by Innes Doig
Innes is a good friend of Thistle Trekking and a long time hiking partner of our director, David. Indeed they have known each other since the first year of primary school. Both grew up not far from the Cairngorms and developed a love for the Mountains. Innes is heavily involved with Edinburgh Young Walkers and is closing in on “compleat” round of Scotland’s Munros.
Day 3: Sourlies to Mam Barrisdale
As promised we woke to a stunning day – the sunlight bringing out that beautiful turquoise/blue colour which is synonymous with the west coast of Scotland.
We set off north-west towards the Munros Meall Buidhe and Luinne Bheinn, where we planned to then drop down over to Barrisdale Bay and the bothy situated on the northern shore of the peninsula. As the tide was in we had to pick our way along the coastline for a while before we came to a wide opening at the head of the glen, and to what looked like a big grassy plain.
But after setting off across the glen towards the foot of Meall Buidhe, we soon found that this was no grassy plain, but rather very boggy ground interlaced with numerous streams and marshes. The night before we had found many references in the bothy diary to a ‘bog of doom’ – we now realised that we had found it! I have never seen or experienced a bog quite like this before, where it was so difficult to make out what was terra firma or watery bog. I made the mistake of looking up while walking to take in the dramatic view of Sgurr na Ciche for just a few seconds, only to suddenly find my right leg thigh deep in bog. Thankfully Ben was close at hand and hauled me out quickly. We often found that we would walk into a dead end, surrounded by deep wide bog on all sides, leaving us no option but to double back on ourselves and pick a new way through this boggy maze.
We then crossed a very precarious suspension bridge over the river Carnoch which had certainly seen better days. Not long after our trip we found out that this bridge was taken down due to safety concerns. For a couple of years afterwards there was no way to safely cross this dangerous river. Thankfully this bridge has recently been replaced – without it there is no way to cross into Knoydart if there has been heavy rainfall or the river is in spate.
After the bridge it was immediately upwards climbing towards Meall Buidhe (the yellow rounded peak) which was very hard work in the baking sun. After finally making it to the top, we were rewarded with fine views and even ice lollies! Grabbing handfuls of snow, we injected them with super concentrated juice which I had with me for my water bottle – a little messy, but very refreshing!
After descending from Luinne Bheinn to the Mam Barrisdale pass at 500 metres, we decided against our original plan of dropping down to Barrisdale bay and the bothy on the northern side of the peninsula. As the day before had proved, going all the way back down to sea level, only to have to go back up again the next day was proving very tiring. As the forecast was good, and it looked like we were in for a settled evening, we decided instead to bivvy at this pass, halfway up the last Munro of the trip, Ladhar Bheinn. This ‘shortcut’ would save us at least 1,000 metres of descent and re-ascent with heavy bags.
After dinner we managed to find a flat spot with great views looking down on to Barrisdale Bay and mountains rising straight up from the sea. We settled in for the night, snug in our sleeping bags sipping at our whiskies while watching the sunset and then later the stars. The stars and milky way were incredibly clear due to the lack of light pollution in this area of Scotland. We could even see the numerous satellites crisscrossing the night sky as they orbited the earth above us. While I was looking for something in my bag Ben and Richard claimed there was an incredible shooting star that streaked across the sky and broke into a multitude of fragments and different colours. They continually tease me and reminisce about this wonderful spectacle that I missed…..but I still refuse to believe them!
The adventures concludes tomorrow!