walkhighlands

Share your personal walking route experiences in Scotland, and comment on other peoples' reports.
Warning Please note that hillwalking when there is snow lying requires an ice-axe, crampons and the knowledge, experience and skill to use them correctly. Summer routes may not be viable or appropriate in winter. See winter information on our skills and safety pages for more information.

Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros


Postby alexdw » Sat Sep 02, 2023 12:38 am

Munros included on this walk: Garbh Chioch Mhòr, Sgùrr na Cìche, Sgùrr nan Coireachan (Glen Dessary)

Date walked: 19/08/2023

22 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).

A Tale of Wilderness, Weather and Venison

Walking out to Knoydart - the romantically named 'Last Wilderness' - had been an ambition for several years and it was with some excitement that I met up with two old friends, Stefan and David, in Fort William on a Friday evening. We had bunkhouse accommodation booked in Inverie on the Monday, but no other plans set in stone, so we had three days to walk across the Rough Bounds and climb whatever Munros we could manage en route. We had vaguely intended to take a bus to Glen Shiel and walk in either from the Cluanie or Shiel Bridge, but the forecast was looking increasingly unpleasant as Storm Betty arrived, with MWIS giving graphic warnings of 70mph gusts "roaring over the tops", "heavy rain" and "at times any mobility challenging", so we opted to take the early train to Glenfinnan and walk in from the south instead. It was still quite a daunting prospect to face three days of potentially dire weather in some of the UK's most rugged landscape, but at least there was a good chance we'd be able to scurry into a bothy for overnight shelter rather than cowering in tents! The trip would prove to be quite an adventure...

Day 1
Setting off from Glenfinnan just after 9am, we were pleased to see that the weather wasn't quite as apocalyptic as the forecast has predicted. There was some occasional drizzle, but the gale-force winds were notable by their absence - in fact, it wasn't even windy enough to keep the midges at bay when we paused. We plodded steadily up Glen Finnan, popping into the Corryhully 'Electric Bothy', then over the steep-sided pass leading to Gleann a' Chaoruinn. I was anxious to cross the stream early to avoid any difficulties lower down the glen - I'd waded it almost knee-deep going the other way last year - but we probably crossed it higher than we needed to and were rewarded with an extra few hundred metres of boggy, pathless effort on the east bank.

20230819_091139.jpg
Glenfinnan Viaduct

20230819_093016.jpg
Stefan and I setting off up Glen Finnan

20230819_110637.jpg
Stefan approaching the Bealach a' Chaorainn

PXL_20230819_105005352.jpg
Wet underfoot and misty up ahead in Gleann a' Chaorainn

20230819_120919.jpg
Looking back up to Bealach a' Chaorainn

We had seen and briefly chatted to a group of 4 others heading the same way; they seemed to be lacking a map, so I gave them my Cape Wrath South - our group had plenty of map to spare. They promised to leave it for me at the bunkhouse in Inverie, and sure enough, we would find it waiting for us 3 days later with a message reading "for Alex! thanks =)" written on the cover.

After hopping across the swamps in Glen Pean we continued on the easy track into Glen Dessary, pausing at A' Chuil bothy. There was a brief discussion about continuing on to Sourlies, but we were already quite damp, and the spacious and comfortable A' Chuil gave us an excellent excuse to stop early. Stefan set about hacking up some wood with a combination of a saw, axe, maul, and wood grenades, then got a promising fire started, David dealt with wet clothes, while I began boiling water; all in all, we were a picture of domestic bliss.

20230819_155129.jpg
Stefan gets to work

20230819_155612.jpg
Stefan in his element

20230819_162358.jpg
Trying vainly to dry out our boots

20230819_162444.jpg
Me enjoying bothy life

Day 2
The next morning, the weather continued to be a substantial improvement on the forecast - light wind, and even some clear sky - so we decided to tackle the Sgurr na Ciche Munros, going west to east over the tops, meaning a longer walk-in but shorter walk-out. It was a great relief to leave our heavy kit at A' Chuil and set out with day sacks, and we made good time through Glen Dessary, then up onto the Bealach an Lagain Duibh. We followed an intermittent track cutting upwards and across the slopes of Garbh Chioch Mhor, with views opening out to the west as the rock scenery on the hills north and south became increasingly wild. In Coire na Ciche, we turned upward towards a narrow gully running down from the bealach above. The gully was easy enough, though I imagine it could look a bit intimidating if tackled in descent.

PXL_20230820_080926397.jpg
Morning at A' Chuil

20230820_092636.jpg
Setting out through Glen Dessary

20230820_111253.jpg
Looking southwest from just above the Bealach an Lagainn Duibh - the peak is Bidein a' Chabair

20230820_112335.jpg
Rough ground on the slopes of Garbh Chioch Mhor above us

PXL_20230820_104117705.jpg
Ascending the track into Coire na Ciche

PXL_20230820_105015701.jpg
Looking west over Coire na Ciche to Loch Nevis

PXL_20230820_105240967.jpg
Looking up to Sgurr na Ciche

20230820_121616.jpg
Me heading up the gully

Up on the bealach, Feadan na Ciche, the mists were swirling, and after some refuelling we set off west on the path running under the ridge, then curving back up through rocky ground to the summit of Sgurr na Ciche. The views were hazy and evanescent in the shifting cloud, but all the more atmospheric for it.

20230820_130101.jpg
Looking back to Garbh Chioch Mhor as we ascend Sgurr na Ciche

20230820_131039.jpg
Final slopes on Sgurr na Ciche

20230820_131639.jpg
Looking north from the summit of Sgurr na Ciche

20230820_132934.jpg
Garbh Chioch Mhor from Sgurr na Ciche

20230820_134222.jpg
David negotiating the descent from Sgurr na Ciche

We set off back to the bealach, then pushed on over the many little lumps and pinnacles of Garbh Chioch Mhor and Garbh Chioch Bheag, enjoying the occasional chance to get our hands on rock. We then gritted our teeth for the descent to the Bealach Coire nan Gall and the final ascent of the day, to the summit of Sgurr nan Coireachan. On the way up, we met two others who had been staying with us in A' Chuil, walking in the other direction, having set off at about noon. They were the first (and only) people we met that day; as it was now 4pm and they had another two Munros to go, we anticipated that they'd be quite late back to the bothy!

PXL_20230820_131544253.jpg
David on a rocky little section of Garbh Chioch Mhor

PXL_20230820_131743326.jpg
David, with the view northeast to Loch Quoich behind

20230820_141945.jpg
Looking back to Sgurr na Ciche

PXL_20230820_133218877.jpg
The three of us on the summit of Garbh Chioch Mhor

20230820_144118.jpg
Looking along the ridge east from the summit of Garbh Chioch Mhor

PXL_20230820_143054018.jpg
Emptiness - Coire nan Gall to the north of Garbh Chioch Mhor

20230820_162443.jpg
Looking west to Loch Nevis, Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr na Ciche from Sgurr nan Coireachan

I had briefly entertained the thought of continuing along the ridge to the Corbett of Sgurr Cos na Breachd-laoidh, but none of us had much appetite left for this, so we headed straight down to Glen Dessary along the south ridge of Sgurr nan Coireachan, picking up a very boggy path down to the River Dessary, then retracing our steps back the A' Chuil. We found the bothy now occupied by a group of nine intrepid German scouts on a few days' trek to Shiel Bridge, as well as a Frenchman called Baptiste walking what sounded like a significant chunk of the Scottish National Trail. There would be fifteen of us altogether by the time we settled down for the night; luckily, A' Chuil is relatively spacious and everyone got on well.

PXL_20230820_161718425.jpg
David descending towards Glen Dessary

Day 3
The next morning, we jammed everything back into our rucksacks and set out for Inverie; we knew we had a long day ahead of us. Baptiste had asked to join us, so we were a group of four as we trudged back up Glen Dessary, over the bealach, and on west along the Finiskaig River. For now, the weather continued to defy the forecast and it was almost windless in the glen. This is beautiful, remote country, but we couldn't stop to admire it for long as the midges were out. The path disappeared somewhere below Lochain a' Mhaim but after some initial confusion we crossed the Finiskaig without difficulty and enjoyed a lovely descent down to Sourlies bothy on the shore of Loch Nevis, stopping for a makeshift lunch of trail mix.

20230821_113831.jpg
Baptiste pausing above Lochain a' Mhaim

20230821_113132.jpg
Waterfall on the River Finiskaig

20230821_124536.jpg
Looking down towards Loch Nevis

20230821_130439.jpg
Final bridge before Sourlies

20230821_132836.jpg
Approaching Sourlies bothy, fearless deer in front of us

Once we left the bothy, though, the rain that had been intermittent for the first couple of days began to fall in earnest, fine, drizzly rain that inevitably permeates through any and all waterproof layers. We faffed around finding our way over the headland through chest-high bracken - given that it was low tide, it would probably have been much more efficient to simply walk along the shoreline. We then had to cross the marshland at the mouth of the River Carnach, each of us eventually abandoning our hopes of keeping dry feet as we tiptoed through the minefield of bogs. We crossed the bridge at Carnach, then steeled ourselves for the slog up to the Mam Meadail. We were going to have to earn our dinner.

PXL_20230821_131038967.jpg
Marshland in the mouth of the Carnach

The next hour or so (though it felt longer) was pretty purgatorial: the path zig-zagged its way upwards, gradually morphing into a stream as the rain continued. We shuffled on slowly, morale gradually sinking; I noted the first 1000 double paces, but at this point found myself barely halfway up to the bealach and gave up counting. "I've never been this wet", I heard Baptiste mutter. At last, we emerged onto the bealach and stuffed some Starburst into our mouths.

20230821_152517.jpg
Looking back down towards the Carnach from halfway up to the Mam Meadail

20230821_152528.jpg
My spirits somewhat flagging

At this point, the full force of the weather was finally unleashed, the wind lashing horizontal rain directly into our faces from the west. By now, though, we had reached full saturation - every single item of my clothing was completed soaked - so it made little difference; since we couldn't get any wetter, the wild weather was, if anything, quite exhilarating. And now, because we knew it was all downhill, and because we weren't worried about keeping our boots dry, and perhaps because of Starburst sugar-high, we suddenly felt a collective second wind, hurtling down through Gleann Meadail almost at a jog; we would cover the next 9km in under two hours. The glen felt like a wonderfully chaotic place, the burns frothing and foaming down the hillside and the river roaring over waterfalls and under bridges. Sadly, none of us were focused on taking photographs at this point!

We were passed by a jeep heading in the other direction - the first vehicle we had seen in days - and the driver offered to ferry our rucksacks the last couple of kilometres; for reasons that I still don't understand, Stefan turned her down! We passed under the Brocket Memorial, erected by a previous landowner, Lord Brocket, a Nazi-sympathiser who famously attended Hitler's 50th birthday, and later evicted the Seven Men of Knoydart. We turned left through the woodland above Inverie, less than a kilometre away. But it was hard work by now, and Knoydart wasn't quite finished with me; firstly, I brained myself on a low-hanging tree branch, then 100m later I slipped, pirouetted, and crashed into the mud. There was nothing for it but to laugh. A few minutes later, we emerged, sodden and dishevelled, on the tarmac of Inverie. I have never felt more ready for a beer.

We dumped our rucksacks at the bunkhouse, then headed to The Old Forge pub, where we discovered (to our delight) that walking in from Glenfinnan entitled us to a free drink, but (to our horror) that the pub wouldn't be serving food for several weeks. But just as we were resigning ourselves to a dinner of trail mix and cereal bars, David spotted one of his old school friends, Finlay, sitting at the bar. Finlay - now working as ranger on the Knoydart estate - joined us for a drink, disappeared briefly, then reappeared with a packet of diced venison; the whole episode felt like a minor miracle. Finlay, if you are reading this - I don't think we'll ever be able to repay you!

With dinner now assured, we settled in for a while at The Old Forge, reflecting on a fantastic few days in the hills, and looking forward to hot showers, a drying room, fried venison and warm beds.

PXL_20230821_181912075.MP.jpg
Success!
Attachments

new (1).gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

alexdw
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 21
Munros:92   Corbetts:5
Hewitts:108
Wainwrights:147   
Joined: Nov 30, 2015

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby Chris Henshall » Sat Sep 02, 2023 9:42 am

Alex,
An excellent, detailed read, as ever. I can't believe, however, that you willingly elected to traverse Gleann a' Chaorainn again; having been (mainly) up and down it half a dozen times myself now - the last time with you - I've made a vow never to walk it's length again if I can possibly avoid it! Great work on the free pint and the diced venison in Inverie and, if you want more background on Lord Brocket evicting the seven men of Knoydart, ask Chalky; one of his slightly more listenable folk music songs details the episode and I think that it only lasts for eight or nine minutes!
I see that you're ticking off the hills... but, like so many, Sgurr Mor has eluded you to date; only a matter of time!
User avatar
Chris Henshall
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 282
Munros:253   
Hewitts:157
Wainwrights:214   
Joined: May 30, 2014

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby WildAboutWalking » Sat Sep 02, 2023 5:10 pm

An excellent outing. :thumbup:
User avatar
WildAboutWalking
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 357
Joined: Dec 20, 2022

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby johnbythell » Tue Sep 05, 2023 1:27 pm

Nice report, thanks for sharing. It brought back memories of a similar route we did in 2018 (https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=81979) though in much drier conditions - I also did the reverse trip, in similar conditions to you, in 2017. Love those Knoydart hills!
User avatar
johnbythell
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 151
Munros:100   
Joined: Sep 4, 2017

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby alexdw » Wed Sep 06, 2023 12:14 am

Chris Henshall wrote:Alex,
An excellent, detailed read, as ever. I can't believe, however, that you willingly elected to traverse Gleann a' Chaorainn again; having been (mainly) up and down it half a dozen times myself now - the last time with you - I've made a vow never to walk it's length again if I can possibly avoid it! Great work on the free pint and the diced venison in Inverie and, if you want more background on Lord Brocket evicting the seven men of Knoydart, ask Chalky; one of his slightly more listenable folk music songs details the episode and I think that it only lasts for eight or nine minutes!
I see that you're ticking off the hills... but, like so many, Sgurr Mor has eluded you to date; only a matter of time!


Thanks Chris; the trudge down Gleann a' Chaorainn wasn't the highlight of trip, but probably the least of all evils given the forecast and our lack of a car. I suppose we could have come over the tops of Sgurr nan Coireachan and Sgurr Thuilm - but that sounded hard work with our big bags and the warning of howling winds! If I go back to Inverie, I'll definitely come in from the north next time. On the downside, if (as may happen) I attempt the Cape Wrath Trail next year, I'll have to bash up Gleann a' Chaorainn again on Day 2.

Sgurr Mor might need to be combined with another visit to Kinbreak - I think there could be an excellent day out over it and the Corbetts to its east and south.
alexdw
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 21
Munros:92   Corbetts:5
Hewitts:108
Wainwrights:147   
Joined: Nov 30, 2015

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby alexdw » Wed Sep 06, 2023 12:20 am

johnbythell wrote:Nice report, thanks for sharing. It brought back memories of a similar route we did in 2018 (https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=81979) though in much drier conditions - I also did the reverse trip, in similar conditions to you, in 2017. Love those Knoydart hills!


Thanks - they are certainly great hills. I enjoyed reading your 2018 report - the similarities seem to extend to the names of the walkers! We were a David, Alex and Stefan and I think you were a Dave, Alex and John?
alexdw
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 21
Munros:92   Corbetts:5
Hewitts:108
Wainwrights:147   
Joined: Nov 30, 2015

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby johnbythell » Wed Sep 06, 2023 6:59 am

Thanks - they are certainly great hills. I enjoyed reading your 2018 report - the similarities seem to extend to the names of the walkers! We were a David, Alex and Stefan and I think you were a Dave, Alex and John?

:lol: Excellent
User avatar
johnbythell
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 151
Munros:100   
Joined: Sep 4, 2017

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby rockhopper » Tue Oct 03, 2023 9:07 pm

A cracking route and a few well earned beers at the end. Read much of this previously but only got round to finishing it now - very enjoyable - cheers :)
User avatar
rockhopper
 
Posts: 7434
Munros:282   Corbetts:222
Fionas:136   Donalds:89+20
Sub 2000:15   Hewitts:2
Wainwrights:3   Islands:20
Joined: May 31, 2009
Location: Glasgow

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby Giant Stoneater » Wed Oct 04, 2023 12:00 pm

A great report, done various walks from Glenfinnan to Inverie and vice versa.
One thing that slightly puzzles me is why didnt you do the Munros from east to west and just head to Sourlies, heading down Druim nan Ghoirtein. Was it going to be too much with big packs.
Giant Stoneater
Scrambler
 
Posts: 908
Joined: Aug 2, 2014

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby alexdw » Wed Oct 04, 2023 4:23 pm

Giant Stoneater wrote:A great report, done various walks from Glenfinnan to Inverie and vice versa.
One thing that slightly puzzles me is why didnt you do the Munros from east to west and just head to Sourlies, heading down Druim nan Ghoirtein. Was it going to be too much with big packs.


Two reasons. First - yes, to avoid doing the Munro day with big bags. It would have been possible but considerably less fun! And second - capacity at Sourlies. We knew that it was smaller than A' Chuil and that several others were already heading there from Glen Dessary. In the context of a dodgy forecast, we felt that a guaranteed corner of A' Chuil and a walk with day sacks was much more appealing than having to pitch tents at Sourlies after a 9 hour slog with big bags.

Of course, that meant Day 3 was longer and more punishing than it might have been, but there are always trade-offs!
alexdw
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 21
Munros:92   Corbetts:5
Hewitts:108
Wainwrights:147   
Joined: Nov 30, 2015

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby dominic6hornton » Sun Oct 08, 2023 8:17 pm

Thanks great write up, really enjoyed it. Especially useful to see opinions and photos of bothies. A point of detail, how do you manage with day-sacks, on day 2 you spent doing the munros, when you are walking with full rucksacks for the whole trip - do you take day-sacks for the duration of the trip as extras ? I'm planning some walk-ins with wild-camping, but then how do I avoid using my full expd.rucksack on the day I am doing munros with my tent as a base ?

Thanks
dominic6hornton
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Jul 30, 2023

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby alexdw » Mon Oct 09, 2023 10:37 pm

dominic6hornton wrote:Thanks great write up, really enjoyed it. Especially useful to see opinions and photos of bothies. A point of detail, how do you manage with day-sacks, on day 2 you spent doing the munros, when you are walking with full rucksacks for the whole trip - do you take day-sacks for the duration of the trip as extras ? I'm planning some walk-ins with wild-camping, but then how do I avoid using my full expd.rucksack on the day I am doing munros with my tent as a base ?

Thanks


Thanks - glad you enjoyed it. Re rucksacks: I've probably been a bit ambiguous here - we only brought one (big) rucksack each with us on the trip, and used these both for the heavy loads and lighter day loads. When I said 'day-sacks' in the report, I just meant those same rucksacks...but without any of the camping equipment in! So perhaps 'day-loads' would have been more appropriate...

Admittedly it's a bit ridiculous walking around with a 70L rucksack with barely anything in it, but it's perfectly comfortable. I suppose it would be possible to carry in a separate day-sack, but it would need to be something quite flimsy to be able to pack into the big sack for the full gear-carrying days. I've always found a day-load in a big bag absolutely fine.
alexdw
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 21
Munros:92   Corbetts:5
Hewitts:108
Wainwrights:147   
Joined: Nov 30, 2015

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby dominic6hornton » Tue Oct 10, 2023 11:24 pm

Ah ok, makes sense. Thx for quick reply. I've often wondered on others' techniques. TBH, i have in the past carried a smaller rucksack on my front but only if i'm camping say 1-2 km in from the road, but if in your experience its perfectly fine to use the full 70l sack with a light load on the days your doing say the munros thats useful to know. I'm quite new to this, and since often wild-camping solo I'm left thinking "is this the best way?", lol. Cheers
dominic6hornton
Mountain Walker
 
Posts: 3
Joined: Jul 30, 2023

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby past my sell by date » Wed Oct 11, 2023 4:43 pm

Great report :clap: :clap: . The path over the Mam Meadail is pretty awful at the best of times :lol: :lol:
But the Brockett memorial should be dynamited (IMO) and replaced perhaps with a statue of Chris Brasher who with the John Muir Trust was so very instrumental in the community buyout
past my sell by date
Mountaineer
 
Posts: 1061
Munros:282   Corbetts:86
Fionas:27   Donalds:6
Sub 2000:8   Hewitts:146
Wainwrights:159   
Joined: Apr 24, 2013

Re: Knoydart: Glenfinnan - Inverie via Sgurr na Ciche Munros

Postby alexdw » Mon Oct 23, 2023 1:56 pm

dominic6hornton wrote:Ah ok, makes sense. Thx for quick reply. I've often wondered on others' techniques. TBH, i have in the past carried a smaller rucksack on my front but only if i'm camping say 1-2 km in from the road, but if in your experience its perfectly fine to use the full 70l sack with a light load on the days your doing say the munros thats useful to know. I'm quite new to this, and since often wild-camping solo I'm left thinking "is this the best way?", lol. Cheers


Ah, the classic "double tortoise"! I think that's a perfectly valid tactic if you have a short walk to camp - whatever works for you.
alexdw
Hill Bagger
 
Posts: 21
Munros:92   Corbetts:5
Hewitts:108
Wainwrights:147   
Joined: Nov 30, 2015

22 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).

Next



Can you help support Walkhighlands?


Our forum is free from adverts - your generosity keeps it running.
Can you help support Walkhighlands and this community by donating by direct debit?



Return to Walk reports - Scotland

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 11 guests