Glendessary Corbett and a camp at Sourlies. April 2011.

Date: Saturday and Sunday 9th -10th April 2011
Distance: 16.5km + 14km
Ascent: 1200m + 500m

Late March to early June is our favourite wild-camp season so we watch for any opportunity. The weekend had a great Saturday forecast with a windy night and a poor Sunday. Thoughts still turned to the NW and a planned camp out towards Knoydart.

It was a long misty drive out the Arkaig road (actually it was only 30miles from Fort Bill but it feels a very long way). We did stop and look at a pair of snipe sitting atop a bank at the roadside, shame the cameras were buried in the rucksacks as I’d have loved a picture.

Parked up at the road end – only 3 cars on arrival.

A misty start to the day, unsurprising as Loch Arkaig is probably the most common place in Scotland for inversion layers/fog/mist.

Our target for the day began to appear as we passed Glendessary Lodge.

The deer do tend to cluster here – watched us suspiciously.

The NW was a bit behind the greening south but the birds were in nesting mode. Listened to the bitonal sounds of snipe here and there.

Bidean a Chabhair:

It’s quick progress to Upper Glendessary in about 55 minutes, from there the track is much rougher. Squelchy and muddy are other applicable adjectives.

Bidean a Chabhair is a pointy looking affair – much admired on previous days.

Once the forest edge is passed it’s probably worth continuing 100m or so along the track before heading SW for the hill. The Allt is less steep banked further up.

Crossed the Allt and picked a line up Meall na Sroine. A steep but untechnical ascent, interspersed with the rustle of escaping lizards – glimpsed one or two.

As we neared the 550m mark a large dark raptor sailed round over our heads – adult Golden Eagle – gone with a pivot of wings and tail.

Bidean a Chabhair from Meall na Sroine:

Hot in the sun we contoured under the S of Meall na Sroine. This reintroduced us to one of our “Rules of Knoydart” – namely – Thou shalt not contour in Knoydart. As usual trying to avoid 30 m of climb results in 50 m of up and down. We knew that already.

Nice view of the summit over the lochan W of the 674m top.

?Newt Spawn:

Overtaken by a walker at this point.

Passed the lochan to the E of the summit – view to Sgurr na Ciche:

More bobbly up and down brought us to the last pull up to the summit – it looks a treat.

Met the walker from before on his way down and then headed up the last 100m. The summit cone was ascended from just R of the nose with a bit of minor scrambling.

A well-earned rest at the summit – with another walker arriving.

The day was a bit disappointing – very hazy and quite a milky sky. We could see out to Rum, Eigg and Skye but the view was less than the crisp blue I was hoping for. Still some cracking local views.

Sgurr na h-Aide

Ben Nevis

We then headed on and over to Sgurr na h-Aide – bobbly ridge and again a bit of minor scrambly territory to reach the second top.

Better views down to Loch Morar, An Stac and Rois-bheinn:

Bidean a Chabhair:

Out to sea with Loch Nevis and Loch Morar on either side of the ridge.

Our original plan was to head W and camp on Sgurr Breac or Sgurr Mor with the views out west and the Lochs north and south so we continued on to Sgurr nam Meirleach. The terrain remained Knoydarty – it is so jumbled that a hind I saw 20m away passing between 2 rocks just vanished. No wonder you could have a manhunt round these hills for months on end.

Sgurr na Ciche over Lochan

The terrain changed on this bit of the ridge with a change in rocks. Flat layers of rock were shearing off in slope failure to the south and the terrain was flatter.

Reached Sgurr nam Meirleach decision time. Sgurr Breac was only 2km away and easily achievable, but the skies had clouded making a great sunset very unlikely.

High camping seemed to offer no sunset, 50mph gusting and a clagged in start to the day. Regretfully decided to drop to Sourlies instead to see what we could see.

Eyeballing the plan:

Dropped down the NE ridge of Sgurr nam Meirleach into Coire Dubh and then down steep rough ground heading for Finiskaig.

Sgurr na Ciche and Garbh Cioch Mor from descent.


Heard my first Ring Ouzel song of the year – rather limited compared to its blackbird relatives. The alarm chatter is nearly identical though.

A Golden Eagle took up station circling over Hazel – we wondered if it had decided she looked like a straggler and might be a meal!

Head of Loch Nevis and Sourlies:

Eventually reached Finiskaig – only 16.5km and 1200m but seemed as much effort as last year’s Fisherfield walk with 4.5km and 900m more. Knoydart is rough.

Forded the river easily – could be tricky in spate. Camped on the far bank much to the irritation of the deer.

Great pitch spot. A very large bird flapped its way up the loch and flew low around the corries – landing once or twice. Fairly sure this was a juvenile Sea Eagle.

A thin line of redness suggested the sun might have dropped briefly under the cloudline at sunset but the hefty gusts of wind buffeting the tent suggested we’d have been in for a blow up high.

A freeze-dried meal, some snacks and a measure of spirits and a natter about the day saw us drifting off to sleep.

The wind dropped overnight – sticking my head out at 0300 saw a clear sky which was a surprise given the forecast. Got up at 0630 – clear hills all round and little wind. No real evidence of dawn though – presumably clouded to the east.

No hurry in striking the tent – porridge and hot chocolate and then packed up.

Sourlies to the road end is a substantial walk – similar to KH-Barisdale.
Although a bit of high cloud was present at dawn this cleared by 0900 and the sun rose in the pass so we had sunshine to walk in – all extra layers off. So much for a cold, drizzly, cloudy day!

The pass is rough – without a path getting over these would be really tricky. Even with a path of sorts it’s a decent walk.

Allt Coire na Ciche has carved a decent gorge.


Leafing deer-chewed Rowan

Hot work climbed the 300m into the pass with its lochans.

The path wends round the lochans – they were alive with small fish (?trout) – rising to feast on the insects.

Half- heartedly scolded by the shrill of a sandpiper – come back in 6 weeks and they’ll chide you off the premises.

Garbh Chioch Mor in Lochan:

We camped at the top of this pass in 2007 – there’s a great pitch just below the falls 200m NE of Lochan a Mhaim.

Crossed the summit of the pass and started down – this place is alive with orchids in June. Just on the cusp at the moment.

Disturbed some deer here – they moved a few paces and then stopped.

The track makes its way back to Upper Glendessary – twisty and slow. A better day gave us a chance to peruse our hill.

Managed to snap one lizard – first pic of the year.

Caterpillars here and there. This one seemed to be eating a rock!

The walk back along Glendessary always seems one of these optical effects – stretching off into the distance. I swear the place is longer west-east than the other way.

Bidean a Chabhair dominates the view along the glen.

Back to the car – the cold bag blissfully had maintained the Bundaberg Lemon/Lime bitters icy cold.

A really tough hill – Knoydarty ridges are always much harder work than they look on the map. Shame about the weather mix too – that sunset pic may need a walk from Loch Morar one of these days.

A long drive south and a welcome shower.

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