A kayak trip and wild camp to Sgurr Mor across Loch Quoich
by Mountainlove » Tue Dec 06, 2016 7:31 pm
Route description: Sgurr Mor and Sgurr an Fhuarain, Loch Arkaig
Munros included on this walk: Sgurr Mor (Loch Quoich)
Date walked: 03/12/2016
Time taken: 7.15 hours
Distance: 16 km
Ascent: 834m22 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).
In reality I squelched through silt, took 90 min to repair a kayak, arrived in darkness, lost my GPS and…ok I shall start from the begin.
Loch Quoich will always be my favorite loch in Scotland. I have camped numerous times on its shore, swam across it and the only thing missing was an adventure in my inflatable kayak.
Just over 4 hours after setting off from home, I passed Loch Garry and magical mist covered the countryside around it. Stopping for a photo I breathed in the fresh air and hoped that the fog meant that I would have an amazing invasion during the next morning! Full of hopes I continued.
Foggy Loch Garry
Across the other side
The further I drove into the glen the sunnier it got and by the time I arrived only a few clouds covered the highest peaks.
Magical Loch Quoich
Slow moving traffic
The locals relaxing
I parked at one of my favorite spots and inspected the water level. It was very low. I am guessing a good 2-3 meters’ difference in height in comparison to summer.
Once I unpacked my car I carried my gear down to a dry area close to the shore and started to pump up my boat. But for the first time it would not inflate evenly. Looking at it the material it was twisted in places where it should not twist. What followed was numerous deflations and inflations mixed with a growing rage until I found the problem.
Annoyed of having lost valuable time I carried the kayak down to the water and crossed a sand/silt bank. It was soft and I walked on hastily, but the closer I got to the water the further I started to sink. Panicky I let go of the boat and aiming to free my welly I took another step and sank even deeper. Freezing cold water gushed into my welly and taking another step I was knee deep in water. No no no I did not want to go for a swim!!! Once I freed myself and poured 2 pints of water out of my wellies, I looked for a more suitable place to enter the water. I found one a bit further down the loch and once I carried all my gear and packed the boat, I was caked in silt but finally able to go.
Time to set off
My muddy wellies
Once I left the shore behind I started to relax. The water was calm and even though the boat was heavy with all my gear in it I was able to cover the 4 km distance in around 1.5 hours. (Inflatable kayaks are a lot slower than rigid ones)
Back to my happy self
On the way towards Sgurr Mor
The sun had set by the time I had found a suitable spot to ‘land ‘my kayak (I had learned my lesson to avoid silt) and once I had set up camp, it was dark. Equipped with my head torch I went for a short excursion and saw the land rover track I would have to follow the next day. Happy that I had found the start of my walk, I settled and had dinner.
While I waited for my dinner to cook, it was time to take the waterproof trousers and wellies off I had worn to kayak and tend to my now frozen feet…wet sock-less feet in wellies in winter aren't a great idea. Just as well I had brought a hot water bottle!
The hot water bottle had been the best idea I had in ages! Sounds of Ahhs and Ohhs escaped my lips when I slipped the bottle in my sleeping bag and my feed underneath it. I shall never camp without one I vowed. The heat was blissful!
Reading my book while cuddling my hot water bottle, I was happy and was able to laugh about the misfortunes of the day. By 8 pm I switched the switched the light off and settled to sleep.
My campsite (taken during the next morning) You can just see the path behind my tent across the burn
I would love to say that I fell asleep in an instance, but that wasn’t the case. I had camped next to a small water fall and had not realized how loud it was. Have you ever listened to running water for a long period of time?…needing a pie is unavoidable . My ear plugs numbed the sound a bit, but I tossed and turned waking up numerous times throughout the night.
I woke with a start, what time was it? My mobile read 5:50 am …whoa…. for the first time ever I did not hear my alarm.
Never mind I had to get going and in record time I was dressed and on my way by 6am. Looking up the night sky was amazing and twinkled with millions of stars. Forcing my eyes on the spot of light in front of me I had to cross the hurdle…. a river in the dark. I don’t particular like river crossing, but crossing one in the dark is even worse than in daylight!
Luckily I managed without falling in and once I was on the other side, I followed the great land rover track which I had seen the previous evening. The path climbed gently up the hill and I knew that at some point, I would have to follow a fainter path towards my right. Walking in the pitch black is always a strange experience. A deep black shape made out the mountain to my right, but otherwise everything else was the same shade of black. Following the small beam of light my head torch cast in front of me, I walked in a world in which time seemed to stand still.
Around half an hour into my walk the path stopped climbing and I stopped to dig my GPS out of my bag. GPS…where was my GPS? I turned out pockets and emptied the bag where is it? Slowly had to admit the truth, I had lost my GPS.
Frantically I was recalling what I had done when I set off. I had put the GPS in my bag the night before, had grabbed the bag when I set off and ‘oh’ I had searched for my gloves. My GPS must have fallen out at the same time and still be around my tent.
I looked up the pitch black mountain. Should I try to climb it in the dark without a map or GPS to guide me? There are times when safety has to come first. I needed to return and find my GPS.
Back at my tent, I was relieved to see if laying on the grass. Otherwise I was angry, here goes the chance to see the sunrise. Saying that I knew I could try the direct way. A path would lead me halfway and with the approaching daylight surely I could managed the last bit!
I raced off, crossed the burn a third time (it gets easier with practice) and made my way up the path.It was slowly getting lighter and by the time I left the path, I was able to make out the countryside around me. Just as well as it was impossible boggy and a relentless crossing of small grassy bumps and endless burns (not recommendable in complete darkness)
On the way up once it got light around 8am
By 8am I was able to switch off my head torch and I was sweating buckets in the cold morning air. Far too much exercise on a Sunday before breakfast!
At exactly 8:40 I approached the bealach between the Corbett and Munro. The views were lovely, but my much awaited sunrise was shielded by a thick layer of clouds. One can’t have it all I guess. It was too cold to linger and I had to reach the top.
How the world looks like on a Sunday morning in December
View towards the Corbett
There is a sunrise behind the clouds
It’s a steep path to the summit and the ground around me was frozen solid. Once I reached the cairn, the views out towards Knoydart, Loch Quoich and down south were stunning.
The summit in the distance
Towards the Corbett and Gairlich
Lochan mam Breac
Towards Loch Quoich
Close to starving I evaluated my need for breakfast, with the possibility to freeze to death if I stayed to unpack and eat it. With a deep sigh I decided that a frozen Rolo bar on the way down would have to do. Sucking my frozen Rolos, (one way to make chocolate last), I made my way down back to my tent. Not fancying the same way I opted for the shoulder called Meall a Choire Charnach. I must say it was a fantastic way down and one of the best pathless walks I have had down a mountain. Very much recommendable!
The way back down Meall a Choire Charnach
I need to return at some point!
The end of Loch Quoich
My campsite and 'garage'
Back at my tent I looked around my chosen campsite, which I was able to see for the first time in daylight. A shed stood on the other side, but apart from a cosy bothy interior, it held a small vehicle…I should have checked for keys
On the way back. Evidence that Loch Quoich must have been covered by trees before the dam was build
Unfortunately, it was time to go and pack up. On my way home with blisters on my hands and aches from kayaking I was knackered…but what an adventure it had been.
I might have climbed all the Munros around Loch Quoich in some usual ways, but I left out the Corbetts on purpose…for a time to return for more adventures around my favorite loch in Scotland.
What the local wild life had to say
Until the next time
by jacob » Tue Dec 06, 2016 7:36 pm
Some nice atmospheric pics there as well. Nice one.
by Borderhugh » Tue Dec 06, 2016 8:23 pm
by litljortindan » Tue Dec 06, 2016 8:46 pm
by weaselmaster » Tue Dec 06, 2016 9:00 pm
Love the second picture in particular.
I think you need to find another method of getting across Loch Quoich now - swim, airbed, kayak...something more challenging is called for
by DaveH82 » Tue Dec 06, 2016 9:28 pm
by Marty_JG » Tue Dec 06, 2016 9:51 pm
DaveH82 wrote:Great report and photos. I am now looking at inflatable kayaks, looks like the best way to do this hill and some others.
This German packrafting store does a good comparison chart of the various options.
Personally I'm looking at the Supai Matkat, as it's below 1kg, but it's also very fragile. Lots of options in the 2-3kg range though.
by DaveH82 » Tue Dec 06, 2016 11:27 pm
This German packrafting store does a good comparison chart of the various options.http://www.packrafting-store.de/images/content/CC_EN.pdfPersonally I'm looking at the Supai Matkat, as it's below 1kg, but it's also very fragile. Lots of options in the 2-3kg range though.DaveH82 wrote:Great report and photos. I am now looking at inflatable kayaks, looks like the best way to do this hill and some others.
Thanks Marty_JG. This really could open a new approach to me tackling some hills.
by rockhopper » Wed Dec 07, 2016 1:03 am
Good result though and well done - 'tis a great area for this sort of trip
Think I'll leave this sort of thing to you youngsters and take it easy - cheers
by Marty_JG » Wed Dec 07, 2016 1:29 am
I've been promising myself a camp-out on Eilean I Vow, I really should get round to that...
by Mountainlove » Wed Dec 07, 2016 1:02 pm
@ Borderhugh: Thats for sure and I do look forward to the next trip...saying that my kayak is still blocking most of my spare room in order to dry out (much easier in summer)
@ weaselmaster: I don't think I will ever beat the camping devotion of you and sick kid in any kind of weather . I think as well that I am slowly running out of alternative ways to reach mountains.
@ Dave82: Mine is a Hydro-Force Ventura Kayak. Its 20 kilo, but folded up it fits underneath my bed for storage and in my small car with all my camping gear. It is a 2 man one and can carry up to 200 kilos (something to watch out for) I have used it a lot this year in lochs and in the sea and it did great.
Based on online reviews and being £200 it was the best value for money one.
By the way if you are looking into boats don't forget to look into paddles...they are your 'boots' in the water and need to be long and light enough.
@ rockhopper: You are taking it easy? I remember reading about some crazy long routes you did