Friday, 12 May 2017

Buidhe Bheinn. 885 metres. Knoydart in a Day.

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With an extended two week long heatwave over most of the British Isles, nebulous warnings of drought hanging over the summer months ahead for selected dry areas and not much rain for what seems like months now- Scotland is a different country.
A Mediterranean style climate, guaranteed blue skies and sunshine every time you open the curtains.... and gardens thirsty for water. This must be what summer is like in other countries further south.
After months of inactivity and hibernation my old pal Alex must have finally felt the sunshine warming up his dungeon and crypt... as he crawled out into the light and suggested a day trip to Knoydart to tick off one of his four remaining Corbetts. I was up for that so set the alarm for 5:00am.
This is slightly later at Milton garage on the outskirts of Glasgow. The Kilpatrick Hills getting the morning sunlight here. Late spring means it's daylight now from around 4:00am to 10:00pm, giving 18 hours of uninterrupted sunshine and Alex intended making the most of it with a day trip to Knoydart in the remote North Western Scottish Highlands.
Passing Ben Nevis and the daunting Orion Face Ridge on the left hand skyline... a winter grade 3/4 route that took Brian, Alex and I an epic 18 hours to ascend with ropes, ice axes and crampons getting back to the CIC hut around 4:00am in the morning after 8 or 9 hours climbing then descending in the dark one winter evening. A memorable outing.
Ben Nevis is the UK's Highest Mountain but most folk that climb it by the tourist path only glimpse these cliffs from above as they mainly attract rock and ice climbers. Some of the longest routes in Britain lie here. Ledge Route on Ben Nevis is also seen here on the right hand cliffs weaving through some impressive rock architecture.
A distant view of Ben Nevis from the north near Invergarry. At 1344metres or 4,411 feet it is not that impressive seen from Fort William, just a bulky big doorknob which saves its best profile for this direction.
Three and a half hour's drive later from Glasgow we arrived at Kinloch Hourn on the edge of Knoydart and geared up to ascend our Corbett. All the hills in this wild region are fairly steep and spectacular but fortunately a fine network of deer stalking paths from its Victorian heyday of the grand estates and income make life easier for the hill- walker. This district is known as 'The Rough Bounds of Knoydart' for a good reason as it's still a remote rugged wilderness, largely empty of people, approached from this side.
Alex on the public path walking through the magnificent grounds of the Kinloch Hourn estate. A car park exists at the road end here for the trek into Barisdale Bothy or to claim the three prized Munros in this area, namely, Ladhar Bheinn, 1020 metres,  Meall Buidhe 946 metres, and Luinne Bheinn, 939 metres. I'd imagine the majority of hill-walkers only do them once- unless you have a mad streak for multiple Munro rounds or are in love with the area. I certainly remember them as tough but highly enjoyable outings.
Kinloch Hourn estate. We never visited this place doing the Munros all those years ago but it's definitely worth a visit at any time of year with lush exotic greenery, forest walks and an uphill garden that contains unusual surprises for tree lovers. Having said that it's not the sort of place you visit by accident, well off the beaten track at the very end point of a minor road.
But a weaving minor road which also has it's special moments, scenery wise, especially in late spring with the gorse in bloom. Loch Cuaich here.
Red Deer crossing the road down Glen Garry.
Minor dead end road into deepest Knoydart. Both Alex and myself were slightly disappointed with Inverie village when we visited there a few years ago as the place was jam packed with tourists, and although beautiful to look at it did not feel like a remote special location on that particular day as it was just too busy for us. You do tend to get spoiled doing Corbetts as it's such a minority sport and you rarely see anyone else on the hills with paths or human presence a rarity, even in this crowded age.
Buidhe Bheiin therefore was ideal for us. Spectacular, remote and empty of people. A view of the hill but the summit lies hidden along an unseen ridge further in. Want the real Knoydart and Scotland of 30-50 years ago? Climb the Corbetts :o)
Luckily for us two old duffers a good staking path leads up the hillside through the estate grounds following the pylons then weaves up the hillside past the halfway point, taking a steep ascent and making it seem much easier with gradual, cunningly crafted, bends. These old staking path creators knew their stuff alright for turning almost impossible ascents into routes a heavily laden pony/ horse/ hill-walker can manage. We certainly noticed the difference when the path ran out and we had to negotiate our way up this final steep head-wall to gain the ridge, seen above.
As compensation however we did have stunning views down Loch Hourn (the Loch of  Hell) towards the peak of Ladhar Bheinn (the mountain of the hoof or claw, due to its horse-shoe shaped summit cliffs maybe surrounding Coire Dhorrcail ?) The path along the left hand shoreline into Barisdale is well seen here, the normal overnight stay for attempting Ladhar Bheinn, one of the great Scottish Munros.
And here is another. Beinn Sgritheall, 974 metres, famed for its panoramic views over the western seaboard and mountainous Scottish islands like Skye and Rum as it stands high above the coast.
And back to our hill which had a very easy but entertaining scramble over a rocky ridge-line to gain the illusive summit.
A view of the final summit push along the ridge.
and one from below showing its slightly knife edged profile although it wasn't hard or that exposed in reality, barely a grade one scramble, though tricky in high winds or under snow.
A view across to the Forcan Ridge on The Saddle, 1010 metres, a popular ascent route for those with a head for heights to the summit of this fine Munro and a distinct alpine feel in winter with one tricky, almost vertical, descent you might want a rope for if not used to exposed winter climbing.
Spring Primrose. A flower of the Scottish Highlands.
Violet. Another pretty flower of the mountain slopes.
Coming down again I was reminded why I don't do a lot of high hills these days. I still really enjoy them in good weather and have no problems going up but coming back down the steep terrain trashed my knees and I had to take several rests and painkillers to reach the bottom again. It only lasted a day or so though, like toothache in the knee caps, so very little to complain about really and worth a bit of discomfort now and again for such great rewards. Don't think I'll be doing my second round of Munros any time soon though as I have to limit my greater range efforts these days. Three Corbetts to go now for Alex and I hope to join him for them. If they are as spectacular as this one, I'll be happy.
Driving back to Glasgow in late evening sunlight through the mountain trench of Glencoe. Another cracking trip. Roughly a 6 to 8 hour hill walk depending on speed. I was slow coming down even though we peeled directly off the summit into the Allt Coire Sgoireadail to pick up the valley path there through this scenic glen back to the car.

Although I've climbed quite a few via ferrata  routes in the Dolomites myself in the past, both backpacking and on day jaunts this video seems as mad to me as the Adrenalin rush junkies climbing tall buildings and hanging off them... but one person's madness is another's joy it seems. Spectacular... bonkers... and very brave... where one wrong move means certain death after a long drop.


Anonymous said...

Had to look on the map to find this one, another hidden gem and seems like perfect spot for the view along Loch Hourn. Keen for a day trip, impressive commitment!
I've seen that video before, never walked in the Dolomites but I don't think I'll take my bike when I do!

Linda said...

Spectacular views and so lovely to see the red deer!

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Andy.
The Dolomites are really worth seeing for a holiday base at a campsite or a backpacking trip. Most spectacular hills I've seen close up yet very accessible to normal hill walkers without any climbing experience with a network of great paths and wide balcony trails from really easy to hard. The Alta Via 1 is still the best backpacking trip I've been on as it stays high yet contours the peaks with real variety, great huts and allowed outside camping. Cortina d Ampezzo is a good base for the surrounding mountains, easy but thrilling via ferrata and outstanding day walks.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Linda,
Yes, that's one thing we have plenty of is red deer herds. There has been some talk of bringing back the wolf to Scotland and we already have some wild boar as we spotted a large one near Invergarry running across the road into the pine forest.

Anabel Marsh said...


Carol said...

I'm sure with all this far-flung adventuring, you and Alex must be fancying a trip to An Teallach while the weather holds...

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Anabel.

blueskyscotland said...

Nice try Carol but I'm in hospital that week so can't come. (not the medical problem I'm in for incidentally :0)
Hope you have a good time and that it stays dry for your trip. Best Wishes.

Kay G. said...

Richard says the same thing about climbing down, he is okay going up but it hurts his knees to come down!
That picture number 7, with the gorse? That should be a post-card!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kay,
I've got to thank Alex for that one and all the others as he did the driving and kindly stopped at the best photo opportunity spots.

Neil said...

Wow! That was some day trip Bob. It's the long drives that I can't be bothered with nowadays. I've never got round to this hill; the Corbett was listed as its neighbour when I did it. Might think about having a night in the Fort and doing it sometime. Ditto your comment about coming down hills; I find it much easier going up now.

Ian Johnston said...

Absolute cracker of a day Bob - getting Knoydart in conditions like that is a rare prize indeed!

Are the chickens still haunting the car park by the farm at Kinloch Hourn? For reasons which still crease me up with laughter years after the event, they'll always be known to us as "The B*stard Chickens of Kinloch Hourn"....thieving little divils who worked as a tag team......


blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
Not too bad for me as Alex was driving. Noticed that change when he sent me a link for that hill.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Ian,
Never seen any chickens but they were doing a fair amount of construction work on the road and around that farm while we were there so that might have scared them off into keeping a low profile.