Monday 1st July 2013
Weather/Conditions: Wet and grey on the walk in by Loch Hourn. Nice on Ladhar Bheinn, setting in a bit over the other two hills. Not toobad though, some gusty wind, dull conditions on Meall Buidhe and stunning dark calm conditions descending into Loch Nevis in the evening.
Distance/Ascent/Time:30 June:11km / 400m / 3h 30m
1 July: 23.7km / 2250m / 12h 40m
I hadn't been to Knoydart before. Dougie was joining me for this part, which offset a lot of the potential isolation of one of the most starkly savage places I've now ever been. We didn't even get the best of the weather for Knoydart, but I'm still of the opinion that it's all that people say it is, and more.
Dougie and I began with the Loch Hourn coastal walk. After driving from Fort Augustus, we procrastinated over cups of tea, until it was decided we'd need to get out there and go.
Bags were packed, then we set off from Kinlochhourn, the start of a mega trip into one of the wildest places in Scotland. Loch Hourn is an incredibly beautiful place, and we plodded over the up's and down's of the track, through trees, boulderfields and past islands.
Often, I wish I could get pictures on this blog more easily, and this is one of those times! We arrived at Barrisdale, another beautiful place. The spires of Ladhar Bheinn sent a shiver down the spine.
We went into the bothy and there we found the two Belgium guys I'd seen two days previously in Glen Finnan. The chat was great, we cracked open wine, and passed the evening in Barrisdale as night fell. Winds blew and rain fell outside. It had been a wild day, not one to be up high. It was just as well we'd done the coastal walk!
Dougie and I had considered (and decided against) climbing Ladhar Bheinn the previous evening. So it was stuck onto the main Knoydart day, making a big day even bigger.
Where do I begin... these hills are so big, and the day was hard. There was the stress of the long day, the weight of the rucksacks, the prospect that however hard today was, tomorrow would be further and harder. But Knoydart really is incredible and I wish I had more time to stay and really see it without the pressure of peak-bagging.
We climbed Ladhar Bheinn in good weather, ascending via. towering Stob a' Choire Odhair, a sharp fang of stunning severity. The whole of Ladhar Bheinn is pretty stunning, it's just turrets and peaks everywhere. It's almost amazing that a mountain of this altitude has so much form and structure; often the Munros have to be a bit higher to have this architecture. But it's a mountain that drops straight to the sea - the dramatic west coast, and this of course makes it even better.
Ladhar Bheinn had been a hard slog, but Luinne Bheinn was harder. The hours slipped by worryingly fast, and we began to realise we'd get to Sourlies (bothy) very late. The stress levels went quite high, and I worried about pace. But we made the top in time, and my desire was just to be over the last Munro, Meall Buidhe. We hadn't packed tents, and the sanctuary of Sourlies was still a long way off.
Meall Buidhe is a hell of a mountain. Most of Knoydart is kind of rough, but Meall Buidhe is simply one of the most dramatic mountains I've ever seen. The Earth spilled up it's guts on this hill; topographically it's not outstanding compared to many other well-sculpted mountains, but everywhere is an insane maze of bare exposed slabs, walls and crazy contortions of rock. How the hell did this mountain end up this way?
Dougie and I slogged up to the summit somewhere around about 9pm and dropped off the other side to Sourlies. On this side there's still a severity of terrain you don't quite see on the map. We got down to the Mam Meadail path as the light dimmed and dropped down to Loch Nevis as the light completely went. Even still, we didn't quite need torches. With Sourlies around the corner, we stopped for a moment at the beach on Loch Nevis and listened to the calm silence. Despite being so far 'out there', the atmosphere was not a threatening one as had been experienced on Meall Buidhe. Home for the night was just a kilometre around the headland, right by the coast. We sloshed around the headland, through the sea water up to our knees, and got to the bothy bang on midnight. We woke up a German couple; they were very accommodating! Sourlies is a brilliant place, and I will be back.
Photos: Barrisdale bothy
Meall Buidhe & Descent to Loch Nevis
(0.00) 2.45pm Kinloch Hourn
(3.30) 6.15pm Barrisdale
(0.00) 11.20am Barrisdale
(3.55) 3.15pm Ladhar Bheinn
(7.40) 7.00pm Luinne Bheinn
(9.50) 9.10pm Meall Buidhe
(11.25) 11.05pm Carnach
(12.40) 12.00am Sourlies