Glenfinnan to Inverie to compleat the round
Area: Knoydart to Glen Kingie
Munros: Garbh Chioch Mhor, Ladhar Bheinn, Luinne Bheinn, Meall Buidhe (Knoydart), Sgurr na Ciche, Sgurr nan Coireachan (Glen Dessary)
Date walked: 23/10/2012 – 25/10/2012
Total Walking Time taken: 21.5 hours
Distance: 56 km
Day 1 – Glenfinnan walk in – Distance= 20km, Ascent= 900m, Walking Time= 5.5hrs
Day 2 – Glendessary Munro’s- Distance= 10km, Ascent= 1200m, Walking Time= 5.5hrs
Day 3 – Knoydart Munro’s – Distance= 27km, Ascent= 2400m, Walking Time= 10.5hrs
With Winter fast approaching and 6 Mountains left to compleat my round of the Munro’s, Glendessary 3 and Knoydart 3, I was just about to hang up my boots, when the weather forecast displayed a high pressure area moving into Scotland and staying put from Tuesday until Friday. I have bagged a lot of Munros this year and really could do with a rest. However this looked like an opportunity to good to miss so I packed up my kit on Monday 22nd of October, planned a wild camping trip to cover the 6 Munro’s and caught the train to Glenfinnan arriving at Glenfinnan train station on Tuesday 23rd at 1245.
The Walk Day 1
I left the train carrying my Backpack weighing approximately 35lbs, complete with two litres of fluid, three days rations, tent, sleeping bag and other essentials and headed down the road turning left onto the road to Glenfinnan Viaduct and Corryhully Bothy. After 4km or so I arrive at the bothy and have a look around. The bothy was empty so I leave and head up the hill down and over the bridge and up the steady climb to the beallach below Streap at 471m. The weather at this point is overcast with no rain but underfoot conditions are very wet. I met a couple here that had walked in from Glenfinnan and were heading back down. They said it was a bit boggy on top. Well I think that was an understatement because it was a bogfest all the way down Gleann Cuirnean and I ended up on my backside a number of times. I soon arrived at the bridge over the River Pean and took the track into the forest. The first 100m was a complete swamp so I headed off into the trees and emerged on the good forest track heading for Strathan arriving at Strathan around 1700.
Its now approximately 5km North West passing Glendessary Lodge, and Upper Glendessary then crossing the Allt Coire nan Uth and taking the track heading North up the hillside heading directly up Sgurr nan Coireachan ridge. It was approximately 1810 and light was starting to fade so I needed to find a camping spot soon. After climbing up to the 300m contour there is a small flatspot and with darkness rapidly approaching I set up camp. It was now 1830 and pitch black due partly to the full cloud cover. I had really hoped to get to the first summit today but I was not prepared to continue in the dark so this is where I spent the night.
It was good to put the pack down, get some warm socks on and eat plenty of food. I had plenty time on my hands though so really glad I brought a book, Len Deighton- An Expensive Place To Die and read half the book before trying to fall asleep. This is where I discovered the purpose of Sleeping mats, inflatable or foam. They insulate you from the cold ground. Of course I knew that but when I wild camped two weeks ago, I camped on grass and it was dry and nice and comfortable therefore I imagined I would not need my inflatable sleeping mat so I left it at home to reduce weight. Well the flat area where I pitched the tent was boggy and as I lay in my sleeping bag in the tent the indentations I was making in the ground would fill with some cold water and conduct the heat away from my arm, back butt, feet etc.
Unfortunately I had to grin and bear it. It wasn’t going to kill me and the only other option was to de-camp and head down to A’Chuil Bothy which would have put a dent in my plans. So I knew I was in for an uncomfortable night and so it proved to be. I could hear the Stags roaring all night as I turned like an alternative spit roast allowing the frozen parts of my body to warm up whilst cooling the new parts that were touching the ground. As you can imagine it was a restless night.
The Walk Day 2
First light arrived at around 0730 but I stayed in my bag till well past 0815. I was struggling for motivation but just had to get going so after breakfast and de-camping I was again on my way just before 0900 heading up the steep slope. The clouds that were covering the sky last night had moved on and to my delight the sun was rising in the east and throwing its rays on the hills above me. Those rays were rapidly coming down to meet me as a joint result of both the sun and I ascending the sky and the hillside and in a short while I was basking in the glorious heat. The frozen ground issue of the night before was fast becoming a distant memory and I was soon approaching the first summit of the day, Sgurr nan Coireachan. The views all around were absolutely superb. Ben Nevis was basking in the sunshine over in Fort William and there were mists over Loch Quoich and Loch Arkaig. Numerous Corbetts and Munros could be seen in all directions and the clarity of vision afforded by the morning sun displayed the rugged terrain in its full splendour.
Its now a reasonably steep descent and ascent along the ridge and up to the second munro Garbh Chioch Mhor scrambling up and down as I go. My legs are feeling the weight I am carrying so I stop for a few breaks and to eat and drink. I had refilled my water before the camp site so I had 1.5 litres to consume before refilling again at my next water stop planned for the Allt Coire na Ciche. I arrive at the second Munro and continue on my way scrambling up and down to the beallach Coire na Ciche. I had planned to walk directly South West from Sgurr na Ciche summit down Druim a Ghoirtein. But I noticed a good path heading down the Coire na Ciche so I decided to change my plan and drop my pack at the Beallach. This would give my legs some respite and on reflection I am glad I did because the climb up to Sgurrna Ciche summit was quite steep. Again the views were exceptional.
After heading back to my pack I was soon on the good path heading down into the steep coire. It was very wet here so I had to be careful. The path crosses the burn a number of times before reaching flatter ground. The path was now bending South and I figured that it may be heading back to Glendessary so I left the path and struck out across the boggy heather descending beside the Allt Coire na Ciche. After 1km or so I met the path marked on the map which skirts the West flank of the lower slopes of Druim Nan Uadhag and shortly after I joined the Strathan to Sourlies path. Its now 1km of steep descent over rocky terrain and then cross the bridge over the Finiskaig river and then 1km of flat ground to Sourlies bothy.
I arrive at the bothy at 1430. Its empty and there are deer on the hillside. My boots and feet are soaking as are the lower part of my trousers. I am tired. I have only walked for 5.5hrs today but the terrain was rugged and the weight was telling on me. There is a hammock slinging from the roof so I lay in it for minute to think. As I did so a mouse ran along the stone sill and over to the table looking for scraps of food I guess. My plan had been to walk over the boggy flatlands to Carnoch whilst I was wet and even ascend to the beallach on the Mam Meadall path below Meall Bhuide in order to make inroads into tomorrow big walk. The alternative was to stay in the bothy, get a good fire going to dry all my kit and enjoy the relaxing afternoon/evening and eat lots of food. This would make the Thursday walk a big one but I felt I would be better prepared for it. Believe it or not one hour passed by as I was contemplating so the decision to stay at the bothy was made.
There is plenty of firewood and on reading the bothy log a group had recently replenished the wood but decided not to stay so offered it to the next walker that arrived. Me. Another group had left two black bags full of rubbish. They put an entry in the log explaining that they had cleaned the bothy and the rubbish was the result. I waited until around 1700 before lighting the fire. The front of the fireplace was black with soot all the way up the wall and it soon became obvious why. The smoke from the fire in addition to disappearing up the chimney was also pouring out the top of the fireplace underneath the mantlepiece.
It didn’t appear to be happening all the time but every so often the smoke would pour out. I had to leave the door open and I soon had a large fire blazing in the hearth. I was warm as toast if a bit smoky and all my kit was dry in no time. After dinner I was in my bag and reading the rest of Len Deightons novel. The fire was almost out as I took a last leak and went to sleep. However I woke around 0200 and imagined the room was full of smoke so I got up for half an hour opening the door and going outside for some fresh air. The smoky room may have been my imagination but it was not a good experience and I was hoping it would not have a detrimental impact on my breathing for the long day ahead and I was soon back in my bag asleep until morning.
The Walk Day 3
I had set the alarm for 0715 and it duly went off at the appointed time. That gave me enough time to have breakfast and get packed up ready to leave the bothy at 0800. There are clouds in the sky and the hill summits are in the clag. I walked along the path leaving the bothy which leads to the shoreline then seems to disappear, so I just contoured around the hillside at the shoreline. This might not be possible at high tide but you could just ascent the hillside instead. I then headed over the boggy flatlands at the base of the glen. There was a large number of deer here and their and they didn’t seem to perturbed by my presence apart from the occasional stare. There is a bridge over the river Carnach at Carnoch but to get there I decide to follow the deer path which hugs the base of the hillside, avoiding the bogs, heading North East until I am adjacent to the bridge then I head North West over the bogs for half a km directly to the bridge. My feet are fully submerged on occasion and they are wet again in no time.
The path then passes by an old settlement called Carnoch then Heads North West zigzagging up the 600m ascent up the hillside to the beallach below Sgurr Sgeithe. I then head North ascending 300m to the top of Meall Buidhe before dropping my pack for the final 300m walk along the top to the summit and back. The summit is slightly clagged in so there are no views to be had. I retrieve my pack and head down the North East ridge for the 4km walk to Luinne Bheinn. There is a clear path over the undulating terrain which descends and ascends as it progresses reaching the beallach below the 200m ascent to the 937m top and then onto the summit of Luinne Bheinn. Again the summit is in the clag so I continue over the summit again following the path descending the rocky hillside. At some point I lose the path so I just descend the hillside to the path following the fence line which I can see below me leading to the Mam Barrisdale path. Again its extremely boggy but the good news is that the sun is coming out.
I can clearly see my intended route crossing the Mam Barrisdale path and heading directly to what looks like a shear ascent to Stob a Chearcall and I duly head on my way. In my mind I am worrying about the ascent to the ridge. At this point the rain comes on and gets heavy. I have had good weather so far on this trip and I was hoping for it to continue for my final Munro but it looks like it was not to be. However as I approached the steep hillside below the ridge the rain stopped and the sun started to shine again.
I was looking for an ascent and found what looks like a deer track going straight up the rocky hillside. It was very steep and wet and slippy with a couple of tricky climbs but then it led to a nice deer track heading West traversing the hillside all the way to the spot height at 849m. I was home and dry now so I thought. All the hard work was done right. Wrong. The ascent up over Bealach Coire Dhorrcail and onto and up to the summit of Ladhar Bheinn was the final sting in the tale. I had to work for this one and in all honesty I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. The sun was out in full and the views were just superb far more so than I had imagined and could have wished for. Knoydart is extremely remote, rough and tough.
I was on my own which has been the case for the vast majority of my Munros and apart from the couple I met in Glenfinnan I had not seen another walker for two days. I walked over to the second top with the broken trig point and then I walked back to the summit again. I didn’t really want to leave the summit. This was it. This was my Compleation of Munro’s summits over 3000ft. This is what I had been working at for more than 4 years, the sweat, the toil, the big rounds, the pain, the early starts, the lack of sleep and here I was on the last summit. Ok, so I haven’t done all the tops, I haven’t done the Corbetts, the Hewits, the grahams, the Wainwrights or any other classification of hills but I have now done the Munro’s.
I reluctantly realised that I had to leave to get down to Inverie in daylight. So I walked back to the trig point and continued West for the easy descent to An Diollaid and then directly South West down Coire Garbh past the forest, over the bridge and then a 6km walk back to Inverie. I arrived at Inverie at 1820 and had a quick drink in The Old Forge before heading for the Knoydart Foundation Bunkhouse to get cleaned up ready for dinner in the pub. I met Bob and Gethen, Kayakers from Wales. They had been at Sourlies 2 hours before I arrived there on the Wednesday and to finish the evening Gethen joined me in a few tunes on the guitars in The Old Forge. Absolutely fantastic
Well, that was the Munros. A journey which started in 1985 with the Ben Nevis race ended in 2012 on Ladhar Bheinn although 278 of those Munros were walked in the last 4 years and one month. I never had any real interest in the Munros until Danny suggested I go to Loch Quoich in September 2008 to camp, canoe and bag some Munros for the week. That set the tone for Munro bagging firmly in my mind and I have not looked back since.
I have walked in some really crap weather and conversely I have had some fantastic weather along the way. I have met many people and made some good lasting friendships. This is not the end of my journey however and I hope to walk many more hills in the near and distant future.