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CWT - a Coigach-Assynt variant
by Ch55 » Thu Dec 12, 2013 11:39 pm
Route description: Cape Wrath Trail
Date walked: 02/12/2013
Time taken: 4 days
Distance: 30 km11 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).
CWT fans may know that David Paterson’s original route from the early 90s reached Ullapool by nipping over Loch Broom from Altnaharrie when that was an upmarket restaurant linked by a ferry. Better still, his proposed route went on to follow the coast to the Coigach peninsula and then head north, passing among many of the distinctive and eminently pronounceable Assynt peaks.
The ferry and the hotel/resto are long gone, but the Coigach-Assynt stage must still rate as a ‘missing link’ on a CWT. As Paterson says: it’s ‘one of the best day’s walking in Scotland’ and to me the Assynt isn’t like other mountain areas in Scotland; it’s the difference between Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn. One may be higher but it’s the other that catches the eye.
Mostly through paddling I’ve got to know the inland lochs and coast of this area well in recent years, so set off to track a more direct route from Dundonnell to Kylesku, straightening the eastward kink of the CWT. We allowed ourselves four-and-a-bit days to do this and planned to use packrafts (lightweight rafts) for the water crossings. Packrafts offer a whole new way of enjoying the Scottish wilderness, and in mid-winter are certainly preferable to deep wading. More about them later.
Of course with over 17 hours of darkness, early December wasn’t the best time to be trying this, but who knows, we might stumble into a high and by day find ourselves tramping over frozen bogs under crisp blue skies! And if things went the other way, I knew the area well enough to slog out to a road or a good path, plus I knew people on the Coigach who could pick us up should the mobile work.
First Robin needed a shaft for his home-made paddle blades, one that could also double up as a walking ‘packstaff’ as I call it. I was using a proper 4-part paddle for the same purpose, but incredibly (especially given the time of year) Robin had got his gear down to hand-baggage size, although reasoned a two-part paddle might push the Easy Jet crew too far. So we popped into B&Q in Inverness for a broom handle and wandered over to Tiso’s next door for some lunch and tent pegs, a penknife plus some gas for both of us. With snow forecast in a few days, I eyed up some crampons too, having left my Mallory-era spikes back at home. In the end I decided I could borrow one of Robin’s if it got that slippery.
Around 7pm that evening the bus driver dropped us off at the Badralloch turn-off just before Dundonnell, and asked again whether we were sure we knew what we were doing.
‘There’s a bus that goes direct to Ullapool you know?’
‘It’s OK, we got a plan’, we assured him.
‘Watch out for the ditch’ he added, as I nearly fell backwards into a roadside ditch.
As the bus’s tail-lights disappeared into the spit-flecked murk, we dug out our head torches, oriented ourselves and set off for the six-mile road walk over the Scoraig peninsula to Altnaharrie.
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by frankieman » Fri Dec 13, 2013 10:14 am
by Ch55 » Fri Dec 13, 2013 2:59 pm
As it happens just heard a picture from our trip got on BBC News' weekly online gallery: Your pictures of Scotland: 6 - 13 December. Can't post a link as I'm too new.
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by malky_c » Fri Dec 13, 2013 3:16 pm
by Dan Scheer » Fri Dec 13, 2013 3:34 pm
by Ch55 » Fri Dec 13, 2013 9:26 pm
A sign nearby also warns that CCTV is tracking sheep rustlers and does lend some credence to the accusation that the UK has gone CCTV-ing bonkers. We tread on to the pass and the lights of Ullapool glitter over a lochan, the wind kicks up and the track down gets gnarly. I step on a cricket-ball rock, land with a splat and decide to put my glasses on.
Unless you come down the A road from Inverlael, crossing Loch Broom is the key to unlocking this variant, and on a pleasant summer’s morning at slack water, the half-mile paddle from Altnaharrie jetty to Ullapool wouldn't be too taxing. A guy called David H did so in 2012 on his northwestern packrafting epic. See gridnorth.blogspot July 2012.
I’d had half a mind to do the same but not really. It was with some relief that I discovered my travel arrangements made weeks earlier could not have been more ill-timed with the tides that night. As we reached the jetty at 9pm a spring tide was in full ebb flowing west, while a typical west wind blew against it, chopping up the surface. Even without the darkness or the season, that would be a scary paddle, especially as Robin was in an as yet untried 700-gram packraft.
Instead I’d tried to track down some likely Ullapool-based retiree who had nothing better to do on a drizzly Monday evening than taxi over Loch Broom to get us. Some informal arrangement cocking a snook at H&S regs, perhaps not unlike the bloke I’ve read about out of Corran who boats you over Loch Hourn to Barisdale and Knoydart for a fiver.
The hotel suggested we called the people who now lived in the Altnaharrie Inn, but I’m sure they hadn’t moved to a place only accessible by boat or 4x4 to serve the likes of us. If anything we were rather hoping not to disturb them.
To cut a long story short, I’d contacted the Ullapool harbour master to see if he could put me onto a local ‘Corran-man’. My bleating about the deadly tides and the minusculity of our rafts may have helped prompt an unexpected offer: call in and someone will come and get you. I’ve read of at least one other CWTrailer scoring a similar arrangement in the other direction. While it’s not a service that I imagine can be taken for granted, I later learned that the harbour master is a switched on guy.
I rang the night shift on the pier.
‘Oh yes. What’s the wind like over there?’
‘Not so bad.’
‘You got life jackets?’
‘Yep, we got torches’. (I thought he said lights to guide them in).
‘You got life jackets?’
‘Oh, yes we got those.’
We weren’t going to bother with PFDs but by chance we’d been sent some non-certified inflatable jackets to try out. They were already proving useful.
Ten minutes later the lights of a tender carefully approached the jetty, scanning the seabed for snags. With a sufficiently lively imagination this could be some sinister episode from a Bond movie or a deleted scene from The 39 Steps. It was certainly preferable to a hideous Cockelshell-Heroes scenario, bobbing around helplessly in our swamped pack rafts as we got flushed out into the Minch with our Petzls on flash.
We stepped off the shaky-looking jetty, Robin’s broomstick coming in handy to back the boat out, and once the prop was cleared of kelp, the outboard dug in and gunned us out into the inky gloom.
Loch Broom actually narrows hereabouts which accelerates the flow, especially around Ullapool Point. It was only when I clocked the rate of the current passing the harbour’s pilings that I realised what a bad idea paddling would have been this night, even in a kayak.
We gave the boatmen a tip and padded across the deserted streets of Ullapool towards the Ceilidh Inn – friend of WP. Tomorrow we would get walking.
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by Ch55 » Mon Dec 16, 2013 6:23 pm
Although he thought about it, the author of the 2013 Cicerone CWT guidebook decided not to include his Coigach-Assynt option (can't do a link yet) in the book for safety reasons. Must say that from the CWT reports I’ve read here, this stage doesn’t seem that much more dangerous or remote than a few other hairy sections on the regular route.
The actual route Iain H suggests on his website also meanders around a bit. We figured we could come up with something better and a little more direct that would still be doable and satisfying to non-raft-carrying hikers.
As this was one of the few occasions where the CWT touches the coast, from Ullapool we set off on David Paterson’s original route along the foreshore towards Rhue lighthouse at Rubha Cadail, only about 5km away. The lady at the Place explained: over the bridge, cross the golf course, sea on the left, follow your nose. She also added there’d been a lot of rain lately which didn’t bode well for the stream crossings later on. The forecast that morning wasn’t so good either: a calm day with rain clearing but by tonight strong westerlies would be belting the west coast just prior to turning very cold and stronger winds. At the time, tomorrow looked like the worst day prior to the snows. It was also our most complicated day: two or three paddles ending at a remote camp below Suilven. To simplify and shorten that stage I decided once we got to Culnacraig tonight we’d carry on in the dark for a few miles and make a sheltered camp near the (closed) hostel at Achininver.
Over Ullapool River footbridge.
A promising sign, but at gone 9am it’s still so gloomy our cameras struggle not to blur a simple shot. Plenty more murky photos to come.
Over the golf course, the best tended expanse of grass for miles.
CalMac ferry arrives from Stornoway. To the right you can just make out the white speck of Altnaharrie Inn on the south side.
We walk along the beach, passing one of Ullapool’s hidden gems: the Rubber Glove Fence.
Soon the beach disappeared as the slope comes right down to the shore, with awkward fences to cross. No path or stiles so we set off up Cnoc na Moine hill (103).
On top it’s clear this was all taking longer than I thought. The daylight, if you can call it that, was slipping through our fingers and crossing the Allt an t-Strathan river on the way to Rubha Cadail might mean a time-consuming detour unless the delta panned out. We had the precipitous ‘Postman’s Track’ to get across yet – not a place to stagger about in the dusk. So I decide Rhue and our planned route back on the north side of Meall Mor (165) to Ardmair will have to wait till next time.
We walk down to the Strathan river bridge and around lovely Ardmair Bay where we de-cag and have a quick soup. Up ahead the wall of Ben More Coigach below which we’ll pass shortly.
Out of Ardmair a kissing gate (120980) led down through some woods to the back of a cottage. It’s a right of way, though I read on a blog that the owner tends to disguise access a bit.
If coming the other way (towards Ullapool), head up the steps by the trailer and towards the gate at the back of the garden, then follow the path uphill and left to the road.
From here we took the metalled track along the river past Keanchulish House (pictured). See the cascade behind the house; it's about a mile to the north, over the river. The Postie path to Culnacraig starts just to the left of it at 118010.
Across the new-looking wooden bridge. Walking in from Culnacraig one midge-infested day several years ago, g-friend and I got into a right pickle around here. The coast path had taken much longer than we thought and we blundered around at the signpost and gate (118010) along dykes, finally staggering towards Blughasary bridge and the road to the A835 (now, the Cicerone option, see map below).
The problem is what’s marked on the map as a track becomes more of a dyke, and was currently a flooded trench. Right after the bridge we crawled up an embankment to reach a track/stream and followed it anticlockwise round to 118010. Alongside the fence below the main slope (where Cicerone joins from the east) this involved a lot of awkward hauling over sodden sidestream ditches – very slow going. Next time I’d try the ‘clockwise’ red route which might actually be- and remain a track. There were JCBs and workers here, possibly making a deer fence.
Anyway, at 1pm we finally squeezed through kissing gate at 118010 (the start of the Postie path), giving us 3 hours of daylight to cover the 4.5 miles to Culnacraig. I knew it’d be slow going, but surely we could manage 1.5mph?
Soon we were sweating like kippers as we rose above Isle Martin and the bay.
The track gets a bit thin, but occasionally some finely made stone posts appear where the original wooden markers have rotted away or fallen.
This exposure can be intimidating as you friction across wet rock slabs or totter, toe to heel across a 1 in 1 slope. Somehow tripping, then tumbling down and splashing into the sea feels less agreeable than simply falling off your typical ’Striding Edge’ type ridge walk.
This exposure, added to my heavy load, the odd route-finding stumble, picture taking and stream crossings is our excuse for the slow progress. The inlet just after Geodha Mor and the Garbh Allt stream crossing above it was a key point. We didn’t want to arrive worn out at what might be the sketchy ford, to set off in poor light along the final precipitous section. But we didn’t really want to be camping out here when that overnight storm came in either.
Option two was looking more and more likely, especially after I spent 10 minutes wringing out my clothes having slipped on a simple, two-step stream crossing. Today was actually not so cold and more importantly, calm (a great day to paddle across Loch Broom in fact). Making a mistake like that in tomorrow’s high winds and plummeting temps would have been bad news, but it shows how easily such things can happen.
Amazingly the fleece shed its water like a sponge, the Icebreaker less so and the sodden trousers and Sealskins would have to wait. What was important in the pack was in a submersible kayak bag.
The faint track was still throwing up some tricky sections of scrambling or clinging to heather for handholds. Frazzled by my dunking and in a rush to ‘get off the mountain’ before the dark, the cold and the winds, it occurred to me this was a textbook accident-inducing scenario. A couple of years ago a day walker fell here and got promptly rescued by the Stornoway SAR. Around the same time a woman flipped her kayak out in the Summer Isles and, without a PFD, got into difficulties so the chopper was able to scoop her up too!
They can’t have too many days like that and I didn’t want to start another, so I began eyeing up pitchable platforms that weren’t water-logged. There was one at Geodha Mor, right above the beach where a mate and I had lunched when we’d paddled from Achiltibuie to Ullapool one time. Hoping for something better, as you do, we turned up the Garbh Allt inlet for the steep climb along the old fence below Ben More Coigach. Alongside us the burn was in full spate, a continuous cascade of white water all the way to the stony shore. But halfway up the gradient eased briefly into a level, room-sized pitch. It was now about ten to four.
‘Let’s camp here’ I said.
‘It’s as good as it gets. We don’t want to rush that ford plus the track gets exposed again after.’
‘Sounds good to me.’
Only a mile and a half from Culnacraig, we dumped our packs, Robin went off for water and I staked out my untried Nallo. I heard they were good in the wind so bought it especially for the CWT once I’d read about some CWT waterfalls periodically doing back flips. Meanwhile, Robin was bedding down in a modified £30 bivi bag strung to the fence and hanging from our crossed walking staffs. At least one of us was going to be having a rough night.
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by dalavil » Mon Dec 16, 2013 7:23 pm
by Ch55 » Thu Dec 19, 2013 9:00 pm
One of the excuses for coming up here this time of year was to experience 17 hours or darkness in a tent – well just for a couple of nights anyway. As the overnight gale built up, down below the volume of the burn rose and fell and occasionally the Nallo’s sides cracked like a whip, startling me with a jump. I took this to be an excellent sign because it suggested I was actually close to dozing off. Otherwise I just lay huddled in the shaking and flapping Hilleberg as rain and hail showers lashed against it. What to do if one of the guys or pegs let go? Turn ostrich and huddle up more tightly, or get out and deal with it.
I was using my lighter bag with base layers, but still went through shivering spells. It wasn’t that cold, but even though the Nallo hugged the ground and the back vent was closed, the wind worked under the heather, generously ventilating the interior. A side benefit was that by morning, despite all the wet clothes lying around, there wasn’t a speck of condensation inside.
Wednesday 8am and a watery blue murk lightened the sky. I heard noises.
‘You still there?’ Robin was in his Falkands-era bin bag.
‘Yep, and you?’
‘Still here. Took me a while to warm up. It was a bit noisy. I hardly slept.’
It was still blowing, but a more normal F4. Overnight I’d guess the gusts rushing over the Minch and bouncing off the 2400-foot flank of Ben More had hit us at 60 or more. But even if not clinically classifiable as sleep, lying still for 14 hours can be interpreted as a form of overnight rejuvenation. I waited for what passes for dawn around here then cooked up a double porridge and steeled myself for the icky task of donning wet gear.
Actually Robin’s crude set up so blithely scoffed at the previous night was in some ways superior to the tent. In his smaller volume shelter he’d been warmer and it hadn’t flapped like lose scaffold cladding in a gale. The cell-like claustrophobia was only a nuisance when it came to a pee (or if the wind changed). ‘No condensation’ he claimed of his proofed pertex shell, helped by the open porch which also enabled brief spells of star gazing. But when I got back – always ready for an excuse to optimise my gear another few notches – the reviews of his Highlander bivi bag did not all concur and he admitted it was not a set up suited to a down bag.
The long, dark night of the tent had given me time to reassess our plan to reach Kylesku by Friday night and hitch back to Ullapool. To paraphrase Prussian Field Marshall von Moltke ‘no plan survives contact with the CWT’. We’d hardly dawdled yesterday, but we weren't going to make Kylesku or probably get close. Today held more sluggish cross-country tramping, plus at least two paddles to avoid deep wades, and all ending at a relatively remote camp which now we’d not reach. Add the strong winds and snows forecast after Suilveg hostel, and it all seemed a little effortful in the face of far cosier alternatives.
No sirree. Far better to head to Di's over in Altandu at the other end of the Coigach, dry off properly, catch the forecast and re-reassess. Catching an unexpected three bars on the Nokia last night, that had got sorted, and looking back at what was to come, it was a good decision.
The wind fairly rolled my tent into its bag, and wrapped up against the chill, we shuffled bleary-eyed up the track that diverted over a landslide and carefully crossed the big ford of Allt Garbh.
Round the base of BM-Coigach, at times it hardly looks like there’s a path at all.
As the gradient eased off the winter sun crept over the horizon with all the vigour of a child that had just wet the bed, lighting up the gunmetal blue sea and rusting bracken.
Near Culnacraig I wandered onto another track and crossed the final stream way up the hillside. Looking back down I see a person striding purposefully east with a black and white mutt darting about. We were slower than predicted getting to the road head and good old Di had come looking for us.
A Crofting Interlude
Di is your actual modern-day crofter, eking a living off her shoreside strip of land with a mini-zoo of farm animals, hydroponic fruit and veg, and whatever other income she can muster, aided by seasonal Woofers and voracious recycling. Crab claw ash, sea weed and other organic detritus invigorates the anaemic soil, washed up fishing nets and pallets make enclosures and a surplus of beaky fowl might step in for a few turkeys this Christmas.
The day before she’d helped a neighbour herd 80 sheep onto unoccupied Isle Ristol (visible above) during the ebbed-out spring tide (the same springs that led to the storm surge off East Anglia a few days later). Gorging themselves harmlessly, the sheep would remain on the secure square mile of Ristol for the winter.
We hadn’t even got to Di’s place before she instructed Robin to hop out and grab a bail of hay to carry down to a neighbour’s cows.
From there Robin and I walked pack-free the couple of miles on to Di’s and spread our damp gear in front of a blazing Rayburn.
On the news the talk was of a severe weather warning that was going to hit Scotland tonight; the worst was yet to come so we felt lucky to be able to shelter here.
We made ourselves useful cutting and chopping up telegraph poles that had found their way onto Di’s woodpile. Robin repaired some cow coats ahead of the chill; I herded some ducks, set about fixing the back door, and as the sun set, we tramped off across the moor to Di’s ancestral allocation of peat to pick up some dried slabs for the stoves in what were now freezing winds we could barely stand in.
That night the real storm peaked around 5am with a spell of lightening and thunder. As you may know winds exceeded 100mph in Perthshire and temporarily closed the entire Scottish rail network. Strong winds are actually fairly common on the Coigach though, so damage is rare as everything can isn’t windproof is long gone. Even then, the galvo roof on Di’s goose shed was peeled back like a tin of Pedigree Chum and caked in iced clumps of hail.
Today too was clearly not a day to move on so again I busied myself with more odd jobs while Robin went exploring.
Later we enjoyed another wholesome, home cooked meal from the fruits of Di's garden.
Tomorrow we’d have to catch the once-daily schoolbus back into Ullapool to get the Inverness connection the next day. But we had a break, Di was heading to Inverness very early Saturday morning for fire and rescue service training, so that left Friday to try and recover something from our CWT recce and get a paddle in too.
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by dalavil » Thu Dec 19, 2013 10:16 pm
by Ch55 » Fri Dec 20, 2013 6:59 pm
I know the Inverpolly area between Stac and Suilven mountains pretty well, having climbed all the main peaks, packrafted around them or kayaked the lochs between them. I can visualise a CWT route from Stac round Loch Sionascaig to Suileag bothy quite clearly: 10 miles with a little and a large ford. Beyond that, my planned course over Loch Assynt (footbridge + road or more direct paddle) and over Quinaig’s 570-m Bealach a Chornaidh (201285) towards Kylesku (or east to pick up the CWT near Glencoul bothy) seemed straightforward in terms of nav, if not terrain. Full map in next post.
The main missing link for me was the short section from Culnacraig over to Stac Pollaidh via the west end of Loch Lurgainn. Here the loch narrowed and spilled into an intermediate lochan before another narrower spillway dropped again to Loch Bad a Ghaill (see image above, looking south from Stac).
On maps the two gaps are either not shown or appear huge. Only our new best friend, sat imagery, shows it like it can be. Fwiw, close up, Google Earth (and so Google Maps) has for many years shown a mushy low-res strip from the Summer Isles nearly all the way to Cape Wrath. A good trick: go to GE menu: View -> Historical imagery -> and go back to older imagery (say 2004). Suddenly someone turns on the light and whacks up the contrast. Bing Aerial is also much better hereabouts than current GE.
We’d portaged our kayaks either up, or around those narrows a summer or two ago. This time I wanted to establish how fordable they might look from a CWT walker’s pov (but from the dry comfort of a packraft). It had been David Paterson’s intention to make this crossing but, as his 1996 book explains, on the day the weather was bad so he got a lift round to Stac.
Had things not gone awry for us too, we’d have set off direct from Culnacraig on the Wednesday into the BM-Coigach basin and turned north alongside what they call the Fiddler (705) for the Loch Lurgainn narrows. Less effort would involve either taking the southern path from Culnacraig (at the coastal path warning sign; 066034) below Meall Dubh Ard hill (146) via Achduart and a road to Acheninver (summertime YH). Or easier still, simply follow the single-track road north of the hill to Acheninver. Either way that’s a 13-mile walk from Ullapool along the way described earlier. It will take longer than you think.
Just past Acheninver a 4WD track leads uphill half a mile NE to the water pumping station (and a planned wind farm; there’s a slim test mast up there now). Here you can carry on over the hill to the narrows, it’s slow going.
Alternatively, Cicerone's suggestion takes you from the mast 3 miles north to cross the usually shallow Osgaig river (above). Looks like an easy wade in summertime.
Upstream at the loch end start of the river, there’s what looks like a barrage/weir above the narrow gorge and which might be doable. Though I’ve never actually seen it up close, weirs can can dodgy places to fall in. From there Cicerone briefly follows the ‘Wee Mad Road’ (as it’s known) then takes off east up a spur and across the north side of Stac to the key ‘Gainmheich stream’ crossing (138118; info in next post).
My suggestion gets to that same key crossing via the Loch Lurgainn narrows and the regular pathway up Stac’s east side, breaking off it to head for 138118. The way I see it, on the CWT better to make use of actual paths, direct moorland tramps and fordable fords where they’re feasible. Fyi from Stac DP oddly avoided it all by taking the Linnerraineach path about a mile east of Stac car park. I’ve walked/paddled this to 138118, but (as i interpreted his book) DP skirted off NE around the south side of Cul Mor to Knockan Crag on the road and, I believe, got a lift up to Kylesku, so missing out much of the Assynt.
Anyway, seeing as our continuity was no better, we got Di to drop us near Stac car park from where we reversed my above suggestion: walk a bit, paddle the narrows and walk over the hill back to Achiltibuie then along the road back to her place, all up about 10 miles.
The snow was thin on the ground and the bogs pleasingly crisp as we tramped down to the loch side.
My Alpacka inflates ingeniously by catching the breeze with a 2oz bag. When it's nearly full, top off by mouth with a twist lock valve. No pump needed. Robin had to lung-fill his smaller boat; it took about the same time but at the end he needed to sit down for s bit.
It was close to freezing but calm enough. Robin was rather nervous about trying out a raft that weighed less than one of his boots.
He went out for a spin, established he wouldn’t sink providing he paddled gently, came back for his pack and off we went. Using bits of plaster bucket cable tied to his broomstick/walking staff, the little Supai raft yawed like a noddy dog. I was probably twice as fast in my super duper Alpacka – but then again it was half as long and weighed over four times as much.
You can read a review of Robin’s Supai on my blog (search: apaddleinmypack; the raft’s for sale, btw), but that little thing would have been quite a handful in yesterday’s winds. I’ve found on smaller lochs my larger, higher-sided Alpacka can inch forward for a short while against 40mph winds although it’s a bit like doing pull-ups. But when the fetch (accumulated wave build-up across a body of water) exceeds a couple of miles it can get quite hairy. At such times it feels like a headwind gust could easily catch and lift the broad bow as it crests a steep wave, flipping you backwards. And if you’re not attached to your packraft, a 3-kg Alpacka would be gone before you even surfaced. A 700-gram Supai would probably break the sound barrier.
No worries about such calamities today, apart from the odd breeze. On the far side, while I waited for Robin to cruise over I had a good look at the spillway. In the current spate it’s some forty feet wide, but even then I’d say would be a knee high wade at the upstream end. The Bing aerial image shows it almost dry.
The downstream end of the spillway looked quite a lot wider and gnarlier on the day, and you wouldn’t want to try in the middle.
As for the other narrows nearby, it’s less wide. The top picture shows it on the day, a bit flooded. Below in summertime (low water levels) shows how easy it would be to walk cross.
With the Loch Lurgainn narrows crossed, scrutinised and deemed easily wadeable in summer (I’ve read of at least one other walker doing so), we rolled up the boats.
And set off for the straightforward walk up the hill.
Great views back over the moody Assynt mountainscape (including that BBC picture mentioned earlier).
Wind-curved icicles hang like a dragon's jaw.
Over the top and down towards the Achiltibuie road (passing west of the wind tower track).
A quick cuppa at the village shop. A good place to buy and food and perhaps send parcels. Or there’s tiny PO nearby that’s open mornings, 6 days a week (see map).
A 5-mile walk back to Altandu, past the snow-dusted Badentarbet beach.
Here's the map.
Another great feed at Di's that you don’t get by pouring hot water into a bag and waiting 8 mins.
Then, early next morning we head home.
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by dalavil » Sat Dec 21, 2013 6:31 pm
by Ch55 » Sat Dec 21, 2013 7:50 pm
I made a GE kmz of the Coigach-Assynt route we tried; it's pictured below (with some detail switched off). The black bits I have not walked. Other bits I've done on other occasions. As shown, packraft not necessary.
(The Fiddler is marked as a landmark on a direct route from Culnacraig to the narrows. Bit of a climb but paths all the way to Fiddler area, then xc).
I actually modified it so that from Quinaig it crosses the road and then picks up the CWT south of Glen Coul bothy (all on paths/OS-marked paths). That means you could get from Suileag bothy to Glen Coul in a fairly easy day (~15m).
Acheninver YH (Culnacraig) to Suileag bothy is about the same, but I think would be quite a full-on day as it's almost all cross-country and includes three fords. Would be easier if you went round the prow of Suilven rather than over the saddle.
Fyi, after crossing Suilven saddle Cicerone heads off east, cross country for Inchnadamph. Both routes miss BM Assynt which I don't know, but I suppose you can't have it all. Getting high on Stac, Suilven and Quinaig has its compensations. Last summer we did the full day-tour of Quinaig and thought it was the best of the big peaks in the area because you get high and stay high (tho' next time I'd do it clockwise, less tiring ending).
May try again in a month or two when the winter settles down a bit, or wait till May and go all the way to Durness.
Look forward to reading other CWT reports across this fabulous area.
Forgot to add some general pics I've collected over the years giving added points of view on the route.
Little Loch Broom. Dundonnell in the trees, Badralloch on the left on the Scoraig peninsula which leads over to Altnaharrie. BM Coigach right at the back.
Ben More Coigach from ‘Ardmair Bay’. The Postman’s Path goes somewhere across there to Culnacraig.
Looking over Achiltibuie and the Assynt peaks from Tanera Mor island.
Achiltibuie. From near the YH you more or less follow the shadow line left up to the pumping station and over to Loch Lurgainn narrows.
It's more climbing but the walk from Culnacraig up to the Fidder is more direct and a path, unlike the walk over from the pumping station. From the Fiddler down, no paths AFAIK.
On BM Coigach, Summer Isles behind, Western Isles on the horizon. This is a great day walk.
BM Coigach looking down onto ‘Ardmair Bay’, Isle Martin, Ullapool and Altnaharrie; the first stage of our walk.
Northwest over ‘Conival’ (Cairn Conmheall, 541) and the Coigach. Harris on the horizon.
North over the Fiddler to the Assynt peaks.
Skipping Loch Lurgainn narrows (see image in previous post), this is the view from Cul Mor on the xc stage from Stac shoulder down to the ‘Gainmeheich stream’ crossing visible just above the foreground rocks.
My only shot of the Gainmeheich stream; looks like an easy ford. From here I’ve only paddled round Loch Sionasgaig to ‘Shieling’ (136150) for the walk over to the next ford. The terrain via ‘Clais’ looks rough.
A view of that stage from Stac. Gainmeheich crossing just off the right; you head for the middle of the picture.
Looking down from the pass between Loch Sionasgaig onto the Uidh Fhearna ford. Some canoe campers are by what I imagine is the best place to cross via the small islands, though I’ve read one account describing it as ‘waist deep’.
Looking back the other way from the bottom of Suilven. Left of Stac is the Fiddler.
A higher pov on the walk from Stac to the Uidh Fhearna crossing.
SSW from Quinaig. I imagine Suileag bothy is behind the hill in the middle of the picture. After the footbridge over the River Inver (157248) you walk alongside the A837 two miles to Tumore. With a packraft you can avoid the road and cross near Tumore, providing it’s not howling.
Looking down on the Bealach a Chornaigh which you crawl up to after leaving the Gleann Leireag path.
Not on OS maps but as I’m sure many know, there’s a good path from the bealach down to a car park on the road.
Assynt panorama from Quinaig to Cul Beag (769) across Achnahaird Bay. I must do Cul Beag one time; this WH report
has video which looks down over this walk from Cul Beag summit.
The two routes from Dundonnell.
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- Joined: Oct 24, 2013
by Ch55 » Sat Aug 30, 2014 3:49 pm
This time I was with Jon and his new Alpacka. We got dropped off at Stac car park and took the path to the shoulder of the mountain.
A bit higher than we needed to be, we left the path and turned directly NNE for a bay at the bottom of Loch Sionasgaig. Jon had a gammy knee following a weekend's over-exertion on his bike and found the going slow. With a recent dry spell a top crust had hardened over the usual mush, and every once in a while it tore away and sent me flying.
We clambered over a deer fence and a while later crossed back over it. Had we studied a 25k map we'd have seen that skirting it would not have been much of a detour.
Towards the bay.
Even without Jon limping along, it's slow going – probably half the speed of a path. But one benefit with cross country is that it brings you to unknown places, like this pocket of birch woodland sheltering in a north-facing ravine just above our bay.
At the bay we aired up our untried boats…
… and paddled north across Loch Sion for 'Shieling' on the map. That took about an hour; less time and a lot less effort than schlepping round the east side of the loch.
After lunch it was a over a pass to a short paddle across the back end of Fionn Loch below the looming flank of Suilven mountain. Here, I failed to persuade Jon that climbing up the south side of Suilven was just what his knee needed.
So instead we headed NW and passed under the western prow of The Pillar, which I doubt was any quicker: it's rough terrain around here.
At a high point, Quinaig emerged one the horizon – tomorrow's destination.
Then was down towards Suileag bothy which is somewhere in the middle of the picture above. It had taken us ages to get to this point – 6 hours? – and this stage river to bothy took another 2 hours. We got split up when Jon chose to contour the slopes to spare his knee. The rat somehow managed to slip past me and was waving from outside the bothy with a cup of tea, while I was fretting on a hillock, trying to get one bar on the phone.
Never stayed at Suileag - a very nice bothy.
Next day a path led all the way to Loch Assynt – or at least to a bridge over the River Inver which drains the loch. How much easier it is to follow a path than tramp cross country up here – as we soon found when the path ended after the footbridge.
We tramped far enough up the bank to get free of the river's current, then paddled over the west end of Loch Assynt to Tumore - easy with the wind at our backs. Crouched under a birch over lunch, I again failed to persuade Jon that the climb up the back side of Bealach a Chornaidh (pass) where the three ridges of Quinaig meet involved just a short spell of 1:1 scree.
So we settled for a downwind paddle along Loch Assynt to the road junction at Skiag Bridge.
And a road walk to Kylesku ahead of the afternoon's forecast rain.
At Kyle, a TV crew were filming the retirement of the postmistress after no less than 61 years serving stamps from her shed. Jon celebrates with a bunch of skewered crustaceans.
Long version and more pics http://apaddleinmypack.wordpress.com/2014/05/25/cape-wrath-trail-paddling-the-assynt/.
Knowing what I know now, I'd say stick to paths where available! Walking the mile east along the road from Stac to pick up the Linneraineach path would be much less effort than the route we took, though we were heading directly for the bay. A walker would want Linneraineach anyway, to get to the Gainmeheich stream crossing mentioned in the earlier post.
Not done it but I imagine from that point it's hard yakka on foot around the east side of Loch Sion to the deeper wade of the Uidh Fhearna river. And from there the walk over Suilven saddle and down to the estate track is of course well worth it, knees notwithstanding.
I might try the back of Bealach a Chornaidh one of these days, but now I think it would be easier to follow the regular path (not on the map) east to the car park on the road. From here it's less than a mile along the road for a path that leads ESE to pick up the mainline CWT near Eas a Chual Aluinn waterfall, a couple of miles from Glencoul bothy. Might try that soon, too.
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by matt_outandabout » Sun Jun 25, 2017 9:46 am
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