Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Knoydart & the Forcan Ridge, 20-23 April'12

The Knoydart trip is one of our jewels in our calendar. Such a fabulous area with 3 characterful Munros and stunning views. Our only dilemma is how to cram in so much into just a few days !

We'd organised this April trip, which began with luxury in the Glenelg Inn for an overnight stay. On the next morning our group, which consisted of George, brothers Andrew and Philip and brother and sister Tom and Catherine, headed directly from Glenelg down Loch Hourn to Barisdale in the heart of Knoydart on Chris Main's fast rib. After landing in the bay, a brief walk took us to the bothy, where we planned to stay for up to 3 nights. Kit sorted, our target for today was Larven. This complex mountain demands respect ! There are several ways to ascend it and we opted for a clockwise circuit. In generally fine weather with clear views, we headed up the track towards the Mam Barisdale pass. Cutting of early, we climbed directly up Stob a Muicraidh, then scrambled around Stob a Chearcaill and onto Larven's south-east ridge. Several ups and downs and finally we were on the summit crest, the weather having taken a turn for the worse, sending snow into our now cold faces.

Our return began with a descent towards Stob a'Choire Odhair, however the ground was covered in a layer of new snow and after a few slips, I decided it would be safer, if also longer, to return the way we'd come up. And we did, taking our time, getting back to the bothy as darkness fell.
Our second day saw us heading back up the Mam Barisdale track. A text from my partner told us the weather where we were was the best in Scotland ! We ascended Luinne Bheinn by its north- west shoulder, gaining height quickly. Cloud shrouded the summit, still snow covered. It took a couple of hours to get to Meall Buidhe, passing some weird rock formations on the way. After meeting no-one yesterday, it was a pleasant change to meet a few groups on the way, including one guy carrying an inflatable raft and another group testing jackets for Gore-tex. The views were simply stunning and our camera batteries started to drain with over-use ! A descent north and back over Mam Barisdale to us back to the bothy in perfect time for evening meals.
Day 3 and a change of plans. Some of the team had originally thought we could reach Sgurr na Ciche. However a quick measurement of long distance and ascent quickly put this idea in the bin. Chris had kindly accepted our request to return us to Glenelg and on the Sunday morning we packed up our stuff and walked the mile or so to our pick-up point. We were whisked back along Loch Hourn and to Glenelg. Some of the team decided to return home, whereas brothers Andrew and Philip were eager for some more hills. Beinn Sgritheall stood high nearby, so a smart choice for an afternoon's climb. In fine weather Philip and I headed up from Arnisdale to the col between Sgritheall and Eaglaise and then onto the summit, whereas Andrew decided to stay in the sumptuous inn as he'd been up this mountain before. He missed out on some great views, as far as Ben Nevis to the south-east and Torridon to the north.
The plan on our final day was to gain the Saddle via the
Forcan Ridge, then head over to Sgurr na Sgine. Up grassy slopes, Andrew, Philip and I reached the base of the ridge towering above us, looking quite intimidating ! We took our time at a steady pace and clambered up, keeping more or less to the crest all the way. We only missed out the 'bad step', taking the bypass path to the south. Higher up snow on the northern rim presented some minor obstacles, before we reached the summit of The Saddle. A squally shower of hail hit us on the top - we had a fairly mixed bag of weather today, sun one minute, snow and hail the next. The views however were stunning. Over to Sgurr na Sgine, we then descended via Faochaig's eastern shoulder back to the roadside.

It had been a great 4 days in wonderful surroundings with lovely people. Philip summed up his time here as 'the best four days hillwalking I ever had' !
Photos of the trip are on our Flickr page soon.
Our next Knoydart trip is on the 14 June and more details are here .