Thursday, July 08, 2010

Knoydart and Loch Quoich: Sgurr nan Coireachan (213), Garbh Chioch Mhor (116) and Sgurr na Ciche (92)

Walk date: 29/5/10 (Saturday)
My Munro #'s: 197, 198 and 199

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Skoor nan korachan - peak of the corries - 953m
Garav kee-ach voar - big rough place of the breast - 1013m
Skoor na keesh - peak of the breast - 1040m

Duration - 10:00? - 20:00
Distance - 28.4km
Total ascent - not recorded
Weather - poor from first hill, constant rain, wind and low cloud until back in glen
Team - Paul P
Other hikers: 5

Paul P and George 'Knoydart and around' hiking 2010

This turned out to be the last hiking day of this trip, and what an epic to finish on! This was always going to be a big day, but add in fatigue, poor weather, a wrong turn and an end-of-day race for food, and this is a day we won't forget in a while!

This hike had the same route in as the day before, with the endless drive along Loch Arkaig giving us plenty of time to contemplate that task ahead. This time we stayed in Glen Dessarry past the lodge until the road ran out and became a good, if wet, path deep into the hills. After a river crossing, a small cairn marked the point of climbing, and a descent path took us up toward first target Sgurr nan Coireachan.

As we hit the broad summit here, the cloud and rain hit us, and basically stayed all day. With a combination of a miscommunication between us and a couple of hikers we met, the flat summit, the low visibility and unbelievably not taking a bearing, it turned out we set off from this hill the wrong way, heading over toward yesterday's Sgurr Mor rather than Garbh Chioch Mhor, and we got all the way until An Eag before realising over mistake, once we met some more hikers who set us right (the irony being we had thought about doing all 4 hills in one, but reckoned it would have been too much!).

Given that the day was big and tight for time anyway, such an event was not welcomed, but we decided the objective was still possible, and set into a 'repair situation' pace, stomping back up Coireachan despite burning thighs. Now, with GPS and compass firmly in hand, we made off steeply down to the col, and onto the long back of Garbh Chioch Mor. In the cloud, this hill was unforgiving, one of those 'the next top is the peak', but then it never is, until you're ready to give up!

Eventually, the summit came, but we didn't hang about, instead dropping the short distance before finally Sgurr na Ciche was in front of us. This pyramidal peak has the ascent path you would expect, and I for one felt no shame in dropping my pack at the col where we would soon return. Savouring the last peak of the holiday, we powered up the 200m or so final ascent, which included some fun scrambly sections, feeling great once on top, but still without any views to speak off, a shame as we knew our other Knoydart peaks were just beyond the mist.

Off from the col, the descent made its way along a rocky river course, and I was happy that there hadn't been much more rain recently! After that rough slopes slowly took us back into the glen and a very long trek along it. However, with the last orders for food at Invergarry Hotel prominent in our minds, we powered along it as fast as we could. It was then left to Paul to do that awful drive one more time, getting us to the Hotel bang on 21:00 when they graciously accepted our orders!!

One last note, I had tried to give food orders over the phone as soon as we got reception. Although they wouldn't take them, but said they would look out for us. This led to me announcing upon arrival that we had 'phoned ahead'. Promptly, a tourist at the bar, thought I had said we had 'found a head'! You can just imagine the scene, as we burst in with dirty hiking gear looking bedraggled announcing body parts out in the hills. A great end to the week!

While we still had views, Sgurr na Ciche looks good:

Is that rain that cometh?

Sgurr na Ciche was the next photo:

That descent route:

Coming out the other side:

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Knoydart and Loch Quoich: Sgurr Mor (132)

Walk date: 28/05/10 (Friday)
My Munro #'s: 196

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Skoor mor - big peak - 1003m

Duration - 10:45 - 17:15
Distance - 20km
Total ascent - 1500m
Weather - Again very lucky with the weather: rainfall occurred around us but we only got light amounts. Windier and colder than before but still ok.
Team - Paul P
Other hikers: none

Paul P and George 'Knoydart and around' hiking 2010

Gulvain was Bridget's last Munro on this trip and the start of this day saw Paul take her to the station for her onward travels to visit friends. Part II thus got underway and Paul and I set out again toward the Knoydart hills, this time from the western end of Loch Arkaig, which while driving along its twisty single track road, felt like the longest body of water in the world!! Allow a good hour, but to be comfortable 90 mins.

The hike starts in Glen Dessarry, but soon turns a sharp right to head ENE climbing past the Glendessarry Lodge up onto a boggy rough saddle before dropping into the long Glen Kingie.

My book had described a circular tour of the hill, which now stood proudly before us, but as we surveyed it Paul and I deemed this an unnecessary expedition, and instead opted for a direct attack on the corrie. Although steep, progress was very good, and we were pleasantly surprised by our rapidity to the summit. The views over the unvisited territory of Loch Quoich were particularly fine.

With yet another new hostel to find that evening, and cooking to do, we carried on apace, being very impressed with our 6.5 hours turnaround seeing as my book had suggested 9-10!

Starting the climb from Glen Dessarry:

Sgurr Mor over Glen Kingie:

Looking down (E) Glen Kingie:

Up we go, corrie approach:

Looking west over Sgurr na Ciche:

Loch Quoich:

More Quoich:

Paul and the cairn:

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Loch Lochy, Loch Arkaig and Loch Eil: Gulvain (161)

Walk date: 27/05/10 (Thursday)
My Munro #'s: 195

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Goolvan - filthy hill - 987m

Duration - 13:25 - 20:10
Distance - 21.4km
Total ascent - 1400m
Weather - Very lucky with weather: heavy rain during drive, and snow storms visible on neighbouring hills, but nothing on us while walking!
Team - Paul P and Bridget
Other hikers: none

Paul P, Bridget and George 'Knoydart and around' hiking 2010
The trouble with going to Knoydart was the travelling involved either side. This cost us a day's hiking on the way out, but on the way back we were determined to get one in. This led to an afternoon start on Gulvain, a reclusive hill off the A830 Mallaig to Fort William road. This hill would be straightforward with a bike each, but as that wasn't possible, we were faced with a long approach on foot along a fairly uninteresting forest trail.

Nonetheless, foot after foot eventually gives you what you want, and the solitary mound of Gulvain draws into view. A good path leads all the way up to a fine, and long, summit ridge. As would be expected, the actual peak is the second of the two, but in the knowledge that time wasn't going to be a limiting factor despite our initial concerns, it turned out to be a very pleasant stroll, especially as the dramatic weather we could see all around, remained a backdrop.

Chips in Fort William and a beer at Glen Nevis hostel was exactly what we wanted to close off Part I of this trip.

Finally, Gulvain comes into view:

Almost time to go up it!

On the crest, peak one of two revealing itself:

Keep going, more to do yet:

Looking back from the actual peak:

Who can resist a cairn picture?

Which way is the chip shop?

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Knoydart and Loch Quoich: Meall Buidhe (222) and Luinne Bheinn (234)

Walk date: 26/05/10 (Wednesday)
My Munro #'s: 193 and 194

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Myowl booee - yellow hill - 946m
Loonya vyn - hill of anger, or hill of melody - 939m

Duration - 09:00 - 18:30
Distance - 23.8km
Total ascent - 1707m
Weather - warm start, some cold on top including brief snow. ~1 hour of intermittent rain at end of day, but then came fine again.
Team - Paul P and Bridget
Other hikers: 8

Paul P, Bridget and George 'Knoydart and around' hiking 2010

What would you follow a big day with but another big day? Previous year's plans of alternating big and small days were not possible on Knoydart as you just have to take what there is.

Today started then with the same track passing beside the low forest and then heading out along side the Inverie River. Holding our western direction we veered off the track up Gleann Meadail. Despite trying, we couldn't see a path starting up Druim Righeanaich so after a brief spell in the glen, we were faced once again with the joy of hot and tiring drudging up steep grassy slopes. Eventually we broke out onto the top, and found a clear path along the crest, meaning that somewhere down there a path did exist, maybe next time...

As soon as we were on the path the going was easy, and I'd definitely recommend this approach as even with a drop and a climb in hot sun, Meall Buidhe came up surprisingly quickly. After a good lunch with time to spare, the good path continued along with some small scrambly sections to maintain interest.

After a good deal of fine walking in splendid surroundings, we eventually came upon the steep summit slopes of Luinne Beinn, and the path stayed good all the way up. The views were absolutely amazing in all directions, with the neighbouring Sgurr na Ciche to the south-east looking particularly fine.

The descent wasn't too clear to start with, but once down on the pass the going was very quick. Another superb day, ending with a supreme dinner in The Forge.

They're just not shy around here!

Gleann Meadail looking good in the sun:

That crest at An t-Uiriollach:

And then some:

Meall Buidhe looking good:

Strolling along:

The route over to Luinne Bheinn:

Continuing on:

Getting close:

Luinne Bheinn, another fine summit:

Coat on, must be serious:

Loch Hourn below again:
Good weather to finish on:
And a nice dinner to come:

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Knoydart and Loch Quoich: Ladhar Bheinn (111)

Walk date: 25/5/10 (Tuesday)
My Munro #'s: 192

Pronunciations - translations - heights:
Laarven - hoof or claw hill - 1020m

Duration - 09:30 - 18:30
Distance - 23.6km
Total ascent - didn't record
Weather - some cold spells with spots of snow but largely fine, and glorious in second half of day.
Team - Paul P and Bridget
Other hikers: 5

Paul P, Bridget and George 'Knoydart and around' hiking 2010

Yes, I was sure I used to have a blog!! Well, with little Xavier arriving on the scene in April I was lucky to get any hiking in at all; the write-up was never part of the deal. The hiking was at the end of May, and I guess a 3 month delay in the write-up is (kinda) acceptable...

So this year the destination was the remote peninsula of Knoydart, staying in a bunkhouse just outside the (only) village of Inverie, accessible only by ferry from Mallaig, unless that is you want to hike in over a day or so from the mainland! There are 7 hills on the peninsula depending where you mark its boundary, we did 3 from Inverie and the rest from the westernmost access point.

The 3 hills on the western end were done in two hikes, the first up being a long, but interesting circular take on Ladhar Beinn. A good track climbs from the Inverie village roads up along side forest and out above the wide basin of the Inverie River. Although there was a choice to ascend immediately onto the southern ridge via Sgurr Coire Choinnichean, we decided to let our porridge digest for a little bit and kept low until we found more reasonable grass slopes just before Loch an Dubh-Lochain. These were still difficult however just for the effort, and it was with glad hearts we finally broke out onto the crest at Coire Dubh.

Once on the ridge progress was good although the incline didn't diminish too much. A nice turn at Aonach Sgoilte's split brought us in line with the summit ridge. A quick lunch gave way to some light scrambling sections, a fine summit and even finer views; over the mainland, Skye, the Western Isles, and the inner hebrides. Marvellous!

After all the work, the descent flew by, as steep grassy slopes proved much easier to go down on! Although the trails through the lower forest seemed to go on an age, the imminent real ale pint at The Forge kept our attention well, and sitting at the bay at the end of the day was a truly great moment.

The ferry ride out just after spotting dolphins!

The superb The Forge pub, now for sale! Anyone?

View from the beer garden.

The trail out, before the climb.

Starting up those grassy slopes!

Fine walking on the ridge.

The only way is up!

Grand scenery!

The summit ascent begins:

Steep drops to the west:

Looking back on the ascent:

Loch Hourn far below:

Satisfied hikers:

This is where it's at!

Looking out to Skye:

The sun beats down in Gleann na Guiserein:

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