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.
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.
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.
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.
Overtaken by a walker at this point.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Dropped down the NE ridge of Sgurr nam Meirleach into Coire Dubh and then down steep rough ground heading for Finiskaig.
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!
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.
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 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.
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.
Crossed the summit of the pass and started down – this place is alive with orchids in June. Just on the cusp at the moment.
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.
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.