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Cape Wrath Trail with Minors: Parental Guidance Recommended
by floma » Sat Nov 16, 2013 3:27 pm
Route description: Cape Wrath Trail
Date walked: 21/07/2013
Time taken: 16 days
Distance: 220 km39 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).
As you soon will understand, English is not my mother tongue. Have mercy with me.
This is a walk report about our journey on the Cape Wrath Trail in July/August 2013. We were confident that this walk would be suitable for our family. Our girls, then 13 and 15 years old, are experienced walkers, starting at the age of 6, and together we have been walking in Swedish Lappland as well as Southern Sweden (where we live), Norway (summer and winter), the Italian Alps, New Zealand, staying in served or unserved huts, open shelters, tents. The girls are happy with the lack of luxury including washing themselves in cold streams or using a showel-toilet, and absence of electronic devices is ok (for a limited time at least )
This is not a recommendation for other families to walk CWT. Anyone who wants to try this has to make their own descission and plan carefully. We had 3 fantastic weeks in your lovely country, not a single situation that was difficult or dangerous, no problems with really bad weather (even if there were some rainy days), injuries, navigational errors, tiredness, darkness or whatever one might encounter on such a journey. But I am very much aware of that conditions can be quite different form what we met, so take care! Read my Recipe for long distance walking with children at the end of this report.
I first had heard of the Cape Wrath Trail when reading in a German internet hiking forum. I then read several walk reports in German forums as well as everything I could find here on walkhighlands.co.uk, an endless source of useful information (Thank you guys!). In April 2013 Iain Harpers excellent guide book was ready for sale and a week later one version landed in my post box. I also ordered maps from OS Landranger 1:50000 series to cover the entire length of the trail, not cheap, not light, but essential for safe and fun walking in such a remote area. We planned for the same route as in the guide book, well aware there is no "official" och "best" route.
T (then almost 15 years old) was busy with a language course in France untill the end of July so my initial thought was to walk the southern half of CWT on my own, then meeting the rest of the family in Ullapool for the northern half. "Would you mind me following you?" J (13) asked, and nope, I wouldn`t.
So here was the plan: J and me walk from Glenfinnan, T and their mother B join us in Ullapool from where we walk the rest together. Iain suggests a minimum of 9 and a maximum of 11 days for the part between Glenfinnann and Ullapool so I thought we should be able to manadge it in 10 days. We would sleep in our tents and use bothies, hostels and hotels as back-up. Now let me tell you right away: J and me walked from Glenfinnan to Strathcarron, followed by 2 days of travelling and sight-seeing via Inverness to Ullapool, then walking the rest to the Cape the four of us. And we slept indoors whenever possible and had tents as our back-up as we underestimated just how bad midges are during this time of the year. I had been to Scotland before but this was as a child and by car (once), and later as a pupil and student by bicycle (twice), and finally walking the Southern Upland Way (during no-midge-season).
Lessons learned: Avoid midge-season when walking in the northwestern highlands
Train to Gothenburg, plane to Edinburgh, train to Fort William with late arrival, train to Glenfinnan early the next morning, all booked well in advance (I like Scotrails price policy - cheapast 11 weeks before departure, much more expensive when booked earlier or later )
The first highlight (for 13 year old girls at least): traveling over and walking under Glenfinnan viaduct. Harry Potter not in sight so we walked on. Mr Estate Manager passed us cutting the gras on his (very noisy) mower and later came back in his car, stopping for a chat, guessing correctly that we were aiming for Cape Wrath. Short break in Corryhully bothy, reading a Canadian couples entry in the hut book. These guys should become a sort of ghost travel companiens as they were just one day ahead of us all the way to Strathcarron (probably we overtook them by train/bus between Strathcarron and Ullapool and from there on, they could read our entries in the different bothies along the way). From Corryhully, we walked up into our first bealach (off topic: be glad you don´t have to listen to my pronounciation... In fact, I bought a language guide to learn some Gallic, but despite a friendly Suas leis a`Gáidhlig!) in the prolog I surrendered pretty soon. Too difficult).
During the descent in perfect sunny weather, Miss J took a bath first in Allt Cuírnean, then under the bridge over the River Glen. Due to forrestry works we took a diversion via Glendessary and Upper Glendessary. Believe or not, the sun was mercyless hot and we were suffering, finally we found some shadow under a bridge. Temperatures of around 28, 29 degrees C, rather unexpected! We then short cutted trackless for some minutes to the nice bothy of Á Chuil. Almost 3 weeks later and many miles further north, we should meet one of this bothies´carers (Andrew? forgive me, I am bad at names) in Strathchailleach. Nice job, MBA and Andrew! Here in Á Chuil, we shared the hut with two guys on a combined walking/paddling tour and Chris who was kind enough to send a "all good"-text message to B when he climed a summit the next day - we had no coverage not even in Glenfinnan.
Lessons learned: it can get really warm in Scotland.
We followed the route to Sourlies. "Nice, nice" would be a good summery of this walk. River Finiskaig is the last proper source of fresh water before Sourlies (which we didn`t know), so after getting settled in the bothy we strolled back for a wash and to get enough drinking water for the night and the next morning. A gentleman later arrived, and for what ever reason he prefered to sleep in his tent despite all the midges.
Lessons learned: Loch Nevis with Sourlies is very much worth a visit. Remember to take drinking water with you when crossing River Finiskaig when comming from the south.
After breakfast we are ready for departure. Pity we already carry quite a lot of stuff, otherwise we could take with us some of the litter that is piling here (as in most other bothies we visited). I have never and will never understand why wine och whiskey bottles, gas tubes etc are light enough to be carried in when full but too heavy to be carried out when empty.
The tide is in so we find a way over the promontory before we cross the inlet, heading more or less straight for the bridge over the River Carnach. This is Lundhags country and we are happy about our water proof walking boots. Mr My-tent-is-my-castle is following us in the distance, changing socks several times during the passage (!, not after) and we wait for him to cross safely, chatting for a while when re-united at the bridge. As he is heading for Inverie it´s time to say good bye. We follow the river up-stream, a clear 4x4-track at first, less distinct after a while but never difficult to find. Where the track vanishes (well, more or less) we walk to NM 898 002. I had read a quite a lot about this passage of maybe 150 hight meter over around 350 distant meters up into Mam Unndalain: "trackless", "90 degress right up into the sky" etc, but here is our truth: It´s steep, yes, (not idiot steep though) but there are remnantes of a path, probably after the people who had lived in what today are ruins 2 km further down the river. In dry conditions and in our direction (ie heading north) this passage is a breath taking pice of cake. Having sayed that, be careful when going down the slope in wet or icy conditions or in darkness! J was happy to get rid of here rucksack which I offered her to carry on top of mine.
Down to the shore where Mrs Barrsidale kindly allowed us to use the campsite toilet. We then continued another half an hour to find one of the tour´s finest and worst camping spots high above the loch at around NG 880 059. Finest because the view was just fantastic both inland towards Kinloch Hourne and westwards over the sea and small Islands, all this in a low standing sun. Worst as for whatever reason Scotlands winds seemed to be determined to stop blowing as soon as it is time for us to pitch our tent.
NOT GOOD, WINDS OF SCOTLAND!
So here is our situation: inside the tent it is so hot that you can´t stand beiing in there for more than a few minutes. Outside the tent it´s so midgy you can´t stand beeing out there for more then a few seconds as long as you are not moving. Our solution: wearing all we had in terms of midge protection (head net, long sleeves, gloves etc), walking up and down on the path between 7 pm (pitch-time) and 10:30 pm (sunset).
Lessons learned: The finer the camping spot, the worse the midges.
Sunny weather also day 4. Good for walking, not good for a late morning as the tent gets very hot again. Early walker smashes the midge, as the saying says. Up and away at 6, breakfast postponed until further notice (= wind), not the for last time during this holiday. 4 hours later, Mr Kinloch Hourne fires up his water cooker and serves us a very early afternoon tea. "Who is riding the white horses we met outside?" wonders J, horse girl as she is. "No one, these are working horses carrying down the stags during hunting season".
We buy a bunge of Snickers which J had not tasted before (verdict: approved). From here we climb high above the loch again, this time on it´s northern side (one better pays some attention to navigation here as there are several tracks at offer, all but one are wrong), and enter Glenshiel forest, finding yet another nice spot for our tent at NG 940 123. Not really suprising the midges know of this place as well, remembering me of the tail with the hedgehog and the rabbit.
Lessons learned: Afternoon tea is good all day round when hungry. Mr Kinloch Hourne has Snickers for sale.
Again, we get up and pack our gear without having breakfast first. Cooking in the tent is possible but not recommended as long as one can avoid it (remember carbon monoxide and the fact that a flaring cooker can put your tent on fire in a matter of seconds), cooking in the vestibule is ok but not during (sorry if it gets boring...) midge season, so we prefer to climb Bealach Coire Mhàlagain, just above our heads. Up here, there is a slight breeze.
THANK YOU, WINDS OF SCOTLAND!
During breakfast, fog is coming up from the valley beneath, very nice as allways. One moment we can see several miles, next moment maybe 30 metres. Navigation is tricky up here in poor visibility: according to the guide book one should "contour [from the lochan] northeast to a line of large stones providing a useful handrail". Here is our truth: it´s not contouring northeast, it´s actually climbing northwest, ie (when walking northwards to the Cape) to your left when reaching the little lake in the pass. You will soon find an old gate and fence poles, follow these poles uppwards with direction towards Forcan Ridge, a climb of about 30 hight meters, until you meet a line of large stones (I would call it an old, man-made wall) which actually is a perfect hand rail no matter how bad conditions would be.
We follow this handrail to Meallan Odhar. The plan was to drop northwest from here in order to follow Allt a´Coire Chaoil. We meet a walker from Glasgow who is as nice as intresting to listen to, and he is on his way down eastwards from Meallan Odhar to a parking place and his car. "I could give you a ride to Shiel Bridge". "Dad, that sounds good, it´s so foggy we can´t see anything anyway". Wise words, J, you got this from your mother; we change plans, and on our way down to the busy road we learn about Munroes, the referendum in 2014 and other intresting things.
After a short car ride Mr Meallan Odhar drops us at the petrol station in Shiel Bridge where we buy the largest ice-cream available first and, after having eaten this, re-stock our food. As we like diversity, we buy several pasta meals with different sauces. Not so smart if you only have one pot to cook your meal with, better to buy at least 2 identical meals so you can cook them together. Mr Petrol Station seems tired or sad or just has a bad day so we continue to Kintail Lodge where we check-in for a night in the bunk house. It´s early afternoon, we are on our own at first and later three guys move in as announced by Mrs Kintail Lodge, nice people collecting Munroes. Afternoon tea, drying equipment, playing cards, reading books and maps. Dinner in the lodge, glad we followed Mrs Kintail Lodge`s adviced to book a table, it´s very busy. Lemonade for J, a pint for me, life is good.
Lessons learned: be flexible regarding your route.
Breakfast in the Lodge. I like it. J likes it. Mrs Kintail Lodge has fixed a load of washing and so we would qualify for Scotlands best looking walkers. Sun is up and we take some nice pictures in front of the loch. Just half an hour later, J wonders "wether it´s the bright sunlight or migraine that I can´t see anything". Well, as your dad and GP, I would like to rule out the sun as sunlight does not give a scotoma for 20 minutes followed by heavy pulsating headaches and nausea for 4 hours. Despite some pain killers and J´s brave attempt to keep walking, after another 30 minutes or so we are forced to stop and rest,. Like many children J is able to get rid of her migraine by sleeping a couple of hours. And she doesn`t mind where she sleeps, in a meadow right beside a walking path suites her perfectly fine so that is what she does. Meanwhile, I walk up and down, look at the scenery, cook some coffee, talk to passing walkers. When J wakes up three hours later she is fit for fight again (I carry her pack for the rest of this day to give her some extra recovery time), so she may choose wether we should walk back to the camping site in Morvich or preceed to the Falls of Glomach, and the latter is what we do. Good decission as this is yet another perfect camping spot, right next to the wooden warning sign at the Falls. Midges here as well but who cares? I do, bastards!
Lessons learned: Scotish breakfast is good. Migraine is bad.
During the night, many small amounts of water have fallen down from the clouds above us. We read in our Japanese The whole of Scotland in 3 days-guide and understand: that is something called "rain". Heard of it? Famous Scottish rain. Gosh, and we thought sun and heat is what Scotland is about.
Same routines as before, we pack our belongings and start the day, now in constant rain, down from the Falls of Glomach. Again, the stories I read apear in my mind: "It´s steep" (yes, it is); "it´s dangerous" (well, I would rather call it "you better don´t slip here"-type of terrain); "I chickened out", nope, no need for that, not for J. So with patients and concentration we get to the bottom of the slope and reach the track along the River Elchaig, time for a snickers breakfast don´t tell B(½ a bar for me, 1½ for J), before we walk up the valley. Later, a Defender of Mountain Rescue with three guys is driving past (gosh, something happened, maybe we can offer our help?) only to come back 10 minutes later (wrong valley? just the driver left). Then, we meet the other two guys sorting their equipment before walking up the bealach. The tell us Mr Mountian Rescue was their friend and kind enough to drive them up here .
From Iron Lodge, we head due north into the bealach, and when approaching Maol-buidhe we have to cross the river at several points, never really difficult despite a constant drizzle. At the bothy we do some brainstem storming 1 It´s a nice bothy 2 It´s a perfect spot 3 There is fire wood 4 We are wet and a bit cold 5 We do not know whether or not there i fire wood in the bothy at Bendronaig Lodge. And here is the vote of the Swedish people: Yes thank you, we stay at Maol-buidhe, and have half a day off (I use it to get the fire started, read my hut book entry for details...). The next day this turns out to be a wise decission as 1 the trackless section to Bendronaig takes time and 2 there was no fire wood at Bendronaig (ok but not so cosy when cold and wet). From now on we know that we will not be able to walk to neither Ullapool (our primary plan) nor Kinlochewe (our alternative plan that emerged when struggling with migraine). The new plan says walking to Strathcarron and then travelling to Ullapool by public transport.
Lessons learned: Starting a fire without kindling is not so easy but it works eventually.
Breakfast inside the bothy, very convinient!
We follow Iains advice to ford the River Ling where safest. The most difficult part in this is identifying the "river" which today rather is a drippling stream or a burn. After a couple of hours in trackless terrain we approach and reach Bendronaig Lodge where we have our lunch (le soup du jour) and afternoon tea. Westwards from here, on a "difficult-to-find-at-first"-path up into the next bealach and then down into Strathcarron. What a pity Mr Strathcarron Hotel has no rooms available, fully booked, good for him, bad for us. He is a nice chap and offers us to pitch our tent on a meadow opposite the road. We are quite ill-smelling people by now and in desperate need of a shower (or at least running water) so together J and me, with Mr Strathcarron Hotel´s good advice, decide to take the next train towards civilisation and Inverness where we spend 2 days with sightseeing, re-supply - and travelling back and forth, but that is another story.
Lessons learned: Book a room in advance when walking to Strathcarron during high season
Day 9 and 10
Sightseeing in Inverness and travelling to Ullapool.
Lessons learned: take with you a smart phone or a paper version of all time tables for possible transport along the way
Late last night Miss T and Mrs B arrived in Ullapool by bus from Edinburgh, and we spend the night in a family room at the Youth Hostel that I had booked in advance (my 3rd stay here after visits 1985 and -86). The next morning we re-supply in the local outdoor shop (very wide selection of everything one might need) and the supermarked. Loving and caring father as I am, I also buy a 5 kg sack of coal to be able to warm the herd in the next bothy. We walk out of Ullapool (the next 1½ days are not as spectecular as the rest of walk but still nice) and have lunch in Knockdamph bothy. I make a donation of a kilo coal (good for the couple staying here, good for my back) before we continue to The Old Schoolhouse bothy. As we approach the latter, I wake up from my day dreams. Some hundreds of meters left and I launch some brain activity:
Now there is the bothy.
But where is the chimney?
Wonder how they can have a fire place without a chimney.
You guys are locals and/or logicals, so you know the answer by now: there is no fire place in The Old Schoolhouse bothy. "no" as in "not at all, nunca, gar kein, ingen alls, rien,ليس, 不是 ". Not even a tiny one.
At least there is a fellow walker who is heading for another (chimney-equiped) bothy the following day and he is happy to take the coal with him.
Lessons learned: don´t just read MBAs homepage but read MBAs homepage when preparing your walk.
Breakfast in the bothy, tiding up and away to Oykel Bridge where we have tea in the hotel lounge. You guys might not be aware of it but you can be glad and proud about your tradition that no matter how expensive the hotel and no matter how dirty the walker one is allways welcommed to sit down and have tea, even at the wrong time of the day. Very nice!
From the hotel, another 7 rather boring kilometers follow until the broad farming track narrows in to become a path along River Oykel. Some tarmac walking pass Loch Ailsh and then we pitch our tents at the confluence of River Oykel and Allt Sail an Ruathair (I had read about this spot in one of the walk reports and I agree: very nice indeed!).
Lessons learned: Hotel lounges are cosy. Paths are nicer to walk on than farm tracks or tarmac.
The two days to come are amongst the most attractive on the entire walk.
Today we follow River Oykel almost to it´s source, climb up into Bealach Trallgil (read your guide book here or you will make a more obvious but less correct route choice) before we drop down all the way to the shore and Inchnadamph Hotel. The bar does not open before 1 or 2 hours later (poor hungry/thirsty fellow walkers waiting already as we arrive) but since we had booked rooms in advance Mr Inchnadamph Hotel gives us a warm welcome. We also can dry our equipment and ourselves.
Today Mrs B and me have been married for 10 years and this is the right place to be together with our daugthers on such a day. I am ready for he next 10 years, Mrs B!
Lessons learned: Inchnadamph is lovely. So is my wife.
This is a Windy day, with a bold W.
After breakfast we walk northeast, then north and finally northwest into the pass beneath Glas Bheinn. Up here it´s so windy I have to stand stirdy not to be blown away. We only stop for a minute or so and continue to descend from the pass, on a clear track at first, trackless then, never difficult. Anoying long pieces of old fence wire that is prone to snuggle around one´s feet down along the stream as we pass the waterfall of Eas a Chùal Aluinn. When Glencoul and the bothy rather suddenly comes inte sight it really is a nice view. We share the bothy with two girls from Germany walking to the Cape as well.
Lessons learned: keep on walking when it is windy and cold until you find a calmer place for a rest.
From the bothy, we cross the river running down Glen Coul (the bridge was washed away but fording not an issue); obviously (as the bridge had been washed away) this river is a nasty one that can be much more violent and impossible to cross in spate). Right after the crossing, here is your choice: 1 Read your map and climb 30 meters straight from the bridge (or what is left) northeast, then northwest almost parallel to the shore (correct); OR 2 Follow the obvious track down to sea (incorrect), understand that this is wrong (well done!), feel to proud to walk back ( ) and climb stupidly steep through tight vegetation until you meet the path your read about in (1).
The German girls watched us carefully through their binoculars which safed them from making the same misstake.
We reached the bridge over Gleann Dubh where we had lunch, passed the bothy at Glendhu and Loch Gleann Dubh before we climbed on a 4x4 track (as new as unattractive) to the old shieling at Bealach nam Fiann. On this leg, Mrs B´s hiking boots (Meindl) lost their sole (and thus, their soul), and despite intensive care with silver tape there was nothing we could do for them. Mrs B continued in her trainers (and suddenly, the stupid 4x4 track wasn´t that stupid after all), and we found a camping spot beneath Ben Dreavie at around NC 267 390.
Lessons learned: read your map even (or especially!) when there is an obvious track. Don´t walk in 6 years old Meindl walking boots
The terrain to encounter today is not suitable for running shoes, so Mrs B and Miss J walk back pass the shieling and down to the road at Lochmore Lodge, hitchhiking to Rhiconich Hotel (which is fully booked, and this is true for all the b&b between Rhiconich and Kinlochbervie as well, so we finally pitch our tent on a nice spot right behind the police station, using a midge free public toilet.) At least Mrs B can get a new pair of quite all right walking shoes in the fisherman´s shop in Kinlochbervie.
Meanwhile, T and me walk to Rhiconich hotel. Right in the beginning after Ben Drevie is the first time I really use the GPS as nature does not match my map (or was the other way around?). Very correctly, we had drifted too far to the south and thus had left the area covered by the map by maybe 500 meters. We walked back into the map area and navigation was easy again. The descent down to and beyond Lochstack Lodge on a 4x4 track was tough walking and so we were happy when we finally could "leave the track at NC 286 469, shortly after crossing Allt an Riabhach and head northwest for 1km on rough ground" (Iain Harper). Along the east shore of Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mór there is an easy-to-follow path and the crossing of Garbh Allt was easy (once again: in dry conditions!), which I appriciated as this was a bottle neck for today, there is no real escape route other than walking back all the way to Lochstack Lodge when crossing should be impossible (and these crossings are the most dangerous: the ones we try despite better knowing, maybe because we are too tired or lazy to walk back).
We get dinner tonight at Rhiconich hotel (but not beakfast the next morning ).
Lessons learned: walking on paths or even trackless can be less tireing than walking on 4x4 tracks.
Early start without breakfast, too midgy. The plan is to walk to the crossroad and wait for the summer bus to Kinlochbervie, as J and B had walked the tarmac the day before, hunting for a b&b and new shoes, they were not that keen on walking it again. But as it is so midgy here we decide to walk towards Kinlochbervie until the bus catches up, and Mr Summer Bus Driver is happy to pick us upp just along the road, Re-supply in the shop in Kinlochbervie, then we knock on the door at the hotel. Mrs Kinlochbervie Hotel explains that breakfast is over but if we have some patients we can have sandwiches for lunch in an hour, and the hour then turned out to take 20 minutes .
Some more tarmac to Blairmore, then we follow the crowds to la plage. Gosh, what a beach right in the middle of nowhere! We love it, me for the scenery, the ladies for taking a bath in North Sea.
The rest of the walk (apart from the last 2 km on the road to the light hous) is trackless, and in bad visibility you better have your compass at hand and thumb your map. Today and in perfect wheather we hit the bothy at Strathchailleach with the first strike. What an unusual place with all the paintings and the history of Sandy who lived here for many years! We are on our own at first but get company first by Andrew (? me and names...), "warden" at À Chuil (see day 1) and then also by a guy from Belgium. As in all other bothies these are nice people sharing our passion for walking in remote country.
It´s nice and warm and no need to start a fire although there is plenty of peat around here.
Lessons learned: Sandwiches are good for breakfast. Sandwood bay is worth a visit.
Now this is the last day of our epic walk. After breakfast we head northwards, this is compass country as there are many ups and downs and not a clear feature to follow, like a valley or a shore line. Navigation is not difficult, though, at least not today in sunny weather. No waving flags at the MOD fence and we dare to continue. Some three hours after we left the bothy we hit the tarmac just 2 km south of the light house. We leave our packs here (no need to carry them back and forth) and walk the last steps to the light house. That´s it, over, finito, no more walking (for this time, there is a stretch missing between Strathcarron and Ullapool; and this way is worth more than one visit!).
We re-unite with Mr Á Chúil and Meneer België and share some tea and sandwhiches, served by the legendary Mr Ozon Café. The girls get their Cape Wrath Trail stickers which fit well in to their collection of stickers from all the different huts in Scandinavia, Dolomiti and New Zealand they have been visiting before. Bribery at it´s best.
We walk back to our rucksacks and continue to the Kearvaig bothy at yet another lovely beach. This is rather a busy place but by no means crowded. I learn about the Duke of Edinburgh award and, to my surprise, meet a couple who uses bothies on their holiday, parking the car as close as possible and then walking in to stay the night for free .
Lessons learned: We love Ozon Cafés!
Not much walking today, just up to the road where the mini van picks us up to drive us to the jetty. Now here is the ultimate evidence that CWT is not suitable for children: Mr Mini Van has different tickets for sale: adults single (for adults who walk in or out), adults return (for adults who don`t), children return (for children). OK then, give us four Adult Singles for two adults and two childen, please!
Mr Ferryman was mean to his dog.
Lessons learned: children are not supposed to walk in or out from Cape Wrath
Now this was it.
We have booked a room in the Youth Hostel in Durness. The next morning we take the minibus to Lairg, passing some of the places we had visited on our walk. From here, the train takes us to Glasgow for 2 days and Edinburgh for 4 days of sightseeing before we travel back to Sweden.
Recipe for long distance walking with children:
- Know your children, their abilities and limits when it comes to walking.
- Know yourself, your abilities and limits when it comes to walking and guiding your children.
- Let your children take part in planning the walk as well as during the walk (route finding, pitching the tent, cooking etc).
- Be ready to carry all your own gear as well as all food and all shared equipment like tent, cooker etc., so that you can
- Keep the childrens`rucksack weight at a maximum of 10% of their body weight.
- Be flexible when it comes to bad weather, choice of route (see our walk towards Shiel Bridge)
- Know your escape routes. All of them!
- Do not put prestige in reaching your goal, be ready to shorten your planned route.
- Have an alternative walk ready when the weather is worse or the blisters bigger than planned.
- In adverse conditions: take the known before the unknown (see our decission to stay at Maol Bhuidhe bothy).
- Take all necessary equipment (easy) and leave unneccessary good-to-have-things at home (not so easy).
If you carry a GPS device, use it for the grid reference game: everyone in the party may have a look on the map and write down the tent spots (or the bothy´s) grid reference, one by one, and first thereafter you turn on your GPS-device to check who came closest. This is a playful way to teach children the use of a GPS-device and an understanding of the grid and grid references.
Our gear list (my own gear and shared equipment for J and me; the girls wear very similar clothes; when we joined T and B in Ullapool, they brought our Hilleberg Nallo 2 along, the rest was pretty much the same; all this taken from my memory, I don´t write packlists):
- Wearing daytime: thin gloves, buff, sun hat, midge net, sun glasses, long sleeve polyester undershirt, long sleeve woolen shirt, rain-jacket gore-tex (Norröna), polyester under pants, walking trousers (Lundhags), rain trouser gore-tex (Tierra), liner socks wool, thicker socks wool, Lundhags walking boots, gaiters.
- Wearing at night: (all woolen) hat, t-shirt, longsleeve, underpant, trouser, socks. Running shoes (to be used for wading if neccessary - not this year).
- Carrying: 100l- rucksack (Norröna, me) and Deuter guide 28l (J).
- Cooking: Trangia 25 with gas burner
- Sleeping: Helsport Ringstind 2, Therm-A-Rest Ultralight, down sleping bags with T comf between +2C (me) and -8C (the girls).
- Food: We did not send food parcels but carried food with us. (Re-)supply or afternoon tea in Fort William, Shiel Bridge, Kinloch Hourne, Strathcarron Hotel, Ullapool, Oykel Bridge Hotel, Inchnadamph Hotel, Rhiconich Hotel, Kinlochbervie, Cape Wrath.
- Navigation/Safety: On me: Landranger 1:50000 maps in a watertight map case; Iain Harpers guide book (Cicerone ISBN 9781852846671); compass Recta 50 DS; Casio watch with altimeter; PLB Kannard Safe Link solo. In the rucksack: Garmin Etrex Legend HCx (with grid references for all bothies on the way as well as on escape routes).
- Posts: 40
- Joined: Nov 11, 2012
by floma » Sat Nov 16, 2013 6:47 pm
- Bealach Trallgil
- from the pass, keep on climbing
- near Glencoul, watching Eas a Chùal Aluinn
- Glencoul bothy and the sea loch
- gaining hight from Glencoul
- Safe our Soles!
- bridge over Gleann Dubh, near Glendhu
- walking on the new 4x4 track towards Bealach nam Fiann
- camping near Ben Dreavie
- along Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mòr en route to Rhiconich
- fording Garbh Allt right at the out flow
- know what I mean?
- tree compass, near Blairmore
- arriving at La plage
- Sandwood bay
- compass country near the Cape (looking south)
- Cape Wrath from some distance
- Kearvaig bothy
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by frankieman » Sun Nov 17, 2013 11:08 am
On a more boring note, I am doing the CWT next May with a dog and being 6ft 5, my beloved Akto is just not big enough.
You used a nallo and a Ringsting light 2 - the two tents I am agonising over. I really like the look of the Ringstind and it is cheaper than the Nallo but is it of the same quality? I am suffering from a well known affliction - once you have had a Hilleberg, nothing else will do......! The Nallo needs a significantly narrower pitch area which can make a big difference sometimes. I have not seen a Ringstind in the flesh and if you could spare the time I would be very grateful for your views as you had both tents on the same trip.
While the midges were bad, you did have extraordinary temperatures - I cannot imagine ever needing to seek shade in Scotland!
by mountainstar » Sun Nov 17, 2013 12:14 pm
I really enjoyed your report, and well done to your 2 teenage daughters for completing it, not an easy task even for even experience walkers....that's from someone with first hand experience on how tough it is (You may have read my report from a few years ago)
Just to clear up a couple points you mention....
The guy who looks after Strathchailleach is Bob Tateson, an elderly guy in his late 60's, I would presume that is who you met?
There is a freshwater stream right next to Sourlies Bothy (To the LHS when looking at it) Did you miss that? you would have crossed over it to continue your trek.
I particularly like your "Lessons learned" we all have them!
by trekker53 » Sun Nov 17, 2013 1:24 pm
Done the route as far as Oykel Bridge. Will have to complete sometime soon.
At Strathcarron I camped across from the hotel on their advice only to have share it with several chickens!! I did enjoy a few pints there, well needed.
Glad you enjoyed your time in Scotland.
by floma » Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:47 pm
frankieman wrote:1 What good fun.
2 Very envious of such a memorable family trip.
3 I am doing the CWT next May with a dog and being 6ft 5,
4 nallo and Ringsting light 2
1 Thank you!
2 Welcome to Sweden or Norway, both very suitable for family walking, and although there are both midges ("knott") an moscitos ("mygg") it is nothing compared to what the northwestern highlands have at offer. Tell me if you are interested and I can give you more detailed information.
3 As I am the metric type I calculated this to 195cm which is 10cm taller than me. How big a dog are we talking about and where do you want him/her to sleep, in the vestibule or inside the inner tent?
4 Well, both are nice tents. I agree, prices are redicilous, and I would never be willing to pay RRP. For the Nallo 2, I got a 20% reduction some years ago. The Ringstind I could buy for 3000 NOK (270 pound sterling) at xxl.no. Both tents are nice, I have not yet been forced to use the RIngstind in really bad wheather. Nallo is fine all year round (although if winter camping is more than a one-off, I would rather have look at the Nammatj ). If you are looking for a bomb proof 1-person-tent, have a look at the Soulo. Helsport has the Ringstind superlight 1-2 weighing sub-1kg but this is considerably lower, I owned a tent with max innertent height of 85cm once and sold after one week, it was just too low for me to sit.
So here are some differences to consider:
Nallo: heavier, more expensive, inner tent wider but shorter, vestibule bigger, entrance at short side, available in red, tend pole channels wide enough to use double poles (I do this in really bad wheather), easier to pitch (my opinion)
Ringstind: (some 300g) lighter, cheaper, inner tent long enough to have most of your gear inside the tent; higher at the highest point, lower for the rest of it, entrance at the long side (meaning that the person sleeping on the left side has to climb over the one sleeping at the door - not an issue with the dog), easier to pitch (my wife´s opinion), takes less space when packed together, only colour is camouflage green (I would prefer a more visible colour today).
I do not know prices in Britain, here are reasonable prices from Austria: http://www.fliegfix.com/produkt/hilleberg-nallo-2/5394 (Nallo 2 for 425 pound sterling) or http://www.fliegfix.com/produkt/helsport-ringstind-2/7626 (Ringstind 2 for 304 pound sterling), as far as I know p&p is included, it was when I ordered from Sweden some years ago.
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by floma » Sun Nov 17, 2013 2:56 pm
mountainstar wrote:1 I really enjoyed your report, and well done to your 2 teenage daughters for completing it
2 You may have read my report from a few years ago
3 The guy who looks after Strathchailleach is Bob Tateson, I would presume that is who you met?
4 There is a freshwater stream right next to Sourlies Bothy. Did you miss that? you would have crossed over it to continue your trek.
1 Thank you, I will tell them!
2 Yes, very useful and nice to read!
3 Maybe I was a bit confusing: at Strathchailleach we met Andrew (or Andy?) how looks after À Chuil. He was on a solo tour east to west through trackless country and spent his last night with us at Sandy´s home.
4 Right, now that you mention I remember there was a tiny little water, we considered it too little to use for a wash and to drink it safely. That was probably due to the dry conditions.
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by rohan » Sun Nov 17, 2013 7:05 pm
I really like your lessons learnt and your tips for walking with children (I have already learnt the planning one, a difficult one for me as a lot of my planning is in my head). I really fancy the GPS tip although that means adding a GPS to my equipment and I don't normally carry one, preferring map and compass as this was always sufficient before GPS was born. For our trip we are also extending an invitation to friends ( with their own adult if appropriate) to join us for day trips or part days on condition they go at our pace. This way she won't get fed up with being with granny for a fortnight. We also have rest days built in so we can play on the chain walk at Elie, do sightseeing at St Andrews and visit Bell Rock lighthouse.
In the future I know she will love the CWT as she is a true "wild child"
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by floma » Sun Nov 17, 2013 7:43 pm
rohan wrote:1 A great report, amusing, informative and a joy to read.
2 My granddaughter (11) loves walking and next year we are planning to do part of the North Sea Trail between her house (Edinburgh) and my 'soon to be' abode 142 miles around the coast to the North.
3 This was her idea.
4 Our main challenge will be finding campsites far enough from towns and villages not to have night visitors.
5 I really fancy the GPS tip although that means adding a GPS to my equipment and I don't normally carry one, preferring map and compass as this was always sufficient before GPS was born.
6 We also have rest days built in
7 In the future I know she will love the CWT as she is a true "wild child"
1 Thanks, my plessure. Sorry for not thinking of the title "(grand-)parental guidance recommended":)
2 Very good.
3 The closest you can come to a guarantee that this walk will become a nice one.
4 I know the area from cycling only and this was before the invention of the wheel so I have no idea how densly populated the area is, probably quite densly as it´s the country´s second largest city.
5 I agree, I love map and compass (and altimeter), I carry the GPS mostly with advanced walking in remote country (and during winter). Play the Grid referance game then, you do not need a satnav for it! The Etrex Legend has a weight of 170g (including one set of batteries which last 18 hours constant use - by far enough fo my needs as I switch it off after checking my postion). The simplier version cannot show an eletronic map (I would opt for this one today) and does not need to cost a fortune: http://micronavigation.com/wp-content/uploads/Trail-Magazine-Part-3-Navigation-Satnav-June-2012.pdf
6 Very good!
7 Go for it!
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by frankieman » Wed Nov 20, 2013 7:37 am
Thanks for your reply.
Is the Ringstind of the same quality as the Hilleberg and where will your next family adventure be?
by floma » Wed Nov 20, 2013 9:00 pm
Next tour summer 2014: http://corsica.forhikers.com/gr20 (with nights in tents or huts has yet to be discussed). Hopefully we also can go skiing (with tent or huts) somewhere in Norway or Sweden.
In Scotland I would like to walk Sky Trail next time I have a week off outside midge season. By the way, which time is midge-free? October to mid may?
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- Joined: Nov 11, 2012
by llamb57 » Thu Nov 21, 2013 10:18 pm
My son and I are doing the trail next summer and we are not at all experienced in multi day trips or wild camping. Your report has given me the confidence that we can do it without putting ourselves in danger.
We were cycling and hiking in Ardgour and the Great Glen while you were on your walk. It was hot indeed. On the day we climbed Ben Nevis it was 26C at the top but still with some patches of snow. A day to remember.
Many thanks, Les.
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- Joined: Dec 10, 2012
by frankieman » Sat Nov 23, 2013 8:03 am
General opinion would agree with October to May being midge free and I have found late May to be clear. There are many makes of midge deterrent on sale and different ones seem to suit different people but personally I find Smidge very effective.
I am also intending to do The Skye Trail next but probably in the autumn.
by mrssanta » Sun Nov 24, 2013 9:28 am
by lochlaggan » Sat Nov 30, 2013 10:22 pm
This story was a joy to read, thanks for posting.
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