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Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jun 09, 2014 3:44 pm

Munros included on this walk: A' Chralaig, Beinn Fhada, Càrn Ghluasaid, Ladhar Bheinn, Luinne Bheinn, Meall Buidhe (Knoydart), Mullach Fraoch-choire, Mullach na Dheiragain, Sàil Chaorainn, Sgùrr nan Ceathreamhnan, Sgùrr nan Conbhairean

Date walked: 24/05/2014

Distance: 131 km

Ascent: 8135m

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The start of our long-anticipated 2 week holiday, where the plan was to get as many of our remaining Munros climbed as possible in 16 days. This included Knoydart, Kintail, Skye and Torridon. As is my way, I'd drawn up a schedule to cover 24 hills with a bit of slack time at the end - some co-operation from the weather was clearly going to be required, particularly for Skye. The long range forecast looked pretty reasonable, so it was with a thrill in the heart that we set off from work on the friday afternoon to drive up to Loch Quoich, to be in good starting position for KinlochHourn. The A82 was surprisingly quiet for a holiday weekend friday. Drove along the by now familiar road past the Quioch dam to a wee spot we've used previously by the bridge, only for the rain to start just as we stopped to pitch. Muggy, still air was just perfect for the midges who were out in force, as were the ticks, with Allison spending the next half hour on a search and destroy mission to remove as many as possible from clothes, sleeping bags etc. The rain continued through the night, but by morning it's dry and threatening to be sunny as we pack up and drive along the few remaining miles to KinlochHourn along a wonderfully twisty and atmospheric narrow road, with every layby seemingly populated by anglers. We arrived at the parking spot by the farm and went off to pay - I chose 2 nights to be on the safe side. Then it's pack up the big sacks for 2 days on Knoydart adventures.

Driving down to Kinloch Hourn
ImageP1010686 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Car Park
ImageP1010688 by 23weasels, on Flickr

The walk along the shoreline was pretty, although there are several undulations which require ascent of 100m or so each - always a bummer when you realise you are going to lose your elevation for no gain. Boggy in places, we passed above several remote houses including Tom & Claire's Tea House (which remained resolutely closed on our way out and back :( ). Fine old Caledonian pines contorted by decades of wind provided parasol-like shade as we passed beneath. The lapping of the water and the scent of the flowers were restful to the soul - although at one point the rank stench of death from a rotting deer on the beach soured the air. As we neared Barrisdale Bay the formidable sight of Ladhar Bheinn's crater like outline rose before us, joined by the graceful lines of Beinn Sgritheall to our right. Turning left at the bay we walked down a rough road past Barisdale Lodge then the bothy/campsite - only 1 tent in residence. A large bonfire sent tongues of orange into the hot, sunny air. We stopped by the bridge over the Allt Gleann Unndalain for a bite of lunch, dangling our legs over the clear burbling waters.

Setting off
ImageP1010689 by 23weasels, on Flickr

First sight of Ladhar Bheinn
ImageP1010690 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010694 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Loony Bin
ImageP1010698 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Up ahead to our right we could see the track leading up to Mam Barrisdale, where we intended pitching the tent. Luinne Beinn rose green and knobbly to the left of the track. It was a fairly easy gradient up the path, past several gushing streams and we reached the bealach, finding plenty of suitable pitching spots. Relieved of most of the weight from our packs, progress was now easier. We set off up Ladhar Bheinn, towards the imposing prow of Stob a'Chearcaill then followed the grassy ridge round to the north-west. Grassy for the most part, interspersed with patches of scrambling, this was great fun, although the number of ups and downs did tell a bit on the old legs
(I looked at the ascent stats for the day, which showed 1776m ascent for one hill that's only 1020m high - that's almost an extra Corbett!). Heading towards Bealach Coire Dhorrcail we met a Californian who was on day 17 of a walking adventure, with a great staff and a pack that looked as if it did contain the proverbial kitchen sink. He proved affable company, telling us he never removed his pack, and had used it to fend off bears when walking the Pacific Crest Trail. Marvelling at his fortitude and fearing for his knees we wished him well and went our separate ways.

Towards Stob a'Chearcaill
ImageP1010698 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010709 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Looking back on Stob a'Chearcaill
ImageP1010711 by 23weasels, on Flickr

The way ahead
ImageP1010712 by 23weasels, on Flickr

More brief snatches of scrambling and superb views accompanied us as we reached the final rocky sections of the ascent then the grassy rigde to the summit cairns and shattered trig point. We looked out over the sea to Skye and Rum, NorEast to Kintail, a fantastic vantage point on a clear day. We returned to our tent at Mam Barrisdale by the same route and as I went off to find some water, Tall Story, whom we'd had a loose arrangement to maybe meet up with for the walk turned up, having climbed the other two Munros that day. We chatted briefly before heading to the tent to fix up a well deserved meal.

ImageP1010714 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Loch Hourn
ImageP1010716 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010717 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Last ridge to the summit
ImageP1010719 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010721 by 23weasels, on Flickr

The way we've come
ImageP1010724 by 23weasels, on Flickr

View down Loch Hourn
ImageP1010726 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Summit, Sgritheall in background
ImageP1010728 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010729 by 23weasels, on Flickr

We'll be heading there soon enough!
ImageP1010730 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010731 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010735 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Lochan an Dubh Lochain from the campspot
ImageP1010737 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Strange bird noises visited us through the night, as did the rain. Morning brought mist and drizzle but after such a superb day on LB we couldn't complain too much. We set off from the tent to do Luinne Bheinn then Meall Buidhe, along a faint path leading up into the clag. Cold windy weather, a contrast to yesterday, had us rummaging for warm clothes as we neared the top of Luinne Bheinn. Couldn't resist striking an analytic pose, stroking the chin, as I considered the summit of "Loony Bin". We then headed SE to Bealach a'Choire Odhair, before descending further to Loch Coire na Gaoithe'n Ear, with some tricksy steps needed in the mist to avoid a short section of steep crags. We continued over rockier ground to Bealach Ile Coire where we snatched some lunch in the semi-shelter of some rocks. It was then into steep scrambly territory to reach the top of Meall Buidhe. "Meall" usually denotes a rounded grassy hill - something went far wrong when this one was being named - it's much more a jaggy Stob or Sgurr. At the summit we met a mustachioed old timer with custom made one-piece walking poles who was fiddling with his GPS and gruffly announced he had "had it for the day" and was heading back rather than going on to Luinne Bheinn. We retraced our steps to Bealach ile Coire where we intended to cut across west of Luinne Bheinn back to our tent. We encountered several members of a walking group who asked if we could take one of their number -who had a minor ankle injury and wasn't feeling up to continuing onto Luinne Bheinn with the rest of them- back to Mam Barrisdale. Fair enough, we contoured round the hillside, past the pair of little lochans and back to the tent. We bade Andrew farewell as he limped off back to Inverie and we packed up the tent for our own traipse back to Kinloch Hourn. Easy going down to the bay, we saw the campsite had become busier, populated now by all manner and colour of tent. The early evening air was warm as we wandered back along the shore path, which did prove just as pretty in reverse. It was a pleasant relief to get back to the car at around 7.30pm. We'd decided to head back along the road and find a pitch spot then have some food. Hungry, it was irritating to find every spot we'd earmarked on the way in was taken, even our little spot by the bridge. Grumpy, famished and tired I continued on, deciding to just drive to Lundie where we'd planned to start off from tomorrow. Fortunately the little spot by the layby we often use was free, and not under 10 feet of water as had been the case last time we'd tried to camp there...

Analysing the top of "Loony Bin"
ImageP1010741 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Loch Coire na Gaoithe'n Ear
ImageP1010742 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Contorted rocks Bealach Ile Coire
ImageP1010746 by 23weasels, on Flickr

A jaggy "Meall"
ImageP1010747 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Mr Mustache & Sick Kid, summit Meall Buidhe
ImageP1010749 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Our return route
ImageP1010750 by 23weasels, on Flickr

View N from Barrisdale Bay
ImageP1010757 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Last view of Ladhar Bheinn
ImageP1010759 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010760 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010762 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Kintail was next on our hit list - the 5 hills around the north of Loch Cluanie, then into Affric, camping near the youth hostel and climbing Beinn Fhada and the rogue pair, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan & Mullach nan Dheiragain which had been left out of our Mullardoch round due to Sick Kid being injured. For the last year I'd harboured the plan of making Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan my final Munro until its place was usurped by An Teallach, so it was going to feel a little odd to be climbing it. My plan for Monday had been to have an easy day doing the 3 hills of the North Cluanie Horseshoe, then head off the day after with full packs over a'Chralaig & Mullach Fraoch Coire to camp near AltBeithe. After another night of rain it was good to see the sky clearing as we crossed over the raod and made for the radar station then up An Cruachan over boggy hillside towards the crest of rocky ground higher up. We caught up with an older couple at the top of Carn Ghlusaid, accompanying them to the second hill of the day, Sgurr nan Conbhairean. On our right, a sizeable amount of snow was still held in the impressive steep walled coire. We pressed on ourselves for Sail Chaorainn, mist opening and closing to views of the surrounding hills. Stopping for lunch we were joined by a couple of cyclists from Bristol, then WHers MartinH and Denise - we spent some time chatting and ended up deciding to head on and do A'Chralaig and MFC today as well - given that it was only just gone 12. Allison was torn between having a short day and the rest that brought, or avoiding having to lug big packs over 2 hills the following day, if we walked along An Caorann Mor instead. When I'd done these 5 hills last summer it had taken 10.5 hours and felt a "long day", so I was a little worried that with having a gentle start and chatting to folk we'd struggle for time but OK, let's go for it...

Sgurr nan Conbhairean from summit Carn Ghlusaid
ImageP1010767 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Summit SnC
ImageP1010768 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Mullach Fraoch Coire - will we or won't we???
ImageP1010775 by 23weasels, on Flickr

View to A'Chrailaig
ImageP1010778 by 23weasels, on Flickr

We tried to take a bit of a short cut from the north spine of SnC over to Coire a'Chait, but ended up on steep grass and loose scree and ended up having to return to the original line - some short cut! It's quite a steep descent to Bealach Coire a'Chait and Allison was far from comfortable, her energy and enthusiasm from earlier in the day having evaporated. We made slow progress up the east shoulder of a'Chraliag, reaching the huge summit cairn around 3.15pm. I was now reluctant to press on for MFC, but we met a couple of lads who'd come over that way from the hostel and they encouraged us to go for it, suggesting it should be no more than 1hr 50 there and back. It was easier going than in the rain and clag I'd had last time and we made the bealach at coire odhar easily enough. We enjoyed some scrambling over some of the jaggy pinnacles before dropping down to the bypass route for the last couple. Some loose scree and red mug but nothing too challenging and we were soon at the 5th summit of the day, not much after 4.30pm. A glance down into the valley to see what our route tomorrow would be like, the bulk of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan looming over everything. Hastily we made it back to the top of a'Chralaig just as the weather turned cold and drizzly. Clag came down and the time was ticking on. We'd planned on having tea in the Cluanie and I didn't know if they stopped doing food at 8pm - it was going to be damned tight if they did... Hunger powered my legs as we started down the slippy and steep southeast shoulder of the hill. We still had 4 miles back to the car after we reached the road, so I suggested to Allison that she take her time coming down and head along the opposite way to the Cluanie, a mere mile or so, whilst I'd go get the car - I thought that a 5 mile tramp along the road for us both might diminish the pleasure of the meal! So off I trotted, breaking into a jog for some of the trek along the road and reaching the hotel in good time (it was 9pm for meals stopping anyway). A big plate of macaroni and chips hit the spot after a long day.

Summit a'Chralaig
ImageP1010782 by 23weasels, on Flickr

View towards the Sisters
ImageP1010784 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan
ImageP1010786 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Pinnacles of MFC
ImageP1010789 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010791 by 23weasels, on Flickr

5-a-day is good for you, honest!!
ImageP1010793 by 23weasels, on Flickr

View back to A'Chralaig from MFC
ImageP1010796 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Those Sisters again
ImageP1010797 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Tuesday dawned as a beautiful sunny morning and we hoisted our big packs, thankful we were taking a low level route into Affric, thanks to our efforts the previous day. Drove to the Cluanie to leave the car then set off the 10km to AlltBeithe. The track starts off firm,dry and level, but quickly descends into boggy morass. No need to worry about water supplies heading along here! As we progressed the bog factor worsened, at one point I plunged thigh deep into a watery bog. Squelching along we then had a river crossing of the Allt a'Chomhlain to manage - being already soaked, I just plodded straight across without removing anything. I did however stop on the opposite bank to wash my toes in the cool water and squeeze my socks out. We were then nearing our objective - somewhere flat and dry near the tail of Beinn Fhada would be just dandy. Eventually we found a suitable spot on a mound surrounded by a plethora of boggy moats and set up camp. Ate lunch then decided to make the best of the day by heading up Beinn Fhada. I'd previously climbed this hill along with a'Ghlas Bheinn from Morvich, in poor visibility, so it was pleasant to have the opportunity to do it justice by walking along the whole mountain. This proved a revelation as we were surrounded on all sides by fabulous hills we'd climbed - the Sisters, Brothers, Sgurr Ghorsaic, Ceathreamhnan, Ciste Dubh, the Saddle. We headed up steep grassy slopes to the 647m point then more gradually to the imposing top of Sgurr a'Dubh Doire, looking down on the red roof of Camban Bothy. From there we walked the 2km or so to the summit proper, encircling Coire Toll a'Mhadaidh with the trig point standing out proud above the sheer cliffs below. A great way to climb this hill - thoroughly recommend it. Descent by the same route.

South Shiel Ridge from Cluanie
ImageP1010799 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Setting off alongside Am Bathach , note the good dry path!
ImageP1010800 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Ciste Dubh
ImageP1010802 by 23weasels, on Flickr

The path ahead, Ceathreamhnan in backdrop
ImageP1010804 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010807 by 23weasels, on Flickr

The long back of Beinn Fhada
ImageP1010808 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Camban Bothy
ImageP1010809 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Pitch, east of Fhada
ImageP1010811 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Pano looking west along Fhada
ImageP1010818 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Summit of Fhada in distance
ImageP1010827 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Sisters, Saddle
ImageP1010828 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Nearing the top
ImageP1010830 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Summit Fhada
ImageP1010831 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Hunter's ridge
ImageP1010832 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010833 by 23weasels, on Flickr

A busy flower
ImageP1010835 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Sleep that night was once more interrupted by even stranger bird noises, like an owl with laryngitis, but for a change it remained dry overnight. Morning brought low cloud to around 400m as we looked out of the tent. Setting off along the path to the Youth Hostel then up the good track alongside Allt na Faing, which has been deer-fenced, allowing a profusion of wildflowers and little trees to thrive. Beautiful bee-orchids studded the ground, midge eating Butterworts sent their single purple heads skywards, I really must get a book to identify more of the varieties we come across on our walks. We headed up through the corrie at a reasonable pace to reach the bealach between An Socath and Stob Coire na Cloiche, where we were enveloped in mist. We met a walker who'd started early and was returning from Mullach a'Dheiragain, having come across the flat boggy terrain of Coire nan Dearcag - ha! this would be a better route than having to re-ascend SnC and head down its steep southern shoulder back to the tent. I'm always open to route modifications that save on vertical metres. Pressing on, we started up increasingly rough and rocky slopes to SnC, the mist still swathing the summit - for a while it looked like we might have timed it to perfection for a clear top, then another bank of mist would roll in. The top is surprisingly narrow and edgy for such a big mountain and we perched on boulders eating lunch, deciding against the short walk along the enticing narrow crest to the West Top given the lack of view. A cold wind rose, chilled from the large expanse of snow on the NE slopes of the hill, encouraging us to hasten on our way. Chittering somewhat we made our way down the north-east ridge, the going steep at first then levelling off, imposing drops into nothingness from the ragged cliffs on our left. After a bit the landscape became greener and warmer and we left our packs at Bealach na Daoine allowing us to head to Ma'D unburdened. More boulderfields followed, some still holding snow, then we ascended the easy grassy slopes to the summit. Fittingly for The Hill of the Hawk, a majestic golden eagle soared upwards from the valley to our left and effortlessly flew round the northernmost edge of Ma'D before a raven flew up to harry the eagle away. I kept hoping it would return from the northern skies, but no further sightings. Returning to our packs we headed down into Gleann a'Choilich, passing between a network of small lochans and slabs. The vegetation was lush and green, again a myriad of flowers greeted us and it seemed that summer had arrived. A short slippy climb up wet grass took us back to the bealach with An Socath and we returned by our ascent path to the Hostel, stopping to replenish our water supplies in one of the crystal streams. Mist had fully lifted by now and we were treated to the vista of surrounding Kintail peaks as we scoffed our noodles by the tent.

Morning view
ImageP1010836 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010837 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Up into the Coire
ImageP1010840 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Heading for Ceathreamhnan
ImageP1010844 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Summit Ceathreamhnan
ImageP1010846 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Ridge to West Top
ImageP1010847 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Pano Ceathreamhnan from Bealach nan Daoine
ImageP1010853 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Approaching Ma'D
ImageP1010855 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Summit View
ImageP1010857 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Route over the coire floor to bealach
ImageP1010859 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010860 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010862 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010865 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010866 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Bridge ornament
ImageP1010867 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Our wee home
ImageP1010870 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Grub's up!
ImageP1010872 by 23weasels, on Flickr

Tent visitor
ImageP1010874 by 23weasels, on Flickr

We decided to have an easy day on the Thursday, as we were still ahead of schedule, so we leisurely packed up our tent and started back along the boggy path back to Cluanie. Boots were sodden, clothes were less than clean, and- having gone without a shower for six nights, we were none too fresh either - we therefore decided to book into the Cluanie and use the opportunity to shower, wash some clothes and dry our things off. My feet were complaining about being soggy for so many days and unusually, I had several painful abraisions on my toes. Taping them up as best I could I hobbled along the track, hoping that this wasn't going to impede progress on Skye. We set off around 10.30, finding a better place to cross the river without getting wet(ter) feet. Puddles were loaded with fat black tadpoles, streams gushed noisily down the mountainside, deer watched us warily from higher up the valley - oh it was grand to be out. Made the Cluanie for 1.30 and, having obtained a room, spent the next hour washing clothes and kit before taking a long shower - it was great to feel clean and fresh again. A hearty meal and a comfy bed rounded off this part of our adventure nicely. Fortunately my toes seemed to be responding favourably to some care and dry socks and I reckoned I'd be fine for Skye.

Nice dry path :lol:
ImageP1010877 by 23weasels, on Flickr

ImageP1010879 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Last edited by weaselmaster on Wed Jun 11, 2014 12:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby portinscale » Mon Jun 09, 2014 4:26 pm

A real tour de force - fantastic
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby SAVAGEALICE » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:05 pm

flippin eck you 2 ...hardcore or what! :clap: :shock: ..glad you treated yourselves to a night out of the tent! :D really enjoy reading your reports ..great detail ..look forward to reading about Skye! :D
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby scoob999 » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:49 pm

Eh......nae Corbetts :? You two are slacking :lol:

Well done ya dafties :clap: :clap:
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby ceaser » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:51 pm

was looking forward to that , fantastic report and pictures :clap: another new camera ?
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby madasa mongoose » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:57 pm

Holy moly! That's an epic! Fabulous :D
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Jun 09, 2014 6:02 pm

ceaser wrote:was looking forward to that , fantastic report and pictures :clap: another new camera ?

No davie, just the same wee lumix that I've been using this year.
Can't be fashed taking a proper sized camera up with me
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby Alteknacker » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:24 pm

Wow! Pretty damned hardcore :clap: I shudder to think what your packs weighed - 13kg, like Mountainlove?? :lol:

A great read and some wonderful pics. The pics of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan & Mullach nan Dheiragain find particular resonance - recalling great memories of the Mullardoch Round, which I unfortunately did without a camera - as does the view of my favourite mountain, the Cullin Ridge.

Waiting for the next installment...
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby scottishkennyg » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:27 pm

Nice one Al and Allison...keeping an eye out for your Skye instalment and of course the compleation.. :wink:
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby ceaser » Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:05 pm

weaselmaster wrote:
ceaser wrote:was looking forward to that , fantastic report and pictures :clap: another new camera ?

No davie, just the same wee lumix that I've been using this year.
Can't be fashed taking a proper sized camera up with me

pictures look awfy clear , I thought you had been treating yourself :D
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby gammy leg walker » Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:32 pm

Brilliant part 1 roll on part 2
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby inca » Mon Jun 09, 2014 10:14 pm

Epic stuff, some great pics and a well-written and engaging report. Well done to the pair of you :clap: :clap:
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Mon Jun 09, 2014 10:21 pm

Brilliant - stunning photos, amazing trip :clap: :clap:
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby GillC » Mon Jun 09, 2014 10:39 pm

Just amazing,,well done you guys :clap: (my knees just hurting reading that lot lol)
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Re: Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric

Postby AnnieMacD » Mon Jun 09, 2014 11:20 pm

Wow, just an amazing trip and what dedication! Definitely worth the wait (for the report). Love the pic of the wee red-roofed bothy in context!
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11 people think this report is great.
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