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Bank Holiday 3 dayer in Knoydart

Bank Holiday 3 dayer in Knoydart


Postby malky_c » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:07 pm

Munros included on this walk: Garbh Chioch Mhor, Sgurr na Ciche, Sgurr nan Coireachan (Glen Dessary)

Corbetts included on this walk: Ben Aden, Bidein a'Chabair, Carn Mor (Glen Dessarry), Fraoch Bheinn, Sgurr Mhurlagain

Date walked: 22/05/2009

Time taken: 21 hours

Distance: 55 km

Ascent: 4200m

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Munros: Garbh Chioch Mhor, Sgurr na Ciche, Sgurr nan Coireachan
Corbetts: Ben Aden, Bidein a' Chabair, Carn Mor, Fraoch Bheinn, Sgurr Mhurlagain
Date walked: Friday 22/05/2009 - Sunday 24/05/2009
Time taken: 21 hours
Distance: 55 km
Ascent: 4200 m
Weather: Gorgeous on Friday, wet & miserable on Saturday, and pleasant turning to wet & miserable on Sunday

I had been looking for another opportunity to go bothying round Knoydart for quite some time, and one handily presented itself on the Whitsun bank holiday this year, as my wife was away for the weekend, leaving me the car! I wouldn't usually head for the popular bothies on a bank holiday, as it is usually a recipe for cowering in a corner while a bunch of **** weegies rip the place apart (I exaggerate a bit, but you get the idea...). However, this time I was convinced that the bank holiday was the following weekend, so by the time I found out, I decided I was going anyway!

Skipped off work slightly early on the Friday and drove down to the end of Loch Arkaig. The side of the road was heaving with cars - at least 20 other people seemed to have a similar plan to me. My first hills were Sgurr Mhurlagain and Fraoch Bheinn. As I was planning to stay at A'Chuil bothy, I toyed with doing these hills lightweight style then picking up my heavy pack from the car before walking into the bothy. The pack turned out lighter than expected, so I decided not to bother coming back to the car again.


Knoydart1.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Loch Arkaig:
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Streap, Sgurr Thuilm:
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Busy!
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Streap, Sgurr Thuilm again:
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Back down Loch Arkaig again:
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Started up Sgurr Mhurlagain at about quarter to six, taking a fairly direct route towards the SW ridge. Was on the summit for 7, with stunning views in every direction. Ben Nevis still held a fair bit of snow on the plateau, while the hills to the west were silhouetted against the sky.

Ben Nevis:
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Loch Garry:
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Through to Loch Quoich and Gleouraich:
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West to Sgurr na Ciche:
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SW to Carn Mor, Bidein a Chabair:
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East along Loch Arkaig:
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West along Loch Arkaig:
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Headed down to the col separating me from Fraoch Bhheinn, making a rather steep and direct descent of the corrie side. Steep and direct was to become a theme for the weekend. Rather than picking up the highest point of the col, I traversed N toward Bidean Mhic Iain Ghlais, and ascended the side of the NE ridge. This was about as steep and rocky as it was possible to get without scrambling. I had seen this ridge from Gairich a few years before, and decided that it was probably the best feature of this hill.

I wasn't disappointed, as once on the ridge, it became a twisting knife edge with a couple of easy scrambly bits. If this was in the lakes, it would have a motorway immediately beneath the crest, but here there were very few signs of other visitors. The ridge led onto the N summit, where I crossed a grassy plateau to reach the main summit at 8.30ish.

East flank of Fraoch Bheinn:
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Back to Gulvain:
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NE ridge of Fraoch Bheinn:
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Up NE ridge of Fraoch Bheinn:
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NE ridge again:
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SW to Streap (right of center):
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Bidein a Chabair, Glen Dessarry:
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My dad had been up here about 10 years previously, and dismissed this as a fairly dull hill. It's true to say that if you don't approach the summit from the N, you miss out on all the best bits. Stopped for a pork pie and admired the views to Carn Mor and Bidein a Chabair, where I planned to be on Sunday.

I descended the steep SW flank in an almost straight line to the house at Glendessary. In a short fit of stupidity, I decided to cross the river Dessarry here to gain the usual forestry track to A' Chuil. While there was a bridge further upstream (near the bothy), I remembered crashing round in bog here before, so I thought I would skip that. 10 minutes later, with wet feet and having dragged myself through some dense conifers backwards, I was in pretty much the same state. Ho hum.

Reached the bothy just before 10, as the light was fading. Entered to find one room filled with the customary noisy (but friendly!) weegies, and settled for the other room, which contained two guys, and was a bit quieter.

A'Chuil - thankfully someone has the fire lit!
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Turned out the guys were brothers, and hadn't been out on the hills for years. However their father had died recently, and they had decided to scatter his ashes over his remaining 20 or so munros. Of course the old bugger had left mainly the harder to reach ones, so they had a rather ambitious plan to climb Sgurr na Ciche and follow the ridge of munros east to Sgurr Mor. They were then going to bivvy out on Sgurr Mor and walk out the next morning to drive back to Yorkshire.

Enjoyed some whisky then settled down for a mousy night's sleep, with plenty of scrabbling noises! Unfortunately next morning didn't look so hot, with cloud hovering at 900m.


Knoydart2.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Setting out:
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Garbh Ciochs - not looking so promising:
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Still managed to be on the move by 9.30. My ultimate destination was Sourlies bothy, and my main aim was to bag Ben Aden. I had previously experienced the path to Sourlies, and the memories weren't great, so I opted for the high road. Climbed up the N side of Glen Dessarry onto Sgurr nan Coireachan. The rain and wind hit at about 800m, and that was pretty much it for the views.

Followed the main ridge W across the Garbh Ciochs to Sgurr na Ciche. Although there was a distinct lack of views, the going was fairly straightforward. I had got so used to climbing more obscure hills of late that I had forgotten how good paths usually are on the munros. Particuarly as there is a massive feck off wall to follow up here.

On my descent from Garbh Cioch Mor, I met one of the brothers from the bothy. He was making a quick out and back ascent. Turned out that his older brother had rather underestimated the walk, and had nearly had a heart attack on the way up to Sgurr na Ciche! They had opted, rather sensibly, to go back the way they came (although not before a quick bag!). Reached Sgurr na Ciche at 1.30ish and hung around to see if the weather would break (as the forecast had suggested). It didn't, and I was a bit disappointed, as the last time I had been here was on a stunning snowy autumn day a few years back, and I really wanted that to be my main memory of the area.

I retraced my steps down the top part of the summit ridge, then plunged off to the NE. This has to be the most ridiculously impossible ridge to follow direclty. Higher up, there is still a wall, but once this peters out, the rock strata is at 45 degrees to the line of the ridge, and you constantly have to follow the lines down to the right to avoid massive cliffs. Things get even more confusing as you approach Meall a' Choire Dubh, and I was glad for the occasional glimpse down into the corries on either side to orientate myself.

In the end I contoured Meall a' Choire Dubh to the W (although I probably still did as much up and down), and headed towards Ben Aden. Up to now, it had occasionally loomed out of the mist. Trouble was, it was impossible to walk in a straight line towards it. As I started my ascent of the final cone, the mist thickened. I decided to take a bearing. The compass told me I was going the wrong way! I knew this was impossible, as I was close enough to the summit that any route up would put me on top. I was slightly concerned though, as I appeared to be scrambling up ledges that no-one had ever been up. A few minutes later, I came to what appeared to be a trodden route up the edge of slab. The slab formed a kind of knife edge, and you teetered along the top of it. Some shapes loomed out of the mist, and I found myself face to face with the other bothy inhabitants from the previous night. The weegies were going strong. They had walked the low level route all the way from A'Chuil to Loch Nevis, then up the Carnach River and onto Ben Aden. This surprise meeting cheered me up no end, and confirmed that it was Malky 1, compass 0.

I didn't envy the weegies their walk back the way I had just come, as it was really quite wet and windy by now. I got to the summit, then started to work out how I was going to get to the lovely warm bothy at Sourlies without a compass. It was a shame really, I had always envisioned Ben Aden as the ultimate remote hill. It just seemed like another wet summit with no view. I will be back.

Initially I looked to the west, where I knew there was a route up. However what I could see didn't really appeal, so I dropped off to the E, back approximately the way I had come, until I got to a col of sorts. The map showed a stream dropping to the river Carnach. I had a feeling things wouldn't be as easy as they seemed, but at least I wouldn't get lost! I was right, and after an easy start, the stream turned into a waterfall down a gully. I decided to adopt the arse-crawl approach, and slid down on my backside. Luckily there were no unseen chockstones or vertical bits, and after a bit, the slope levelled out. I finally out of the clouds, but not yet out of the shite, as the main stream (Allt Achaidh a Ghlinne) in the corrie turned out to be in a 30ft deep,gorge! Fortunately re-ascending a few meters and traversing to the W got me to a point where I could have a go at crossing it. I couldn't believe how much it had rained at this point, as I had only partly noticed. But the stream was thundering and not much fun to cross.

Water:
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View of the day (Carnach river):
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Finally, there was nothing but slightly sapping tussocks between me and the Carnach River. I celebrated by taking some of my few photos of the day. It was some trudge down the valley, and as a final insult, the tide was in at Loch Nevis, so rather than strolling round the final headland on the beach, I had a traverse to rival the Coruisk Bad Step before I could get on the home straight to the bothy.

It was about 6pm, and Sourlies was already bustling. I managed to bag a sleeping spot, but the bothy already had about 8 occupants in its single smoky room. Still, it made for a great atmosphere, with the fire going and all sorts of interesting folk around. The sun even came out (about 6 hours too late)! Most people were either going to or coming from Inverie, but others had been there a couple of nights, and were cooking up mussels they had found on the beach.

In the last light, a group of 10 or so novice walkers turned up, looking rather the worse for wear. They were with a guide, but I'm presuming there must have been some kind of communication breakdown, as he had just dragged them over from the W end of Loch Morar, via Tarbert and some very rough and pathless hills. A route I fancy trying sometime, but these guys were rather surprised. I don't think any of them had had this kind of walk in mind when they booked their 'wilderness trek'! Some of them used the bothy to change, before heading out to camp.

Happy campers:
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Loch Nevis:
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Good sleep and an early (for me) start the next day. I was on my way before 9. Counted 7 or 8 tents round the bothy -heaving! I, however, was off to the less travelled parts again, aiming S up Coire Dubh. While slightly overcast, the weather was pleasant, and I had high hopes for the day. I was surprised how easy the ascent was (knowing how rough the ground can be in these parts), and 1.5 hours saw me on the W summit of Sgurr na h-Aide. Views down to Loch Morar were amazing -so steep! The ridge between the two summits was also fun -knobbly with a couple of short unavoidable scrambly bits. Yet again barely any signs of people using this route.


Knoydart3.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts


Sunshine on Meall Buidhe:
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Sgurr na Ciche and Garbh Cioch Mhor:
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Back down to Loch Nevis. Less sun now:
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Loch Morar:
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East along summit ridge:
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West from the west summit:
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West from the east (main) summit:
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I could hear a helicopter, and sure enough, one was flying low down the valley connecting Loch Nevis to Glen Dessarry. It landed at Sourlies, then took off again shortly after. I was concerned that one of the novice walkers had got hypothermia in the middle of the night, but couldn't see how anybody would have got a message out so soon. I later found out that it was searching for a long distance walker. I think he was circumnavigating the coast of the UK or something, but had lost touch with his contact back home. He was later found near Barrisdale, en route. His agreement to phone home every night must have neglected to consider areas with no signal.

Can you spot it?
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Sadly, I could see some rather grotty weather approaching from the west. Didn't look showery, more just blanket cloud and drizzle. I was slighlty concerned, and I had planned to descent the extremely steep S face of Bidean a Chabair, which drops 700m in little more tha half a km. That's almost 45 degrees! I definitely wanted some visibility for this, as there were lots of large crags to avoid. Fortunately it went really well. I followed the summit ridge E for a short while, until I had descended the initial peak. Then I just headed down, making rather random judgements about which way was best. Lower down, I ended up in a gully which led me directly through one of the largest bands of cliffs on the face. I was pretty chuffed at the bottom, as I had avoided having to climb back up at any point to find another way, and I had made it in an hour. I'll be buggered if I can ever find that particular route again though. Looking back up, the whole face appeared inpenetrable.

The first drops of rain started to hit at Lochan Eanaiche, and by the time I was halfway up Carn Mor, it was back to misery and no views again. As I had no servicable compass, I found a stream on the map which led almost directly to the summit, and followed it. This hillside was less steep than the other side, but it was still extremely rocky, and although I was following the stream, I had to make a few diversions to get around some buttresses.

Last view of the day - Loch Eanachie from the ascent of Carn Mor:
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I didn't hang around at the summit. Fortunately, there was a faint path leading back east, so I followed this. I had originally had plans to follow this ridge all the way to Monadh Gorm, back near the car, or possibly take a diversion down into Glen Pean. However the rain was incessant, and I had had enough for one weekend, so I took a straight line down Coire an Each to A'Chuil. Boggy in places, but at least it was a bit more sheltered.

Had a quick brew at A'Chiul, and a look at the bothy book. The weegies had been planning to walk out on saturday afternoon and drive down to the Spean Bridge Hotel for an evening of luxury, but their journey back from Ben Aden had been somewhat epic. According to the book, they had spent an alcohol free night at A'Chuil instead! Was glad to see that they had made it OK. They had also bumped into the two brothers later in the day, and it appeared that they had got down to the lower levels without any problems, so all good.

All that remained was a slightly monotonous tramp back to the car. Got there at about 4, and drove off, hitting beautiful sunshine round about Fort Augustus! Typical! At least I was able to drape all of my soggy clothes out over the garden to dry in the sun.

Despite the weather, this was a brilliant weekend. Having done all of the munros and corbetts in eastern Knoydart, I can now look forward to going back to the area with no agenda! (yeah right, I said that after the Munros!)
Last edited by malky_c on Mon Apr 11, 2011 11:41 am, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Bank Holiday 3 dayer in Knoydart

Postby foggieclimber » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:39 pm

What a superb weekend and report.

In 2007 I walked from Strathan, up Sgurr Cos na Breachd-Laoidh across the three Munros to Sgurr na Ciche, over to Ben Aden and then down to Sourlies for the night. The going between Sgurr na Ciche and Ben Aden was pretty rough going.

Thanks for posting.
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Re: Bank Holiday 3 dayer in Knoydart

Postby John Burgess » Wed Dec 16, 2009 10:56 pm

Thanks - a superb report. You've now made me regret that I didn't descend the NE ridge of Fraoch Bheinn last weekend. I was tempted but found another way off. Some day I'll get round to it!

All the best,

John
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Re: Bank Holiday 3 dayer in Knoydart

Postby benno » Wed Dec 16, 2009 11:26 pm

Great effort, both in your route and in your report. A pleasure to read.
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Re: Bank Holiday 3 dayer in Knoydart

Postby David.Ferguson » Thu Dec 17, 2009 12:06 am

A great read,what an Epic.I think something a number of us would love to indulge in.

Cheers

David.
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Re: Bank Holiday 3 dayer in Knoydart

Postby mountain coward » Thu Dec 17, 2009 4:23 am

You sound to have had a very adventurous bank holiday weekend indeed! Shame you didn't get superb weather - you did really well to find your way around that lot in the mist - I think they'd be my worst nightmare in those conditions with all those crags and sleep slopes around. They look like they'd be great in clear weather though...
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Re: Bank Holiday 3 dayer in Knoydart

Postby HighlandSC » Thu Dec 17, 2009 9:21 am

Fantastic pics and great report, thanks for taking the time to write - a very enjoyable read.

:D
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Re: Bank Holiday 3 dayer in Knoydart

Postby malky_c » Fri Dec 18, 2009 6:30 pm

Thanks for the responses. Was almost as much fun to write as it was to walk! Such a great area, with so many choices of route. Plenty of lower level options for multi-day bothying as well, also lots of good stalkers paths in the area.


foggieclimber wrote:In 2007 I walked from Strathan, up Sgurr Cos na Breachd-Laoidh across the three Munros to Sgurr na Ciche, over to Ben Aden and then down to Sourlies for the night. The going between Sgurr na Ciche and Ben Aden was pretty rough going.


That's quite some day out - kind of the ultimate traverse of that ridge.
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Re: Bank Holiday 3 dayer in Knoydart

Postby stomper » Fri Dec 18, 2009 9:00 pm

Great photo's it has inspired me to do knoydart next year as its one part i need to do on my bagging quest. probably look at May time and go for 5 days it looks like you had the weather on your side which makes the difference
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