Rough Bounds

Rough Bounds of Knoydart, 7-9 September 2019

A blog post from one of our mountain adventures in the Scottish hills and mountains. In the Rough Bounds of Knoydart for 3 days guided hiking and Munro bagging. John King was leading.

Rough Bounds of Knoydart

Day 1 - Sgurr na Ciche to Sgurr nan Coireachan

Sometimes the weather in Scotland delivers and when it does there's nowhere better. This Saturday was one of those days! The drive along Loch Arkaig is always an adventure but it was also a pleasure on this morning with the views of the hills getting better and better the further west we got with perfect reflections in the calm waters of the loch. I met our group for the day - Rachel, Jimmy, Nick, Tom and Andrew - gathered at the road end and set-off nice and early along the good tracks into the wilds of Glen Dessary.

Steady progress along the glen took us past A'Chuil Bothy and soon we were climbing away from the glen above the Bealach an Lagain Duibh. As we gained height the views opened up and reaching a wide shoulder of Garbh Chioch Mor the views to the west down Loch Nevis to the islands of Eigg and Rhum suddenly appeared. After a few photos we carried on up, enjoying a fine clamber up the steep gully to gain the ridgeline at Feadhan na Ciche. From there a short climb took us to the summit of Sgurr na Ciche. This was Tom's first Munro summit and this was probably as good a start as it's possible to get with views across much of the western Highlands from Ben Cruachan in the south to Torridon in the North and the Cuillin out to the west. True to form, the only hill in the cloud was Ben Nevis!

Heading on, a steep down and up took us to Garbh Chioch Mhor, a fine rocky summit with an impressive dry stone dyke showing the way. This hill is definitely where the rough bounds earn their name and the onward traverse of the ridge over Garbh Chioch Bheag was a rough and tumble adventure in some of the wildest surroundings in the Highlands. Despite the remote surroundings this was where we passed about two-dozen people, pretty much the only other folk we saw all day, going the other way, including an Australian keeping up on the Ashes on the radio and a young boy of about 10 who'd done 118 Munros!

Some large slabs at the next bealach provided a nice spot to have a break in the sun and then we got on with the final big climb of the day, a 200m ascent onto Sgurr nan Coireachan. Reaching the summit gave some more great views, especially looking back along the ridge where we'd been. Our descent route took us down the hill's south ridge, a steep and steady descent back to Glen Dessary. It was nice to have this at the end of the day and then just a walk back out the glen to finish the day. We made it back to the cars after 12 ½ hours just as the sun was setting and the moon was rising over the peaks of the Corryhully Horseshoe, a super end to a stunning day in the mountains.

Day 2 - Sgurr Mor

For our second day of the trip we were back down to the minor road to the far end of Loch Arkaig. Once again the views along the loch were stunning and despite a bit of a dull forecast for the day, there was a bit of sunshine breaking through. We headed off early again from the end of the road and made our way back into Glen Dessary where a good track allowed for easy walking up to the estate houses in the glen. From here we turned north, heading up and through a wild and remote feeling pass in the hills between a pair of Corbetts - these are good walks in their own right! A good stalkers path eventually gave way to free ranging over the open hillside and then we were descending into the upper reaches of Glen Kingie, an even wilder and remoter feeling spot.

The river in Glen Kingie can provide some challenges in spate, but today it was an easy crossing and then we were onto the steep, unrelenting slopes on the other side of the glen. Although hard work, height is gained very quickly up this slope and soon we were sheltering out of the southerly wind having lunch at the bealach between Sgurr Mor and it's neighbouring Corbett, Sgurr an Fhuarain. Given the steepness of the ascent route we decided that we wouldn't go back that way and we'd focus our attentions for the day on Sgurr Mor, leaving Sgurr an Fhuarain for another day.

Heading up into the mists we made steady progress up Sgurr Mor, reaching the summit shortly after 1pm. Anyone following us up the ridge would have been in luck as one of our team dropped an untouched Tunnocks Caramel Wafer along the way!! Not letting this mishap stop us, we carried on over the lower top of Sgurr Beag, before enjoying the incredible series of zig-zags on the old stalker's paths that led us back down into the depths of Glen Kingie. Emerging from the mist around 650m there fine views down the glen towards Ben Tee and Invergarry out to the east. The good going underfoot allowed us to wander along and chat about the challenges (and fun!) of completing a round of the Munros, especially tackling the Cuillins of Skye.

Once down in the glen we made a good traversing line over open country to rejoin our uphill route in the pass between the two Corbetts. From there the going got progressively better until we were back on the estate track in Glen Dessary. A bit of drizzle came through forcing us to pull on waterproofs, but fortunately it didn't come to much and once on the track in Glen Dessary it was a pleasant stroll all the way back to the cars, another 10 ½ hour walk to one of the remoter Munro summits successfully complete!

Day 3 - Gairich

The forecast was a wet one for our final day of the trip but with the possibility of things brightening up as the day went on. With a long drive ahead, Andrew was already on the hill when we arrived having set off at 7am and it was only Tom, Rachel and myself left. We set off from the Loch Quoich Dam around 9am and made good progress out over the boggy wastes on the other side of the dam. It was raining but not as much as we thought it might and it was warm, so despite setting off in full Gore-tex, all extra layers were soon back in our rucksacks.

Once at the base of the ridge to Gairich the going got better and we followed a decent path up the hill. Soon after starting up we met Andrew on his way down the hill, a strong performance to be so far down the hill by 11am! After a short chat we carried on up and made our way up the gradual ridge ahead. We got a few fleeting glimpses of our hill appearing dramatically through the mists as we went and took the chance to take some photos knowing that it wouldn't last!

From the Bealach Coire Thollaidh the angle increases significantly and we followed the path snaking up through the steep craggy ground. We gained the height steadily, with a couple of bits of scrambling adding some interest. With the mist swirling around and a keen wind blowing across us, the ridge to the summit felt quite dramatic, but things eased off near the top as we emerged onto the wide summit dome. It was a wet and windy scene at the top so after some summit photos we turned around and headed off the way we had come, descending to some shelter well below the summit to enjoy a well-earned late lunch.

The walk back was a pleasant one, chatting about many topics from legal precedents to the current interesting political situation. Unfortunately it didn't really brighten up or clear, but the rained stayed off for the walk out. Before we knew it we were back at the dam, our fifth and final Munro successfully complete and quite an introduction to the Munros for Tom! Thanks to all in the group for a great weekend of walking!

More photos by John King, Nick Fletcher, Andrew Pennill and James Paton are here on Flickr.

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