Ben Aden – 887m
11th September 2009
Distance: 12 miles (by kayak), 5 miles (walking)
Weather: Sunny and then cloudy at summit
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Andy and Molly
At the beginning of the week we had planned a Munro bagging spree around Fort William but the Met Office promised one of those rare phenomena, a period of high pressure over the western highlands. So, obviously overcome by the shock of such an occurrence, Andy and I agreed that a trip to Ben Aden by kayak would be a good idea!
Even a cursory glance at OS Sheet 33 will indicate that Ben Aden is in fact, a long way from anywhere. We had contemplated walking in along Loch Quoich, but 17 miles of trackless west highland terrain and 1,400m of ascent didn’t exactly make this one of the most appealing options. An approach by kayak seemed like a good idea and sounded quite fun. However, when Andy appeared with a small flimsy piece of plastic strapped to the roof of his car I experienced the first of many buttock clenching experiences that day.
Andy is an extremely experienced paddler but my water based experience amounted to a brief spell in a canoe on the River Thames when I was 12. I say a brief spell in the canoe because I spent most of the time falling out of it. To be honest, I feel queasy and nervous on the Corran Ferry so things did not bode well for 3 hours in a kayak. That is before we factored a hyperactive Border Collie into the equation.
We arrived on the shores of Loch Quoich in glorious sunshine and after much struggling and swearing we dragged the kayak down to the shore. At this point Molly thought this was all great fun and was thoroughly enjoying bounding in and out of the water, joyfully unaware of the traumatic experience yet to come.
The plan had been for Molly to sit between my knees whilst Andy and I paddled. Sadly for Andy this didn’t quite work out. We managed to wedge Molly into the boat and she sat quietly until we were 10m from the shore when she started shaking, 50m out she started panting as well, so for the remainder of the trip my sole job was to hold on to the quivering dog whilst Andy did all the hard work.
After an hour of paddling the dams at the end of Loch Quoich came into view.
As we neared the shore a perfect landing beach came into view on the left side of the dam and it was with great relief that we climbed back onto terra firma after 1 ½ hours on the water. Having spent this time with 23kg of quivering dog on my lap it took 15 minutes for me to regain the use of my legs!
We followed a boggy stalkers path down towards Lochan nam Breac and crossed the Allt Coire na Cruaiche to reach the foot of the ridge as the views back down Loch Quoich opened up.
The ridge is composed of gneiss slabs with seams of quartzite and mica running through them. Although steep these slabs were at a perfect angle to walk up and the rock was dry and wonderfully grippy.
As we climbed higher wispy cloud was beginning to blow in from the west.
Cloud closed in as we approached the obvious pointed peak visible all the way along Loch Quoich. As we scrambled up this steep section, we realised that this was Pt 835 and not the actual summit which was, as usual, further along the ridge.
As the cloud rolled in it was a very disappointed pair of walkers who reached the summit, realising that our chances of a view over Loch Nevis and the Knoydart hills had gone for the day. On the decent the cloud base had dropped to well below 700m and the summit was not clear of cloud for the rest of the day which was some consolation.
We followed our ascent route down towards the dam and my mood darkened as I remembered that we would still have to paddle all the way back along the loch. Molly took some persuading to get back in the boat but the promise of a meal of chicken nuggets at McDonalds on the way home did the trick.
This is clearly one of the ‘easiest’ ways to climb Ben Aden but it does rely heavily on having knowledge of kayaking…………………..or a friend who does. Thanks must be conveyed to Andy for 3 hours of paddling.