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Cape Wrath trail May 2015 part 1

Cape Wrath trail May 2015 part 1


Postby Guinessman » Sun May 31, 2015 11:27 am

Route description: Cape Wrath Trail

Date walked: 02/05/2015

Time taken: 16 days

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Saturday 2nd May 2015.
Banavie to Loch Lochy shore 15 miles.

Travelled up from Newcastle on the train on the day before and had pre booked a B and B in Fort William to ensure a fresh and dry start on the Saturday and also a decent breakfast. Had opted to do the Great glen start this time but despite a lot of research I was unsure where I would be camping on the first night and because of that I was unsure of the mileage to cover the first day. Trying to weigh it up and reading of the poor start to the GG way I opted to get the 08.30 train and get off at Banavie saving the first three miles. The weather was decent, sunny but a bit cool. Getting off the train I took this photo, surely one of the most scenic railway platforms in the UK?
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The track beside the Caledonian canal is easy, fairly level and a good way to ease into carrying the pack. The roadway/pathway has some fairly newly laid sections which are still bedding in resulting in some foot movement when walking.I was impressed at how well kept and pristine the canal banks are kept.
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Gairlochy at 6 miles was quickly reached and the path then climbs into the trees for about a mile and then drops down over the road and down towards the shore of Loch Lochy. I got the first feeling of being on a highland walk as the views started to open up towards the north end of the great glen. The path then continues on the Loch shore before joining the road towards Clunes. Initially when planning the route I had intended going up the dark mile from this area and up through glean Chia Aig and up towards fedden, but was put off by forestry reports and a possible 20 mile day to reach a camping spot. I reached Clunes at around 13.30hrs and had dinner on the loch shore just past the forestry gates. I could see several good loch shore camping spots but it was too early. Continuing on the Loch shore path I decided at around 3Pm to call it a day, not wanting to walk through to Invergarry and camped where I found a stream and flattish area around 230905. setting up camp a passing cyclist warned off bad weather the next day.
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Sunday 3rd May 2015
Loch Lochy shore to Poulary 21.1 miles.
The cyclist the day before had been right. The day dawned with a wet start and didn't get any better and was quite cold. Packed and away at around 8.30 and followed the track towards Kilfillan. As I walked I passed a sign for an "official" wild camping spot on the loch shore with a well laid track leading down to it. This was only about a mile on from where I had camped and would have been a better spot. Checking maps and reports later it would appear not to be on any maps. Continued on towards the laggan locks and up over the hill towards Invergarry turning left where the GG way and its waymarkers go to Invergarry. The forest walk is a bit of a trudge made worse by the de forestation. Its like a scene of devastation. As the views opened up I could see that it had actually snowed overnight

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After setting off in the morning I had this nagging feeling that I hadn't seen my reading glasses when packing the rucksack. I cant see much reading wise without them. Sure enough when checking the rucksack they were nowhere to be found and I faced two weeks without them. Logically I went through the morning in my mind about where they could be and decided that hopefully they would be on the tent floor and still there when packed away. I didn't want to get the tent out as it had started to tip down. Due to the lack of glasses I made a navigational error after Greenfields and instead of turning left towards Garrygualach went straight on and crossed over the loch by the road bridge leaving 5 miles of road walking towards the intended camping spot on the burn side opposite the path over to Glen loyne from Poulary . When putting up the tent I discovered to my relief that the glasses where in fact on the tent floor

Monday 4th May 2015
Poulary to Claunie hotel 9.6 miles.

It had been a wet and windy night. I was using a TN laser comp and not for the first time got a morning shower when the wind blew the tent. Despite having the storm cover on and tied on I never seem to get the fly taught enough and the inner and outer are always too close. I actually don't look forward to using it in anything but perfect weather. A couple I met later on in the walk had an old Robert Saunders tent which performed much better then the TN.
Walking up and into Glen Loyne I decided to stay at the Cluanie if available and dry out. The hotel has a superb drying room. The day continued wet, the view backover to Ben Tee area showed that it had thawed a touch. Passing into Glen Loyne I had to do the first river crossing using the crocs I was carrying .
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Booked into the Claunie and getting my gear sorted, the weather changed. The wind dropped and the clouds cleared and would have been a good camping night. Opting out of the evening meal I took my cooking gear down to the river and made tea and then went back to the hotel for beers. Checking the weather forecast it showed rain and heavy winds around 10.30 am the following day. I had a decision to make ironically the same decision that I had to make last September when I bailed out at Cluanie when faced with a forecast of 3 days gales.
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=49099
I had intended to camp around Iron Lodge but if the weather was atrocious I decided that I would have head to Maol Bhuide bothy.


Tuesday 5th May 2015
Cluanie hotel to Maol Bhuide bothy 21 miles.

Because of the forecast got an early start and was away at 08.15 intending to get some miles before the weather turned. I'm pleased I did as the weather turned out to be the storm from hell. Walked along the road and went up the path by the an Caorann mor. Sure enough the forecast was right and the weather turned right on 10.30am. Continued walking towards altbeithe YH and approaching the top of the pass went to feel the rucksack cover that I had put on only to find that it had blown off in the increasing wind. I was using a Lightwave Wildtrek which it is claimed is waterproof so now time to test it. Got to the bridge over to Altbeithe and sheltered by the bridge supports from the bitter wind and driving rain. It is said that Affric is very scenic but wasn't on this occasion. After finding the start of the path up Glen Gnlomhaidh went up the glen at a decent pace. A fresh track has been laid all the way up the col before the lochs and I made good time with the wind behind. However this was all to change as I got to the corner where the track continues from Loch a Bhealaich onto Dorusdain.

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I think it was about 14.30hrs at this point and had been raining heavily for 4 hrs resulting in very boggy ground and swollen rivers. I found the way passed the three lochs to be entirely trackless and by the time I got to the Alt coire lochain I found to be very swollen and dangerously fast. I first went up the hill hoping to find a crossing point to no avail and then went all the way down to the river junctions where the river drops to the falls of Glomach but the river was too wide. Knowing I couldn't camp and not wanting to retreat I walked back up the river and spotted on the far bank a track going over towards Loch Lon Mhurchiaidh. By carefully picking my way through the river I was able to cross and walked on. By this stage all paths were like burns and it was just a case of getting on with it. The path dropped down the steep Alt coire Easaich and down towards Carnach where I had to walk through the highland cattle. I got to Iron lodge around 5pm and checked out a camping spot I'd used before by the footbridge where the path leaves the path over to Maol bhuidhe, but it was too sodden. No choice now but to continue on over the pass for about 5 miles to the bothy. Ironically I later learned that people had stayed in Iron Lodge itself which would seem to be an unlocked building. I might do more research on that.
Getting over the pass I now had Maol Bhuidhe in my sights. The path down was a foot deep in water and the whole hillside sodden. As I got to the bothy I saw the normally low burn beside the bothy was heavily swollen, about 7 feet across and a fast white torrent. Looking at the bothy walls about 15 feet away I knew I had to get in. It was now 7PM and I had been walking for 11 hours and couldn't camp. Such was the speed of the water, crocs were not an option and I jumped in fully clothed boots, gaiters, pants. The speed took one foot away and the water went up to waist level, however I got across as quick as I could and made a dash for the bothy door. Inside I met Robert a Glaswegian who was sitting in his sleeping shivering and trying to get warm. Later on he said it was comical when I came in as I was talking and gesticulating with my arms the water was flying everywhere! Quickly got changed, made food, and slept upstairs under the newly fitted velux windows! what a bothy.
I was quite pleased with my efforts on this stage, 21 miles over 11 hours with full pack, in a foul storm and with numerous river crossings and felt I could meet the challenge of anything else thrown at me.
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Wednesday 6th May 2015
Maol Bhuidhe bothy to Strathcarron hotel 11.2 miles

The next day was cool, no wind and no rain but the air was damp. After breakfast conversation with Robert made our plans as we were both heading to the Strathcarron area and left the bothy. I was heading onto the north side of Ben Dronaig and the path round Loch Calavie, he using the south side path so we made our farewells. I put the crocs initially to cross the burn and then put the soaking wet boots on to round the unpathed section around Ben Dronaig. Didn't see the wire bridge initially and ended up walking through the river in the wet boots and onto the excellent 4 x 4 track all the way to BenDronaig bothy where I had lunch. There was a party of 5 in packing up and with two fires still going. Continued on and could spot the path up on the Bealach Alltan Ruairdh but not the start to it. I saw a gate standing by itself so reckoned this was the start of the path and I was correct as it turned out. The path becomes more marked the higher you climb. I felt tired today after yesterdays efforts. The weather stayed damp and I trod towards Strathcarron intending to ask at the hotel about vacancies. Got booked in and stayed at the hotel getting dried out once again. Met up with Robert that night who had pitched up his tent next to the chickens opposite the hotel (with permission) and Jan and Chris who were also doing the CWT.

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The next stage from Strathcarron up to Corriehalle was the one when I did the planning that I was most looking forward to. It turned out to be the best section weather wise.

Link to part 2 http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=52524
Last edited by Guinessman on Wed Sep 14, 2016 9:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Guinessman
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Re: Cape Wrath trail May 2015 part 1

Postby Mal Grey » Mon Jun 01, 2015 2:46 pm

Epic. Will have to read the rest tonight, as lunch hour is long over...
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Re: Cape Wrath trail May 2015 part 1

Postby petert847 » Wed Jun 03, 2015 12:04 am

great report - love the hardcore river crossings. I was so lucky with weather last year when I did the CWT last year and as a result I had no idea how bad it could - be - this year on the skye trail I did get a glimpse of what you describe here - and like you ended up going in fully clothed and hoping it stayed below the waist is the only option sometimes.
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Re: Cape Wrath trail May 2015 part 1

Postby Guinessman » Wed Jun 03, 2015 8:39 pm

thanks for that Peter. Its certainly a shock when the feet get pushed off the bottom and instinct just takes over, still there's nothing like a quick bath!

Enjoyed your video of the CWT, are you doing a Skye trail report? as I might do that this September.
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Guinessman
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Re: Cape Wrath trail May 2015 part 1

Postby petert847 » Wed Jun 03, 2015 11:47 pm

yes - I hope to get it up on the site in the next 6 weeks - its brilliant - quite different from CWT but very satisfying...
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Re: Cape Wrath trail May 2015 part 1

Postby Guinessman » Fri Jun 05, 2015 10:04 am

Look forward to it.
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