Thursday, 17 September 2015

Knoydart Munros, Sept'15

Our September trip into remote Knoydart and up the 3 Munros in the peninsula was being led by John Walker, accompanied by Hugh Clark preparing for his Mountain Leader assessment. Here's John tale of the days.......

 At last we have some semblance of summer!

I met Hugh (who was shadowing me prior to his Mountain Leader assessment next week), Valerie, Raymond, Sally and Diane at Mallaig on Tuesday morning, and we caught the Sea Bridge fast ferry over to Inverie. This is the tiny hamlet that forms the hub of the Knoydart Foundation, a group of individuals who bought the land from the landlord, and who now manage it in a sustainable manner for the benefit of the community, thriving on tourism and deer stalking in particular. We were staying in the foundation bunkhouse, which is very good and welcoming. There is also the Old Forge pub, famous as the most remote pub in mainland Britain, and for its seafood. Not a bad place to base a trip.

Wednesday was our first hill-day and we set off at 08:45 for an anti-clockwise round of Gleann na Guiserein, taking in the Corbett Sgurr Coire Choinnichean and the mighty Ladhar Bheinn. The weather was 19c, light breeze and unbroken sunshine. It would have been utterly idyllic, other than the pesky deer keds which were out in force all over the mountain - I suppose if you have a lot of deer, you're going to get a lot of keds! Other than those, it couldn't have been any better.

The long ridge from the Corbett to Aonach Sgoilte which leads onto Ladhar Bheinn, is absolutely splendid; a high-level promenade with views to die for, and all sorts of interesting wee ravines and outcrops . I am not going to rattle on about the views, as they speak for themselves on the pictures. We ooh-ed and aah-ed all the way along, and there was always another view around the corner as it were. Wonderful.

It is a big day, and despite the fact we made good time, it was still gone 15:30 before we made the top of Ladhar Bheinn, where we lingered in the afternoon sun. Finally, we could put it off no more, and we descended down into the glen, following the faint but reasonable path down to fire road, and then along that briskly back to Inverie. The only downer was that the pub closes on a Wednesday, so the pint that would have spelled the perfect end to the day was denied us - Boo! We made do with some wine at the bunkhouse, and the Clarks had a fine venison steak bought from the Foundation shop.
When we checked the MWIS forecast for the following day, we couldn't believe our luck - 'Chance of cloud free Munros almost certain'!

Thursday morning and we set off in cloud and midges at 8:30, but with faith in the forecast, and sure enough it brightened up as we walked along the track towards Mam Barrisdale, the high bealach on the way to Loch Hourn. We were strolling along merrily when our narrow way through a copse was blocked by a large highland cow, and others were taking a dip in the burn. You would have had to pass within  a metre of its huge horns, and as it didn't seem awfully happy,  we smartly detoured around, especially as there were calves too. As we climbed, Sally decided she had had a good enough day the day before, and opted for a meander back and a relaxed afternoon by the sea, whilst we continued upwards. Thankfully the cows had gone elsewhere as she returned.

The ground gets typically Knoydartian at the top of the pass, rough, boggy and stony, but we followed the old fence line before cutting up to the summit of Luinne Bheinn and some fantastic views. I promised earlier that I wouldn't harp on about them, but suffice to say I took my first ever panoramic photo. From then on the path undulates around rocky knolls and ever-improving scenery towards Meall Bhuidhe. We made good time, but needed a good few view stops as well as snack stops. When we finally got to the summit, at least one of our party was quite emotional with the vista, and I concurred.

The descent is straightforward if boggy at the bottom, and I got my own back after being mocked for being a ked-magnet, when first Hugh went in to the bog to his knees on each leg successively, and then Valerie went in to her crutch. How we giggled! After a wade through the bracken, we made the track, and were back in Inverie after 9 and a half hours on the hills - a good effort for this route ! The evening was passed in the Old Forge where Val had the Langoustines, which turn my stomach, so I had to eat with my gaze firmly on my venison burger! Wuss, I know, but I have never been able to eat things with tentacles and shells. *shudder*

Knoydart is a very special place, with an island feel and a slight sort of Wicker Man atmosphere. The hills are wild places, and as you ascend from sea level each time, they demand a lot of effort. But what a reward, especially in this weather. As I said above, wonderful.

More photos are on our Flickr photo sharing site.