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The Cape Wrath Trail 2012 Walk report Chapter 9 & 10
by Billymaca » Tue Jun 12, 2012 2:57 pm
Route description: Cape Wrath Trail
Date walked: 12/05/2012
Time taken: 2 days7 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 forced march and the race against time
Schoolhouse Bothy to Glencoul Bothy
This day started Bright and cool, so we began our day at a leisurely pace as we were only going as far as Benmore Lodge, or so we originally thought, Shaun informed me that he had heard from either Stevie or a family member, bad weather was forecast for our area, high winds, this would be a problem for me because of the tent I had with me. After packing up we set off at about nine o’clock for Oykel bridge discussing our options as we went along the track in Glen Einig if the forecast turned out to be right,
It wasn’t long before we reached the bridge and the Oykel Hotel,
this was another opportunity not to be missed, acquiring a cup of tea accompanied by a lovely big fruit scone and jam, this had to be a dead cert! Outside the hotel were several 4 x 4’s and cars with Salmon fly rods on racks, poised for a day’s action along with a ghillie were a load of well to do Ladies and Gentlemen dressed in plus four tweeds and brogues, then there was us, mucky and smelly, in we go for the refreshments, expecting to be thrown out at any time, but we were welcomed with open arms and served with the best silver and china.
“I don’t believe it, no scones in a country hotel!” Shaun took the operchancity to check the weather reports with the ghillies, it was bad news, storms were on the way. We left the hotel refreshed and headed up Glen Oykel in the direction of Benmore Lodge discussing the possibility of joining tomorrow onto today so that we could get to the shelter of Glencoul Bothy as there was no obvious shelter in the area between here and there, If we managed it, it would be a huge day because of the distance and lack of paths over peat haggy ground not to mention ending the day with a hard ascent and descent in the area of Eas a chual Aluinn waterfalls. We decided to go for it as we didn’t like the thought of spending the night in our sleeping bags inside our survival bags, if it was to be as bad as we were told then there would be no tent that could stand up to it. As it turned out this was to be the best decision we were to make during the entire walk. There were now only 2 priorities, 1. Getting to Shauns stash of food, 2. Getting to the Bothy before dark, this meant picking up the pace and turning it into a forced march.
The walk along Glen Oykel was simple, on a good farm track with no ups and downs to speak of, the sun was out and we had a good view of the river meandering along the glen floor all the way to Salachy, which is a ruined dwelling house within a collapsed perimeter wall at the edge of the forest.
At this point we left the track, turning right through Salachy and into the forest fire break which leads uphill to connect with a forest road that runs parallel with the track we were on. Once we reached the road, which wasn’t far or hard to complete, we turned left and were soon by the shore of Loch Ailsh at a junction with the road leading to the lodge,
it was now raining lightly and the wind was starting to pick up, right turn and past the various houses and the lodge itself, we were now looking for a sheltered spot to have a break, This done, we were off again knowing that the hard bit was still to come, but at least it was dry again. Leaving the forest on a track/path, it was open moor land with good views of Sail an Ruathair and Meall an Aonaich to our front,
the path/tack was boggy and intermittent to begin with but as we gained height over the shoulder of Meall an Aonaich it became drier and more established. Nearing the top of the shoulder the wind was getting very strong and cold, it had started raining again, this was an incentive to keep moving so that we could get to the lee side of the hill. Once over, we were rewarded with the grand vista of Glen Cassley, a vast open peat bog that stretches for miles, I was glad we didn’t have to cross it because it looked boggy, tussocky and haggy.
We continued along the path that hugs the foot of Ben More Assynt and Beinn Uidhe on the North side. Whenever we passed a Beallach to our left the wind became extremely strong, pushing us about on the track, we could only imagine what it was like on the other side of the hill. The path/track was easy to follow, occasionally boggy at times, all the way to Loch Bealach a Mhadaidh where the wind coming down from the Bealach was whipping the surface water into the air. From here, without a path, the going was going to be a nightmare, sandwiched between Cailleach an t-Sniomha and Gorm Loch Mor until we reached the path that led up Leathad Riabhach.
I have been sitting here trying to think of a way to express the severity of this section to you, instead I will list descriptive words and leave it to you to paint the picture, up and down, boggy, haggy, tussocks, boulder strewn, pouring, windy, cold, trip, slip, slide, and never again, do you get the picture? With that section out of the way we climbed up on a faded path to where Shaun’s stash was hidden beside a wee loch, he left it there a few months before, Knackered I slumped behind a large boulder and left Shaun to go and find it while I had a rest(some friend!), he reappeared looking like a kid in a sweet shop, clutching a black bin bag, excitedly he opened it up to reveal a couple of roses tins and inside them a cache of undamaged goodies wrapped in plastic , all the contents were quickly thrown into both rucksacks as time was getting on and we still had a few miles to go.
The light was starting to fade, from here we back tracked to the steep path that led down into the glen below. Now the race was on to get to the bothy before dark, I was carrying a Spot 2 GPS tracker and was concerned that Moira (my wife) would be tracking us and thinking that something had gone wrong. The going wasn’t easy as we followed the meandering burn and old fence down the glen, occasionally tripping on the fallen wire from the fence which was hidden in the heather. We eventually arrived at the bothy, with head torches on, at eleven o’clock, just after dark and the first thing I did was to send Moira a Spot 2 check-in-ok message to put her mind at rest. The wind coming up from Kylesku was fierce, it was howling around the buildings and hillsides of Glencoul, we didn’t hang about outside. Indoors it was tranquil compared to outside, we had the fire going, dinner was on and we were organised for the night within a jiffy.
An end to a very long and challenging day, in the safety and warmth of a Bothy!
The Storm at Glencoul
Glencoul Bothy to Glendhu Bothy
Today we were awoken from our warm slumber to the roar and howling of the storm outside, the doors were rattling and the roof was creaking. Slowly we emerged from our sleeping bags to go and stick our noses outside for a look, Wow! We didn’t stay at the door for long, it was wild out there!
Over breakfast we again discussed our options, do we stay or do we go? The wind was so strong, from the door we could see the water in the loch being lifted in great columns of water which were then thrown against the hillside that we were supposed to be going over and the waterfalls on the same hill weren’t falling to bottom of the cliffs, they were rising vertically into the air as if the cliffs had chimneys.
A unanimous decision was reached, we stay!
Now how do we keep ourselves occupied when we hadn’t anticipated being stuck here! Well I went out scavenging for wood, whilst shaun had another novel way to achieve something, there was a huge piece of drift wood that someone (overzealous) had taken into the bothy, it was too big to be practical for the fire, so Shaun, armed with one of the blunt Bothy saws set about it. He sawed away at it for over an hour, sweat dripping from his forehead, before it fell in two. One cup of coffee followed by a cup of tea, another bit of wood for the fire, that’s how the day progressed. You know there isn’t anything more exhilarating, the feeling of being alive, than going outside to answer the call of nature in a storm, squatting there without a care in the world with the wind whistling between the cheeks of your arse while you admire the grand vista that lies before you! Cabin fever and Boredom were setting in! We were now starting to show the signs and symptoms of the itchy feet syndrome, the wind had now dropped or we convinced ourselves that it had, we decided to try and get to Glendhu Bothy which was less than four miles away. Leaving our packs behind we went for a look at the path where it traverses the hillside leading to the shoulder of the headland, it was doable with caution, or so we reckoned, each time a squall came, which we could see on the water below us, we would drop to the ground and let it pass over us.
We returned to the Bothy for a final cup of coffee before we collected our packs and made the agreement that if either one of us wasn’t happy with the situation then we would both return to the Bothy, again we headed out into the storm once more, this time it was different, the wind was catching our packs like a sail, continually spinning us on the spot and pushing us against the hillside, it was extremely hard work just reaching the shoulder of the headland. At the shoulder just before we turned the corner the path wanders away from the hillside onto a flattish area before it turns to go down the other side, no matter how hard we tried we couldn’t get to it, Every time we stepped away from the hillside and out into the open we were blown off our feet, we were unable to get to the path even though it was only about ten feet away. We decided to hug the hill side until the path came to us down at the wooded area near to the bottom on the lee side. When finally we reached the bottom exhausted, we still had a burn to cross that would now be a raging river at the head of Lochdhu, a bridge was shown on the map but was the bridge there? If not we may have to go all the way back to the start point.
It was there, we crossed without any concerns or incidents finally reaching the bothy where we got organised for the night.
Some kind person had left a bucket of coal behind along with a pile of wood.
This was the shortest day’s walk of the trip at under 4 miles but it was by far the longest 4 miles I have ever done, we set off at 15:45 and arrived at 19: 30, Tough going but the Gore-tex held out, shame the Sealskinz gloves didn’t!
Chapter 11 & 12 http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=22375
- Posts: 68
- Joined: Sep 15, 2010
- Location: Argyll
by mrssanta » Tue Jun 12, 2012 4:29 pm
by Ileach » Tue Jun 12, 2012 6:00 pm
mrssanta wrote:fantastic, what an adventure!
A truly evocative report. You're some machine, Billy boy. Can't wait for the next chapter.
by Billymaca » Tue Jun 12, 2012 6:33 pm
Are you the same Ileach that I met at the Kinlochewe bunkhouse on my day off during the walk ?
- Posts: 68
- Joined: Sep 15, 2010
- Location: Argyll
by gammy leg walker » Wed Jun 13, 2012 7:26 pm
by mountainstar » Sun Jun 17, 2012 4:05 pm
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