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The One and Only Ladhar Bheinn

The One and Only Ladhar Bheinn

Postby bobble_hat_kenny » Thu May 26, 2022 11:02 pm

Route description: Ladhar Bheinn from Inverie, Knoydart

Munros included on this walk: Ladhar Bheinn

Date walked: 15/05/2022

Time taken: 11 hours

Distance: 23.9 km

Ascent: 1560m

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This was a second attempt at Ladhar Bheinn for my fellow Bearsden Choirboy Malcolm and myself: a much-anticipated outing, more than two years in the planning - and needless to say, not much went to plan :roll: ! We did, all the same, achieve the main objective, which was to bag this remote, iconic and much-prized Knoydart Munro on a Good Weather Day :D .
Our first attempt at Ladhar Bheinn had been in May 2019, in those halcyon pre-Covid days when it was so easy to make Big Plans, with nary a thought to any restrictions on travel, accommodation or anything much else :( . We'd booked the Inverie Bunkhouse for three days in mid-May, because, well, May is Scotland's good-weather month, innit :lol: ? Needless to say, we got one of the most shocking weekends of weather that I can remember at that time of year: it rained constantly, and although we managed to get Meall Bhidhe and Luinne Bheinn done in dodgy conditions on the Saturday, the Sunday was even worse weather (blowing a hoolie with driving sleet!). We quickly abandoned any plans for Ladhar Bheinn, and had to settle instead for the Corbett Sgurr Coire Choinnichean immediately behind Inverie village - and even that was a real battle against the elements :roll: !
Back home undishearteaned, we soon booked up the Inverie Bunkhouse and the ferry for mid-May the following year, 2020, expecting that we'd surely get Ladhar Bheinn done this time.... Well, we all know how that one ended :? .
So, as things opened up during early 2022, we thought we might use our credit notes for the Western Isles Cruises ferry and for the Inverie Bunkhouse, and have another mid-May attempt at Ladhar Bheinn.
First problem - yes, we got the ferry booked no bother, but the bunkhouse was booked up solidly right through May and June :( ! After a fair bit of scrambling around, I eventually managed to book Druim Bothy, a locked bothy belonging to the Knoydart Estate which is available for rent. By this stage, Malcolm's Uni friend Paul decided that he would join us too, although he thought he might look at the other two Knoydart Munros that we had done back in 2019, Meall Bhuidhe and Luinne Bheinn, since he still had those ones to do.
The next problem was somewhere to eat - we didn't fancy pot noodles and M&S tinned chilli for three consecutive nights, but Knoydart's prime eatery - the famous Old Forge pub - isn't doing food at the moment, since they're in the middle of a major kitchen refurb after the recent buy-out of the pub by the Knoydart Community (you may have seen the story on the news; an inspiring tale, but they aren't fully up and running just yet, unfortunately :? ).
After more scrambling around online, I discovered a remote but promising-sounding restaurant way out west a few miles up the tarmacked track from Inverie, the Doune Dining Room - it was very well reviewed, so I booked for the Friday and the Sunday nights.
Best-laid plans, and all that. After somehow drastically mis-reading the ferry departure time from Mallaig on the Friday afternoon (both Malcolm and myself somehow mistook the arrival time for the departure time - D'Oh :oops: !), and then getting stuck in a traffic jam at an accident on the A82 in Dumbarton shortly after we set out from Glasgow, it was clear that there was no way we were going to make Mallaig in time for the 2:15 p.m. ferry. We quickly phoned the Western Isles Cruises office, and thankfully we got re-booked no bother for the 6 p.m. ferry, at no extra cost :) . However, poor Paul had made his way separately from Edinburgh and got the 2:15 ferry as per Plan A... so we left him hanging about for a while in Inverie and at the bothy. Ah well, at least the Old Forge is still open for beer!
Now, because our evening meal and our accommodation had both ended up being well out of town (i.e. a good way from Inverie), we had decided that we needed to take bikes. Malcolm put his bike in the back of his car with the front wheel off, and my bike went on one of those car-roof bike carriers which he has on his car.
It got a tad breezy just as we were entering Glencoe, however, and we had no sooner stopped at some roadworks when the front wheel of my bike appeared dangling alarmingly at Malcolm's driver-side window :shock: ! We immediately got out to see what had happened. It turned out that the wind had blown the back wheel of the bike out of the "gutter" that should hold the wheel in place, de-stabilising the whole set-up! Thankfully the clamp thingy had held the bike onto the roof, and there was no damage to Malcolm's car, but the wheels were all over the place and the handlebars had taken a worrying sideways twist. Nil desperandum: I quickly unlaced my hiking boots and used the laces to tie the bike firmly to the bike-carrier so that there would hopefully be nae chance of it coming loose again.
Somewhat amused (once he'd checked that his car was unharmed :roll: !), Malcolm took a picture of all this, with Buachaille Etive Mor in the background:
WR1 - Bootlacing the bike with Big Buachaille in background.jpg

To our considerable relief, this rather Heath Robinson set-up did keep the bike securely on the car roof all the way to Mallaig, where we paused only to pick up a wine bag and large amounts of cash at the Co-op supermarket before boarding the ferry. Now, it's a very nice touch if one's ferry is named after one's target hill:
WR2 - the Good Ship Larven.jpg

It only took the Good Ship Larven (which is of course the Anglicised version of "Ladhar Bheinn") half an hour to get to Inverie. We weren't booked for dinner until 7:30 p.m., and having met up with Paul, we stopped at the Old Forge for a quick pint, labouring under the mistaken impression that Doune was only a short bike ride up the road and that we had loads of time. Sadly, even although we'd dumped our far-too-heavy backpacks at the Old Forge to be picked up on the way back, the cycle up the tarmacked track to Doune turned out to be much longer and more arduous than we'd expected, and even once we finally reached the "Doune Here" sign at the left-hand side of the track a good few miles west of Inverie, it was still an unexpectedly long walk down the path to the remote seaside hamlet of Doune itself. We were well late for dinner (about 45 minutes late I think), but a warm welcome awaited when we did eventually reach the rather idyllic Doune Dining Room.
WR3 - the Doune Dining Room.jpg

It was an excellent meal - a proper three-course affair with an impressive wine list :D . There wasn't any choice, but fair enough, given how remote this place is. Although they do welcome bookings from non-residents, most people arrive by boat and stay over. Definitely recommended.
Anyway, having enjoyed a fine venison stew, then pudding with coffee, it was time to set off for Inverie, and then for the remote Druim Bothy which is up a track in lower Gleann Meadail, a few miles to its north-east. It was getting dark by now, and the cycle back to Inverie was going to be a bit Interesting :? ...
Well, we thought that we had just about enough light to see by, and the tarmacked track thankfully sees very little traffic. What we hadn't bargained for, however, was the Venison's Revenge... :shock: ! Yes, Paul (who is a keen cyclist and had gotten a bit ahead of Malcolm and myself) hit a deer while going full-tilt downhill on his bike. Luckily he escaped with nothing worse than a nastily grazed hand and a good few bruises, but it was a terrifying experience (probably for the deer as well, although it appeared to run off relatively unscathed).
By the time we made it back to the Old Forge, we were much in need of another pint to steady our nerves, before setting out for Druim Bothy pretty much in pitch black. Malcolm and myself had retrieved our backpacks at the pub, and we quickly discovered that we'd brought far too much stuff. We couldn't see to cycle, and the long walk out to the bothy, pushing our bikes with the heavy backpacks with practically no visibility, was sheer purgatory. We didn't reach the bothy until after 1 a.m., and it was a huge relief to get our sleeping bags out and collapse for the night.
Saturday dawned, but we all got up late and knackered. Plan A had been to "have a look at" the straightforward Corbett, Beinn na Caillich, that sits immediately west of Ladhar Bheinn, but Malcolm and myself were far too knackered, and Paul was still far too bruised, for that to be feasible. We quickly decided to have a Rest Day on the Saturday, and to save our energy for Munros on the Sunday, which looked set to be the Good Weather Day of the weekend anyway. Malcolm and myself did, however, take our bikes as far as the bridge over the Allt Coire Torr an Asgaill in Gleann na Guiserein, so that we'd hopefully have an easy downhill cycle back to Inverie on the way back from Ladhar Bheinn on the Sunday.
Needless to say, we felt the need to stop yet again at the Old Forge for a pint on the Saturday afternoon before returning to the bothy :lol: !
WR5 - The Old Forge on Saturday afternoon.jpg

Back to the bothy itself for the Saturday night - although there is of course no electricity, Druim Bothy is otherwise a fairly luxurious howff, with running water (plumbed in from the burn) and a flushing toilet, as well as surprisingly good kitchen facilities. It has a lovely setting, too.
WR4 - Druim Bothy.jpg

Finally, then: Sunday morning, and an attempt on Ladhar Bheinn!

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We set off early, and for the first few hours, the weather was really spectacular. Although it clouded over a bit as the day went on, the cloud thankfully stayed well above the summits all day.
The Brockett Memorial in early morning sunshine:
WR6 - Brockett Memorial on Sunday morning with lovely blue sky.jpg

We turned right at the end of the Gleann Meadail track and headed up Gleann an Dubh-Lochain as far as the last right turn just before Loch an Dubh-Lochain, and then headed uphill from the left of the track up the steep and mostly pathless slopes (bits of developing path here and there) to the northwest, aiming for the Mam Suidheig bealach. It's a steep pull, and we took our time.
A nice view north to Aonach Sgoilte with Ladhar Bheinn summit in the distance from roughly where we left the track, with a glimpse of Loch an Dubh-Lochain:
WR7 - nice view north to Aonach Sgoilte with Ladhar Bheinn summit in distance and glimpse of Dubh Lochan.jpg

I stopped for a bit of photography on the way up. Firstly, a nice shot of some bluebells and sprouting bracken (that bracken must be a real pain in high summer, but in May it was rather pretty):
WR8 - Bluebells and bracken and distant Aonach Sgoilte or subpeak.jpg

A bit higher up, I had a close encounter with one of Scotland's two Indigenous Reptiles: yes, a Slow Worm. Not a snake despite initial appearances, but a legless lizard, and actually quite a cute creature. It seemed happy to pose for a photo.
WR9 - Slow Worm.jpg

Herpetology aside, it was a considerable slog up to the bealach, which was (as the saying goes) Reached With Some Relief. We were also relieved to pick up a reasonable path that headed all the way onwards along the very enjoyable ridge, firstly north-east to Ladhar Bheinn's eastern Corbett Top which is called Aonach Sgoilte, and then taking a sharp 90 degree turn to the left to head north-west to Ladhar Bheinn itself.
An impressively craggy view from the bealach of the ongoing ridge heading towards Aonach Sgoilte:
WR10 - impressively craggy view of ongoing ridge to Aonach Sgoilte.jpg

A bit further up the ridge, we got a good view of the other two Knoydart Munros, Meall Buidhe and Luinne Bheinn, on the other side of Gleann an Dubh-Lochain. We'd got practically no views when we did these two back in 2019, so it was nice to see what they actually looked like :roll: !
WR11 - ongoing Aonach Sgoilte ridge with Meall Buidhe and Luinne Bheinn visible eastwards across glen.jpg

A bit further along Aonach Sgoilte's southwest ridge, there is an interesting bit where the ridge splits. The easiest line heads down the short grassy gully between the two ridgelines, and then joins the main ridge by a rising traverse to the right. The path is a bit intermittent in this section, but it's obvious enough in clear conditions.
WR12 - interesting bit where ridge splits with Aonach Sgoilte summit not far away now.jpg

A nice view back southwest along the craggy ridge, with Loch an Dubh-Lochain visible back down in the glen:
WR13 - nice view back along ridge and down to Dubh Lochan.jpg

A shortcut to the Mam Barrisdale...? Probably not recommended :lol: !
WR14 - the quick way down to the Mam Barrisdale.jpg

At Aonach Sgoilte's wee summit cairn at last, with a very impressive view of Ladhar Bheinn itself off to the northwest:
WR15 - Ladhar Bheinn main summit from Aonach Sgoilte cairn.jpg

The well named Rough Bounds of Knoydart, with the famous jaw-dropping vista down Loch Hourn: this was the whole reason that we'd expended so much time and effort on bagging this one on a Good Weather Day!
WR16 - well named Rough Bounds of Knoydart and impressive view down Loch Hourn.jpg

The ongoing scrambly ridge to Ladhar Bheinn's summit environs was a delight, on the whole, although there is a Bad Step at a rock band, clearly visible in the photo below, about two-thirds of the way up which gave me pause for thought. Thankfully, however, it wasn't as bad as it initially looked (although the scramble up it was a bit knackering this late in the day).
WR17 - Ladhar Bheinn summit cone with Bad Step rock band well visible.jpg

At Ladhar Bheinn's East Top, and a slighty different angle on that Big View down Loch Hourn:
WR18 - the Big View down Loch Hourn from Ladhar Bheinn E Top.jpg

Another grand view down the sharp Druim a' Choire Odhair ridge from Ladhar Bheinn East Top. There is of course a classic circuit of the Munro from Barrisdale that makes use of this ridge to make a skyline circuit of the wild and craggy An Garbh Choire to the Munro's northeast, but that involves a huge walk in from Kinloch Hourn, then a wild camp, to say nothing of some hard scrambling...
WR19 - another fine view down ridge to Kinloch Hourn from E top.jpg

At Ladhar Bheinn's main summit at last! Malcolm looking impressively windswept, with Rhum and Eigg well visible in the distance behind him:
WR20 - Malcolm looking a bit windswept on Ladhar Bheinn main summit with Rhum and Eigg.jpg

Looking towards Kinloch Hourn again, but from the main summit cairn this time:
WR21 - looking towards Kinloch Hourn from main summit cairn.jpg

A couple of Rough Bounders at Ladhar Bheinn summit cairn!
WR22 - Rough Bounders of Knoydart.jpg

Onwards to the West Top. This one sports a rather strange Trig Point that has been weathered into the shape of a candle, complete with flame. A happy accident, but I find it strangely moving to think of this votive-candle-in-stone, burning constantly, but hidden way out west on this secret bit of coastline... Rhum and Eigg were clearly visible in the distance, as well as a striking view of the Skye Cuillin.
WR23 - votive candle trig point on W Top with Cuillin and Rhum and Eigg.jpg

This was a magical spot, and there was a comfy bit of flat and dry grass just west of the Trig Point. We stopped for what was meant to be a short rest, but both ended up fast asleep for a good half hour!
When we eventually woke up again, it was starting to cloud over and clearly time to start our descent. On the way down, we got a good view of the One That Got Away, the Corbett Beinn na Caillich that we'd originally planned to do on the Saturday.
WR24 - Beinn na Caillich and distant Cuillin on start of descent.jpg

Although it was technically easy, the long descent on pathless grassy slopes down to the upper Gleann na Guiserein seemed to go on forever ... Malcolm, being fitter than I am, was bounding roughly ahead, needless to say, but I made a much more sedate descent. It was a real relief to finally reach the bridge over the Allt Coire Torr an Asgaill, where we picked up our bikes and started the descent back to Inverie. By this point in the weekend, we'd come to the conclusion that cycling out on the rough track to Druim Bothy was something of a mug's game, so we abandoned the bikes at the Old Forge (after enjoying yet another pint and some very impressive live music) and started the long walk back to the bothy.
Two final surprises, however. Firstly, I was unexpectedly overtaken by nausea just before reaching the bothy: I couldn't eat my dinner and went off to bed early. I think it was a metabolic thing; just all the lactic acid and ketones in my system after several consecutive days of unaccustomed exercise! Thankfully I was feeling fine in the morning, but I missed out on Malcolm's tinned prunes and Ambrosia custard, sadly...
Secondly, Paul had enjoyed a fine day out on Meall Buidhe and Luinne Bheinn, but then ended up rescuing a guy who had sprained his ankle very badly on the way back from Luinne Bheinn. The poor chap was really hobbling, so Paul had offered him and his mate the use of our bothy for the night (there was plenty of room for another two people; actually it would probably sleep up to six people no bother). His ankle was fortunately better after the rest overnight, and Malcolm was able to help him back down to Inverie and onto the ferry in the morning.
So - a real adventure, all in all, but completely worth all the effort :D !
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Re: The One and Only Ladhar Bheinn

Postby gld73 » Fri May 27, 2022 12:20 pm

An eloquent and enjoyable read!
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Re: The One and Only Ladhar Bheinn

Postby RiverSong » Sun May 29, 2022 12:15 pm

Enjoyed your report very much, but what a palaver you all had getting there :shock: just as well the Old Forge was nearby so you could all recover.
Loved the photos of Loch Hourn. I know for a fact I’ll never find myself up there so I enjoyed the “virtual” view. Well done :D
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Re: The One and Only Ladhar Bheinn

Postby Alteknacker » Fri Jun 03, 2022 9:55 am

Nice tale of persistence in the face of adversity !!! :D

Hope I get similarly fine weather in July, when I hope to be there.
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Re: The One and Only Ladhar Bheinn

Postby rockhopper » Sat Jun 04, 2022 12:01 pm

An entertaining read - thanks for posting. Good to see you got the weather in the end - cheers :)
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