Date: Friday 28th to Sunday 30th May 2010
Start: Coireshubht near Kinloch Hourn
Weather: Cloudy then Rain leading to Blue Skies and Sun
Distance: 52 km
Time taken: 22 Hours
Ascent: 4179 metres
Accompanied by: Derek (some of the way)
Munro: Meall Buidhe (946 metres)
Munro: Luinne Bheinn (939 metres)
Munro Top: Luinne Bheinn East Top (937 metres)
Corbett: Sgurr a’Choire-bheithe (913 metres)
Corbett: Sgurr nan Eugallt (898 metres)
Graham: Slat Bheinn (700 metres)
n invitation to ‘stag-party’ in Inverie gave me the opportunity to sample a place that had been high on my list for a while now – Knoydart from Kinloch Hourn. Everyone else attending the stag would be getting the ferry from Mallaig but I had other ideas. How about ‘walking in’ and knocking off a couple of peaks on the way? I was drawn to a walk report on ‘Walk Highlands’ which featured the Corbett, ‘Sgurr nan Eugallt. I could use this as the start and work my way towards Inavrie, ticking off peaks as I go. I plotted all the Munro’s, Corbett’s and Graham’s on my map and planned and contemplated a route.
By travelling south-west in a pretty much straight line, I could climb Sgurr nan Eugallt, Slat Bheinn, Sgurr a Choire-bheithe, Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe. From here I could head west and pick up the land rover path that runs alongside the Inverie River and into Inverie. The following day I could take in the final Munro, Ladhar Bheinn and hike back along the coastal path to Kinloch Hourn.
Phew, this was going to involve some serious ‘cross-country’ trekking and to give myself a decent chance of success, I decided the best bet would be to travel up late Friday afternoon and do a wild camp on the first Corbett so that I would have a good start the next day. Whilst everyone else was preparing for the drive to Mallaig, myself and Derek, a work colleague, who also fancied the cross country experience set off up north towards Kinloch Hourn. Kinley’s post had mentioned a lay-by opposite a stalkers path that leads up to Sgurr nan Eugallt. The question was, do I leave the car here and walk up the road at the end or drive down and park the car at the car park and walk up the road at beginning. I decided to leave the car in lay-by. A couple of kilometres up the road at the end won’t do any harm will it? (I was going to regret this decision on the Sunday).
We set off up the path and it did not take long before we reached the bealach, near where the path stalkers path ends. The clouds where dark and moody but fortunately the rain was holding off. We headed up to the trig-point then west along the ridge towards the bealach between Meall nan Eun and Sgurr nan Eugallt. Meall nan Eun is a Graham and it was never in my initial plans but the distinctive three tops looked appealing. A quick discussion ensued. Should we take in this ‘extra’ peak then make our way down to the River Barrisdale and camp there or push on and try and get to the top of Slat Bheinn before nightfall? Like the last slice of cake, just sat there waiting to be eaten, the lure of this additional peak had a huge pull and maybe if I had been on my own then I would have succumbed to the temptation. But we decided that the sensible approach would be to push on and get some of the ascent out of the way.
We descended the 350m from the bealach to the River Barrisdale and checked the time. It was 21:15 and we where at an altitude of 143 metres. The summit is 700 metres so we had an ascent of about 550 metres. It would probably be dark by the time we got to the top but the terrain did not seem to offer any significant issues so we pushed on.
We estimated about an hour to get to the top but it probably took about 90 minutes. By the time we got to 400 metres, the rain had begun to fall steady and the grassy banks where wet and slippy. I was surprised that even in darkness you could make out the definition of the mountain and after a number of false summits, the top was finally in view. By this time it was 22:45 and we hastily set about finding somewhere to camp. The wind was westerly so we dropped 20 metres or so to the east and ‘tucked in’ below a big outcrop with the potential of great sunrise views across Loch Quoich. The night passed without drama and at 7am we where packing our tents away and ascending the short distance back to the summit. From there we headed south-west towards the Corbett, Sgurr a Choire-bheithe. I suspect that most people would probably climb this peak from Barrisdale and follow the north-west spur to the top, and not even bother with Slat Bheinn which is a shame because what this hill lost in height, it gained in character.
We dropped down to the little loch and I made a mental note to maybe come back one day and wild camp here. We then worked our way up towards the summit of Sgurr a Choire-bheithe. The acsent offered not considerable difficulties and we made decent time to the top, stopping occasionally for photographs. I liked the summit of this mountain, the views where expansive and clouds whisping in and out of the summits added to the drama. Three peaks down and we had not met another person, although I knew this would change as soon as we tackled our first Munro, Luinne Bheinn.
We had been fortunate with the weather and whilst it had been cloudy all day, it had not rained at all. Our luck finally ran as we hit the procession of other people heading up the Munro who had made their way up from Barrisdale. We trudged to the top, the rain becoming heavier and I will not deny that I was a little deflated at not being able to get any sort of view. The mist momentarily lifted from Meall Buidhe and I could see how far we still had to travel. For the first time I felt a little weary. We dropped back down and trudged round along the path. One consolation was that even in mist and rain, navigation was easy and we could put the map away. We made reasonable progress and climbed up the rocks towards the summit. I cannot imagine how amazing it would be up here with clear skies but today it was not going to be so I swallowed my disappointment and plodded on. I stole a momentary glance at the pile of rocks that marked the summit but other than that I did not draw breath.
As is the case towards the end of the day, conversation was kept to a minimum and we joined the procession of other people making their way towards Inverie. We ascended over An t-Uiriollach and I reflected on the day. It was a shame to not get any sort of a view from the two Munros but the disappointment of this was balanced by the amazing other hills we had climbed. We arrived in Inverie at 18:15. Derek was staying in the cottage with the other guys but my plans where to camp. With a table booked for 7pm at the Doune Restaurant there was little time to do anything but have a quick shower, get changed and set off. Our taxi was a land rover that would deposit us somewhere up a dirt-track where we would then have to hike down a hillside to the restaurant. We would be travelling back Inverie by boat. Great stuff!
The meal was awesome and the journey back by boat was great. We all headed into the ‘Old Forge’ and settled down for a couple of beers. I pondered on my route back out tomorrow, even without any peaks, it was a good 15 miles. Derek was travelling back out by ferry to Mallaig so I would be hiking out on my own. I would make a decision on my route the next day.
Morning came and even though I had only had one beer I still felt a little hungover. One of the locals had promised me that the weather would be good, but the skies where still overcast and the mountain tops shrouded in mist. I decide to abort any further summit attempts and just hike out instead. I tried to justify the poor weather for this decision but the truth was that I was pretty knackered from the previous days exertions and the thought of a 15 mile hike did not fill me with much enthusiasm let alone adding a couple of peaks on top as well.
One of the more sober guys offered to walk a couple of miles up the Gleann an Dubh Lochain but his generosity did not extend to carrying my pack 🙂 so I set off at 7:30 and made my way past Loch an Dubh-Lochain and then up towards the bealach where I said goodbye to Andrew and dropped down towards Barrisdale Bay. There was half a dozen or so tents at the campsite and people where busy packing up and setting off for the hills no doubt. I stopped briefly for something to eat and took a couple of photos then headed along the path that runs alongside the loch.
Eventually I arrived at the car-park at Kinloch Hourn. It was here my decision to leave the car in the lay-by came back to haunt me. It is bad enough walking on tarmac in the first place but to throw in some really steep inclines was nothing but torture. Every time I rounded a corner, the road would go up again. At 2:15pm I arrived back at the car and relaxed for a while on my comfy car seat before seating off back to Dunfermline. The weather may have been a little grim and it was a shame not to get good views from all of the tops but Knoydart is a truly wild place and there is no doubt I will be back soon 🙂