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Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3


Postby papa smurf » Wed May 07, 2014 9:43 pm

Route description: Cape Wrath Trail

Date walked: 16/04/2014

Time taken: 13 days

Distance: 338 km

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Tuesday 29 April 2014.

Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor to Strathchailleach Bothy 31 km

I woke up and found that despite my dreams I was insect free. I had a quick breakfast and packed up. I headed along the loch which surprisingly had a good enough path. I then crossed the Garbh Allt easily. This can apparently be difficult if in spate but was very low. I didn’t even change into sandals. I then galloped along an ever improving path to Rhiconich. As I approached the bridge with Loch Inchard behind, I saw a guy walking with a red rucksack. I stopped for a wash in the river and felt clean and insect free. What a relief.

P1680591.JPG
Loch Inchard back to Rhiconich


I walked along the road to Kinlochbervie passing all the small hamlets along the way. A thick mist came in from the sea obscuring the loch. As I came into Kinlochbervie I stopped to pay my respects at the War Memorial and saw a very interesting display board about Robert McBeath, a local boy who won the Victoria Cross in the Great War. I then continued to the harbour and bought some food at the Spar shop there. It had a reasonable selection. I had intended a pub lunch but in the end had a picnic at the old pier. I also had an apple, joy of joys. Hopefully I had it in time to stop an attack of scurvy !

I continued on the road to Blairmore and as usual it went up and down but was not unpleasant and it was interesting to see the various houses. On arrival at the toilets and car park at Blairmore I met the guy with the red rucksack, Rob and we had a lovely chat. It was nice to chat with a kindred spirit and we chatted for ages. He then set off for Sandwood intending to camp and I let him go on a bit so we could each have some solitude. it’s a great way of walking, sociable if you want and solitude if you want.

I walked along the very good track to Sandwood Bay feeling more and more euphoric and it did not disappoint. I have been meaning to go to Sandwood for ages but it is a long, long way, even when you live in Scotland. One of the good things about the trip as a whole was that it included places on my to do list, not just Cape Wrath. It was dry and bright when I got to Sandwood but the wind was rising. I was blown away and not by the wind. it’s a special place made even more special as it takes a bit of effort to get there. Even if you arrive by car you have a 6 km walk. I took lots of photos of the sea crashing in, the bay itself and of Am Bhuachaille, the sea stack just off the south east corner. As I walked past the outflow from Sandwood Loch I found the remains of what I think was a 20 foot whale. It was well above the waterline and had been there for some time. Sad but interesting.

P1680601.JPG
approaching Sandwood Bay


P1680605.JPG
Am Bhuachaille


P1680613.JPG
Sandwood Bay


I then went up the hills, meeting the first rabbits I had seen all trip and made my way across to Strathchailleach Bothy where I was going to stay the night. On my arrival at 1720 hrs, two older guys were already in, the fire was going and a cup of tea was soon pressed into my hands. I love the bothy spirit. We sat around the fire talking and eating and after dinner I repaid the cup of tea by sharing some of my cake bought in Kinlochbervie. The two guys were the last of a group of guys that had been going to the hills and bothies since 1959. That was the year I was born and I was retiring and these guys were still going strong. I hope I am still as good when I am their age. We were having a pleasant evening when the door opened and in came a couple who had walked round the cliffs instead of the easy path. She was jiggered but in good spirits and they added to the evening and it was a very nice night.

P1680615.JPG
Strathchailleach Bothy


I find myself in two minds when I approach a bothy. Will I have it to myself ? which I enjoy or will I have company ? which I invariably enjoy as well. Its win, win !

The bothy is also special having been home to Sandy aka James McRory Smith for many years. He lived the live of a hermit at Strathchailleach with no modern conveniences including electricity. He was fortunate that the bothy is next to a plentiful supply of peat but it must have been a hard life. He walked to Kinlochbervie to collect his pension and supplies. He painted vivid pictures on the walls of the bothy which are still there and I took photos of them. There have been articles and a book written about Sandy which I read in the lead in to the trip.

P1680618.JPG
Sandy's artwork


Everything was very amicable and the two guys slept in the other room with sleeping platform and the rest of us were in the living room with me at the pole position nearest the door, so I could make an early start for the Cape. The guidebooks all said don’t underestimate the difficulty of the last leg, so I planned an early start. I did not want to arrive at the Cape and have jump straight onto the bus. I wanted time to savour, enjoy, relish and take some photos. I also was looking forward to seeing the Ozone Café and having a coffee and something to eat. I planned to get up around 0600 hrs and leave as quietly as I could so as not to disturb the others.







Wednesday 30 April 2014

The Cape

Strathchailleach Bothy to Cape Wrath 10 km

I woke up at 0520 hrs and had to take the bothy spade for a walk. Having done that I thought I might as well stay up and pack up and leave ASAP so as not to disturb the others. The weather had changed as predicted and it was very cold with a strong north easterly wind. There was a threat of rain but little materialised . There had been quite a wind blowing during the night, making the bothy even cosier.

I packed up quickly and left without breakfast and ate as I started to walk. The fresh northeast wind made life interesting but it was never difficult and I made good progress. I had a grid ref for a stile in the MOD barbed wire fence and I soon reached the MOD boundary and crossed the fence. My route then lay between Sithean na h-Iolaireich to the west and Cnoc a Ghiubhais to the east and from afar it looked quite steep. However I had gone east to the stile and I had a nice line to have a rising traverse and I was soon at the top. I sheltered in the lee of a crop of rocks and put on another layer and had some cake. Refreshed I made my way over the top and downwards. I was soon puzzled to see rising ground far ahead, then quickly worked out that this was the cliffs behind the MOD road and I then saw the road.

I made my way down and followed some paths but they were not going where I wanted so I struck off and headed directly for the road. My final approach took me along a burn and I emerged onto the road near a point marked with the height 94 metres on the map. I was ecstatic and turned left along the road in high spirits. I was singing and directing an imaginary orchestra with my walking poles. I then turned a corner to the right and there it was; my first sight of the Cape Wrath Lighthouse. Then began a series of photographs as I approached, stopping every few metres for a snap. It was very windy and I couldn’t get a self timed photo because the camera just kept blowing over. I got to the lighthouse and photographed it from every angle. I took a bearing for north and looked in the direction of Siberia at the other side of the north pole, with nothing in-between.

P1680621.JPG
first sight of Cape Wrath lighthouse


P1680626.JPG
Cape Wrath Lighthouse


P1680637.JPG
looking past the north pole to Siberia



It was too cold to savour much more and so windy that I dare not stray to near any of the edges, so I thought about a nice coffee in the Ozone Café, open 24/7 . I was surprised no-one had come out and it became obvious no-one was about so I had a long cold wait. It turned out that the owners dog had to go to the vet so I was unlucky that day, but these things happen and hopefully the dog is OK.


It was about 0900 hrs when I arrived and about 1100 hours Rob arrived and we shook hands and took photographs. By this time the weather was very windy and cold and we had some worries that the ferry across the Kyle of Durness may not be running. I tried to be positive and reasoned that the weather is always extreme at Capes and that the Kyle of Durness was sheltered. As time went on it was an anxious wait but at about 1220 hrs a white minibus suddenly appeared and we were ecstatic all over again. If the bus had not appeared we would have had to retrace our steps. It was a bit of a thought, not difficult but it just seemed better to finish with a nice bus trip with a short ferry crossing to Durness and civilisation.


P1680644.JPG
journey's end


We were soon on the bus and after the day trippers had seen all the sights we made our way to the ferry opposite Keodale along the MOD road. The drivers patter was quite good too and I enjoyed the trip. It was a much smaller boat, indeed dingy than I expected but Rob and I were soon at the other side walking to Durness chatting as if we had known each other all our lives and we booked in to the Lazy Crofter Hostel where I had another memorable shower.

Rob and I went for dinner in the pub and were joined later by Catherine who was also staying at the bunkhouse and who was cycling round Scotland. We bought drinks for and were joined by John the boatman who had conveyed us across the Kyle of Durness. His patter or craic was brilliant and we had a lovely evening that served as a really fitting finale to an epic walk. We also met the two older guys from the bothy who came in for dinner and there were many congratulations and much backslapping. An evening to treasure on a walk of a lifetime.


So what you ask is my big physical outdoors challenge for my fifty fifth birthday in May 2014 ?

DOING NOTHING !!!!




Final thoughts.
I was very lucky with the weather which was largely dry so a lot of boggy bits were far better than normal. My river crossings were straightforward too because of this. It might have been different if the weather was harsher. This is a very hard but enjoyable trip and should not be taken lightly. The off track sections are very tough and the endless ups and downs to 500 metres or so then straight back down to sea level are tough. Navigation is straightforward but needs to be spot on. As usual its not the strength of your heart, lungs or legs that count, its how your head copes and it is very much a mental challenge.

My advice to anyone thinking about it would be to plan plan plan and read everything you can. Practice all your techniques including food and drink and equipment. You will see a unique and amazing country at its best and will have the trip of a lifetime.

Enjoy.







Kit List

I agonised over each piece of kit and thought carefully about its purpose and if it could perform multiple roles. I tried to make life easier for myself. An example of this was the Raidlight bottle which sat on my left shoulder strap. It has a short straw and bite valve and I was able to drink as and when I wanted by by slightly moving my head without breaking stride. I also had a bag of spare bits and pieces which allowed me to mend things as I went. A great example is some very thin but strong fishing twine. It helped to fix the broken pole straps, was used as spare guy-lines on the tent and even as emergency tooth floss.

Base weight just over 8 kg before food and drink

Equipment
Rucksac / Montane Grand Tour 55 + pouches 1300g
Liner 74g
Raidlight water bottle 95g
Sawyers Mini Filter
Walking poles
Wallet cash / cards / campsite club cards / house key in poly bag
Maps / map case / guide book 244g / Pod Sac 60g
Compass / GPS / spare batteries
Glasses inc spare readers / wipes
First aid kit 117g
Multi tool Leatherman Style 23g
Camera
Monocular - Viking 6 x 16 56g
Head torch Black Diamond 20g plus PX28L batteries @ 10g each
Spare torch LED lenser K1 7g + spare AG3 batteries x 4

Clothes
Paramo Pasco jacket 669g
Paramo Velez Adventure Trousers 398g
Hat Tilley 90g
Buffs x 2 @ 35g each
Neoprene face mask
Light windproof layer - montane marathon 153 g
Baselayer top Paramo Cambia
Baselayer top Paramo Mountain Vent 356g
Shorts TNF 204g
Paramo Cambia Boxers
Socks
Gloves thin silk 27g
Waterproof gloves Trekmates Dry Classic 81g
Boots Mammut T Aenergy GTX 610g
Gaiters Paramo short

Tent
Terra Nova Laser Competition 1009g



Dry Clothes
Rab Generator Vest 236g
Montane Prism Pants 290g
Rab T shirt
Paramo cambia boxers x 2
Socks
Buff 35g

Sleeping
PHD Sleeping bag 718g
Thermarest 383 g
Bag cover Terra Nova Moonlight 180g
Pillow 198g
Pee bottle - small

Cooking
Stove Primus Express 119g inc base stand and bag
Gas
Titanium pot - Evernew ECA252R 0.9L 108g
Pot cosy 37g hat
mug GSI Cascadian 69g
spork/ scourer / jcloth
Matches / sparkie / lighter
Water bag

Misc
Midge hood
Repair kit - tenacious tape / cable ties / cord / spare batteries/ base wash
Notepad/pen/pencil
Washing kit - soap / flannel / toothpaste and brush / micro fibre towel 29g
Fire Starting kit
Bahco Laplander Folding Saw 190g
Candles
sandals - Inov8 recolite 190 390g bothy/days off/rivers
Tent light Niteize 20g inc 2 x CR2016
Last edited by papa smurf on Thu May 08, 2014 5:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby inca » Wed May 07, 2014 10:37 pm

Enjoyed reading all 3 parts of your trip PS. Well done on your achievement :clap: The Cape Wrath Trail is something that I have on the cards for a year or two hence and your detail and route options are really useful. Some great pics too. Thanks for taking the time to prepare and share this.
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby papa smurf » Wed May 07, 2014 10:48 pm

Thank you for your good wishes and comments. Its nice when someone bothers to read it and then gives a positive comment. That is my first ever post on any forum ! Good luck with your own trip. If I can help with any queries feel free
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby whiteburn » Thu May 08, 2014 10:22 am

Great report and I'm glad the rest of your trip went smoothly.

Paul
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby papa smurf » Thu May 08, 2014 5:00 pm

whiteburn wrote:Great report and I'm glad the rest of your trip went smoothly.

Paul


Thanks Paul. Our chat and your trip report helped me enormously and you were definitely right about Inverlael to Knockdamph ! Having looked at your stuff I'm beginning to covet a trailstar but we'll see .

cheers

Matt
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby mountainstar » Thu May 08, 2014 9:52 pm

Hi there,
I really enjoyed your trip report. :clap: As you may know (my trip report is on here) I did this a few years ago, and I'm doing part of it again with a few friends on the Ullapool to Glenfinnan section next week, so it's a timely reminder of how great a trail it is.
As you said...
papa smurf wrote:That is my first ever post on any forum !
My report on it was as well. I was lucky enough to win report of the month with it, and I heard recently that it is the most ever read TR. So small acorns....
I'd like to offer a little advice, with it being in 3 sections, they will soon get separated, so it's best to do some links from each one to the next at the bottom, so people can just click to the next part.
Alan.
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby papa smurf » Fri May 09, 2014 8:27 am

mountainstar wrote:Hi there,
I really enjoyed your trip report. :clap: As you may know (my trip report is on here) I did this a few years ago, and I'm doing part of it again with a few friends on the Ullapool to Glenfinnan section next week, so it's a timely reminder of how great a trail it is.
As you said...
papa smurf wrote:That is my first ever post on any forum !
My report on it was as well. I was lucky enough to win report of the month with it, and I heard recently that it is the most ever read TR. So small acorns....
I'd like to offer a little advice, with it being in 3 sections, they will soon get separated, so it's best to do some links from each one to the next at the bottom, so people can just click to the next part.
Alan.


Alan

thanks, appreciate your comments and I did read and enjoy yours in my preparation. Being new, links are a mystery but thanks for the advice and I'll look into it

ta

Matt
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby floma » Sat May 10, 2014 4:49 pm

Thank you Papa Smurf for this very nice walk report! Enyoed reading it over the last couple of days. What a weather! And no midges I assume? Nice pics!
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby papa smurf » Sat May 10, 2014 7:37 pm

Thanks Floma. Yes I was very lucky with the weather and no there were no midges. I did pick April for that amongst other reasons. I think some of the peat hag bits could be horrific in midgie season. Thanks again Matt
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby Katejadams » Wed Oct 21, 2015 7:25 pm

Hik I read your trip reports the other week and one bit stuck in my memory so have just come back to your report in the hope you can help.....

I had a grid ref for a stile in the MOD barbed wire fence and I soon reached the MOD boundary and crossed the fence.


I am planning on doing the CWT with my dog and trying as best I can to find out what wire fences there are to cross. On all the reports I have read I havent seen any mention of any until you get up towards Cape Wrath where I believe there are two in between Sandwood Bay and Cape Wrath. Can you recall having to climb over any other wire fences that had no stile or gate?

It would be very much appreciated if you could let me konw the grid ref for the stile in the MOD fence. If I am correct in thinking there are two MOD fences to be crossed was there a stile in both? I seem to read many trip reports about people tearing their trousers climbing the MOD fence so I presume any stiles are not obvious....

Many thanks
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby Guinessman » Thu Oct 22, 2015 10:04 am

Kate I did the cwt in May this year, there was a stile at the point you mention and I,m sure I recall there was a gate further down though I didn't go to it so I don't know if it was padlocked .on my route from strathchaillich bothy i went inland and crossed the stile at around 258688.on my route that I took ,my trip report is on here,it's the only fence I can recall. Have you tried the mod line 0800833300 or 01971511242? Which might give you the information. Failing that you could avoid the fence and walk the cliff path. Hope that helps
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby Katejadams » Thu Oct 22, 2015 6:34 pm

Guinessman - thanks v much for grid reference on stile, saved to my notes!

Have just had a look at the end of your trip report also... going to go back to part one and read through from there later as looked a good write up.

Thanks again.
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby Guinessman » Fri Oct 23, 2015 12:50 pm

Kate after reading the other responses and thinking about there is indeed a high stile in Glen Loyne if you are going that way, which is quite a climb up and rickety. There is also one about half a mile before Lochan Fada on the path from Kinlochewe
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Re: Papa Smurf's Cape Wrath Trail 2014 - Part 3

Postby Katejadams » Fri Oct 23, 2015 1:08 pm

Guinessman wrote:Kate after reading the other responses and thinking about there is indeed a high stile in Glen Loyne if you are going that way, which is quite a climb up and rickety. There is also one about half a mile before Lochan Fada on the path from Kinlochewe


Fab thank you, any information like this is really useful. I don't think I would be going the through Glen Loyne, as think I would take the ferry from Fort William and head to Glenfinnan, but I haven't fully planned my route yet but keeping any notes such as this or from trip reports that I think relevant and it will definitely help.

I can get him over a stile, probably even if fairly high as long as its not got barbed wire running all over the top of it, its the barbed wire that is a no go. And a stock fence with barbed on top and no stile is a dead end. He wears a harness such as they do on search and rescue dogs that has a handle on top and is handy for lifting and pulling them up over things, or lowering down etc.

I realise I am making it harder by taking him and upping the odds on not making it through to Cape Wrath, but really do want to take him unless something rules it out as defo not feasible...
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