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3 Gulli Girls on the CWT
by Dunni » Sun Nov 26, 2017 10:54 am
Route description: Cape Wrath Trail
Date walked: 26/11/2017
Time taken: 17 days
Distance: 378 km2 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).
1. The Gulli Girls on their way
On a not too sober occasion at Hogmanay in Inverie I told my friend Alex that I wanted to do the Cape Wrath Trail. As it happens, that was on her mind as well. So we started planning the route, checking gear and considering all the possible outcomes of that trail. In the end we were three, with Liz joining our party.
After an failed attempt in the last year, where only Liz managed to walk from Shiel Bridge to Ullapool, we met for a new go at Alex´s place in Ft. Willi.
We all had agreed to a route, that, when I first had read all the oportunities along the trail, was exactly what I wanted to do.
So, my training went on not too bad, cycling, running and 2 short trips with a fully loaded rucksack. Only 2 weeks previously I purchased a new tent. It´s lighter, bigger and I can leave the inner attached to the outer. I was not convinced with its stability, but hey, we are walking 3 weeks through Scotland. There will be not wind, right?
And I was told by my outdoor retailer, that the leather boots, which I just had them put a new sole on just last year, was beyond repair. So, with a new pair of boots (Sportiva), new tent, enough food to brake my back and sunshine in the sky and our hearts, we took the Corran ferry to start our adventure.
2. Sunday, 14.05.2017: Corran Ferry – Glenfinnan (ca. 30 km – 10 hours walking)
While Alex knows Cona Glen like the back of her hand, it was new to me and Liz and an easy start to get the muscles warm, before the hard work. With bits of blue sky, tiny showers and light wind, we were making quick progress. With the colourful rhododendren and gorse at the start it didn´t bother me to walk on hard surface for much of the day. Its a beautiful glen nontheless.
After the locked bothy, where we had a quick lunch and some readjustments with our feet, the glen became wilder and the Landrovertrack shrunk to a small path over the bealach. With the unusual heavy pack on our backs we had fantasies about hiring ponies for transport.
On the way down we hit the road from the Hydroscheme. A sight, that we had too often for my liking during the next days. Here it went steeply down into Callop, where we wanted to camp first. But the site by the river opposite the house was not really promising, so we trotted further on the hard surface, the last miles to Glenfinnan like chewing gum on the feet.
Appr. 2 km after the viaduct we found a nearly perfect spot near the river and pitched the tents. First time for my shiny new Nordisk. Liz and Alex managed even to get a fire started on the pebbles. Later, Alistair drove by and said Hallo.
After an well earned pot of CousCous (meeh) we settled down.
3. Monday, 15.05.2017: Glenfinnan – A´Chuil (ca. 19 km – 6,5 hours)
Tent was fine. I slept like a baby. Weather was so so. Alistair stoped by again to say good morning. (Forgot coffee, scrambled eggs and sausages – he felt seriously sorry - good for him) Weather forecast not so smooth like yesterday – but hey, we are here for an advernture. My right food was a bit dodgy, where a blister appeared under my big toe. But I got my magic cream with me – all will be good ...
Years ago on my way to Inverie I had nearly the same poor weather. This time it was dry for at least a couple of minutes before the next shower lashed down. Due to the long dry period over the last weeks it still was no hard work to cross rivers or the more boggy parts of the path, once we left the road.
Of course, we had to walk through and close the gate on the bealach. On the way down we made the mistake of staying too high on the right side of the river. I knew, the first time I went down by the river, crossed it at one time and proceeded on the left side for the last mile or so. Another family, we met at the bothy ealier, got the right way first, but missed the crossing of the river. They were on a bothy trip but carried a vast amount of stuff. The father even a shopping bag besides a 80litre+ rucksack.
Anyway, stranded high up, we had to cross the bogland with all the gullies along the way. Once Liz was walking straight ahead and Alex shouted: Gulli!
Alex: »A gulli! Turn more to the right!«
Liz: »Can´t hear you«, and walks further.
Alex and Dunja: »GULLI!!!!!
Thats how we came to name us Gulli-Girls. Just in case you are wondering....
From my last time along the river I recall a really bad encounter with the Scottish bog. But this time it was fine. The tiny steep path after the bridge, where we headed straight up through the forest to the broad forest road, was even fresher in my mind. Who would forget wet logs and tied together tyres for bogcrossing? But the last mile again was just a looooong trott. We could not wait to see the tiny cairn that indicated the path down to A Chuil.
There we met Sean. An Aussie on a short trip through Scotland. He wanted to follow the CWT to Shiel Bridge. And later arrived the two dutch guys we met yesterday in Cona Glen. They started in Callop and underestimated the terrain. Alex scared them with horror stories about the path to Sourlies, that made them turn their heels in the morning back to Glenfinnan. Bad Alex, bad!
4. Tuesday, 16.05.2017 : A´Chuil – Carnach Ruin (ca. 18 km – 9 hours)
With reasonable weather above, and a not too wet bog in front of us, we got an early start through Glen Dessary. The clouds all lifted above the hilltops to make it a not too shabby day. So for a couple of hours we enjoyed walking in Knoydart, taking in all the wonderful views . (Not seen the first time, when all was in thick clouds). That came to an quick end, when we approached the lochans. It started raining. A lot. Big showers were coming in over Loch Nevis and Sourlies. But still no difficulties to cross the rivers. We arrived in Sourlies, greeted by Sean and the other guy, who was on Munro mission. The rain stoped for a minute and they were on their way again. We took the opportunity to dry our socks, have a bath in Loch Nevis (only feet) and enjoyed a long lunch stop.
After another big shower we decided to get wet again. The tide was in, so we had to climb over the knoll to reach the other side. Even here was the walk over the swamp a nearly dry thing. And of course we had to take a picture with the bridge. Liz´s walking club erected it as an act of rememberance.
It started to get warm and sunny. This was the glen, I was looking forward to explore, since I first considered the CWT. There was Ben Aden in all his grandeur in front of us, Luinne Bheinn and Sgurr na Ciche as watchdogs to his right and left. In between the River Carnach with waterfalls and slides, where little birch trees fight for their dear life. And of course – a cuckoo. Not one day over the next weeks without his shoutings. With the sun above all it was just perfect.
But it was to get even better.
Shortly before the gorge at Ben Aden´ s feet, we climbed up to the left to avoid klinging to trees. The gorge itself is already stunning, but when we came around the corner, it left me speechless. Many times have I seen pictures of this special part of the Carnoch River but to see it in real, it was overwhelming. What a magic place! The river was at first so low, that the islands were showing. Liz and I splashed through the shallow water beneath the iconic wall. The wind was strong, but after a short party meeting, we decided to pitch the tents here.
After dinner we discovered, that the river had suddenly risen a lot. No islands visible any more. There was even a Geocache by the ruin – what a great day!
5. Wednesday, 17.05. 2017 Carnach Ruin – Kinloch Hourn (ca. 17 km – 8 hrs)
This was the first morning, were I found myself shouting at my tent. It is too light for heavy winds and I´m too impatient to pack it step by step. Anyway, it survived, I had my tea and breakfast inside the flysheet, and with a helping hand from Alex I was able to pack it unharmed. After a footbath in the river we started with sunshine and blue sky to another fabulous day. Through a wet glen we climbed pathless to reach the Mam Undalain.
What a view! This must be one of the classic hill views, with nearly all the Knoydart hills on display, the gorge of the Carnach River and a glimpse of Lochan nan Breac. The path was a good but steep one to the Mam Undalain, before it drops gently to the other side, with views to Ladhar Beinn, Loch Hourn and Beinn Sgritheall. Heaven can be so near – when it started to rain. Just a enough drops, so we had to wrangle into waterproofs again. With the rising temperature it was weather for nursing orchids. On the bealach was the stretch, where we found pistachio shells. This is an important fact
At Barisdale we had a long lunchbreak, with our faces and feet in the sun, teapott in hand and a deer passing by. Just when Alex did her best (worst) Celine Dion impression, Barney walked in. He stayed with his brothers at Runival and was out for a stroll. He soon left (maybe he didnt like Celine Dion?).
After a heavy shower we carried on to the beautiful path along Loch Hourn. My first visit was in heavy rain for 4 continuous hours, with deep rivers instead of a path. This time was much better. I could even look for Geocaches. But the last mile was again in rain. But hey, there is a tearoom in Kinloch Hourn, right? A warm welcome place, where the bedragged walker can rest his tired bones. And so I found my friends inside a sparse room, sitting on a wooden table with steaming mugs in front of them. On the sideboard stood a bowl with fresh apples and I felt my saliva streaming. The owner of this place (Toni) came out of the kitchen. He didnt smile. »You want an apple? 1 pound!«
Thanks, I´m fine with a coffee. The friendly (not) owner snapped at us, if we were doing the Trail? Yeah? So? No big deal. Everybody does it these days. Pussies to walk it in conditions like this. Ha. You need snow stormes and hurricanes... bla bla.
Well, we had to move anyway, because he was expecting visitors at 6pm. Never mind.
In front of the »Café« we met Rose and Laura from London and their friends James and Nick, who we saw earlier trying to catch some fish. They had started in Glenfinnan and a hard days work behind them, because they walked all the way to Sourlies and even scrambling down the gorge. No wonder Laura was sporting some pretty impressive blisters.
At the campsite (£ 1) they had a fire going, and we a Nice Chatter with a brillant Bunch of people. Two campers from England were on the CWT as well. Besides there sat a mysterious man in a tarp, who never left his tiny home. I asked the Londonders, if they had eaten pistachios up in the hills? No, but they also had seen the shells and were wondering about it. Hm, Tarp-Guy, maybe? But we saw him earlier, when we had a break, speeding along. A cool guy: shades, earphones, long slender figure, arrogant face, tiny ULW rucksack. So he could not have been before us.
Good question. That leaves Sean, the Aussie. We have to ask him.
The blister under my toe had commited suicide. That just left the fungus between the toes to grow at rapid speed. Nice.
6. Thursday, 18.05.2017 Kinloch Hourn – Kintail Lodge (ca. 18 km – 9 hrs)
Good nights sleep, awoke to bright sunshine. The Toilette next to Tonys »Café« is open for the campers. Basic but useful. TarpGuy stayed inside his tarp (doesnt he need to go somewhere? Maybe he has a buddhist way to control his bladder ...), while the rest of us prepared to leave for the first steep crawl uphill below the pylons. The gravel road makes for quick progress. Allt a Core Reidh is as shallow as Donald Trumps mind and soon enough we climb pathless on the right hand side up to the Bealach between Sgurr na Sgine and the Saddle, with Forcan Ridge towering up in front of us. In the rearview mirror a last look at Beinn Sgritheall, Ladhar Beinn and Kinloch Hourn. Meanwhile Tarpguy/Shapeguy/Roadrunner had sped up behind us. He checked his GPS (not maps for ULW) and decided to do his own thing on the left side of the river. It looked okay and he disappeared in no time over the saddle. This was the last time, we saw him...
Coire Mhálagain was a long steep pull, untill we (and the rain) reached the wall on the other side, which led us to the usual path for the Saddle, before we dropped down into Coire Caol with its wonderful gorgelike waterfalls. We crossed the two rivers without any problems, before we walked into Shiel Bridge. At the campsite we first met James, then Sean the Aussie. He denied beeing Pistachio-Man and was glad to have put that right.
After restocking our chocolate, cheese and biscuit Departement at the filling station (don´t look at the owners hairy breast... don´t... too late) we piled into the Trekkers Lodge at the Kintail Hotel, where we had a long missed shower, washing and a well earned meal and drinks.
Some of our fellow walkers had reached their goal and wished us luck for our further journey.
Alex had sent a food parcel for the three of us and we now packed and repacked our rucksacks, only to find them far heavier than on the first day...
7. Friday, 19.05.2017 Kintail Lodge – Meall Buidhe Bothy (ca. 24 km – 10 hrs)
First of all: Full breakfast. With a full belly, burping, and a too heavy pack we started walking in sunshine – again! I know! When we passed Morvich Campsite, our 4 Londoners just got started as well and we had a group picture stop at the bridge before we sent the boys over A Ghlas-bheinn for a more challenging route to the Falls of Glomach. My last visit of the falls was more than 10 years ago. I remember, that I enjoyed the long walk in sunshine, but under time pressure. This time, the heat was on. Nearly 25°C and just a tiny breeze of wind. On the plateau the air was as still as in church. A hole in time – just wonderful. There was not much water in the falls, but I enjoyed it anyway.
I looked for my (drenched) Geocache and took some pics from the viewing point, before Alex and Liz arrived. Along the steep and impressive gorge we climbed carefully down to Loch na Leitreach, where we had a long lunch break in the sun.
Besides the easy walking next to the loch towards Iron Lodge I enjoyed the beautiful glen. The scent of the gorse stuck into my nose, long after we left it behind us. Huge numbers of deers peered down at us. I found a nice antler, which added to my already heavy pack, but it was worth the effort. We suffered a bit under the heat, had lot of brief rests and stopped for water at every opportunity.
The air started to get humid, before a shower cleared the air a bit and left us with drizzling rain. After a long, but not too muddy path through the moor we reached Meall Buidhe Bothy. I´ve heard so much about it, that I was really curious what all the fuss was about. Its a bit too dark for my liking but it was a welcoming sight after the long day.
James and Nick arrived shortly after us and decided to camp. The girls came an hour later. In the bothy was already another walker, Phillip, who had taken residence in the room with the fire. He was sound asleep, when the evening entertainment started:
The brave Laura had walked since Sourlies with an impressive selection of blisters in various states of decay. She hadn´t removed the compeed and was now facing an marginal operation. First stage: remove the compeeds, which were nearly grown into her skin. After 30 Min bathing them in hot water to peel them off, there comes stage two: desinfecting pins over fire, poking the blisters until they spill fluid (several times). Laura is kneeling on the bench, soles exposed to Dr. Alex with her four assistants and endured the whole procedure with the face of a true warrior woman!
After the operation she slaps some cream on it and gets more professional tips for future treatment. All the time the background sound is Phillips snoring. A night to remember.
8. Saturday, 20.05.207 Meall Buidhe – Allt a Chonais Camp (ca. 20 km – 7 hrs)
After a good nights sleep we woke to a grey sky. It was not raining, but just a matter of time. There was no problem – again – to cross the river, wich was one of my major concerns, when planing the trip. We choose the anticlockwise stalkers path around Beinn Dronaig and walked a fair bit up above Loch Cruoshie (looking out for the badger, Nick saw yesterday). The crossing down to Loch Calavie was nearly straight forward partly on Argo tracks and partly pathless. Due to the new bridge (instead of a wire bridge) we reached the gravelroad and followed it along the Loch through the featureless Coire na Sorna to reach the broad glen of the black water. Huge plants destroyed the area for many years to come, to build one of many hydroschemes in this area. The sense of remoteness was gone in a second, when we saw the excavators roaring through the ground.
It started to rain, so we decided to have an early lunch break at Bendronaig Bothy. The short detour was not too bad and introduced me to one fine bothy.
While we had our soup, we saw Laura and Rose walking in the distance. We followed them 30 min later, their bright green rucksack covers in sight. Today the sun was hiding behind thick clouds, with the Bealach Bhearnais fully covered. The path suddenly disappeared and I kept high up on the shoulder of Beinn Tharsuinn, where I could find easy enough ground to walk on. I was looking for the bright green covers and could not see them. Later the girls told me, they had descended to the river and had to climb up again. That took them nearly an hour. I walked far in front of Alex and Liz and didn´t know than, that Alex had slipped in the river and hurt her knee. They were really tired and cold by the time they caught up with me nearly at the top. The clouds lifted just a bit to show me the grand character of Sgurr Choinnich and Beinn Tharsuinn.
We then picked up a good but flooded path, that led us to the wire bridge. We used the wires as handholds, to cross the knee deep water. After another kilometer we found a good campspot in the bend of the river Allt a Chonais. The moment, we had pitched the tents, the rain stopped. Sun and wind helped us with drying the waterproofs and socks. Much later, Laura and Rose sped by, to arrive at Gerrys Hostel, before the group of 11(!) people behind them were snatching all the beds. That group had walked all the way from Iron Lodge and were knackered.
During the night a monster rainshower woke us up, but my tent kept me cosy inside.
9. Sunday, 21.05.2017 Allt a Chonais Camp – Kinlochewe (ca. 20 km – 6 hrs)
One week already on the trail. The sun was shining, the tent dry, the mood good. Alex had some issues with her Salomon shoes, but besides that, we were ready for this short day. Many bikers and hillwalkers passed us on the way down to Craig. After a short bit along the busy road, we climbed up the Coulin Pass. As high as my expectation were, as bitter was my disappointment, when I saw the damage of the hydroscheme and the roads they had cut with bulldozers into the landscape. Liz, who had walked this just last year was horrified as well.
For the next five or something years I can´t recommend this leg. It´s probably a nicer but harder alternative, after Meall Buidhe to go clockwise to Bendronaig Lodge and over Strathcarron, Ling Hut and the Torridon Hills to Kinlochewe. This is from now on on my to-do-list.
Anyway, we climbed steeply up on the horrible road to the pass, had to wait two times for a lorry to pass, and down to Loch Coulin. It started to rain, but nothing serious. It was still too warm, to leave the waterproofs on for too long. With the Torridon Hills in sight, the walking was easy.
At the bridge we met with our friends from London again. James and Rose had met another couple at Gerrys. Craig and Lianne are on the CWT too and they get famous amongst us, because every evening they bake fresh bread (aka Bakers)
Alex and Liz decided to walk along the road (and got a two-mile-lift), the rest of us climbed up through the forest. It was all on big bulldozer roads, but at least we had a good view to Liathach, Beinn Eighe, Beinn Alligin and a glimpse of the Fisherfields. Somehow I ended up walking next to James, who was ridiculous fast. While trying to keep up with him and talking the same time, we missed the path, that leaves the gravel road. Instead we ended up on the road to Kinlochewe. James smart GPS told him, there is a path on the other side of the road. So we went to experience a nearly none existent, wet, overgrown old track, which we left after 30 minutes fighting with the bracken, to join the road again.
The Whistle Stop Café was closed! On a Sunday. In May. Main season. Can you believe that?
Instead we could admire (not) some members of the above 300 Ps and below 3 inches Club – when you know, what I mean. They were cruising in their Maseratis, Ferraris, Porsches and other flat, loud, mostly red cars.
We pitched our tents at the campsite and went for washing, showering, shopping in the petrol station (shop closed) and met later at the Hotel for a fantastic meal.
The whisky-cask-cider is from now on one of my favourite drinks. Along with the healthy 3-beet-root-salad with Haloumi and hazelnuts (I know) it makes a good and light dinner, before heading to bed.
10. Monday, 22.05.2017 Kinlochewe – Achneigie (ca. 25 km – 8 hrs)
This was another one of my most awaited days, because I walk it 5 years ago from Shenevall to Kinlochewe in an 11 hour epic with an nice old guy, when we were caught in a blizzard. When the blizzard ended, the rain had taken over for the rest of the day.
Now we got a sunny start again, but the clouds were gathering on the horizon. On the way up to the Heights of Kinlochewe the track had once again turned into a bulldozed road but they managed to hide the hydro machinery in nice wooden sheds. The damage here was not as horrible like on the Coulin Pass. After the bridge the path improved, so we enjoyed the walk to Lochan Fada in warm sunshine with the great view over to Slioch, Beinn Eighe and the Fisherfields.
Oh, and by the way, that misleading sign to Bealach nan Croise pointing into the wrong direction is gone.
We had a short break at the cairn before heading up to Bealach nan Croise. Some kind of path led us up a dry shoulder, where it disappeared. We didn´t met the lochan, but crossed the river at the slabs, before picking up a faint path further down, that led us over the Bealach. We followed the river just a short bit to cross over to the left side, where Alex found a good stalkers path. 5 years ago we struggled on the other side with ups and downs through the heather. What a relieve this path is now. Despite the showers it was a straight forward walk to the beautiful Loch an Nid.
After 8 hours we reached the alder forest at Achneigie. From the time, when I first saw this spot 5 years ago, I wanted to camp here. Its one of those magic places. With a wall of gorse, a beautiful river and stunning views in all directions, specially to An Teallach.
James had already his tent up in the ruins. We shouted his name, but he was either fishing or asleep (the latter).
There are a few perfect campspots among the trees. My tent was a bit wet first but dried in no time. But I just dared to move in with the furniture, when Alex and Liz had already finished soup and tea.
When the girls arrived later, they moved James tent under the alder trees as well. Soon we had a fire going and enjoyed the brilliant sunset over An Teallach and Strath Sealga. I set off to the riverbank for a photo session. What a great day!
11. Tuesday, 23.05.2017 Achneigie – Ullapool (ca. 18 km – 6 Std)
Despite some heavy showers and gusts I slept well. My tent was dry from inside and outside. A grey sky again, but the summit of An Teallach was cloudfree. Alex was a bit upset with her cooker, who failed her badly.
Shortly after 9 we climbed up the Landrovertrack and enjoyed the view back to Glen na Muce, the Beinn Deargs, Fisherfields, Fannichs and of course An Teallach.
After a while James came speeding behind us. The rest of the troops caught up on us much later. At the cairn we met the two swiss guys from Meall Buidhe again (One camped, the other slept in a tarp At Achneigie they both slept in the tent pitched by the ruins)
On the steep way down we met two mountain bikers, who were on a 550 Mile Trail. Gosh. By now, we all felt the tired bones. Ullapool is one of the milestones besides Shiel Bridge and Kinlochewe. Although we did relatively short days with a lot of breaks and a sensible pace, the (for me) unusual length of the trail took its toll. My new boots were doing great, but the heat and moisture inside helped me grow a whole farm of fungus between the toes. That hurt a lot, but was okay after some miles of walking.
We reached Corriehully some 2 hours later, walked a short bit along the road, crossed the bridge (sun and heat out again), before we crossed on a sheep path steep up the hill to follow a good path over the mooreland. While we had a short break, Rose, Nick and Laura caught up with us. The swiss guys were in front, James had waited for us. So on the way down to Inverlael we were a group of seven. The last bit on this coffin road (because they used this path to carry the coffins from Inverlael to Dundonnel) was horrible steep down. Eventually we crossed a field and reached the road.
At the busshelter we gathered and called a Minibus from Ullapool ( £18). The Moment we climbed into the bus, it started to rain – thats what I call timing.
At 3:30 pm we were in front of the Hostel. It opens at 4:30, so we walked over to the FBI, for a drink. Inside the Pub they played exact my favourite music (Elbow, Tori Amos, Arcade Fire...) That had to be a sign, that everything was in order.
Then the CityLink arrived and out jumped our old friend Donald (the nice one). He just had travelled for more than 5 hours just to keep us company for a couple of hours – thats what I call friendship.
A big Hello, before we sorted out our rooms. Washing, Shower, Shopping, Tea and far too expensive Fish and Chips in the famous Seaforth. I found the fish just okay for that money. They sell the same portion for just half the price as take away. Anyway, had earned it.
After a late night tea, we crawled in our far too warm beds.
12. Wednesday, 24.05.2017 Restday Ullapool
This grey, rainy and windy day was like a normal tourist day for us. We had a long sleep in, a long breakfast and a quick farewell do Donald. The three of us did some shopping, before we went our own ways. Alex met with a friend, Liz and I went shopping for some drugs (the nice ones) before Liz went to Tesco and I followed the riverwalk to do some Geocaching.
For lunch I stopped at the Seafood Shack (delicious Skullen skink), before meeting with Liz and Rose at the Ceilidh Place.
The four London guys had reached their final destination. When we met for dinner at the Ceilidh Place, Rose and Laura pulled out a game, in which they wrote down dozens of words, related to the last 7 days. We devided in two groups and in the first round we had to describe the word without naming it – funny. The second round was to mime the word and in the last round we had just one word to describe (For example: hairy = Shiel Bridge, because the station owner showed his hairy breast hair)
It was a funny game, entertaining the whole place and reminding us of all the wonderful people, places and events we found along the way. We all loved it (even Alex
After the farewell to the Londoners, we all felt a bit melancholic.
I slept badly and was still tired the next morning.
13. Thursday, 25.05.2017 Ullapool – Duag Bridge, Schoolhouse Bothy (ca. 24 km – 8 hrs)
The morning started with a warm sun in our face. The packs were heavy again, and today we were going to feel it – the heat was on!
The first miles were along Loch Achall on a good Landrovertrack. I normaly don´t like these roads, but today, in this heat, we were happy, just to trot along without much climbing or pathfinding. The biggest problem today was finding fresh water. The small burns were just dry stones. The bigger ones were infested by sheep and deer. And finding a bit of a shade was equally hard. With nearly 30 degrees and just a bit of a breeze the road seemed to be endless. We saw lots of mountain bikers. The views were not spectacular but nice. Instead of mountains, green rolling hills on both sides of the river. The most impressive sight was the top of Sheana Bhraigh, towering over the Glen Douchary. My feet were steaming, but the mood was good again. The passing of Glen Achall was the highlight landscapewise today. When we had our lunchbreak we listened to a cuckoo out of his tune. Very funny.
Next time I would pick the Glen Douchary route for a probably more scenic alternative. After 6 hours we stopped at Knockdamph bothy. A fine place for an overnighter, but we pressed on to Duag Bridge, where we were greeted with a »red carpet«.
The M.O of Schoolhouse Bothy, Peter Aikmann was working on a sleeping platform in the right room. Alex had sent him the schedule of our trip, and he knew, that we were coming today. He also brought us cake – what a nice surprise...
The swiss guys camped outside the bothy and we invited them in for cake and to escape the midges.
Later the landowner stopped by and complained about the low rivers, because that was bad for his fishing companions.
After a refreshing bath amongst rocks in the impressive river, we had dinner, tea and lots of talking before heading to bed. The heat had us knocked out.
14. Friday, 26.05.2017 Duag Bridge – Benmore Lodge Camp (ca. 27 km – 7 hrs)
The Schoolhouse bothy is one of the few bothies without a fireplace – but we didn´t needed it. Due to the good insulation, it was quite cool inside and kept the heat outside. I slept really good. At 5am Peter started to saw and hammer around in the other room. »Sun is up«, was his excuse. So we started our morning ritual with tea, bath, breakfast and getting organised. The morning mist cleared, and by the time we were heading down to Oykel Bridge, the heat was already tiring. My feet didn´t liked the gravel and tarmac, but today was one of the days, were we had just that.
At the Oykel Hotel we had a fantastic coffee. Soon the swiss guys arrived and we chatted with the owners (+ dog), who told us, today they expected around 30 degrees. It was even hotter than on Barbados.
On the first miles I felt like on the West Highland Way. A boring Landrovertrack with the (not too busy) road to Inchnadamph in sight and a big but shallow Oykel river as company. The next problem was the water. Oykel River was too far away for a quick dip, so we sipped sparsely on our flasks. After 6 Kilometers we reached a bridge, where the Allt rugaidh Bheag joined the Oykel. In a thin shade we had lunch break. We bathed our feet and Alex did some operations on her blisters.
After the next bridge we looked for an steep climb up to the other forest track. In retrospect we could have stayed down by the river. The access for the fishermen is a good road as well. Maybe they wanted to separate the fishing folk from the walking.
Thanks to some thoughtfull deer, Liz found a good path up a green shoulder between the felled forest. Alex and Liz were suffering badly. Even in the forest we could not find that much of a shade or water. My fungus infested feet were killing me. Only the sight of Ben More Assynt and Breabag put a spring in our step again. With the wonderful Loch Ailsh and Ben More Lodge in front of us, we walked on tarmac again. At every green bit in a shade we imagined a nice campspot. We even considered the beach and a garden. We left the houses behind and followed the River Oykel to a branch, were we pitched our tents.
It was still so hot, that the 3 of us all had a bath in the river and ran around half naked. I had to remember myself, that I was in Scotland.
We waited for the swiss guys (not half naked), but instead there comes Isabella. Over the next days she became really famous amongst the walkers we met.
She was already wondering if she should pitch her tent somewhere else, but we invited her to our site, which hold stil a lot of space. She pitched her tent, but without the lines, that hold the tent up. Okay. She didn´t touched the water, she had no cooker, no mat, no hot food and – no maps. Oh, and she started this morning at Knockdamph bothy. The day before she had started at Shenavall. We looked at her and counted the miles in our minds. »Oh, it was such a nice weather, so I wanted to walk on.« She had done nearly 30 miles in the heat, 17 hours without real food and on feet that looked even worse than Lauras. She popped pain killers like smarties. Okay. You probably can do that. We all felt suddenly really old and weak. Liz gave her her map, Isabella took it but her aim for tomorrow was heading for the Inchnadampth Hotel, so they could print out a map for her, and than she would meet us in Glencoul bothy. Ooooookay.
We offered her hot soup, but she was looking forward to her cold oats, so we left her to that.
She told us, that the swiss guys camped further up between the trees. So that was the last thing we heard and saw from the nice chaps. I hope, they made it as well.
15. Saturday, 27.05.2017 Benmore Camp – Glencoul Bothy (ca. 22 km – 9,5 hrs)
This part of the trail was one of the reasons I wanted to do the whole CWT in the first place! We all had hoped for the best weather to be able to do it, and the weather godess delivered. A bit too much of everything, but anyway.
At 4am I had to go to the loo and met Isabella, who was already in walking clothes (maybe she slepet in them?). By 5 she was gone. I crawled back to bed till 7. Sun was shining, perfect blue sky. By 8am it was already 20 deg. After crossing the river, the path led up to a steep climb up on the shoulder of Eagle rock. To our left the towering mass of Ben More Assynt caught the eye, to the right the wild moorland with a lot of lochans dotted all over. The path was better than expected, but this was after a period of drought. After a couple of days rain this would be a different ball game. There was still the one or other swamp to cross, but thankfully not too bad. The sun was burning with more than 30 deg. and my suncream was empty. So I went for the old fashioned way: I slapped mud on my arms and legs and hoped for the best. Alex muttered something like »Warrior woman«, and »I like your style!«, but anyway, it did the trick and saved me of sunburn and midges. Ha!
Behind us darkened the sky for the expected and forecasted thunderstorm. We hoped for the best.
Even here they cut a track through the hills. It winds its way up and down along the shoulder of Ben More Assynt. When the path zigzagged up Beinn Fhurain, we left it in the zig and headed pathless towards the Loch Bealach a Mhadaidh. The navigation was good, the going not too bad but we crossed the river further down, than Harveys Map suggested. From here we cut down nearly to the shore of Gorm Loch Mor – another wonderful remote Loch with tiny beaches. We found sort of a path on the steep shoulder, walking on snow white quartzite.
We crossed the loch as soon as possible at a narrow shallow point and headed pathless again over the Cnoch an Fhuarain Bhain. That was the moment, the rain started. Not a soft one. Nope. The full cats and dogs kind of rain. I just had put jacket on and raincover over my rucksack, but left off the trousers. For good measure they put in some hail as well. Nice.That meant after five minutes my feet were squashing in water. But hey, we wanted to cool down, right?
The terrain over to Loch an Eircill turned into a survival trip. The view over Glencoul was clouded with rain, but the landscape reminded me of something from Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. Incredible cloud formations hoovered around the Stack of Glencoul, turning the gorge in some kind of mystical place. A waterfall sprang over the edge of the cliff, leaving a veil of water behind. Despite my burning feet I enjoyed even the last really steep Landrovertrack down to Glencoul bothy. What a glen! I have to come back another time.
The bothy was already occupied by a couple with a dog. (Tamsin, Chris and Fingal, they even wrote a book: »Borderless Collie«), but they pitched a tent later, because of the dog. We told them about Isabella – voila: an hour later in walked Isabella. She looked a bit knackered and her smell was ready to cut into pieces, but she made it unharmed. That night we learned, that she didn´t even had a mat and ate dry bread with tofu. »But isn´t that too boring?«, Chris asked. »Nope, it´s smoked tofu!«
Ah, thats different, then. We all were speechless. And then we saw her feet – people should be in hospital with bloody soles like that. But no. She is a really nice girl, but we all were a bit worried about her.
The bakers had signed the book as well and two german guys, named Christian and Christian, who were 3 days ahead of us. We just know them from all the entrys in the bothy books along the CWT.
For me personally it was one of the best days.
16. Sunday, 28.05.2017 Glencoul – Loch Stack Camp (ca. 26 km – 8,5 hrs)
Of course, when we woke up, Isabella was gone. The clouds were still low and heavy but it was dry(ish) when we started the day aound 9am. Tamsin had given me her suncream (and I hoped, she hadn´t regretted it later). The sky over Kylesku and the bridge was already in sunshine. Sadly the clouds over Quinag would´nt lift, so no classic picture of that magnificent hill.
Alex´blisters and my fungus farm were boiling. Every step was like stepping into sharp knifes, but after a couple of miles we got used to the pain.
The first bit over to Glendhu was another one of this fantastic paths, I always wanted to see (and walk) for myself. After the steep pull up the shoulder of Beinn Ard the gravelroad turned into a narrow path, before faintly running through the steep side above Loch Glendhu. The view was fantastic. For me personally this path beats the one along Kinloch Hourn. The terrain was rough but mixed with rock, forest, bog and a short bit over beach. At Glendhu bothy were some paddlers stuff spread out but no sign of people. We had a long lunch break, before we continued on the good track below the gneiss rock formations. The sun was full blast out, the going easy and the feet holding up the hard ground. The turbine by the Maldie burn waterfall was nicely camouflaged into the hillside. If they keep up with this kind of hydroscheme work, I could live with that.
We walked up the hillside towards Loch an Leathaid Bhuain. The view – again – from high up, where the path met the other one coming from Kylestrome, was fantastic. Sadly Quinag was still hiding behind clouds. Ben Stack, Ben Hee and Arkle came into view as well. The track now took us over a plateau towards Loch More with one of the best views I had experienced. I always loved the far north of Scotland and this out of this world like hills showed me why. They might not be as high or complex as other mountains further south, but the land around them is so much harder to get through. With all this white and grey rocks, the millions of little lochans, burns and waterfalls, it is pure earth. For me, it seems like the land is showing its spines and bones through none or a very thin skin.
By now we were too tired to try the Ben Dreavie alternative. A sign pointed to the right to avoid the fenced felled area, but Alex ignored it and so we followed the steep bulldozer track down to the road.
The last 6 km on the Achfary road were the hardest bit of the day. I soooo hate tarmac walking. This is a quiet road through wonderful country, along Loch Stack and with Ben Stack towering over us, but we were all happy, when we reached the old boathouse. It was first a bit strange to camp that close to the road, but the place was perfect.
We pitched the tents, had dinner and a food-bath in the loch. Arkle and the Achfary hills had their heads in dark clouds but it stayed dry. Another great day!
17. Monday, 29.05.2017 Loch Stack – Strathan Bothy (ca. 25 km – 8,5 hrs)
Want to buy a used Nordisk Telemark 2 tent? I´m angry again. The wind had picked up in the morning and the walls were falling down on me. I cooked my breakfast in a hurry and get my pack stuffed in the shelter of the boathouse. Liz and Alex did the same.
Arkle and friends looked amazing. The sun was out – again, but the wind kept the heat (and midges) away.
On the nice landrover track passing Loch Stack Lodge we had a better view of Foinaven – one of the few fine hills in the north, I´ve already been on.
The wind shoved us onwards. We were in T-shirts and shorts again. I was looking for the Loch a Garbh-bhaid Mor, but that was hidden behind the bumpy land. On a flat rock we saw a kind of a cairn. So we left the good track and followed no path through a relatively dry(ish) swamp down to the loch. This was rough.
At first we stayed higher up, but that turned out to be even harder with all the ups and downs so we took a faint and narrow path further down by the shore. Between the lochs we looked for a dry place to sit down for lunch. Nearly impossible. So far, this bit was for me one of the hardest walking on this trail. I don´t mind climbing and scrambling, but this deep wet swamp took a lot of energy.
The Garbh Allt was another obstacle, we were coming to. It was not too deep, so we kept our boots on and splashed through. Feet were just wet enough to keep my fungus farm happy. The boathouse with the blown off roof was a landmark on its own. Impressive.
After the river, the path appeared again. Nice and easy winding its way along the Rhiconich River. We enjoyed the last bit to Rhiconich. The Hotel was closed, but the famous toilets were open. So we had a break in the sun to dry some stuff. I put dry socks on (dry, not clean) before we trotted on tarmac again towards Kinlochbervie.
The Schoolhouse Tearoom looked promising, but we needed to reach the London Stores. Like Ullapool or Kinlochewe, this was one of the carrots, dangling in front of our noses all the way, pushing us forward, keeping us going. None of us had ever been in it, and we had mental lists, what luxuries we were about to buy there.
On the road, Alex nearly got killed by one of the race cars, in the camouflage shapes of a camper van. She was still a bit upset, when we reached the London Stores. The owner is an original and so is this shop. Short people like Alex will have problems to see all the stuff that is piled over and under the shelves. We took our time. Liz asked for coffee and he made us two cups in the back of his shop. I didn´t dare to take a picture of this unique shop, but I just can recommend everybody to visit it.
With some treasures in our packs we started the next hairy bit: Up the »Peat Path« to a river, where the path ends and the peat starts. I was aiming for the Meall Dearg, but Alex asked her compass and stayed more to the west side. Liz followed Alex through the bog between the hills, while I kept further up. I had hoped to get a glimpse of Sandwood Bay, but instead I got a great view to Kinlochbervie, the hills, we came through and the Loch Mor a Chrasaig. The terrain was good and I just enjoyed the great weather. We had plenty of daylight left, a bothy awaiting and only 2 more days to go.
As soon as I left the high ground and walked down through the bog, the clouds came in. Then it started to drizzle. It drizzled a bit more, so I sat down to don my waterproofs. On the shoulder of Meall Dearg I caught up with Alex and Liz (»We were trying to loose you.«) From here was the first time we could see Sandwood Bay.
The hills are not high, but the ups and downs through the bog were hard enough, that I was looking forward for the day to end. Alex and Liz choose to follow a direct line to Strathan, but I picked a faint path next to a burn, that lead me easy enough to the Lon Mor. In a bent of the river was a sandbank, where I jumped over the deep water.
Alex took the new build wire bridge further up the river. When we headed up, the door of the bothy opened. Liz was puzzled as well. Who would leave the door open without showing? We hoped for the best – an were positively surprised: Bob the Cat was in charge.
He is now the M.O of Strathan but used to look after Strathcailleach. When his cat was still alive, he brought it with him and so, Strathcailleach bothy is the only one with a cat flap. We were really delighted to see him – and vice versa. He knew Alex and Liz, and I met him 5 years ago, when I joined a work party at Shenevall, where I also met Alex. He is nearly deaf, but a great guy. We had a peat fire going, dryied our stuff, and had dinner. Bob offered an Aberlour, what made the day perfect.
By now the hills were covered in mist and it was proper rain. Strathan is one of the best bothies, I´ve stayed it, and not too popular. Most people visit it from Sandwood. The only downside with Strathan is the long way down to the river. The nearest was the sandbank, where I had crossed. While I filled my Ortlieb waterbag, I found my waterbottle missing – it was swimming lazyily towards Sandwood loch. So I jogged ahead, waded into the water (sailing shoes) and stopped the escape.
18. Tuesday, 30.05.2017 Strathan – Strathcailleach (ca. 10 km – 3 hrs)
After a good nights sleep, we had a lazy morning. Today was kind of a rest day. The hills were still covered in clouds and it rained a bit. What a change. We were quite happy just to hang around, writing, reading, eating, talking and waiting for the weather to improve (not happening). Bob walked out and carried our rubbish with him. Nice.
After lunch we packed our stuff and followed a faint and muddy path above the river towards Sandwood Loch. The going was tough again. Once I nearly stepped on a birds nest in the high grass. With just one tree at one of the little burns, there was still a cuckoo shouting. Not a single day without a cuckoo.
At the Loch it rained persistent. So the visit at Sandwood bay was just a short one. We all had been here before, but it would have been nice, after all the sun we had so far, to see at least the beach in sunshine. Anyway, we took some pics and climbed steep uphill on a dune between the rocks. The first bit over the hill was nearly easy walking. That ended soon enough in a bogfest all the way down to Strathcailleach. Water everywhere. And that was after weeks of dry weather. It took us ages to cross the bog. Near the bothy we saw people coming up following the river.
Strathcailleach is probably one of the most famous bothys due to Sandy, who lived here for 34 years. The last work party had rearanged the wallls, had put sleeping platforms in and repaired the roof. We ended up in the little room with the paintings and the cat flap. The bigger room was already occupied by various walkers.
We talked to Ed, who did the CWT in 13 days. He met a walker from Poland, who did it in 11, using horse drugs, to stay awake - gosh! Why would you do that? He also had heard from Isabella. Oh, and at Rhiconich Toilets Alex discovered the chocolate wrapper, Isabella had used, so we knew, she was in front of us.
During the evening, the crowd inside the bothy grew from 8 to 14. We all had room enough, though one couple was a bit disappointed with the arrangement.
For me it all was so exciting, because tomorrow the CWT would end. This trip, I had trained and awaited for so long, was going to be over.
19. Wednesday, 31.05.2017 Strathcailleach – Kervaig (ca. 19 km – 8 hrs)
Last day! And what a day it was! It was less the walking, but the emotional bit, that made it more than perfect.
And can you believe it: the sun was shining! This night was a bit cold, but I slept good (as usual). We started by 9 with all the other people spreading in diffrent directions. Only a hand full was going to the Cape as well. Some did the direct approach over the inland to the Cape, we followed the Coastline. On the first hill the views over to the lighthouse and back to Sandwood bay were magnificent. The three of us went more or less on our own. Everybody lost in thoughts. We crossed the fence of the military area (no flags) and the river without any problems. But we soon discovered, that we were to close to the sea, so with the Lighthouse in sight, we had to detour around the gorge. Liz couldn´t be bothered and took the direct line and crossed the gorge. Alex and I walked the long way. We met again at the road to the lighthouse. Road is a big word for that bumpy bit of crashed tarmac, but the going was easy. Shortly before we reached the lighthouse, a man, sunbathing on a rock, stood up and came towards us. »Walked far today, ladies?«
Liz screamed: »Dave!«
An old buddy of hers was here to welcome us. Like a true gentleman, he carried Liz rucksack to the gate. From here I walked on clouds under my feet to the lighthouse. We left the rucksacks in front of the Ozone-Café and floated the last meters to the fog horn.
Liz and I were overwhelmed with our feelings, crying like babies, hugging and contemplating it all. The sun was shining, Dave produced a delicious sparkling wine, with the first sip getting to my system immediately. It took a while till we calmed down. A coffee, praw sandwich, dry chocolate cake and whisky helped a lot.
After some walking around at the cliffs I was able to do my Earth Cache. The place was crowded with people coming in with the mini buses. I was so proud of myself, adrenaline pumping, that I was more than happy to walk the last miles to Kervaig. On the way we met the bakers, Craig and Lianne, who reached the Cape yesterday, as did Isabella.
Liz and Dave had a lot of talking to do, so Alex and I walked ahead. The road is not that exciting, but the last bit down to Kervaig is. Coming down to the beach, with the cliffs to both sides was a stunning view.
This was another point on my bucket list ticked off. With the best weather one can wish for, we reached the huge bothy. What a great place! Huge rooms on two levels, sleeping platforms and a room with a throne for the »King of Kervaig«.
At first I had to run down to the beach. Later we sat outside and enjoyed the sun on the face.
Dave cooked dinner for us and provided more whisky. To make the day even more perfect, it ended with a wonderful red sunset. We all piled outside. With Craig and Lianne, Dave and us Gulli Girls we had a great last night just talking and making further plans.
I walked the Cape Wrath Trail!! Juhuuu!
20. Thursday, 01.06.2017 Kervaig Bothy – Ft. William.
This day was as unspectacular as yesterday had been exciting. A grey sky and cold wind in the morning with some drizzling showers. Perfect for a farewell.
The minibus driver had arranged an extra tour for us in the morning. So we won´t have to walk all the way to the jetty. What a lucky bunch of people we are.
We just walked to the road and waited for the bus. This had to be the strangest bus stop ever. 10 people waiting in the middle of nowhere for a bus. The little hut, where the army kept some wooden shooting figures, was open. So we played a bit posing with terrorists.
The minibus arrived, Alex played the luggage stapler and then we left the Cape behind us. Dave was on his bike. He arrived just minutes after the bus.
Three of us at a time squeezed into the tiny boat. Dave and his bike were the last ones to cross the Kyle of Durness. Johnny, the blue eyed ferryman was not too grumpy and actually really nice.
I had looked forward for a hot chocolate at the Cacoa Mountain, but Dave had offered us a lift to Ft. William and wanted to hit the road as soon as possible. So we dismantled his bike, stuffed our gear into the boot and ourself into his car and off we went.
It was a strange feeling to drive for 5 hours through the country, we walked in 17 days. With a lunch break in Ullapool (Fish and Chips at the take away) and a traffic jam on Loch Ness, we reached Ft. William in the late afternoon.
That was it. Now, that I write it down, I´m already full of ideas, how to do it next time. Some of the alternative routes are worth considering. For now, I´m just happy for the experience and glad, I picked the right company. There are not many people, you can survive such a trip with. And can I point out, that LIz is already 68 years old? Hats off and high five. That is some fitness, Lady! Thanks Alex and Liz! Go Gulli-Girls!
21. 10 Thoughts after the walk:
1. Check your gear before you go.
2. Don´t walk in your mothers boots (Laura
3. Good weather is overrated. We were sweating buckets in the heat
4. Some Walkers are a crazy
5. Some Walkers are idiots
6. Most Walkers are crazy but good company
7. You need a windproof tent
8. You need a working cooker
9. You can survive with just cold oats, bread and tofu (smoked)
10. Who is pistachio man?
Gear: I was impressed with my Sportiva boots. Lightweight and good grip, fast drying but my feet hurt on tarmac and the heat + moisture was a delight for my fungus only.
Not impressed with the expensive Nordisk Telemark. Its a great tent, lightweight, easy to pitch and enough space for one + rucksack + cooking, as long as there is no wind.
I always carry a pair of Sailing shoes instead of Crocs with me.(This pair got solemnly disposed in a Ft. Willi bin, after serving me for 3 years). They are better for walking, but they don´t dry as fast as crocs.
My rucksack is a rather heavy Bach. I love it, but that meant, I started with 18 kilos on by back.
New word learned this time: Gearexplosion: thats what happens the second, we find a place to camp or enter a bothy.
And a big THANK YOU to all the members of the MBA, who look after the bothies and provide a sometimes urgently needed shelter. We all should do our share to keep them tidy and secure.
Can´t wait to come back again.
A link to the pictures will follow as soon as I figure out, were I put them
by Guinessman » Sun Nov 26, 2017 8:35 pm
by Dunni » Mon Nov 27, 2017 7:47 pm
by walkingpoles » Mon Nov 27, 2017 10:03 pm
-go to the original walk report
-click on edit
-choose CWT from a dropdown menu
I reckon Guinessman tried to tell you the same thing. If it doesnt work, post here again and someone knowledgeable will answer.
And next time you meet Isabella, convince her to write a walk report:)
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