Sunday, 24 April 2016

Ladhar Bheinn

Ladhar Bheinn summit ridge looking east

Knoydart is reputedly the roughest, remotest walking area in Scotland as well as having the highest rainfall. The most westerly part of Knoydart, east of Barrisdale and Sourlies, contains three of the toughest munros and three corbetts. These were our objectives and we had planned it would take four days. Good weather would be an advantage and as soon as we spotted the chance of three possible dry days we decided to go. We estimated that if we wild camped we could possibly complete the six hills in three days. As a result of other engagements this was then restricted to three days, putting further pressure on ourselves to include the travelling - a three and a half hour car journey followed by another hour for the ferry trip from Mallaig to Inverie - within the three days. In the past it would have been no problem but age and rucksacks do not speed you up.

Nevertheless it was an exciting adventure, I had climbed the three munros from Kinloch Hourn on three occasions and once by a long walk in over Gairich, Sgurr Mor and Sgurr na Ciche. They had been amongst the longest and hardest days I had encountered during my adventures on the Scottish mountains.

We decided to make a clockwise circuit of the hills starting from Inverie with the intention to camp near to Mam Barrisdale at the end of the first day. We would then climb Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe followed by the massive corbett, Beinn Bhuidhe, on day two, before returning to Inverie to the beach campsite and the hope that we could make the pub for a meal and a couple of pints. The final morning we would climb Sgurr Coire Choinnichean if our legs permitted. The problem was carrying all our gear and food for two days at a time of year when we needed the clothing and equipment for all eventualities. A full 46 litre rucsac with 2 litres of water is not an easy carry when there are 2000 metres a day to climb.

Sailing into Loch Nevis: SCC, LB, MB and BB all visible

The track from Inverie towards Ladhar Bheinn

Beinn na Caillich

Looking south west to Eigg and Rum from Beinn na Caillich

Route up An Diollaid

Ladder Bheinn Vanessa trig point and summit ridge

Bein Sgriol over Loch Horn

Loch Hourn beyond Stob a' Chiore Odhair

Stob a' Chearcaill over Coire Dhorrcaill

Sunset looking west to Skye
Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Ascent:      2005 metres   
Distance:   21 kilometres
Time:         9 hours 20 minutes

Beinn na Calliche        798m     3hrs 25mins
Ladhar Bheinn           1020m     6hrs 38mins     

The A84 had been unusually quiet although leaving home at 6:30am had saved 15 minutes, more than enough to compensate for the road resurfacing beyond Tyndrum and the school traffic in Fort William. We had caught the western isles ferry from Mallaig to Inverie with plenty time to spare, The sea was calm and an international naval exercise was in operation in Loch Nevis. The two BT Open Reach engineers on board were speculating on how the different navies communicated, it certainly wouldn't be by any broadband connections. They had a ladder and some pliers with them to wire up some properties. It seemed as if half of Inverie was there to meet the ferry, more Land Rovers were on the pier than in the Tata factory.

We wasted little time negotiating the boxes of food, packages, land rovers and people; this looked like island life, which I suppose it is given that the only access to the peninsula is by sea. We heaved our heavy sacks onto backs and began the steep climb up the gravel track leading north from the village. to Mam Uaine. The weather looked as if it may stay dry as we emerged from the forested slopes to look across at the massive profile of Ladhar Bheinn and less impressive the gentler profile of Beinn na Calliche. This was our first objective. There is a track that drops down to Gleann na Guiserein with a a couple of gates to go through before reaching a bridge over the river at Folach. We were passed by a land rover driven by a Knoydart ranger with a couple of clients aboard, they were going to look at the Eas a' Chaorainn waterfalls. We passed them 10 minutes later as we made our way up the glen before dropping our sacks at 180 metres, eating some lunch and then making a beeline for the steep east flank of the hill. 

I managed across the river with dry feet thanks to some goretex gaiters and we were accosted by some sun as we climbed. I came across a large mountain moth that has been recognised since by John's moth expert friend as an emperor hawk moth. It was a tiring ascent and about 3 kilometres to reach the flattish summit. There were good sea views to the west but the steep flanks of Ladhar Bheinn to the south east were more disturbing. They left us in no doubt that it would be a stiff climb in the heat of the afternoon sun.

The descent was much quicker and for the most part the ground was relatively dry with last years long grass a wilted straw colour providing a cushioned sometimes precarious footfall. We collected our rucksacks and wasted little time before starting a direct ascent of 500 metres by finding a series of ramps between the crags as we climbed to the bealach beyond An Diollaid. Despite removing my jacket and pullover the sweat was effusive even running down the inside of my sunglasses and it was with some relief that we met a young Swiss woman and Scottish man at the bealach. It gave us time to cool off as we engaged in a long talk. The Swiss woman seemed genuine in her appreciation of the Scottish Mountains. Ladhar Bheinn  had been her 43rd munro.

Although the final climb to Ladhar Bheinn is little more than a kilometre it is a long pull up a well defined path. The visibility was improving all the time as the sun began to sink and the views into Knoydart conjured up happy memories in this haven of rough tough terrain. Loch Hourn was a twinkling snake of cobalt blue below and the ridge began to reveal its snow laced apex. There are few finer locations than the summit of Ladhar Bheinn particularly at this time of day. The Vanessa trig point was broken and we continued to the true summit along the narrow path that meanders along the ridge line. We stopped for photos and to revel in the spectacular mountainscapes in all directions. Beinn Sgriol seemed a stone's throw away across Loch Hourn and as always the loch was mightily impressive as it fingered its way up to Kinloch Hourn beyond the impressive outlying top of Stob a' Choire Odhair.

The route from here is a descent to the south east, overlooking the menacing Coire Dhorrcail. There are some tricky scrambles and at one stage my framed rucksack became ensnared on a rock ledge with a 10 foot drop unless I could free it. Normally I use smaller unframed rucksacks and I had begun to regret carrying 46 litres of load space, which is merely an invitation to take all those extras like a spare pair of gloves, phone charger, second pan and several dry bags. It was an hour an a half before we reached the end of the undulating ridge at the 849metre point. There was a large patch of snow at the same place that we had found one in 1993 on our first visit to Ladhar Bheinn. On that occasion and going in the opposite direction on a hot afternoon I had cavorted and rolled in the snow like a puppy before starting to climb the ridge .

This time we put on gloves as the sun sank behind the ridge and we descended down towards Mam Barrisdale. We found a good path for the first 200 metres of descent then headed down the peat strewn slopes searching for a source of water for a camp site. We were down to 630 metres before we found a burn with any water. Despite having the highest rainfall in Scotland the burns were running dry and mostly underground beneath the deep peat slopes on the hillside. Although there was a full moon the light was fading fast and the temperature was plummeting beneath the clear skies. The ground was uneven and boggy and by the time we had had a brew of tea and some soup we were too cold to be bothered making anything else to eat, a handful nuts and raisins would suffice. Removing boots is one of those magical moments after a day like this and slipping into a sleeping bag was all that was needed before sleep enveloped the day.

No comments:

Post a Comment