Tue 1 Oct 2013
Day 2 of my second Knoydart Munroing attempt and I was to attempt Luinne Bheinn (which sounds like, and is often called ‘Loony Ben’). It was again very windy – more so than the day before when I’d done Ladhar Bheinn. I was worried about the wind as the summit ridge looked very narrow and has crags down both sides but both the ridge orientation and the wind were south-east so I hoped all would be okay.
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After another superb breakfast at Knoydart Lodge, I was again out of the door bang on 9 o’ clock – my route started, yet again, up Gleann an Dubh-Lochain. This walk, as I’d already done Meall Buidhe, was an out-and-back on exactly the same route – not my favourite way to walk really…
I again reached the Dubh-Lochain in just over an hour but, for the last half of the distance, I had the very pleasant company of a man who was walking to the foot of the Mam Barrisdale to meet his friend who was coming over the pass from Barrisdale. Just as we reached the far end of the loch, we saw his friend was almost down the pass – already – it was only just after 10 o’ clock – he must have set off pretty early. When I passed him he asked me where I was going and expressed concern about the high winds – he said they’d been very bad on the pass summit. I told him I was already concerned about them myself but had to make the attempt at my hill as it wasn’t due to get any calmer and I couldn’t stay on Knoydart indefinitely. At least it was a bright and clear sunny day…
It’s a very long walk up the pass – the summit of it is about 8 miles from Inverie and the walk up the actual pass is around 4 miles. As the wind was blowing hard down the pass, I was finding it a pretty tiring ascent…
I was pleased to again meet the young couple I’d been chatting to on Ladhar Bheinn as I neared the pass summit and we had another brief chat.
During my September visit, I’d chatted to three guys in the pub who’d also had to do Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe separately due to the weather conditions. They’d gone up Luinne Bheinn in complete clag and said they hadn’t found the path up the ridge but had followed a path alongside an old boundary fenceline (still marked on the OS 1:25000 map). As that would keep me out of the wind as much as possible, I decided I’d try the same route.
The first path I found leaving the summit of the pass was the one following the fence posts (no wire) so I headed off along it. It wasn’t totally sheltered – sometimes the wind blasted against me – I hoped it was calmer on the summit ridge (surprisingly, it sometimes is).
The fenceline was steeper than it looked on the map but it gained height nicely and wasn’t particularly strenuous. After it flattened out a bit and crossed a couple of small grassy shelves on the flank of the hill, I reached the part where it headed downhill along a ridge to Coire Odhair – this was the point I’d decided to turn uphill as the map showed a crag-free route with fairly easy contours.
I looked up and saw there was a grassy ridge (no path) heading easily back left up to the end of the craggy-sided summit ridge – it wasn’t far to climb at all – I was surprised at how easy the peak had been from the pass summit. In a few minutes I was at the ridge-end where the wind became quite obnoxious…
Luckily, as I gained the top of the ridge, the wind abated quite a bit and was anyway running exactly along the ridgeline – I was glad about that as there looked to be a huge drop off to my left (and I already knew about the crags to my right). The ridge wasn’t as narrow as it had looked from a distance though and it was a pleasantly flat grassy promenade with superb views.
It was a very short distance indeed to the first cairn but I could see another cairn across a slight dip. I wasn’t sure which was the summit but it didn’t matter to me really as I was also wanting to bag the East Top which was only another hundred yards or so along the ridge – much nearer than I’d thought.
Within very few minutes, I’d done the whole ridge right along to the ‘top’ where I had a study of the route to Meall Buidhe to see what I’d missed on my last visit. It didn’t look a difficult route and I was sorry not to have done it last time but the conditions had been very dire. I suppose I could have done Meall Buidhe again but decided not to this time and headed off back along the ridge to re-descend my ascent route.
When I’d walked back along the ridge to the end I’d come up, I had a look down to see what the ridgeline descent looked like. It had a path and looked fine but the wind was really battering me now and I decided just to take the path I knew back down.
Descending back to the fenceline was difficult as the wind was again knocking me over – despite it being very easy ground, initially I had to sit down and crab my way downhill. Once back at the fenceposts though things calmed down and I had an easy descent.
The walk back down Mam Barrisdale with the wind behind me and in bright sunshine was exceedingly pleasant. I kept looking behind and taking photos of Luinne Bheinn as it looked very scenic.
Nearing the village, as this was the umpteenth time in the last month or so I’d walked this track, I decided to leave it at the ‘white gate’ and instead head off down the ‘Knoydart in a Nutshell’ trail which heads straight back down to Knoydart Lodge. This was a direct and easy route and saved me a few minutes. The only unpleasant thing was that I had my first encounter with deer keds here and the damn things wouldn’t leave me alone! Luckily they don’t seem to bite, they’re just annoying…
I decided this was easily my favourite Knoydart hill – I might even do it again one day with Meall Buidhe. I came away from Knoydart with a more favourable view of the place, much helped by a delightfully bumpy boat ride out in the even higher winds the following day – great fun :-)
Stats: 17 miles, 3168 feet of ascent, 7 hours