Thursday, January 21, 2010

A Long Walk in Knoydart Scotland

A Long Walk in Knoydart, Scotland!

It was an undertaking devised after copious amounts of malt whisky, one of these times when the Ordnance Survey Landranger map seems to shrink, and contour lines merge together to make sheer slopes into easy angled ridges. I'm sure we've all realised in the past, that the miles and slopes are easily walked when we're sitting in front of a roaring log fire, with a glass in hand!

The plan that evolved was the ultimate in corbett bagging in that gorgeous part of Scotland known as Knoydart. A three day adventure designed to bag six corbetts! At this stage, you may or may not wish to consult Landranger map 33 and locate Coiresdubh at grid reference NG 958 054. It's just a mile South of Kinlochhourn. The first day was to take us over two rugged corbetts and through to the wonderful village of Inverie, and that equally wonderful pub, The Old Forge.

Day one and the first target was the Corbett of Sgurr nan Eugallt, a fine hill with a fantastic stalkers path providing easy access to the hill. A fairly steep drop followed to Loch an Lagain Aintheich, and an ascent to Sgurr a' Choire Bheithe. We were then to descend through Gleann Unndalain, over Mam Barrisdale and on to Inverie.

The participants in this escapade were myself and my hillwalking pal, Norrie Shand. We were ably assisted logistically, by my wife Susan and pals Dave and Robin. Susan and Dave accompanied us on the first climb of the day, and Susan and Robin returned two days later to pick us up from the end of our walk at Loch Quoich, after climbing Ben Aden themselves.

The climb up Sgurr nan Eugallt was a real pleasure, with the stalkers path proving that the path builders knew their trade. The conditions were dry and sunny, which was just as well, as for some inexplicable reason I'd decided to do the whole walk in a pair of trainers! Anyone who has walked in Knoydart will tell you that this is folly in the extreme, the 'Rough Bounds' being a clue as to the often terrifying terrain! Anyway, the party had an enjoyable walk to the summit trig point, where we parted, each to their own fate! Not long after our walk, the summit of this particular corbett was resurveyed and found to lie some 500 metres away! This of course led us to return to the hill another day to bag the correct summit. Yes, it does pay to climb all the bits that inevitably seem higher until you get to them and on looking back are obviously lower. Very deceptive these mountains can be!

The descent South to the aforementioned Lochan was an experience in itself, being very steep and rugged! We started off together and yet within two or three minutes I had no sight of Norrie and despite shouting, received no response. As the 'Rough Bounds' tag began to resonate, I had cause to regret my choice of footwear in this unforgiving terrain! On meeting again at the Lochan, we began to question the amount of whisky we had drunk to work out this challenging route. A long haul through thigh high heather took us up onto the ridge and our next goal, Sgurr a' Choire Bheithe. Another punishing descent took us down Gleann Unndalain to meet the Mam Barrisdale path, a right of way from Barrisdale to Inverie. On reaching the high point of the path, Mam Barrisdale, we decided on a course of action that Norrie was later to regret.

As each of our packs were chafing, we swapped packs. Additionally, as Norrie likes to take a little more time to appreciate the scenery, I set off at a canter on the downhill stretch on the way to Inverie. Whether it was the scent of a pint of cider in my nostrils, I don't know, but I covered the ground like a race horse destined for glory! I reached what we later discovered was Inverie House, knocking on the door to check that this was our Bunkhouse for the night. It happened that this wasn't our Bunkhouse, but the caretaker looking after the house, which was being renovated, pointed me in the right direction for the Bunkhouse.

Dropping off my pack, I made my way directly to the Old Forge for refreshment. The bar was a throng of locals and visitors, each enjoying the atmosphere of this special place, as well as its ale! As the clock struck 10pm, the friendly locals engaged me in conversation, kindly helping me with my pronunciation of the unpronouncable gaelic mountain, loch and river names. I quite forgot about Norrie as I noted the caretaker entering the bar and we bought eachother a drink.

Some two hours later, the bar door swung open and there stood my bedraggled pal, his dark glasses steamed up and a bemused look on his face! When we'd parted, I'd taken his normal glasses which were in his pack, and in the dark he was well nigh blind in his dark ones. Norrie explained that he too had approached Inverie House believing it to be our Bunkhouse. With the caretaker in the Pub, Norrie pushed open the door and entered the establishment. With no lighting and our hero being blind as a bat, he fumbled his way from room to room seeking some lighting. The highlight of his nocturnal ramblings was to feel his way round the snooker table wondering what strange object this could be! It still brings a tear to my eye to imagine Norrie and the snooker table!

After his first pint, he still couldn't quite see the funny side, but we made up the next day, enjoying another super day out in Knoydart, one of the best places on the planet. If this story seems more Ronnie corbett than climbing corbetts, then I apologise and will save you the story of the next two days which were equally eventful! I love Knoydart! Thanks to Knoydart House for reminding me of quite how special this place is!

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