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A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis

A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis


Postby portinscale » Wed Jun 04, 2014 6:18 pm

Munros included on this walk: Garbh Chioch Mhor, Meall Buidhe (Knoydart), Sgurr na Ciche

Date walked: 25/05/2014

Time taken: 29 hours

Distance: 38 km

Ascent: 2208m

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I have always had a romantic notion that Sgurr na Ciche had to be climbed from its seaward side. I think this arose from a photo I once saw of it from Loch Nevis. This notion did however run up against the twin problems of the difficult access and the notoriously fickle weather. The latter meant this trip was not something you could plan; it had to be a case of just seizing the moment. Thus standing in a gloomy Fort William with noticeably better weather out west and the promise of slight easterly winds (albeit with showers) we decided to go for it.

We drove over to Mallaig and after sorting out a boat for the next day we set up our tents at Back of Keppoch and stoked up the calories at The Arisaig Hotel.

[imgImage
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view from the campsite
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Rhum from the campsite


Next morning we weren't due to get the boat till a rather late 10.30 but it was the best we could manage. The weather wasn't as good as I'd hoped but we had cast the dice and were committed now so we set off up Loch Nevis. The party consisted of myself, my wife, my son and our dog.

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Going up Loch Nevis approaching Kylesknoydart
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Sgurr na Ciche (zoom)


We had been told the boat could not land at Camusrory pier as it was private so they would have to drop us off on some rocks. It was a little bit of a scramble but not a problem if you had faith in the adhesive abilities of limpets - the key is to put your weight on gradually so you don't take them by surprise. What was a bit more of a problem - laden as we were with camping gear and food - was that the rocks were tidal. The good news was that the tide was out; the bad news was that we had to negotiate a number of little ravines full of smelly seaweed.

[imgImage
IMG_1976 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
Landing on An Corr-eilean
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Marooned!
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Sgurr na Ciche again

After that a very rough path took us to Camusrory pier where we picked up a land rover track to Camusrory itself. We then headed inland up a better track to Carnoch and the 'bridge'. We pitched camp here and had a bite to eat.

[imgImage
IMG_1981 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
Ben Aden

It was therefore 1pm before we set off on our walk but still with a good 10 hours of daylight ahead. With lighter packs we crossed the bridge and set off across what Tim (a Lord of the Rings fan) called the Dead Marshes - not too bad but it was hard to go in a straight line. The tide was out so we were able to get to Sourlies bothy the easy way via the beach. We really were doing this from sea level.

[imgImage
IMG_1982 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
Crossing the dead marrshes
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Nice rocks on the beach
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Sourlies bothy

From the bothy we headed up the track to Glen Dessary. By 2pm we were at an impressive 6 metres above sea level but then we started climbing. On this side the track is well constructed and makes height easily in a series of zigzags, passing a couple of impressive waterfalls. Higher up a small cairn marked a stalker's track going up into Coire na Ciche. The track was little used but gave good easy going. It dropped a little into the hidden lower coire and crossed to the stream at the back before disappearing. The next kilometre or so was rough and wet with a path of sorts but we finally got a look at the tops. The ground firmed up and became easy again and we followed an ATV track out of the coire. Unfortunately Loch Nevis now disappeared and a wall of black replaced it. We hoped that with an easterly wind it would stay there. No such luck. The wind changed to the west and we got a wetting and were in thick clag. We cut across to the normal route to/from Glen Dessary and climbed the rocky gully. This made for easy routefinding but was absolutely dripping wet. It looked well set in so we were elated to get to the bealach and see views down into Glen Quoich.

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In coire na ciche with the peaks finally in sight
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Loch Quoich from the bealach

The peaks were clearing as we went up Garbh Chioch Mhor . It was slow going because it was rocky and wet but we were soon on top. There was mist coming and going but it made the hills more atmospheric.

[imgImage
IMG_2007 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
A sleeping dragon
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Sgurr na Ciche
[imgImage
IMG_2009 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
Loch Quoich
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IMG_2010 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
Looking east from summit of GCM
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summit photo

After returning to the bealach we started the steep climb to Sgurr na Ciche which disappointedly had its head in cloud again. At the top of the steep bit there was a sudden clearing towards Loch Quoich but the summit itself was clagged up and as it was about 7 pm we couldn't hang about.

[imgImage
IMG_2015 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
Loch Quoich from the shoulder


We started the descent of the west ridge in very poor visibility but got to a dead end that was too dangerous in the wet so we had to go back up. A more southerly line showed more promise but we got to a steep bit the dog could not get down. I had been a bit bothered about this bit so had brought a short rope and the dog had a harness; so we roped her down with little fuss. Sod's law dictated that the summit then cleared and blue skies returned. Well we had had the full experience and were content.

[imgImage
IMG_2017 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
below the bad step
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Summit starting to clear
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IMG_2020 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
Loch Nevis
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Ben Bhuidhe and Meall Buidhe
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Ben Bhuidhe smoking like a volcano (zoom)
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Looking back up at the 2 peaks
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ditto
[imgImage
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Ben Aden
[imgImage
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Looking down on lower coire na ciche. The stalkers track is just visible going horizontally across the middle of the photo
[imgImage
IMG_2031 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
more bumpy bits
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Evening sun on Sgurr na Ciche
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IMG_2036 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
back at the bridge

The rest of the descent was not difficult but seemed endless with a lot of annoying little ups. Lower down it got tussocky and although the plan had been to follow the ridge back to the sea we spotted a shortcut back to Carnoch which missed out the dead marshes and we took that. It was a fairly weary party that got back to camp at about 9.30 pm. With no wind and light drizzle it was midge hell until we were in the tents. We slept very well despite the bumpy ground.


The next morning was brilliant - literally. We were woken by bright sunshine which dried off the tents.


[imgImage
IMG_2039 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
Ben Aden from the camp
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Carnoch in the morning light

As the way out was over a 549 metre bealach and as we were fairly heavily laden we wanted to be away before it got too hot. It was a pleasantly graded path with glorious views and streams for refreshment so it was easier than expected.

[imgImage
IMG_2044 by price249, on Flickr[/img]

[imgImage
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heading up to the bealach
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first sight of Inverie

We left our bags at the bealach to make a quick ascent of Meall Buidhe. This involved a steep climb up through craglets with traces of path now and again. When we got to the skyline there was easy going to the summit which was a glorious viewpoint. It was hard to tear ourselves away except we knew the last boat left Inverie at 5pm.

[imgImage
IMG_2052 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
looking back to Sgurr na Ciche, Ben Aden and Sgurr Mor
[imgImage
IMG_2054 by price249, on Flickr[/img]
Luinne Bheinn
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Ladhar Bheinn
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Skye
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Rhum and Eigg
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Looking east from the summit
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looking towards Inverie on the way down to the bealach
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the path to Inverie

So back to the bealach and then down the long but easy angled path to the sea. We made it with 20 mins to spare and treated ourselves to a nice meal in Mallaig.

Equipment notes
Some thoughts:
1 Ruffwear dog harness. This means your dog can actually carry its own food etc and the panniers detach and leave a weight bearing harness. it made all the difference. Mia accepted her burden dogfully. The only problem was when she went swimming.

2 Jetboil stove - I have always used a trangia but this is much lighter and so quick it was a total revelation.

3 Tick Twister - totally effective and indispensible.
Attachments

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portinscale
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Re: A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis

Postby pigeon » Wed Jun 04, 2014 6:40 pm

Good trip guys,a right rough and rugged area and some smashing pics too :thumbup:
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Re: A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis

Postby Mountainlove » Thu Jun 05, 2014 12:13 pm

Great report and it looked like a fantastic trip! Good to know the boat will let you off at different places. Some of the pictures are really lovely. Thank you for sharing! As for planning trips...you can only plan routes and then wait for the weather :lol:
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Re: A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis

Postby mrssanta » Thu Jun 05, 2014 10:04 pm

That was fab:-)
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Re: A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis

Postby simon-b » Fri Jun 06, 2014 8:33 am

An adventurous route to a fine looking mountain. Sgurr na Ciche always stands out in views around that area, it must have been good to clmb it.
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Re: A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis

Postby Scotjamie » Fri Jun 06, 2014 10:39 am

:clap: Great report on one of my favourite areas...and the bonus of finding dog panniers (ruffwear?) that seem to work (have been looking for a while).
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Re: A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis

Postby Phil the Hill » Fri Jun 06, 2014 1:23 pm

What a fine route! I'm tempted by that myself. How did you organise the boat up Loch Nevis? Is it the one that goes to Inverie?
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Re: A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Fri Jun 06, 2014 9:35 pm

Brilliant report and I love the atmospheric photos - I have several of the same type from my trips to Knoydart :lol: :lol:

Thanks for posting this - its given me lots of thoughts about future trips to Knoydart and a couple of questions:

Did your dog do any training in pack carrying? The may seem like a daft question but we have 2 working cockers who tend to work the heather when out on a walk (totally untrained in the working aspect of 'working cocker' but they love bounding through heather, brush long grass etc...) and I've always assumed that if we got them to carry their own camping gear it would lead to a massive snarl up - did that ever happen?

Did your dog share your tent or sleep outside, or even carry its own tent ? :? :wink:
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Re: A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis

Postby portinscale » Sat Jun 07, 2014 2:21 pm

Huff_n_Puff wrote:Brilliant report and I love the atmospheric photos - I have several of the same type from my trips to Knoydart :lol: :lol:

Thanks for posting this - its given me lots of thoughts about future trips to Knoydart and a couple of questions:

Did your dog do any training in pack carrying? The may seem like a daft question but we have 2 working cockers who tend to work the heather when out on a walk (totally untrained in the working aspect of 'working cocker' but they love bounding through heather, brush long grass etc...) and I've always assumed that if we got them to carry their own camping gear it would lead to a massive snarl up - did that ever happen?

Did your dog share your tent or sleep outside, or even carry its own tent ? :? :wink:




No this was the first time she had carried the panniers. We had used the harness before to safeguard her and she seemed to like it and although she is young she is a very steady dog. She accepted the load without any issues. Her parents were gundogs and she does like to work the ground but the panniers didn't stop this in the terrain we were in. At the end of day 2 she was tired and just plodded along with us. Here's a picture of her on the trail.

[imgImage
IMG_2040 by price249, on Flickr[/img]

The important thing is to balance the weight of the 2 panniers or they go lopsided. The only 2 problems we had were that she kept going in water which made them heavy and that she didn't understand the extra width e.g. brushing past you would result in an unexpected blow on the back of the knee from the pack. This was minor however; the striking thing was how problem free it was. A lot may depend on the dog's temperament.

I'm very pleased we went for harness with detachable panniers because there are times when you just need harness. We had her on Striding Edge a few months back and it was awkward getting her off the end whereas it would have been easy with a harness and short rope. The panniers are very easy to get on and off.

The sleeping arrangement was my biggest uncertainty. Our tent has a big porch so there was plenty of room for Mia and 2 rucksacks. Plan A was for her to sleep in the porch but we were worried about the midges as her eyes swell up if she gets bitten. It worked very well. I rubbed Smidge around her head, she lay quiet all night and her eyes were fine in the morning. The midges made her very keen to get in the porch and stay there!
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Re: A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis

Postby portinscale » Sat Jun 07, 2014 2:25 pm

Scotjamie wrote::clap: Great report on one of my favourite areas...and the bonus of finding dog panniers (ruffwear?) that seem to work (have been looking for a while).


Thanks. Yes they were the Ruffwear panniers with the detachable harness. see my reply to Huff n' Puff. Good idea to try them on the dog in the shop before you buy.
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Re: A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis

Postby portinscale » Sat Jun 07, 2014 2:45 pm

Phil the Hill wrote:What a fine route! I'm tempted by that myself. How did you organise the boat up Loch Nevis? Is it the one that goes to Inverie?



We used Knoydart sea bridge who seem prepared to be helpful if their schedule allows. They seem to run 2 boats so if one is not needed on the regular run it can be used elsewhere. They do private charters to Barrisdale etc but you need a decent size party to make it cost effective. The easiest way up Loch Nevis is to go on the boat to Tarbet because they seem reasonably happy to extend that trip to Camusrory as long as they have notice. I don't think you could just turn up and expect to get a boat. A good tip is to find out whether they have boats going out anyway. For example we could have got a ride to Barrisdale on the Tuesday because they had an empty boat going out to do a pick up.
The big advantage of the boat is you can take more food in than you would be happy to carry and therefore spend more time out there - weather permitting of course.
I'm sure there are lots of other alternatives as there are plenty of wee boats in Mallaig.
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Re: A Walk on the Wild Side - Sgurr na Ciche from Loch Nevis

Postby Huff_n_Puff » Sat Jun 07, 2014 3:38 pm

Many thanks Portinscale - that was really helpful. :clap: :clap:
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