which had waves upon it, whipped up by the strong wind. We continued round to Bendronaig bothy, partly as Ian was keen to see it and partly because we thought we'd have an early lunch there. We met a few folk doing TGO challenge on the way. The bothy was empty, but stocked up with wood by the estate and showing off a huge round table, a new addition since our last visit. We had a civilised lunch sitting round the table on real chairs...
Leaving our oasis
23602DF4-778B-405B-BAE5-4AC257CD0479_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
5E8FF1ED-D41B-4F5B-B234-E0058BAABBDE_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Crossing Cruoshie - it's a wade
E8F932FA-551E-4690-950D-CB17624C0CE8_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
99931C70-6AEC-4F2A-9F3B-CCFF21146096_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Maol Bhuidhe in the distance
75C3D4D4-4C3A-42E8-8761-DB0F6D2D9862_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
03BD8A08-E36A-4BFD-8AE6-CD80D772711A_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
We continued on towards Bealach Bhearnais, avoiding temptation to visit Bearnais Bothy which we could make out on the other side of the abhainn. Although described as "pathless" in the guidebook, there was a path of sorts to follow, right to the bealach itself. I guess this is an inevitable consequence of so many more people doing the CWT now than did it almost 0 years ago when the book was published. I wasn't complaining. I got phone reception at the bealach and was able to let our resupply contact in Kinlochewe know that we were running to schedule and would be there tomorrow pm to collect our (heavy) box. The weather was by now largely dry, but still very windy. The path down from Bealach Bhearnais to the wire bridge at Pollan Buidhe was as wet as I've ever seen it. Ian was a bit unsure of crossing the famed wire bridge, but he couldn't, in any case, as the post holding it has rotted and snapped. Hope no-one was using it at the time...So it was another shoes off and wade moment, although the river wasn't very deep, only mid calf. The wind was posing a problem for our camp spot choice however - I'd planned to head a bit further up and camp at Ardach, which we've used before, but I feared this might be too exposed. We settled instead for some flat ground just past the ex-wire bridge, thinking this would be more sheltered. But the wind was swirling around from all directions. I'd caught the forecast whilst briefly in range of a signal at the bealach - more heavy rain tonight, but things improving by tomorrow afternoon (for a short period). We sat in the tent listening to the rain hammer down outside, noting that a third tent had appeared on the other side of the river, one of those ultralight Cuben fibre jobs.
B783D350-0AE8-43B3-A0C4-4EFA9D2D499F_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
the wire bridge is no more
703A6842-8A21-42B0-968C-636ADFC69494_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
ACEDFD77-2B22-448F-8368-3FC1146DB28A_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Day Seven - Pollan Buidhe to Incheril 24k
A rainy morning after heavy rain all night. I'd been dreaming about being a judge in a carrot-cake competition, but had woken before trying the winning entry (or indeed the carrot-cake ice cream). Could I be hungry? I hopped out of the tent when the rain went off to dry it but as soon as I'd done this the rain came on again and soaked it again. The air was a little blue. Today promised to be an easy day with much of it on track or road. We walked up to Craig, passing more guys doing TGO, from there we had a road walk for about 1km until a steep muddy path led into the woods and towards the Coulin Pass. This was a new section for me and became easier when we hit the main track leading to Loch Coulin. Noticed some good camping spots by the stone bridge, but we were not stopping there today. We planned to walk to Loch Coulin and hope to find some shelter from the wind and rain to have lunch. We spotted a woman with a horse wearing big saddle bags in the distance - when we got up close we realised that this was the fabled girl with the pack pony doing the CWT. We chatted briefly before we paused for lunch by a hydro building to shelter from the wind. There was much discussion about the issues involved in walking the CWT with a large animal and Allison was offended by the fact that the girl didn't even have a rucksack on, everything, even her hat, was loaded onto the pony.
We continued along more track where forestry had been cleared, gaining some cracking view of Beinn Eighe when the clouds permitted. We decided to follow the good forestry track to the road, having read about the boggy hell that is the continuation of the footpath towards Kinlochewe. The rain had stopped and the sun was now out, which made for pleasant walking, even if we did have a few kms of roadside stuff to do. Arriving at our pick up point around 3pm, we chatted to our re-supply saviour Patricia for a while, declined her kind offer of a cup of tea and set about loading our packs with about 5kg each of new food. Ian, meantime, had gone off to investigate the garage shop. I was concerned that, having finished the Lagavulin last night, we might run short of whisky by the end of the trail - we had 500ml of Ardbeg Uigeadail and 300ml of Talisker Storm...and 8 more nights...hmm I decided to augment our supplies and purchased a bottle of Glenmorangie from teh Post Office / Shop, paying a rather inflated price for the same. Decanted into the plastic bottles that had recently held Lagavulin, we set off, or rather, staggered off under our new weight for the public toilets at Incheril where we topped up water, cleaned ourselves up a bit and thought where we might camp. I wasn't too sure about spots along the track up to Kinlochewe Heights and none of us felt like going as far as Lochan Fhada or Loch an Did. So we plumped for a grassy spot by the river, just past the end of the sheep fences. As we discovered next morning, there are quite a few useful camp spots in the lower section before the gate up to the Heights. But we had sunshine, allowing us to dry stuff off, some good views of the Torridon hills. And masses of ticks, one again. I carried out a health-check, one week in. My boots were no longer waterproof, but thankfully the goretex boot liners I was using kept my feet pretty much dry. I'd continued using coconut oil on my feet before bed each night and had no blisters or skin problems. I had a couple of pressure points from the rucksack belt on my iliac crests, which were red and sore looking. My left knee had been sore a couple of times, but otherwise I felt in good shape. Today had been a bit of a "meh" day, nothing really interesting, partly due to the weather but we were on schedule and nearing the halfway mark. The prospect of more days of heavy rain was a bit dispiriting however.
F429C21F-3846-41D3-97B0-DFEC39F89487_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
F26943BD-D26D-4420-BAD9-EE95E5569D00_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
01C962E8-E430-48DD-BA3D-9844656241B4_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
8B1975C6-4EF0-4139-9F91-751818E07EFA_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
B9EFA121-205F-4AF7-845A-C0A4C83C753C_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
38B64790-C4E2-4CEF-8800-1970DC7E2AF2_1_201_a by Al, on Flickr
Jump to Part 2
by gammy leg walker » Mon May 23, 2022 11:42 am
by Bert Barnett » Fri Jun 03, 2022 12:28 pm
- Mountain Walker
- Posts: 25
- Joined: Sep 10, 2012
by weaselmaster » Sun Jun 05, 2022 11:24 pm
Bert Barnett wrote:Great writing Al. A must read for anyone planning this venture. I have met numerous "Wrathers" over the years, mostly in Knoydart, but I had never looked at the route to figure out the connecting parts. I suspect your contribution could be more valuable than the available descriptions. I have never had the urge to try big rucksack trips, and the trials you suffered have not changed my mind! Especially the ticks which were always worse in the West. I will have a look at part two now in anticipation.
Thanks for the kind words, Bert. Ticks are, indeed, very bad this year. I've become quite a convert to the big rucksack days.
Are you busy working on Full House number four?
by Alteknacker » Wed Jun 08, 2022 11:37 pm
CWT will remain a vicarious pleasure for me: I'm quite sure that I could never sustain such a long period of walking, and most especially, when it's mainly in the wet.
by Mountainlove » Wed Jun 22, 2022 7:35 pm
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