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A Wonderful Wild (and Windy) Cape Wrath Hogmanay Adventure
by Jaxter » Mon Jan 06, 2020 12:34 pm
Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: An Grianan (Parph), Beinn Dearg (Parph), Creag Riabhach
Date walked: 30/12/2019
Time taken: 13.47 hours
Distance: 42.56 km
Ascent: 1772m8 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 hour 47 minutes
We’d had a busy Christmas with trips down south to both sets of parents so we had decided that Hogmanay was for us, and like last year we wanted to spend it in a bothy. Several ideas were tossed around until I suggested a trek around Cape Wrath. This was an idea that was stupid enough to whet Malky’s appetite
Waiting for the showers to pass through we had a pleasant drive, stopping off at a few favourite spots on the way – Arkle….
…before driving up to the Kyle of Durness to leave our bikes for two days time (where a particularly viscious shower let rip as Malky was tying them up ), and then a quick visit to Oldshoremore Beach to eat our sandwiches
We found a parking spot near the end of the track to Strathan Bothy. There were a couple of other cars parked there including two others frantically packing bags – we would have company tonight!
For once we were actually packed and ready, so we shouldered our packs and off we went, making sure that Malky had both bike and car keys in his pocket
Anyone for an al fresco bath?!
Looking back towards Handa – some wonderful sky
It was an excellent track to begin with and despite the strong winds, we were making good progress as it was coming from behind us!
Loch Aisir Mor
We met two guys coming the other way around here – they and 2 others were staying at the bothy and had been sent out for supplies
We were hit by a couple of showers – they we pretty brutal but fortunately over very quickly The section along Loch Mor a’ Chraisg was awkward as the wind was hitting us from the side and the path had got very squelchy underfoot
An Grianan ahead
Once past the lochs we were dropping downhill – mercifully a little out of the wind, and we were able to see down the glen to the Sandwood Loch
As we dropped towards the bridge we saw another group of 4 approaching the bothy – it was going to be a busy one!
Safely across the very wobbly bridge we were a few very wet metres from the bothy, and finally being able to down our heavy packs!
By the time we arrived the sky was making pretty colours
Malky got the fire going (first time for everything!!) and everyone crowded in for a great night – although we were travelling light the others had carried in a lot so we were treated to a cheeseboard, several bottles of whisky and even live music as one of the guys had a fiddle
Popping out later there was an incredible sky full of stars
The ceilidh was still in full swing when we hit the hay as we had a long day coming up….
Tuesday 31st December 2019 – Strathan to Kearvaig
All was silent in the bothy the next morning when we got up. We made breakfast and snuck out as quietly as possible – there would be plenty of sore heads once the others were up
We climbed straight up the hill behind the bothy – it was steep going and our legs certainly hadn’t woken up yet
As we gained a bit of height we could see down to Sandwood Loch – one of the guys from the bothy had carried in a kite surf to use there
We carried on up – although there had been a fair amount of rain the ground wasn’t awful – my memories of Cape Wrath almost made me pack my wellies instead of boots
Looking towards what we thought was Foinaven in the distance and what could possibly have been a bit of nacreous cloud?
An Grianan looked to be one of the most striking hills in the area – plenty of tors everywhere as we headed for the ridge
Quinag and other Assynt hills
The day really getting started with some awesome sky above Foinaven
Now on the ridge it was an easy walk to the summit – the ground was decent and the wind was sort of in the right direction (but definitely strong!!)
Looking back to Foinaven and Arkle
An Grianan has an impressive cliff off the side and some awesome views
Loch a’ Phuill Bhuidhe
The photos don’t really show the wind – and it was pretty mental on the summit so we carried on, dropping down the slightly less steep shoulder before cutting under the summit tor – Tor Blimey!
Malky despairing at my terrible jokes – in my defence I thought it got funnier the more I said it
Malky had an idea of dumping bags and out and backing our next hill but I suggested a traverse would be easier. We walked around the lochan – a relatively easy river crossing saw us heading up the easy slopes of Creag Riabach (we won’t mention the peat hags )
Looking back to the Stac-Pollaidh-esque tor of An Grianan (tor blimey!)
The sun really made an appearance here – although it was still mad windy we were able to enjoy the incredible colours as we climbed
Soon the gradient eased and we had an easy stroll to the summit. We had views of the impressive looking Fashven – this would have been a possible hill for today if 1. The wind had been less brutal 2. My knee hadn’t been niggling 3. We actually had more than 6 hours of daylight and most importantly 4. Malky hadn’t been so desperate to bag Beinn Dearg instead as it hadn’t been a Marilyn last time he was here
Faraid Head – I wished I’d brought the big lens (but also glad I hadn’t as I had quite enough weight to carry
Not visible from the side we came up, Creag Riabach has an impressive wall of cliffs which is starting to become apparent here….
It was incredibly windy here and even climbing up to the trig point was a move requiring many points of contact
Summit of Creag Riabach
We didn’t hang around too long but the sun did come out over Sandwood as we dropped off the summit
Strathcailleach (the haunted bothy) just visible
Looking back to An Grianan (tor blimey!)
The descent from Creag Riabach was horrible – some really steep ground which was awkward with big packs and dodgy knees, and the wind really wasn’t helping! Some cool features though…
Finally down the worst of it – looking back to the impressive cliffs of Creag Riabach
I was freezing so we found a relatively sheltered spot to add more layers, and seeing as it now felt like sort of lunchtime we cracked out the pork pies too!
Our next target – Beinn Dearg – which didn’t look too tricky
Creag Riabach – looks like a fortress!
Actually the hardest bit of Beinn Dearg was getting through the gate, as it was sitting across a humungous pile of deep mud But once across that peril it was relatively easy going, and excellent views back to Creag Riabach
Looking down the glen to what could be Meall Meadhonach where we were in the summer (twice )
Creag Riabach again
As we gained height we spotted Ben Loyal peeking out
Creag Riabach and An Grianan (tor blimey!)
The summit of Beinn Dearg reminded us of Father Ted’s field of rocks but the views were awesome – we could see down to Am Buachaille by Sandwood Bay
Beinn Dearg summit
Field of Rocks and Fashven (definitely not happening today )
Cranky pants – he’s used to having the most powerful wind
Looking back – Creag Riabach & An Grianan…(wait for it….)
It definitely wasn’t a spot for hanging around today so beat a hasty retreat across Donald Trump’s Hair Factory taking care to spit on every last tussock…
Before…..what fresh hell is this!!!
We worked out what we thought was probably the least worst route through the bog and headed down – there were some awkward sections and one nasty bit down the side of a waterfall but at last we were on the flat
It looked a very long way
Fashven – hill for another day!
Sgribhis-bheinn – sort of above the bothy
After a lot of tramping through ground that wasn’t as bad as we’d imagined we were finally at the danger line!
Malky crossing the danger line
Although our destination didn’t appear to be getting any closer we did at least feel like we were getting somewhere when we looked back!
Malky leading the way
Getting to the business end of things
The sides of the burn started to get steep and annoying so Malky suggested cutting over a wee rise straight down to the road – although my legs didn’t agree with this it was a good idea as the ground improved (obviously Malky was just wanting to follow the sheep that were also heading that way )
At last we were at the road!!!!
And we’d missed our lift
We decided to cut off a bit of distance by heading cross country to the bothy – I’d been all for taking the road to save my knee but really couldn’t face the extra distance The sky was pretty impressive as we battered our way through heather
The bothy finally in sight
The waves were pretty impressive
There were 4 others at the bothy who arrived back from a wander to the Cape shortly after us. Kearvaig is huge so there was plenty of space for all. We were able to chill out, get some dinner on and relax in front of the fire. We went looking for the famous Kearvaig glitter ball and were gutted to discover it had met a sad end – there was a small piece hanging in the little room as a reminder of better days!
We felt ourselves flagging but stayed awake to go outside to toast the Bells (which we had to imagine as there was no signal ) – it was windy but a beautiful clear night and we even managed to see a faint aurora flickering away in the north. A wonderful start to the new year
Wednesday 1st January 2020 – Kearvaig to Kyle of Durness
Kearvaig is a pretty impressive place to wake up in any weather, and definitely a special place to be on 1st January. We had a slightly more relaxed start than the day before and enjoyed a cup of tea and some porridge – mine had only one raisin
It was insanely windy and the waves were pretty impressive
It turned out we had broken some of the bothy rules, although the “no unrestricted submarine warfare” was probably safe
We were away just before 9.30 – the others had about a 20 minute start on us. Even walking up the track was windy
What a location!
Reaching the “main road” and the minibus graveyard
Now we were out on the moorland and the wind was insane – it wasn’t good chatting weather at all (didn’t stop me from trying ) and even walking was difficult We were not looking forward to our 16 mile cycling into the wind
Looking back – Cape Wrath just visible
And a Happy New Year to you too….
Although there were some ominous looking clouds we only got the odd spots of rain – fortunately nothing to worry about
We had considered popping up Sgribhis-bheinn on the way out but given the wind that idea was abandoned and we plodded slowly on towards Inshore
Inshore lodge – we had hoped it would give enough shelter for a pee but the wind seemed to be coming from all directions
After much more slow plodding we reached Daill where we found enough shelter to stop for a quick bite (and a pee )
We were now walking along the Kyle of Durness – absolutely stunning but very windy and very long
A very shaky panorama
It was actually more impressive than the photos suggest, despite being a bit grey
We saw the others at various stages of the route – they seemed to be getting ahead then slowing down, we figured we’d probably bump into them at some point!
We did consider waiting here 3 months for the ferry but Malky reckoned he’d get hungry Just before leaving the road we stopped for another quick bite and for me to add my gaiters – we were off piste for the next 4-5 miles
We climbed up the steep path up the shoulder of Beinn an Amair – if it had been less windy we would have gone to the top but for today this was enough
Whiten Head – the other side of Loch Eriboll
Straight down the Kyle
We had thought to remain as high as possible across most of this ground, expecting it to be pathless so we were extra pleased that the path seemed to continue – it led us pretty easily across the moorland.
The sun hitting the cliffs at Whiten Head
The end of the Kyle – such a long way away
We could see the others – they had picked a much lower route and seemed to be having a harder time of it
Choppy in the water
The path became indistinct at times but we managed to follow it pretty much all the way to the bridge
We were across! From here I thought it was only a few minutes but after a map check I’d managed to block a couple of km from my mind
There were bits of track to follow initially before we decided to cut over the hill rather than walking around it, which seemed like a great idea until we encountered peat hags
Looking back we could see the others at the bridge – they weren’t far behind us
Finally over the hill we dropped onto a grassy track which led us to the farm – the bridge was in sight!
Looking back down the Kyle
As we approached the farm we were “welcomed” by an army of dogs so we were very pleased to cross the bridge and reach the bikes!
Here we did a bit of rearranging before deciding we needed to get on with it – as we were setting off we met a lady in a landrover who had come to pick up the others. We told her that they weren’t far behind. She offered to take our packs for us and we almost accepted but wandered if they might be good for balance in the crazy winds. She offered to stop for them on her way past and off we went.
Jaxter doesn’t like 60mph winds!!
I’m pretty sure I’ll never complain about wind when cycling again after this – it was so strong that when the gusts hit us we had to stop so we didn’t fall off. I was probably having a worse time of it than Malky being slightly lighter but a gust nearly had him in the ditch too
It was probably quite comical as we zigzagged our way up the road trying (and often failing) to stay on the bikes but when the landrover lady and another car stopped and offered us a lift we were in the car before they’d finished asking We had managed the hardest 5km ever and it had taken us 45 minutes
Back at the car we thanked our bothy pals and their lifts profusely before driving back up towards Durness to rescue the bikes which had been unceremoniously dumped We were back in Inverness around 6.30 – had we had to cycle the whole way it probably would have been midnight and I doubt we’d still be on speaking terms
Absolute belter of a trip though – and can’t think of a better way to see in the New Year
by Sunset tripper » Mon Jan 06, 2020 5:26 pm
All the best
- Posts: 2213
- Joined: Nov 3, 2013
- Location: Inverness
by LoveWalking » Tue Jan 07, 2020 10:21 pm
by Mal Grey » Tue Jan 07, 2020 11:02 pm
by Collaciotach » Wed Jan 08, 2020 12:04 am
Bliadhna mhath ùra dhuibh ...and a Happy New Year to you both
by Jaxter » Thu Jan 16, 2020 7:08 pm
Sunset tripper wrote:Great stuff guys, I'm very envious. Just one thing - I'm surprised you never nipped up Foinaven before heading home.
All the best
Ach I'm sorry, we're slacking. Blame Malky and his old age
LoveWalking wrote:Excellent report, what an amazing way to start the New Year
Thankyou - I happen to agree - cannae beat being in the middle of nowhere
Mal Grey wrote:I would expect no less from you two. Happy New Year to you both!
Thanks Mal - happy to satisfy
Collaciotach wrote:'S math sin agus abair sgeulachd ... smashing tale
Bliadhna mhath ùra dhuibh ...and a Happy New Year to you both
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