It Doesn’t Always Snow in Knoydart

My first visit to Inverie in Knoydart had been in May 2005 and the weather was somewhat un-spring like.

7th May 2005: Meall Bhuidhe – Luinne Bheinn traverse

8th May 2005: On the Ladhar Bheinn ridge

Our re-visit to Knoydart had been booked  the previous November when the promise of spring after a never ending winter was something to look forward to. When the MWIS forecast for the weekend predicted snow showers and bitterly cold temperatures I did feel an ever increasing sense of de-ja vu.

Sgurr Choire Choinnichean – 796m
Hill classification: Corbett
5th May 2010
Distance: 6 ¼ miles
Ascent: 825m
Time taken: 4 ½ hours
Weather: Dreich
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Stewart and Molly

It was an early start and a long drive from Aviemore and we were rather dispirited to see the cloud base tickling the masts of the boats in the harbour at Mallaig and after a short trip up Loch Nevis we arrived at the new pier in Inverie at 11.00 where we quickly deposited our luggage at the bunkhouse. Then it was back  through Inverie for the second time that day to climb Sgurr Coire Choinnichean, which is located immediately above the village. It was warm and damp and the cloud base hadn’t moved so we knew we were in for a sweaty slog.

We climbed up through the forest behind the pier, followed the track to the Mam Uidhe and then straight up the steep grassy hillside to the flat area above the Slochd a’ Mhogha gorge. As soon as we reached the foot of the SW ridge a motorway style path appeared which we followed to the summit.

Apparently the summit is a superb viewpoint…………………………

We descended the same way and after a thorough fumigation at the bunkhouse, returned to The Old Forge Inn for dinner, walking home in the rain. It wasn’t boding well for the rest of the trip.

Beinn Bhuidhe – 855m
Hill classification: Corbett
6th May 2010
Distance: 14 miles
Ascent: 1,430m
Time taken: 8 hours
Weather: Warm and sunny with blue skies
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Stewart and Molly

We awoke to cloudy skies with cloud bubbling around the tops but by the time we started walking the sun was emerging, blue sky was appearing everywhere and it wasn’t snowing!

As time was no object we decided to traverse part of the Beinn Bhuidhe ridge, beginning with the long walk up the glen to the Mam Meadail. There were ever increasing views back across Inverie to Rum as we gained height and once we reached Mam Meadail the views were stunning.

Views back across Inverie Bay to Rum

Sgurr na Ciche

The Beinn Bhuidhe ridge was typical Knoydart terrain with plenty of ups and downs, it was possible to avoid lots of them but the best views were gained by sticking to the crest of the ridge.

Typical Knoydart terrain

Ben Aden
The head of Loch Nevis, Sourlies and Bidean a’ Chabair

Half way along the ridge there was an infuriating descent down to the Mam Uchd at 550m and a reascent all the way back up to the summit which involved a bit of hands on rock action in a couple of places. Finally, after a long hot, sweaty slog we reached the summit.

Looking back along the ridge

Rather than face all the endless ups and downs back to Mam Meadhail pass we retraced our steps to the Mam Uchd and then cautiously followed a gully and then a stream back to the path in Gleann Meadail.

Meall Buidhe – 946m
Luinne Bheinn – 939m
Hill classification: Munro
7th May 2010
Distance: 16 miles
Ascent: 1,700m
Time taken: 11 ½ hours
Weather: Warm and sunny with blue skies
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Stewart and Molly

 The day dawned bright and sunny so we decided to tackle our longest day and I particularly wanted good visibility to tackle the ridge between the two Munro’s. We started up the now familiar track along Gleann Meadail and annoyingly the best views were behind us.

Back towards the Brocket Memorial

To avoid the steep ascent to Meall Buidhe from the Mam Meadail we decided to climb onto the ridge a lot further down the glen and after a sweaty slog we reached the ridge at approx. 350m. A gentle (well gentle in Knoydart terms) grassy ridge lead us to the first of many tops along the ridge where the views opened out in front of us.

Inverie Bay and Rum
Looking across to Ladhar Bheinn
Barrisdale Bay and Beinn Sgritheall

A short drop led us to the summit ridge and the main summit where an icy wind hit us. Having walked in a t-shirt up until now, hat, gloves and coat  needed to prevent hypothermia.

Rum and Eigg from the summit of Meall Bhuidhe

We continued to the SE top and then picked up the well worn path along the ridge to Luinne Bheinn. The views into Coire Odhair were exceptional and a whole new experience to me having seen nothing on my previous visit. All my worries about navigational difficulties were unnecessary as the path continued all the way to the summit of Luinne Bheinn…………………….thank God for Munro baggers!

The ridge to Luinne Bheinn

Loch Quoich and Ben Aden
Luinne Bheinn from the east top
Barrisdale Bay and Loch Hourn

We continued down the NW ridge to Mam Barrisdale and by this stage it was very hot and even when we reached the head of the pass, Inverie and the coast looked a LONG way away.

The LONG walk out

I know we weren’t exactly pushing the pace but it took almost 4 hours to get back to the bunkhouse from the summit, even so Molly still managed to find the energy for a game of stick throwing in the loch on the way down.

Ladhar Bheinn – 1020m
Hill classification: Munro
8th May 2010
Distance: 14 miles
Ascent: 1,550m
Time taken: 11 hours
Weather: Hot and sunny with blue skies
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Stewart and Molly

We woke to another stunner and it was even warmer than the previous day. We walked past the Brocket Memorial, continued into Gleann an Dubh-lochain and headed up the steep tussocky slopes to the Mam Suidheig at a height of 490m. At several points during the climb I felt like I was going to expire as it was HOT, HOT, HOT, a weather phenomenon I am not accustomed to living in the north of Scotland. Thankfully once we reached the bealach there was a decent breeze which kept going all day.

From the bealach we had our first glimpses of the summit, it looked close but it took us another 3 hours to reach it!

It’s a lot further than it looks

The undulating Aonach Sgoilte ridge was fantastic to walk on, never too steep to be uncomfortable and height was gained quite quickly.

On the ridge

At one point the ridge splits into two. Don’t take the left ridge as the drop off is extremely steep and rocky, the right ridge is OK but the best route is to continue in the gully between the two ridges as this prevents any unnecessary height loss or gain.

Luinne Bheinn and Sgurr na Ciche
Looking back to Sgurr Coire Chionnichean
Aonach Sgoilte ridge
The cliffs of Coire Dhorrcail
Coire Dhorrcail to Barrisdale Bay
Stob a’ Chearcaill

It was too hot for man and beast

Walkers were converging on the summit for all directions, seekers of solitude beware. After meeting the masses on the summit we took a lengthy and well earned break for lunch before continuing past the trig point and down the grassy An Diollaid ridge where we picked up another baggers path down to the bridge at Foalach.

Looking back to Loch Hourn
The Cuillin and Beinn na Caillich
From Foalach looking back to the descent route

The track bashing on the way back was hard work despite playing A-Z games for most of the way back. We hobbled into the pub before the last never ending mile back to the bunkhouse and a shower to end all showers.

Inverie Bay
A busy Saturday afternoon in Inverie

Beinn na Caillich – 785m
Hill classification: Corbett
9th May 2010
Distance: 13 ½ miles
Ascent: 1,050m
Time taken: 7 hours
Weather: Warm and sunny, blue skies with occasional showers
Two Feet Four Paws: Anne, Stewart and Molly

Not quite sure how it happened but it was another bright sunny day.

We had planned a nice easy day for our final Knoydart hill and it started with more endless track bashing back towards Foalach. We continued on the Mam Li path past the waterfalls and crossed the Abhainn Beag with ease. We aimed for the obvious col on the skyline above and picked our way through the rock and heather and the onwards to the summit which gave great views of the hidden face of Ladhar Bheinn.

Happy baggers

Just after we left the summit a huge shower passed through but by the time we were back at the col the views all around were so fantastic we decided to stay high and continued along to the end of the ridge and dropped steeply off the end and re-joined the track will downstream from Foalach, thankfully reducing the length of time on the land rover track. On the way back we were buzzed by the Dam Busters.

To celebrate we treated ourselves to scallops and sirloin steak in The Old Forge. Yum yum.

So it doesn’t always snow in Knoydart then?

And to summarize………………………
5 days walking
42 hours on the hill
63.75 miles walked
6550 metres climbed
0lbs of weight lost
………………………………….how the bloody hell did that happen????




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