Wild Camping on the roof of Knoydart. April 2009.

Date: Sat/Sun 18th and 19th April 2009
Distance: 23km

The forecasts finally gave us a good prospect of wild-camping at a weekend – we’ve got a long list of potential plans for this eventuality but one in particular was at the top of our list – Knoydart.

Had a plan for a Luinne Bheinn, Sgurr a Choire Bheithe loop for a while, had considered the addition of Slat Bheinn on perusing the maps recently.

The walk from Kinloch Hourn to Barrisdale is scenic and atmospheric, but it’ll grind down the legs of the less athletic. At 9km and 500m of ascent/descent it is a tough start unless you’re stopping at Barrisdale overnight.

We chose the easy option – Billy MacKenzie’s Arnisdale Ferry Service – picked up from Kinloch Hourn.

Billy was bang on time at 0830hrs – a quick hop on then roaring along the loch. A 3 hr tough walk condensed to 15mins.

It had been cloudy all the way from Fort William but from Kinloch Hourn it was beautifully clear.

Great views from the boat:

Dropped off at the jetty we now had a fairly short day planned – Luinne Bheinn and Sgurr a Choire Bheithe.

Ladhar Bheinn is the jewel of Knoydart – Coire Dhorcaill is stunning:

Easy amble along the beach then past Barrisdale campsite. Nice views to Beinn Sgritheall from here, but, have to say I’d far rather wild camp than camp down here.

Followed the Mam Barrisdale track onwards and upwards on a beautiful, warm day. 1 week before we’d been on Ben Macdui in all our insulation feeling Baltic.

View towards Inverie from Mam Barrisdale:

From the top of the pass headed straight for Luinne Bheinn. Initially followed a track along the fence line on the west side of the ridge but decided to break up onto the ridge line instead for better views.

Some deer seemed bemused to see us.

Quite a pleasant ridge with views back to Loch Hourn:

Steep but easy pull up Luinne Bheinn to its undulating summit. Hazy views, the incredibly rough corrie of Meall Bhuidhe caught the eye.

Congratulated each other on having run out of new munros to ascend on the mainland. View along the summit:

Went to the far top and found a sheltered, sunny nook and had some food and a cat-nap for an hour. Could get used to these slower paced days.

Some odd wind effects – I think the heat was producing vortices on the hill as we had at least 3 episodes of sudden strong winds producing a noise like plastic bags rustling (and during 1 the loose strap of my rucksack was upright) – either a vortex or some of the Knoydart faerie folk.

From Luinne Bheinn there’s an obvious ridge running Mam Unndalain. We’d seen 3 people catch us up on the summit – from here on there was no-one til we got back to the KH track on Sunday.

The ridge is typical Knoydart – you can plot a straight line on the map but what you do is weave on good grassy terrain through massive broken boulders and minor cliffs. The ridge:

View back to Beinn Sgritheall:

Uncomplicated progress to the pass. View to Loch nam Breac and Loch Quoich:

The day was warm, made our way at good pace up the adjoining Corbett – Sgurr a Choire Bheithe. At 913m it’s a smidgen short of the 3000ft mark. 300m of steep but non-technical ascent had us to the summit. One adult eagle circled briefly overhead.

Views from here were superior to Luinne Bheinn – a great view along Loch Hourn with more open views to the south and a view of Loch Quoich. It’s instructive that what may be the best viewpoint in Knoydart after Ladhar Bheinn had just the 2 of us over 16hrs while people trooped over the munros (as we watched through the binos).

Loch Hourn and Beinn Sgritheall:

Ben Aden – rough stuff:

Nice pool at the summit caught our eye – frogs croaking. Was watching this pool when I spotted little sparkly things moving – the Caddis Fly larvae on the bottom had built their cases out of the mica fragments in the pool giving them all sparkly, spangly cases. Never seen/noticed that before – it was like Invertebrate Saturday Night Fever there – enjoyed watching this. Poor pic of a larva:

Disco Fever Pool and Loch Quoich:

Although it was just 1600 we decided to stop and pitch the tent. We could have pressed on but we’d thought the best view of the trip would be this summit – best chance of sunset, best loch views.

Found a nice spot on the NE of the summit with a view of Loch Hourn, Loch Quoich and Ben Nevis:

Druim Chosaidh:

Ate some food on the summit and relaxed, then retired to tent as it cooled to sit and have a Ti mug of decent Ozzy Shiraz.

Got out again at 2000 for sunset. This was glorious – I’d expected the sun to set behind Ladhar Bheinn but in the event it slid just past the summit.

Hazel at tent:

Sun over Ladhar Bheinn:

Loch Hourn:

The sun entered the haze layer turning bright red:

And then the previously unseen Skye Cuillin showed in silhouette. (around the Inn Pin looking the next day).

Well-pleased, retired for some kip:

Awoke at 0400 to the sound of mist/light rain on the tent, expected summit cloud on arising. Had set my watch for 0545 to allow time to be up for dawn, slept through but woke at 0600 – clear outside so much cursing of zips and laces got me out of the tent door….just in time for sunrise:

Wandered round the summit with a beautiful dawn. Ring Ouzel singing on the cliffs of Druim Chosaidh. Little Alpenglow due to the diffusing haze layer but a sight to behold. Ben Nevis loomed to the south:

Hazel at tent:

Druim Chosaidh early light:

We lingered up here – warmed quickly, tried to let the tent dry as much as possible before packing up. Loch Hourn again:

From here we had the options of a direct return to Barrisdale via the NW ridge, a harder route via the Druim Chosaidh and Loch Quoich, or the rollercoaster over Slat Bheinn (which in fact was shorter but likely to be harder work).

Given good visibility we chose Slat Bheinn. Picked our way very steeply north from the summit aiming for the E-W ridge that descends to the base of Slat Bheinn at NG 904 023.

Descent view to Slat Bheinn:

Like the whole day none of this was technical but navigating safely through this in mist would be challenging.

View E from ridge:

Moon over Druim Chosaidh:

From here we picked a line almost direct for the summit, 100m up picked up a grassy rail for the next 100m then the summit area was flatter and jumblier.

View of Sgurr Choire a Bheithe – descent runs down right from summit onto the lower ridge:

Would have been a great campsite but the views were not nearly as good. I wondered how many people visit this summit per year – not that many I suspect.

Some more food to refuel then pressing on. Again the N side of Slat Bheinn is a massive jumble, we just wove and picked our way on grassy rails to make slow progress towards the River Barrisdale at NG 915 043.

View across Slat Bheinn N slopes and the bealach of re-ascent:

Ladhar Bhein from Slat Bheinn descent:

Lots of lizards in the grass:

Was surprised to see this – a young ‘un – never seen this before.

From the river the last ascent of the day – to the bealach between Sgurr an Sgiath Airigh and Meall nan Eun. The ascent is easy – simply a standard terrain, no rocks.

The three hills of the trip:

Reached the bealach – Meall nan Eun would be a minor diversion but I’ve got a plan for the Sgurr nan Eugallt to Carn Mairi ridge so we left it be.

Meall nan Eun:

Across Loch Hourn to The Saddle:

From here more rough decent to pick up the KH-Barrisdale track at Skiary – past all the ups and downs. Saw our first people for 27hrs at the track. View W along Loch Hourn.

Lovely walk back to the car along the Loch shore and then a beautiful drive south.

Love it when a plan comes together.

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