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Cape Wrath Trail 2013 Part 1

Cape Wrath Trail 2013 Part 1

Postby whiteburn » Tue Jul 23, 2013 1:31 pm

Route description: Cape Wrath Trail

Date walked: 09/07/2013

Time taken: 13 days

Distance: 309 km

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I’d originally planned to head for CW in May but participation in the TGO Challenge got in the way so I’d more or less decided to postpone until 2014. Mountain withdrawal & signs of a good weather pattern building across the NW prompted me to dust off my outline plans & go for it.
It was all done in a little bit of a hurry; Friday booked the midpoint accommodation (and resupply point); spent the weekend sorting out gear & food; Monday resupply parcel posted off; Tuesday 07:30 hit the road headed for Glenfinnan.
I’d choosen to start from Glenfinnan rather than Ft William as I’m generally allergic to walking along black top, so I didn’t fancy the 20km trudge along Loch Eil just to say “I started at Ft William”. The route I planned deliberately avoided habitation, where practicable, & also took me through some parts of Scotland that I’d bypassed previously. Some of my route followed the ‘typical’ CWT, other sections the ‘alternatives’ & other sections my own variations; all part of the fun!
The journey from Aberdeen (7 ½ hrs; car, train, bus & bus) was a drag, in my haste I’d forgotten to even pick up a paperback for the journey, all there was to do was stare out the window or people watch. I finally got dropped off into the blistering 25C heat at the Glenfinnan visitor’s centre around 2:30pm. A cold coke was necked while making the last minute preparations (slapping on the sunscreen etc) before a 3pm kickoff.

Day 1-4.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Day 1 - Glenfinnan to Glen Pean; 13km

It didn’t take long for the first photo opportunity to arise when starting to walk up Glen Finnan, the obligatory ‘Harry Potter’ shot of the viaduct; McAlpine did a pretty good job with all that concrete over 100 years ago.

It was good to get away from the tourists snapping away around the viaduct & started up the glen towards the hills.

This young buck, with antlers still in velvet, didn’t seem to mind the company when I wandered past only 10m away.

I called into the Corryhully bothy, where I’d originally contemplated spending the night, & said hello to the few folk that were in residence; was surprised to find that they had a fire the size of a small blast furnace roaring up the lum. I was not disposed to stay; the glorious weather plus the enforced inactivity of earlier in the day saw me heading off up the glen in search of a quieter spot.
Solitude, big hills & a bright blue sky, what more can you ask for?

The 400m climb from the bothy to the bealach in 25C carrying 6 days of supplies felt quite taxing & I was glad to finally be looking down into Glen Pean.

400 meters up, now 400m down; I found a nice camp spot near where the path crosses the River Pean & best of all there was a nice breeze to keep the little monsters away. It felt like a short & easy start to such an outing but I guess that’s what it was, time to eat & lighten the load.

Day 2 - Glen Pean to Glen Garry; 21km

Thanks to the early morning sun I was up, packed & on the trail shortly after 7am. It didn’t take long to be sweating buckets again as I made my way up another 400m climb on the path over to Glen Kingie. Still it didn’t seem to take that long until I was staring down at the bright red roof of the Kinbreack bothy; it’s not really visible from the south until you get quite close.

I stuck my head in the bothy but no-one was home so it was a quick note in the book; a brief sit in the shade & then off north. It was only when I reached the junction of the tracks high on the southern slopes of Gairich that I decided on a little route variation (one of the advantages of solo walking is that route changes get very little discussion). I’d never been to the summit of Gairich in clear weather so today seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
The old stalkers path up the west flank of Gairich Beag was a lot steeper than I remembered it! Or perhaps it was the heat & load but never the less I was eventually rewarded by stunning views.

The descent to the east over Bac nam Foid to pick up the LRT was pleasantly dry underfoot & from there it felt only a short stumble down to the dam. The only minor annoyance was the noise being carried across the glen from the ongoing work of yet another micro-hydro project being built on the hillside across the other side of Loch Quoich. I quickly located a familiar camping spot below the dam & entered into the practiced trail chores (shelter, fetch water, wash socks, eat.....bed); it had been a little tougher day than planned but an enjoyable one.

Day 3 - Glen Garry to Glen Affric; 30km

The 5km trudge down the black top to Kingie dodging the morning rush hour (construction traffic going up the glen) took an hour & I was glad to see the green finger post pointing me north again, towards the head of Loch Loyne.
The first section of the path seemed to have multiple trails through boggy ground & it took me only 5 minutes to make the first navigational digression (screw-up), I ended up following a diminishing deer trail up the ‘wrong’ stream! After ½ hour of stumbling around I finally admitted defeat & got out the GPS; I was 0.5 km east of where the path was supposed to be; ½ hour of heather & bog trotting later I was back on track & a good track at that!
With the dry weather the crossing of the River Loyne wasn’t an issue, just an ankle deep wade & it wasn’t long until I’d gained the track over towards Clunie. The bealach north of Creag Liathtais afforded a great view east down Loch Loyne which was looking quite depleted.

11am & time to get a move on, lunch at the Clunie Inn beckoned.
I would have been toooooo easy to kickback enjoy a nice lunch, a few beers & then pitch up for an afternoon snooze; then some more beer later that evening. But I remained teetotal & after a relaxing hour hit the trail again.
Glen Affric is one of my top ten places & it was good to look down on it from the bealach above An Caorann Mor.

Once down to the River Affric I splodged straight across, rather than take the 2km diversion down to the footbridge & back. The area next to the new footbridge over the Allt Gleann Gniomhaidh provided an ideal camping spot; flat, dry, water 5m away & a nice breeze.

Day 4 - Glen Affric to Bendronaig Bothy; 31km

I reckoned on it being a quite a tough day ahead so I was on the trail at 7am heading west up Gleann Gniomhaidh, scraps of low cloud hung on the slopes of Ben Fhada & A’Ghlas bheinn but it looked as though these would soon burn off.

I was quite impressed at the recent footpath work being undertaken & made rapid progress up the glen, until it ended & the soggy-ness returned.

At Loch a’Bhealaich the path gradually disappeared, 4km of contouring across heather & bog; cross country always takes me far longer than I estimate, the watch definitely seems to run slower!

I was quite glad to finally reach the track from the north, not exactly a motorway but a lot easier going than trackless heather & bog.

The falls of the Allt Coire Easaich aren’t as spectacular as the neighbouring Falls of Glomach but still I thought them quite impressive given the dry conditions.

After the relatively arduous morning the ‘motorway’ leading from Carnach up to the Moal-bhuidhe bothy was quite welcome & it made getting to the bothy feel quite easy.

I’d originally thought to spend the night at Moal-bhuidhe but it was only 3:30 so while enjoying relaxing ½ hour sitting in a chair (already becoming a novelty) & browsing the bothy book I eventually decided to on push ahead & make for Bendronaig Lodge.
Even with the dry weather the crossing of the Lub Chruinn was knee deep & flowing quite well but no real obstacle. The route north across the eastern flank of Beinn Dronaig proved a lot tougher than expected, back to the familiar mix of heather & bog or sometimes bog & heather, but over quite quickly. The track coming in from the north seemed to be used predominantly for AVT’s & wound around up & down the slopes a lot avoiding peat hags so after a while I give up following it & cut across country to pick up the LRT at Loch Calavie.

I finally arrived at Bendronaig Bothy at 6pm, there was no-one at home so I had my choice of a room & quickly settled in.

Bendronaig is a really nice bothy, provided by the estate, & the only one I can think of with an indoor flushing toilet (you do have to fill the cistern with a bucket).......real luxury!

Part 2 http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=25&t=34440
Last edited by whiteburn on Thu Aug 15, 2013 8:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
Posts: 350
Joined: Jan 6, 2012
Location: Aberdeenshire

Re: Cape Wrath Trail 2013 Part 1

Postby cecilsson » Tue Aug 13, 2013 1:40 pm

Thank you for your report and especially the pictures. I have put the Scottish National Trail on my bucket list and hope to attempt it for my 60th birthday. Your report and pictures have helped convince me that this is really a good idea.
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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Re: Cape Wrath Trail 2013 Part 1

Postby rohan » Wed Aug 14, 2013 8:22 pm

That heat with a full pack, quite a feat to keep hydrated.
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Re: Cape Wrath Trail 2013 Part 1

Postby whiteburn » Thu Aug 15, 2013 7:35 am

rohan wrote:That heat with a full pack, quite a feat to keep hydrated.

Never carried more than 0.5 litre of water, just topped up frequently, I've never had a problem finding a good supply of water in the hills. Only time I used any water treatment (tabs) was when camped at Sandwood bay since there was cattle around.
Posts: 350
Joined: Jan 6, 2012
Location: Aberdeenshire

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