Area: Knoydart to Glen Kingie
Date walked: 27/09/2008
Time taken: 4 hours
Distance: 15 km
Gairich is a lonely Munro sitting to the South East of Loch Quoich. It can be approached via the Dam at the end of Loch Quoich or from the stalkers paths at Strathan, at the head of Loch Arkaig and has fine views in every direction.
In September 2008 I took my canoe, tent and walking kit up to loch Quioch for 4 days of walking, canoeing and some away from it all solitude to recharge my mental batteries. After walking Sgurr a’ Mhaoraich, Gleouriach and Spidean Mialach, today my planned Munro was the fourth Munro and last one for the week, Gairich.
Having completed the other walks in good time and with the weather on my side I was feeling quite pleased with myself. I spent a little time canoeing in Loch Quoich before eating and retiring to my tent at 10pm last night ready for a good night’s sleep. I had no idea what the weather forecast was but the wind was gusting and waves were rising in the Loch so as a precaution I placed large boulders on top of each of the guy ropes at the tent pegs. I read a book and fell asleep only to be rudely awoken with the wind blowing and gusting to such an extent the tent was trying to take off!
I had to hold onto the roof straps to hold the tent each time there was a gust of wind. It was quite interesting as the night progressed. There would be a lull with some calm then I would hear the trees madly rustling as the gust of wind blew down through the glen and then it would hit the tent like a tornado. This would last for a few minutes then it would calm down again, repeating this sequence again and again seemingly all night. It was a nightmare. I checked my watch 0200, 0330, and 0530 then next minute its 0930.
I must have dropped off due to sheer exhaustion and fell into a short deep sleep. The tent was still over my head thankfully and none the worse for wear. The wind had died down now but would you believe it the rain was pouring down outside. Oops I spoke too soon, the wind is back lol. This persisted until 1130 when both rain and wind died down dramatically.
Now my plan to climb Gairich was going to be attempted regardless but it was certainly looking more promising from a weather point of view.
Now my original plan was to canoe across loch Quoich to climb Gairich which would involve 6km of walking with a 3km canoe trip and probably save an hour or more on the time taken if walking the usual route from the dam. However as I was getting myself prepared three chaps drove up in a landrover and asked me what my plans were. These guys were from the estate and they asked me not to canoe across because I would most likely chase the deer out of the glen below Gairich Beag. There was a planned deer stalk on Monday and they did not want the area disturbed.
So I would walk this Munro form the Loch Quoich Dam instead. Due to the deteriorating weather conditions I decided that I was not going to stay another night in the tent and therefore I had to complete the walk on Gairich then pack up and drive back to fife.
I got my kit together and drove up to the dam whereupon I meet Chris in her car. (I met Chris and Paul the previous day). Chris told me that Paul had set of at about 1000 reluctantly because of the weather. I must admit it’s now pouring with rain again and its cold. Not ideal conditions and the summit of Gairich is covered in mist. However I had set myself a challenge so I say goodbye to Chris and started my walk at 1310.
The first obstacle is the gate at the dam. Its 6 foot high and locked with rain pouring down the cold steel spars. I have to climb over and make my way across the dam. I am soon on the path below Beinn Beag and it is a bog. (just in case I forget I rate this trip on this day bog facter max). The path meanders and runs off at a slight tangent to the loch passing Meall a Chait. After 10 minutes my feet are wet. After approximately 40 minutes I meet Paul. He looks drenched. He tells me it’s a bog all the way up to the final climb which is wet and slippery. I wish him luck and set off on my way. (It was good meeting Paul up here. A kindred spirit).
Rain comes and goes and for the next 3kms it’s an absolute bog. (have I mentioned that yet?). The path is quite straight forward. Follow the river (sorry I mean path) from the dam for about 3km to the forest and take the track West which runs up the ridge of Druim na Geid Salaich. This then continues around the summit of Bac nam Foid (584 metres) and continues onto the final climb up to the summit.
Just past the forest, on the ascent to Bac nam Foid, I meet two walkers and they tell me the final climb to the summit of Gairich is slippery, steep and dodgy. Comforting words I don’t think but I imagine they were trying to dissuade me from continuing. After a time wandering across the bogs I get to the final assent and start to follow the winding path ascending up the crags. It’s not really bad but it is steep and because of the rain its very slippery. There is a small rockface that I have to climb over but it’s not to taxing. I make it to the summit in 2 and a half hours. I have a coffee and some refreshments in the mist but I will not be stopping for long. The rain has stopped for the moment so. I take a brief look around and then set of back the way I came.
It seems to be looser underfoot going back down and at one point I slip and bang my lower back. (It’s not a problem at this time but when I got home I had some bruising and discomfort.) When I got to the bottom of the descent I meet a party of 3 walkers. It’s about 1610 and the hailstones start pouring down as I am talking to them. We all quickly put waterproofs on but to be honest I am pretty wet through and I should have donned waterproofs some time ago during the ascent. I am cold, my face is freezing and I am only going to get colder now that I am wet through. In my mind I am wondering if these guys will still be on the mountain when it gets dark but they seem well equipped and they have safety in numbers.
The path is not very clear because of the boggy wet conditions and I lose the path from time to time and find myself in deep water. This is not what I need at this moment. A warm bath and big log fire spring to mind. I traverse back and forward eventually finding the path but it has taken longer than I expected and I am freezing now. I decide to run the rest of the way in order to generate some heat and get back to the car as quickly as possible.
I get back to the car with no more mishaps. The time is now 1720. That was very hard. I am knackered. I drive back to the camp quickly get some dry clothes on, pack up the tent and canoe and go home.
I reflect on this week as one of the best short holidays I have had.