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A Knoydart Odyssey
by GariochTom » Thu Aug 23, 2012 10:38 pm
Munros included on this walk: Ladhar Bheinn, Luinne Bheinn, Meall Buidhe (Knoydart)
Date walked: 17/08/2012
Distance: 56 km
Ascent: 3858m19 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).
Luinne Bheinn and Meall Bhuide from the Whitehouse – 15km, 1,485m ascent
Ladhar Bheinn from the Whitehouse – 14km, 1,225m ascent
Whitehouse to Inverie – 13km, 527m ascent
Inverie to Skiary (by boat) – approx 37km, 0m ascent!
Skiary to Kinloch Hourn – 3km, 137m ascent
Total distance: 93km
Total distance by foot: 56km
Total ascent: 3,858m
After months of planning, the Knoydart adventure was here. The first part of the plan was for most of us to meet at Fort Augustus then drive in convoy to Kinloch Hourn, from where we would walk along the side of Loch Hourn to our accommodation at the Whitehouse in Barisdale. Two people had set off earlier to bag a Corbett or two and put the kettle on at the Whitehouse.
Stress levels rose when we arrived at Fort Augustus and heard that two of the party had broken down at Inverness – the AA was on its way. We could not wait for them - we were already running late and we had to set off for Kinloch Hourn so that we had enough daylight left for the 3+ hour walk to Barisdale. I suggested that once their car was fixed they try to find less remote accommodation and set off for Barisdale in the morning.
We set off again, through Invergarry and past Loch Garry, beside Loch Quoich which was very low on increasingly narrow and windy roads, meeting some Highland cattle on the way. Eventually we reached Kinloch Hourn where we could finally relax and settle in to one of the 'finest low level walks in the country'. Or maybe not. The dense clouds of midges meant that we scrabbled around for our midge nets and repellent, and hurriedly booted and gaitered up before marching off up the track.
Once on the move, the midges were less noticeable and we began to appreciate the scenery. We passed through some rhododendron bushes then continued along the shoreline path, pinned between cliffs to the left and the loch to the right. The walk wasn't what you would call flat – we were soon panting up a hill and then down to the shore again, and again.
K 2 Loch Hourn by GariochT, on Flickr
K 3 Natural tree sculptures by GariochT, on Flickr
K 4 Scots Pine beside Loch Hourn by GariochT, on Flickr
The light was fading fast by the time we reached Barisdale Bay. The bay was indeed 'achingly beautiful' in the words of Jim Manthorpe. And we were aching too.
K 5 Loch Hourn in the Evening by GariochT, on Flickr
K 6 Barisdale Bay by GariochT, on Flickr
We arrived at the Whitehouse after 9.30pm, guided in by the light of a candle in the window.
Saturday - Luinne Bheinn & Meall Buidhe
Three of us decided to walk up Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe on the Saturday. The cloud and drizzle soon lifted as we started up the Mam Barisdale track, and we enjoyed good views down to the turquoise water of the bay and across to the Scots Pine covered slopes by Gleann Unndalain.
K 7 Barisdale and Barisdale Bay by GariochT, on Flickr
K 8 Gleann Unndalain by GariochT, on Flickr
From the summit of the Mam Barrisdale there was an excellent view of Dubh-Lochain and Inverie Bay. We started up the path following a line of old fence posts, and my mind started to wander. I have been vegetarian for almost 20 years, and for the first time I began thinking it might be nice to eat some meat and fish again. Perhaps venison? There are arguably too many deer on the hills after all.
K 9 Dubh-Lochain and Inverie Bay from above Mam Barisdale by GariochT, on Flickr
My mental wanderings didn't last long, as the terrain soon became more difficult; we had to negotiate rocky obstacles, and it started raining heavily. The next part of the walk along the ridge and past the summit was done in cloud and rain. In the bad visibility, we continued east along the ridge and missed the path down the southerly flank off Luinne Bheinn. We realised we had made a mistake and headed back west, and fortunately the cloud cleared, revealing the path we were looking for.
We reached the ridge of Druim Leac a' Shith and followed it to the northeast ridge of Meall Bhuidhe, and then ascended this on a clear path to reach the summit.
K 13 Approaching Meall Buidhe by GariochT, on Flickr
Our return route was via two lochans in the bowl between the two munros, which we eventually reached after crossing boggy and rugged ground.
K 14 Our return route - to the lochans then up the gully by GariochT, on Flickr
From here we headed up a gully that took us back to Luinne Bheinn's southwest ridge
K 16 Gleann Dubh-Lochain by GariochT, on Flickr
At the top of the gully, a stag held its ground and let us closely approach it, all the time watching us with suspicion.
K 17 Stag by GariochT, on Flickr
From here, the familiar fence posts led us back to the Mam Barisdale. It was then an easy walk down to Barisdale and curry in the Whitehouse.
K 18 Late afternoon light by GariochT, on Flickr
Sunday - Ladhar Bheinn
This was the day for Ladhar Bheinn ('Hill of the Hoof'). We walked down the track towards the bay, and just before the bridge to Barisdale we turned left onto the stalker's path. We passed a few sheep grazing on grassy mini-peninsulas on the shore. At the other end of the alluvial plain we started zigzagging through tall bracken, up the steep slopes of Calg Coire then on a flatter path around the lower mountainside. There were good views of the Bay and across Loch Hourn to Beinn Sgritheall and Arnisdale below.
K 22 The Start of the Ascent by GariochT, on Flickr
We shortly reached the bottom of Coire Dhorrcail, a stunning glen topped by the buttresses and crags of Ladhar Bheinn, and walked up the good path up the glen.
K 23 Coire Dhoirrcail by GariochT, on Flickr
K 24 Devil's-Bit Scabious by GariochT, on Flickr
Near the top of the path we crossed the Allt Coire Dhorrcail (I made a mouthful of it as usual, crossing where the burn braided). Then we started to head up the steep grassy slopes to the Stob a' Choire Odhair ridge.
The land at Coire Dhorrcail rising to the summit of Ladhar Bheinn was the first land the John Muir Trust bought, in 1987. The JMT has since then been working to restore woodland by new planting and by reducing deer numbers and making fenced exclosures to keep deer out and give natural regeneration a chance (http://www.jmt.org/li-coire-dhorrcail-estate.asp)
K 25 Overlooking Loch Hourn by GariochT, on Flickr
The ascent was hard going, but we were rewarded for our efforts by excellent views that just got better and better as we wended our way up the grass and rock-covered ridge. Loch Hourn and Barisdale Bay looked more like the Caribbean than Scotland! Beinn Sgritheall looked particularly impressive, its southern slopes plunging towards Arnisdale below.
K 27 Barisdale Bay from Stob a Choire Odhair by GariochT, on Flickr
K 28 The Buttresses and Gullies of Ladhar Bheinn by GariochT, on Flickr
K 29 Loch Hourn and Barisdale Bay by GariochT, on Flickr
K 30 Beinn Sgritheall and Beinn na h-Eaglaise above Arnisdale and Corran by GariochT, on Flickr
K 31 Loch Hourn by GariochT, on Flickr
As we made slow progress towards the top, the summit looked intimidatingly steep, and the route up was partly hidden by nearer parts of the ridge.
K 32 Towards the Summit by GariochT, on Flickr
K 33 Eastern Knoydart by GariochT, on Flickr
K 35 Ladhar Bheinn by GariochT, on Flickr
K 36 Headwall of Ladhar Bheinn by GariochT, on Flickr
Eventually, we reached the summit! We high-fived (a new ritual)... then realised that we weren't quite at the summit... the summit was over there, a bit further along the ridge and 2 metres higher. We walked over to it on the easy terrain and high-fived again. The views were breathtaking, just as the northeast ridge of the mountain, Stob a' Choire Odhair, had been. The southeast ridge of Ladhar Bheinn was set against a backdrop of multiple mountains.
K 38 The View from the Top by GariochT, on Flickr
K 39 Allt Coire Dhoircall by GariochT, on Flickr
We continued to the lower top to the northwest, from where we could look back to the summit and the ridge of Stob a' Choire Odhair. To the west we could see Eigg and Rum in the distance, along with the southern end of Skye; to the north there was Applecross and Torridon behind Beinn Sgritheall.
K 41 The summit of Ladhar Beinn. Eigg and Rum in the distance. by GariochT, on Flickr
K 44 Ladhar Bheinn from the west by GariochT, on Flickr
K 46 Loch Hourn by GariochT, on Flickr
We returned to the summit (does that count as bagging it twice?) then started to descend the northeast ridge, frequently looking back towards the summit and the Small Isles beyond.
K 47 Descending by GariochT, on Flickr
K 48 Void by GariochT, on Flickr
K 49 Ladhar Bheinn from the southeast by GariochT, on Flickr
K 50 Rhum in the distance by GariochT, on Flickr
The return was quite tricky in places, with some scrambling and long leg stretches required. The 'descent' from the summit also involved another ascent, to Aonach Sgoilte, from where we turned northeast to Stob a' Chearcaill.
K 51 The Whitehouse in the distance by GariochT, on Flickr
From this point, the Whitehouse could be seen, but we still had some difficulty finding a suitable route down to the Barisdale path, with hidden crags, gorges, boggy ground and trees presenting obstacles to our progress. Eventually, we spotted the main bracken-bordered path, and it was such a relief to reach it. We bimbled down the easy track, to the Whitehouse where the shower (bliss!), dinner, a variety of whiskies, and a reclining sofa were waiting.
Monday - To Inverie then Kinloch Hourn
After breakfast we packed our bags, prepared ourselves for the mass of midges outside, then left the Whitehouse for Inverie.
The first part of the walk, to the Mam Barisdale Pass, was slow going with our heavy rucksacks. The midges weren't nearly as bad as they had been on the walk in from Kinloch Hourn. We stopped at the top for a rest and enjoy the view, then headed down the somewhat boggy path down Gleann an Dubh-Lochain and past the eponymous lochan.
K 55 Beside Dubh-Lochain by GariochT, on Flickr
Eventually, we passed through some woodland and down an old dry stane dyke lined road, to Inverie, with its tiny shed that is the official Post Office delivery office and more importantly with 'Mainland Britain's Remotest Pub' – The Old Forge – our ultimate destination. I had been eyeing up the pudding menu, but the bean burger and chips were more than filling enough, even after so much walking.
K 57 The Old Forge, Inverie by GariochT, on Flickr
After lunch we walked across to the pier where our chartered boat was waiting to take us back to.... well, that was the problem. I had chartered a boat to take us to Kinloch Hourn and had been advised that if the tide was low we would have to be dropped off at Skiary, a couple of kilometres further west. However, on arrival at the pier we were told by the driver that he could only get us to Barisdale! We did not fancy having to do the 3-4 hour walk back from Barisdale to Kinloch Hourn, especially after such a big meal and with such a long drive home! The next half an hour was very tense. The driver left us to speak to the boat owner and when he returned he was insistent that Barisdale was the only option. However, on consulting a map he agreed to try to take us to Skiary... but we would get our feet wet – he could not risk grounding the boat.
The boat journey was fast; the driver was certainly in a hurry! But the rain had stopped and we enjoyed the views, and spotted porpoises, and wild goats on an island! The boat slowed right down as it passed through a few narrows with the GPS screen warning of shallow water. In less than an hour we reached the short runway at Skiary, where we jumped off and indeed got our feet wet. Oh, after paying the driver.
K 58 Our Transport to Skiaries by GariochT, on Flickr
It was a quick march back to the cars at Kinloch Hourn, as the rain had set in, drenching us. And the midges were waiting for us!
I'm still recovering from the trip now, a few days later, but it was absolutely worth the effort.
K 53 Barisdale Bay in the Evening by GariochT, on Flickr
by rockhopper » Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:24 pm
by Huff_n_Puff » Thu Aug 23, 2012 11:48 pm
by soapy27 » Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:00 am
by Mountainlove » Fri Aug 24, 2012 11:21 am
by Stretch » Fri Aug 24, 2012 1:27 pm
by kevsbald » Fri Aug 24, 2012 1:34 pm
by iainwatson » Fri Aug 24, 2012 1:56 pm
Stretch wrote:Report of the month in my book. Stunning adventure!
totally agree! fantastic report on an epic trip!
thanks for sharing, looking forward to this area even more now!
by IreneM » Fri Aug 24, 2012 3:43 pm
Thanks for sharing!
by Duncandsooz » Fri Aug 24, 2012 6:13 pm
by GariochTom » Fri Aug 24, 2012 10:23 pm
Oh, and I've been informed that I didn't 'make a mouthful' of the river crossing - I made a meal of it. Perhaps if I had fallen in I would have had a mouthful of it, but fortunately I stayed relatively dry.
by tall-story » Fri Aug 24, 2012 11:41 pm
by pollyh33 » Sat Aug 25, 2012 12:28 am
Hopefully it will not be over-looked in this month's honours list
by Bod » Sat Aug 25, 2012 1:08 am
Time for me to get back to Knoydart!
by GariochTom » Sat Aug 25, 2012 5:49 pm
tall-story wrote:Thanks GT that was superb and is almost exactly what I am hoping to do for my completion weekend, May 2014 all being well, oh and to get your weather would be a fantastic bonus
That would be a great way to complete the munros - especially if you end up at the Old Forge afterwards!