JOG - Cape Wrath - April 2010
by norfolk4 » Thu Oct 28, 2010 10:41 pm
Munros included on this walk: Ben Hope
Date walked: 04/04/20101 person thinks this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
We walked through the winter, figuring that a Norfolk winter night may be something akin to a Scottish spring day, it was the closest we had anyway. And then the 4th April came and all of a sudden we were driving north. One of the compensations for such a long drive from the lowlands of Norfolk (highest point: approx 300 feet above sea level) to Scotland is the seeing the country transform into, finally, the rugged majesty of the Scottish mountains. We made it to John O’ Groats and parked up for the standard photograph, before heading to Halkirk which in our infinite wisdom became the starting point.
We were very lucky with the weather, rain came and went, the wind was lazy (it couldn’t be bothered to go round us, so it just went through us), and the country started to become everything we had planned for…bog, we came to call it ‘The Dead Marshes‘ - Ever seen Lord of the Rings!!. This became a good test of our navigation in the poor weather and declining visibility, we had not, perhaps naively, expected such deceptive, unforgiving and continual bog. Still we were making the transition from clod hopper to bog trotter fairly well and eventually found space to put up the Vango.
We awoke to frozen boot laces and a cold clear day to enjoy our breakfast and the scenic bog. After last night we were a bit concerned at the route directly across country, and adjusted to incorporate paths, tracks and damn it, roads. In torrential rain we came across one of the many deer to have faltered last winter, but he made good company in the only shelter we seen for what felt an age.
After following the forest tracks we emerged in the village of Reay and we elected to find a camp spot as recommended by the shopkeeper. The walk from here to Melvich was a bit of a slog, eventually we came to the village pub, with a campsite attached. Showers and excellent hot food, and a pint eased us back into the comfort zone. We were questioning ourselves at this point, but after a couple of pints and an offer of a lift part way down the road put us in good spirits.
I read on a Walkhighlands thread about the errors or ‘what an arse’ experiences of people. Well, this was my ‘what an arse’ award moment, as driving along in the car, reaching the drop off point 10 miles or so down the road, I realised that I had left my Paramo Velez Smock in the drying room on the site. We returned, me feeling particularly cowed, the lads were good about it, but man what an arse. Another night at the pub and lamb roasts all round as an apology.
The next main stage was to get to Ben Hope, which filled all our time, we would have liked to have spent more time in the little villages and bays around this part of the coast, but the draw of the Ben was always too much. We saw, but skipped Ben Loyal as we had lost some time already, when finally we turned down for the walk to Ben Hope the clouds opened and our wet weather gear got yet another test.
Arriving at the foot of Ben Hope it was about 3pm, and after a debate about time we decided to go for it. Andy turned back after a short while and I started to hope that Hope would be kind to us. It wasn’t, after all why should it? Myself and Ady got about half way before the weather and the conditions undermined our attempt, we were up to our knees in snow, the weather was taking a turn for the worse and the wind was really starting to pick up, though frustrated we made the right decision and turned back.
Andy was kind to us and had the tents up on our return and we endured a stormy night, only to wake to another crisp morning with clear skies. We considered another attempt but supplies and time urged us to the Cape. We had planned to cross country to reach Durness, skirting the bottom of Loch Eribol, however, the bridge had been nicked and the water flowed far too swift to attempt a crossing. This meant a long hike back to the road and a long slog to Durness. During this walk I discovered the impact of devouring two packs of army supplies energy sweets, trust me you don’t want details. As a group we were despondent but we focused on reaching the Cape. The walk was long and uneventful, other than ensuring we were knackered.
We did have a stroke of luck when we stopped at Eribol church for a rest when a delivery driver stopped and offered us a lift to Durness, a sign that our fortunes were changing? No, arriving at Durness we found out that the Navy were bombing, even though Mrs Mackay and the RN controller had assured us that this was not so and that the ferry would be operating on the good Friday weekend. So we hadn’t managed Ben Hope and now we couldn’t get to Cape Wrath. Morale was low, confidence in all that we had planned was at a low point, we were also stranded there as no public transport was available. So we went to Smoo Caves to cheer ourselves up.
Determined not to fail in all respects Ady proposed that we get back to the car and drive to Ben Hope and make the attempt again. This fired us all up and after a taxi back to Halkirk in a taxi driven by the spirit of Ayrton Senna, or the drivers impersonation at least, we got back to the car. After the shakes stopped we enjoyed a most comfortable evening and made the return. This time we would make it, of that we were determined.
I feel I should add a disclaimer here, as my tag is Norfolk4. It isn’t that I cannot count but the forth dropped out. That’s probably the reason I’ve never fitted in in Norfolk as I can read, I can write, but oi cnt droive a tractor boi.
I have since found out that a religious group, the Artherian Society I think, views Ben Hope as the most prominent source of power in the UK. I couldn’t attest to that but it certainly inspired Ady and I, being that high, the views, the air, just everything about it. “What about doing all of them” Ady asked, it did seem like a good idea. Andy wasn’t able to commit to such an undertaking but it seemed a good idea to us. Ever since Ben Hope all we do in our spare time is think about the mountains of Scotland, the harshness, the rugged beauty and all the reasons that we could use to justify another visit to the wives. Within a week we did return to climb Ben Lomond via Ptarmigan.
And now our Munro total stands at 24, which since April, considering our location, is evidence of our excellent ability to justify things to the missus’s. We consider ourselves completely hooked, not just on the bagging aspect, but on exploring the Scottish end of the world. And what a part of the world it is, certainly the part of the world that has the biggest draw on a couple of Norfolk bors. Winter skills courses loom this year, the Cape Wrath Trail planned for next December, hope to see some of you around.
One of the best resources for this whole thing has been the inspiration we have drawn from the walk reports and this website in general, so from mountainous Norfolk thank you to Mr and Mrs Webster and all the contributors that keep the dream alive whilst in mountain detox down here in East Anglia.
Brian, Ady and Andy, Andy unfortunately couldn't make the next 23, he's drilling for oil in Switzerland, good luck mate, hope you hit the black gold soon. This time next year Rodney...............................
"What happened next" The sage of the next 23 - to follow at a website near you soon - Release date TBC - well it has taken us since April to get this one on.
Hope to see you there.
by houdi » Thu Oct 28, 2010 11:38 pm
Wish I'd seen something on Ben Hope!
- mountain coward
by andyfitz » Fri Oct 29, 2010 12:09 am
by rockhopper » Fri Oct 29, 2010 1:04 pm
by briansolar1 » Sat Oct 30, 2010 11:13 am
by norfolk4 » Mon Nov 01, 2010 11:04 am
by malky_c » Mon Nov 01, 2010 2:35 pm
I was up that way (well round Loch Eriboll) about a month earlier in similar conditions. Pretty hard going stuff
by weemistermac » Mon Nov 01, 2010 3:52 pm
by JazzyJarrett » Tue Nov 02, 2010 6:29 pm
Twas certainly an adventure, the report could have been ten times longer really, but we thought the above summed it up nicely.
malky_c wrote:Takes a brave person to head cross country on the east part of the north coast.
After several hours walking and sleeping in "The Dead Marshes", I can certainly relate to that.......stupid more than brave I think.
I'll try and push Brian into writing the next installment soon which will bring us up to date for the 24 we have now completed. We're totally hooked, we love the people, the scenery, the wildlife, and when you can get it, the complete isolation.
weemistermac wrote:Fantastic report Norfolk4! If long distance walking is your thing then I can strongly recommend the West Highland Way
Weemistermac, should be next year, we'll see how the bagging goes.
by frickletonh » Wed Nov 03, 2010 1:12 pm
by Craiging619 » Sun Nov 07, 2010 1:16 am
andyfitz wrote:Look forward to next report - which will no doubt be Liathach starting from Arbroath, or something along those lines.
Haha, can't wait for that epic.
by 2dalmatians » Sun Nov 07, 2010 8:45 am
by Lejogplodder » Fri Nov 26, 2010 6:52 pm
I'm hopeing to do the moine path to ben hope but have a road alternative if the weather is against me, some of your images make me think i may be taking the alternative route, but just maybe an early spring will favour my plan.
Route maps and airial view available on my blog,
Hope to blog the journey and meet others along the way. Like you, this years trip has me hooked on the shear beauty of Scotland.