Weasels on Hols - Part 1 - Knoydart, Kintail & Affric
by 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: 8135m11 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).
Driving down to Kinloch Hourn
P1010686 by 23weasels, on Flickr
P1010688 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.
P1010689 by 23weasels, on Flickr
First sight of Ladhar Bheinn
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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
P1010698 by 23weasels, on Flickr
P1010709 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Looking back on Stob a'Chearcaill
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The way ahead
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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.
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Last ridge to the summit
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The way we've come
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View down Loch Hourn
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Summit, Sgritheall in background
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We'll be heading there soon enough!
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Lochan an Dubh Lochain from the campspot
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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"
P1010741 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Loch Coire na Gaoithe'n Ear
P1010742 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Contorted rocks Bealach Ile Coire
P1010746 by 23weasels, on Flickr
A jaggy "Meall"
P1010747 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Mr Mustache & Sick Kid, summit Meall Buidhe
P1010749 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Our return route
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View N from Barrisdale Bay
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Last view of Ladhar Bheinn
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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
P1010767 by 23weasels, on Flickr
P1010768 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Mullach Fraoch Coire - will we or won't we???
P1010775 by 23weasels, on Flickr
View to A'Chrailaig
P1010778 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.
P1010782 by 23weasels, on Flickr
View towards the Sisters
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Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan
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Pinnacles of MFC
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5-a-day is good for you, honest!!
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View back to A'Chralaig from MFC
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Those Sisters again
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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
P1010799 by 23weasels, on Flickr
Setting off alongside Am Bathach , note the good dry path!
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The path ahead, Ceathreamhnan in backdrop
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The long back of Beinn Fhada
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Pitch, east of Fhada
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Pano looking west along Fhada
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Summit of Fhada in distance
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Nearing the top
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A busy flower
P1010835 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.
P1010836 by 23weasels, on Flickr
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Up into the Coire
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Heading for Ceathreamhnan
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Ridge to West Top
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Pano Ceathreamhnan from Bealach nan Daoine
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Route over the coire floor to bealach
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Our wee home
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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
P1010877 by 23weasels, on Flickr
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by portinscale » Mon Jun 09, 2014 4:26 pm
by SAVAGEALICE » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:05 pm
by scoob999 » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:49 pm
Well done ya dafties
by ceaser » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:51 pm
by madasa mongoose » Mon Jun 09, 2014 5:57 pm
by weaselmaster » Mon Jun 09, 2014 6:02 pm
ceaser wrote:was looking forward to that , fantastic report and pictures 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
by Alteknacker » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:24 pm
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...
by scottishkennyg » Mon Jun 09, 2014 8:27 pm
by ceaser » Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:05 pm
weaselmaster wrote:ceaser wrote:was looking forward to that , fantastic report and pictures 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
by gammy leg walker » Mon Jun 09, 2014 9:32 pm
by inca » Mon Jun 09, 2014 10:14 pm
by Huff_n_Puff » Mon Jun 09, 2014 10:21 pm
by GillC » Mon Jun 09, 2014 10:39 pm
by AnnieMacD » Mon Jun 09, 2014 11:20 pm
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