Bothying in the Rough Bounds of Knoydart (Carn Mor)

13 11 2011

Mon 31 Oct – Wed 2 Nov 2011

After meeting up with my friend Janet for a weekend at Glencoe Youth Hostel for the Clachaig Beer Festival, Alan (my Welsh friend and bothy expert) and I drove down to Strathan where we planned to do some bothying in the wild country at the start of Knoydart…

We’d originally planned to visit Kinbreak Bothy in Glen Kingie so that I could do the Munro of Sgurr Mor but, after a pretty terrible wade up a Corbett at the end of Glen Etive in a bad gale a couple of days before (so wet I’d renamed it Glen Wetive), I decided that the river crossings would be impossible. So we elected to go first to A’ Chuil Bothy in Glen Dessary and the next night planned to visit Glen Pean Bothy. We also managed to fit in a walk up a local Corbett behind A’ Chuil and were lucky to get the only really fine day of the week for it.

After a short walk round Glencoe Lochan and then hanging around Fort William for a couple of hours, we drove the fourteen miles down Loch Arkaig to Strathan at the end of the road and loch.

Glencoe Lochan

Strathan Old Schoolhouse

It was around 1530 when we set out for the hour or so walk to the bothy. The walk was on a good forest track until the final, short descent to the bothy so we made pretty good progress but I have to admit to starting to tire of carrying my heavy pack just after the half-way mark. Also, as it poured for the whole journey, I was pretty fed up of watching the rain drip off the front of my hood too!

I was pleased to get to the bothy and get my pack off. I left my very wet outer garments in the concrete-floored hallway between the two rooms to drip for a while before bringing them into our chosen room – the right-hand one. This room has a little raised and skylit alcove-room off it for the sleeping area and it looked generally brighter and more cheerful than the left-hand room. It even had a mirror hanging on the wall but I determined not to look in it in the morning! I’m sure both rooms are equally cosy. Alan soon had a good fire going and we set about making our tea and then chatted and fire-watched the evening away.

In the morning we both awoke around 0930 and looked out to check the weather. We were pleased to see that, after a night of heavy rain and gales, blue skies were starting to appear. We breakfasted, packed up our kit and decided to do Carn Mor, the Corbett behind the bothy, as being so local to it would save me a long walk in to do it on a later date. As we’d packed up all our kit that meant we didn’t have packs to carry anything up the hill with so I carried the map in my hand and we each carried a snack bar in our coat pocket. It wasn’t until we were a long way up the hill that I realised we didn’t have a compass between us – good job the visibility was good and looking to stay that way.

Heading off Uphill – Looking Back at The Rough Bounds

We’d started out up the ridge above the bothy but I decided we’d be better to traverse round the corner to the col between that ridge and the main summit as that would save quite a bit of climbing. There were no paths on the mountain and traversing the valley sides across rough and extremely wet terrain wasn’t much fun but it saved quite a bit of time and effort.

Looking Back Again…

When we finally reached the long ridge to the summit, the ground became much firmer and drier and the walking finally became pleasant – there were even small sections of a path here and there.

There was a final steep pull to the summit area which was dotted with small lochans that caught the light beautifully and made the views towards Knoydart very photogenic (although Knoydart itself was quite hazy). We were both clicking away with our cameras at this point.


Very Hazy Towards Loch Nevis!

After a short break at the summit in the sun but trying to avoid the cruelly cold wind, we headed off back down, this time electing to follow the river between the two ridges back to base. This was possibly wetter than the ascent and nearly as rough but I preferred it.

Back at the bothy we then had a quick break for a cuppa before we backpacked our gear the three and a half miles or so out to the car to reload with fuel for the bothy fire that evening. As I couldn’t drink my coffee for ages as it had been made with boiling water, Alan got fed up with waiting and set off for the car around 10 minutes before I did. The walk out was easier than the walk in the previous night as the route was mainly downhill and my pack, being now fuel-less, was also much lighter.

As I reached the split in the forest track where the other route went to Glen Pean bothy, I hid my pack behind a wooden enclosure – that saved me carrying it the next mile or so to the car and back. I just took a carrier bag for the peat blocks that I needed from the car.

As I reached the car Alan offered me some of his home-made cake and shortcake biscuit – delicious and a welcome boost before we had to then backpack the three and a half miles or so to the next bothy. I grabbed five more peat blocks and we set off to collect my pack from the path junction.


Glen Pean Bothy – Where We Were Headed Next

Although the distance to Glen Pean Bothy was around the same as the walk out from A’ Chuil, it started to really drag and seem much longer. I put that down to starting to tire as I’m not really used to carrying loads and my new load was very heavy. The route was mainly uphill (although very gradual) – Alan said the last section was steeply downhill and had a short bad section of forest. I was soon to find out just how bad!

I was curious to see, in many places along the forest track, that large areas of the mossy grass in the centre of the track had been scraped up by something. At first I couldn’t figure out what had done it but then realised we must be looking at places where the rutting stags had been having their head-to-heads. I found my assumption to be correct when I took a closer look and you could clearly see cloven hooves had been dragging through the scraped areas. No blood though luckily!

We reached the start of the steep downhill and my lower legs, which had by now started with shin splints due to my osteoporosis and lack of practice at load-carrying, nearly collapsed under the sudden pounding down the steep hill (they were still painful days later). The path then became very soft and I was sinking nearly to my boot tops in places which put me off-balance. It was by now almost dark. Presently, we came to the diversion through the thick of the forest, aka ‘the bad bit’ and a very dark place it was. This was a veritable adventure park…

In the dark… with big packs…

We had to follow a route through the trees marked out with tape tied around them. It was best to balance along on the slippery tree roots as the ground in between was unpredictable at best. And then we came to the first of the obstacles in our adventure park… a tilted, wet, wooden-slatted bridge across a burn. Alan went first…

Halfway across his legs shot away from him and he was on his back sprawling across the bridge with his head and legs dangling over the burn. He’d gone down with quite a bang and I was concerned he must have hurt himself. He said he was just bruised but could I get his pack as he was completely unable to get up. I dragged his pack off him onto the bank after wading the burn and helped him off the bridge. We then walked up and down the far bank but couldn’t see any more taped trees. We peered into the thick forest and eventually saw that the next taped tree appeared to be past an area of fallen trees.

One of the fallen trees blocked our route and I tried to get along the very edge of the river bank underneath it. Every time I tried to go forward, my back pack caught on the tree and I wedged firmly. Alan tried to help by pushing down hard on my pack so I ended up laid flat, almost in the burn, and had to crawl on my belly underneath the tree in the wet and muddy moss.

We continued to the next obstacle… this time it was my turn to have problems with a wooden bridge. Alan had already gone ahead and I decided I didn’t trust the bridge and thought I’d walk by the side of it. I placed one foot to its right on what looked like firm ground and went over my boot tops in sucking bog (I verbally called it something very similar!) Of course, this caused me to totally lose my balance while I dragged my foot out and my backpack caused me to fall backwards onto the bridge with one leg either side. The other boot then descended into the gunge on the other side. Every time I tried to drag one foot out, the other sunk deeper and I kept collapsing backwards when I tried to sit up as the backpack’s weight was completely overpowering me. With a superhuman effort, I managed to right myself and drag myself out of the bog and continue after Alan who had by now got his headtorch on.

We were both relieved to soon exit the dark forest and descend a grassy path where the bothy then came into view at last. It looked dark and forbidding and I was tuning my senses in to see if there were any ‘presences’ lurking outside it as four of Alan’s friends had reported a frightening presence seemingly lurking outside the door at night. As we reached the bothy door I decided there was nothing sinister there at all – a desolate but peaceful spot. I can imagine many people find the place uncomfortable though as the glen is narrow, deep and dark with much forest and has no habitation whatsoever – a very lonely place.


Arriving in the dark… (Alan Bellis)

I’d washed my boots and myself in the burn and collected water then went to settle in for the night. Alan already had his tea on the boil. We got a superb fire going that night which lasted until around 4am and the place was lovely and cosy. We managed to get all our clothing dry and our boots nearly so.


Fire Gazing (both photos Alan Bellis)

The next morning we were up at 0715 as we aimed to get me to Carnforth station in time for the afternoon train home. The walk out went much better than the walk in and we got through the adventure playground unscathed this time – probably helped by having full daylight. It even stayed dry for our walk out despite the weather forecast having predicted 80mph winds and heavy rain – neither of which transpired. It seemed a shame to go home!

Stats:
Day 1 – Strathan to A’ Chuil Bothy: 3.3 miles, 564 feet of ascent
Day 2 – Carn Mor (Corbett), A’ Chuil to Strathan, Strathan to Pean:
13 miles, 3241 feet of ascent
Day 3 – Glen Pean Bothy to Strathan: 3.3 miles, 347 feet of ascent

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40 responses

23 02 2016
bothying – bellasmitchell

[…] Bothying in the Rough Bounds of Knoydart (Carn Mor) […]

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27 01 2012
Emilio Lehnhoff

Great website, I really liked your post.

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22 11 2011
Tango

Dan thanks for that info about Cold fell.. i spent sometime looking for that Wainwright on my computer mapping but couldnt find it!!! found now!!.. I was up the other Cold Fell the other day making my way through the HEWITTS..30 odd to go… cheers Terry ..

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22 11 2011
mountaincoward

It’s not a ‘Wainwright’ as in one of the 214 on the main list – it’s an ‘outlying’ Wainwright – they’re a separate book and I don’t think they get added to the normal lists…
Carol.

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20 11 2011
Dan (aka icemandan)

I’ve done Sourlies-A’Chuill-Glen Pean-Oban on a walk out of Knoydart. Glen Pean is very wet and rough with a high section alongside the Loch. Oban is a beautiful spot though. We carried on over a hill by Loch Morar, down to Meoble and out to Lochailort. Meoble has a really wierd atmosphere (feels a bit horror film-ish). Fantastic wild country though.

BTW You’re both right about Cold Fell – One of Wainwrights outliers is off the Gosforth-Ennerdale road (It’s the one where he says ‘If you can’t manage this simple walk, do yourself a favour old man and pack it in). The other Cold Fell is the northernmost Pennine – close to Talkin Tarn.

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20 11 2011
mountaincoward

I always thought Wainwright was dryly amusing 🙂

Funny you say that about Meoble being a bit creepy as there’s a haunted loch near there. I read about it once in the Scotsman and I’m fair desperate to get there myself – it’s very hard walking round there though isn’t it. The loch was called ‘The Loch of The Grey Dog’ by the family who owned the land as a lurcher-type dog haunted members of the family when they went to the loch. I don’t think anyone else was supposed to see it though. It was a little loch just to the north of Loch Beoraid…

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20 11 2011
mountaincoward

Just googled ‘The loch of the grey dog’ and it came up with quite a few entries. It’s even made ‘The Fortean Times’ – I’ll put some links below…

They put this one as ‘the grey dog of Meoble’ anyway:
http://blogs.forteana.org/node/27

and the one closest to the tale I read in The Scotsman:
http://www.scotclans.com/bletherskite/?p=1820

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22 11 2011
Dan (aka icemandan)

Yes it was a rough walk. The stalkers path up Gleann Taodhail is ok but it’s bushwhacking all the way over to Meoble from there. If you’re going that way it’s worth detouring to the top of Druim a’ Chuirn – there is an astonishing helicopter view of the full length of Loch Morar and a pretty good view out to Skye and the Small Isles as well.

Meoble is all tumbledown shacks that might or might not be inhabited surrounded by abandoned machinery – you expected someone with a mask and a chainsaw to emerge. Somebody must live there because they were putting a hydro plant in.

I think we camped next to your haunted loch. In the morning a golden eagle came over to check us out. I wonder how many people have even seen Loch Beoraid.

The path to Lochailort is almost non-existent on the Beoraid side particularly in the wood around Prince Charlie’s Cave where it becomes a very steep mossy jungle. Its ok on the other side though.

Glen Beasdale and Glen Mama looks like another possible approach.

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22 11 2011
mountaincoward

The haunted loch is quite a smallish one with an island in it. LOL to the Chainsaw Massacre bit 😉 Thanks for the route suggestions – when I’ve got the Munros out of the way I’ll certainly be having an explore of that area,
Carol.

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19 11 2011
Robin

Wow! That is quite an adventure. What a beautiful place to go adventuring. 🙂

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20 11 2011
mountaincoward

It is nice down the end of Loch Arkaig and the bothies are pretty near the roadend so that’s good. But there’s little in the way of houses down that way so it’s very remote.

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17 11 2011
Scotlands Mountains

I think I like bothy nights more than hill days 🙂

I can only second Bob`s suggestion of the Pean to Oban bothy trip.Wonderful scenery to go through..

Alex.

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17 11 2011
mountaincoward

I enjoy the bothy nights but still often struggle with the carry-in as I don’t carry much very often so am never in practice. But these bothies were a pretty good walk in with being on good tracks (most of the way) and a short walk compared to some so they were good ones for me to do… I may well stay at A’ Chuil again as I have my eye on a lot of those Corbetts in that area.
Carol.

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16 11 2011
Colin

An excellent read carol. Sounds like an assault course rather than an adventure playground though. Nice one. 🙂

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17 11 2011
mountaincoward

I suppose the assault course was fun – afterwards! 🙂

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16 11 2011
Tango

Carol a Caw fell just south of Ennerdale near Iron Crag, that might be the 1!!!!.regards Terry

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17 11 2011
mountaincoward

Nah – Caw Fell is a major Wainwright. There is a Cold Fell in the outlying fells – near something like Flat Fell I think?

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16 11 2011
seekraz

Others have said it, now I’m going to say it, too…beautiful photos! And yes, the consistently bad weather does make for beautiful scenery…. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

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16 11 2011
mountaincoward

Thank you 🙂 That’s the only comfort when the weather is bad – to remember that if we didn’t have such bad weather, the place wouldn’t be so green and there wouldn’t be all those mini lakes everywhere. Are you UK-based?
Carol.

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16 11 2011
seekraz

You’re welcome, Carol…and no, I’m not in the UK…actually live in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA. The east side of the city is bordered by the Wasatch Mountains and there are at least three major canyons that are filled with trails that lead to peaks and other trails. The peaks are from 9-11,000 ft and most can be reached without climbing gear. Thank you again for the pictures and interesting posts. I’ll be visiting your blog often.

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17 11 2011
mountaincoward

That’s one part of the States I’d love to see. You have some lovely canyons in the west – I’ve always fancied seeing Bryce Canyon – really lovely colours 🙂
Carol.

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17 11 2011
seekraz

Yes, Carol, there are some beautiful canyons in my new home state. Have only been in Utah for about a year, but have driven through the lower half several times. I’ve driven past Bryce Canyon, but have always been enroute somewhere else and haven’t had the opportunity yet to go there for pleasure…but will do so someday. 🙂

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18 11 2011
mountaincoward

So where were you before Utah?

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18 11 2011
seekraz

Before I lived in Utah, Carol, I lived in Phoenix, Arizona, for over 20 years…in the middle of the hot desert…we had some “hills” around us, but they were all dirt and rock. Yes, there was vegetation, and at times or in different seasons it was pretty, but it doesn’t compare to the forested mountains that are now my home. And yes, we could drive to the mountains…in about two or three hours. They are now literally 15 minutes away….

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19 11 2011
mountaincoward

I’d have been pretty happy in Arizona too as I love deserts. I’ve only really experienced middle eastern/African ones so far though… I’ve a couple of Jordan posts on here but unfortunately, after all the unrest, I doubt I’ll ever be going back to the middle east now 😦
Carol.

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25 11 2011
seekraz

Being from where you are, Carol, I can understand how you might enjoy the desert, as it would be quite a change. I’ve never been to Africa, never seen our true homeland as humans…but I have seen a bit of Arizona…and am quite glad to be out of the desert again!

And you’ve got quite a following here on your blog…nice people and fellow travelers…good for you!

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25 11 2011
mountaincoward

Well our little islands are getting pretty overcrowded now and it’s hard to find any solitude (except parts of Scotland) – there certainly isn’t any in England. Also deserts make a change from our very wet and miserable climate. But I suppose if I’d lived in a desert for so many years I’d possibly be fed up of them too 🙂
Carol.

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27 11 2011
seekraz

We felt that same overcrowdedness in Phoenix…traffic, people, angry social issues, crime, etc…was time to move. I usually go hiking by myself here in Salt Lake, for now anyway, and there’s nothing so refreshing, I think, as being alone out there in all of the nothing/everything of nature…it’s almost sad to turn around sometimes. I hope you still get your solitude, Carol…it’s so important. Take care….

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15 11 2011
Tango

Carol another excellent report, sounds very nice bothy hopping..I need to get my other half Aly into some bothies..its alittle different to the camper van..just a quick question does Alan have a job?? because he is always out in them there hills!!!.. i wish i could do more..did Sca Fell pike & Cold Fell the other day!!! which were both nice.. thanks for the post again very nice ……

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15 11 2011
mountaincoward

Cold Fell – long time since I went up there – isn’t that an outlying Wainwright? Out Ennerdale way?

Alan doesn’t have a job at present – they’re getting hard to get now!
Carol.

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16 11 2011
Tango

Cold fell is a HEWITT/NUTTAL right up north,in the Pennines…all on its own!! Near Carlisle, A very pleasent day just abit too much bog hopping!!but excellent views on the day…Shame about Alan at least he is making good use of his time!!..& bagging some hills..Im off to Wales in December for a day long route four summits hopefully…see how it pans out!!!! Ill read the rest of your reports today thanks Carol keep up the good work.. Terry…

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16 11 2011
mountaincoward

Haven’t heard of the Cold Fell up by Carlisle in the Pennines. There is a Cold Fell out Ennerdale way anyway I think – don’t think it was particularly exciting but we did that one in snow and it was pleasant.

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15 11 2011
Paul Shorrock

Great post, Carol. I could almost hear the squelching as I read. And the language……. 😀

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15 11 2011
mountaincoward

I didn’t swear too much – honest – was too tired! 😉
Carol

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14 11 2011
bob

Brings back memories Carol .Its been a few years since I,ve done the tour of A,chuil then backpacked through the narrow pass to Oban Then onto Sourlies then back to Strathan.A very wild area.Beautiful though.

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14 11 2011
mountaincoward

Hi Bob,
Alan was describing the route through to Oban Bothy and beyond – sounded like there was a pretty awkward bit for backpacking – a narrow path above a very steep slope somewhere? I don’t know if I’ll ever go that far through Glen Pean but would really like to do the walk over to Loch Morar from Bracorina – I started off up it once but was with my parents so had to go back down when I’d reached the summit of the route 😦
Carol.

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13 11 2011
Alan Bellis (mountainstar on Walkhighlands)

Hi Carol, really enjoyed our 2 night Bothy trip…and had one good day on the hills!
Didn’t know you had the “sucking bog” problem, being the gentleman that I am I would have stayed around to watch and have a laugh 🙂
It was just as well I’ve been through that detour before several times, and knew what to expect being as it was nearly dark as we fumbled our way through, good stuff though!
And can you believe that none of us realised it was Halloween that night, with that spooky story that we were aware of :-/
I’ve added my walk report with pictures for anyone who want to read it…
http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=12223&highlight=

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13 11 2011
mountaincoward

Hi Alan, Your photos came out much better than mine – how did you manage it – my background mountains were nearly wiped out with the haze – I’m afraid I’ve had to tinker with the photos a bit this time (I wouldn’t normally but they were pretty bad).

I bet you would have laughed at me stuck in that bog! At least that bad bit made for a more interesting trip report 🙂
Carol.

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13 11 2011
Matt

Great photos! We don’t have views like that in Wisconsin.

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13 11 2011
mountaincoward

Thanks Matt 🙂 I always say our consistently bad weather makes our scenery so nice – just makes it harder to get out and enjoy it though!
Carol.

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