Gummer’s How, Finsthwaite Heights, Bigland Barrow, Staveley Fell and Raven’s Barrow (Cartmel Fell) – Route Introduction
Gummer’s How, Finsthwaite Heights, Bigland Barrow, Staveley Fell and Cartmel Fell are five walks featured in Alfred Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland book. The original routes hike the five fells individually, but this single round visits all five summits in the Lake District National Park. This route card is a fantastic option for someone peak bagging the Outlying Fells of Lakeland.
Adventurer Nicwalked this route on Monday 28th December 2020. These were Outlier numbers 108 to 112 of 116 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these outlying fells too.
Gummer’s How Route Stats
Fells: Staveley Fell (265m), Raven’s Barrow – Cartmel Fell (152m), Gummer’s How (321m), Finsthwaite Heights (180m) and Bigland Barrow (193m).
A few days earlier we’d hiked a circuit including Howes and Seat Robert in the far eastern Lake District. I chose Gummer’s How and the four fells close to the southern tip to Windermere for my penultimate Outlying Fells of Lakeland hike, and I was joined by my boyfriend James and friend Katie.
Staveley Fell Ascent
The start point for this walk was the same as the start point for Newton Fell (North) – a layby opposite the ‘Chapel House – Forestry England’ sign. We followed the wide track up into the woods. After 400m we took a footpath that was grassy, muddy and steep. This opened up at the top and we got a sneak peak of Finsthwaite Heights. It was early and the views were all tinged with blue.
We followed the finger post to the north, appreciating the slight pink glow over Windermere. The path forked down to the left to join the wider track and we walked along this as it weaved to the north east. We were deep in conversation, catching up on each other’s Christmas breaks.
Ignoring the right hand turn off for the Simpson Ground Reservoir, we kept to the main track until we were almost parallel with the summit of Staveley Fell.
From here, we weaved our way up the open fellside, being careful not to twist our ankles over the uneven ground.
Staveley Fell Summit
As we reached the summit of Staveley Fell, the skies beyond Windermere were glowing up in the morning sun. The frosty ground shimmered and the lake appeared still.
The summit of Staveley Fell was marked by a cairn.
Staveley Fell Descent
To descend, we headed off to the north east to follow a wall which led in the direction of main track. As with the ascent, the ground here was uneven, but it was only a short distance back to the track.
We walked along the track until we reached a crossroads and we went straight on, with Christmas trees all around us.
Soon a deer fence rose high on our right hand side and we followed this boundary until it met Sow How Lane.
Cartmel Fell Ascent
We turned right onto Sow How Lane to the farm at the bottom of the road.
Following signs for the public bridleway, we passed through the farm yard and turned left to follow a farm vehicle track across a field.
We passed through a number of gates along the bridleway as it led past the pretty Sow How Tarn and through Low Wood.
The bridleway weaved past Heights Cottage and west onto the access land for Raven’s Barrow (Cartmel Fell). Here we left the main trail and followed the lumps and bumps to the monument.
Raven’s Barrow – Cartmel Fell Summit
The monument on the summit of Raven’s Barrow (Cartmel Fell) is huge and also has a little seat built into it. From here you can enjoy the views of the surrounding fells. Whitbarrow was over to the east.
Raven’s Barrow – Cartmel Fell Descent
We retraced our steps back to the farm back to Sow How Lane. Just before the main road junction with Fell Foot Brow, we turned left following a finger post marked ‘Gummer’s How 1 mile’.
When the trail exited out onto the road, we crossed it to begin the ascent of Gummer’s How.
Gummer’ How Ascent
This area is part of the Higher Level Environmental Stewardship Scheme which means the work is ongoing to preserve the upland vegetation on Gummer’s How as it is of high ecological value.
Hardy Luing cattle assist with this, much to cow-fearing James and Katie’s dismay!
The trail up Gummer’s How is well maintained and this was by far the busiest section of trail of the day. Lots of families out enjoying the winter sun between Christmas and New Year.
Just below a crag, the path splits. You can either take the short, easy scramble or stick to the main path on the right. We chose the scramble.
Windermere was now a deep, rich hue of blue and the snow dusted Coniston fells looked majestic in the distance.
We stopped just short of the summit for lunch.
Gummer’s How Summit
From our lunch spot, we could see the trig pillar of Gummer’s How, so we walked up to it and paused for a photo.
We could see all the way down Windemere to Claife Heights, one of my earlier Wainwright’s Outlying Fells walks.
Gummer’s How Descent
To descend, we headed north east initially, before the trail led down to the south and re-joined the path we’d ascended on.
Luckily for James and Katie, we avoided a cow encounter on Gummer’s How!
When we met the road we walked south down Fell Foot Brow, until we had the opportunity to branch off to the left into the woodland of Fell Foot park.
We followed an old wall which was covered in moss.
Fell ponies greeted us to our left before the trail looped to the right onto a bridleway beside Poolfield Wood and out into Staveley-in-Cartmel.
We continued west past Millerbeck Light Railway and along the lane.
This led to a t-junction where we turned left and crossed over to walk along the footpath beside the main road into Newby Bridge.
Here we crossed the bridge itself and headed left in front of The Swan. We crossed another bridge over the railway line and took the next left following a finger post for ‘Finsthwaite 1 mile’.
Finsthwaite Heights -Ascent
Soon after, at a finger post marked Finsthwaite Summer House Knott we turned right and followed a slim path between two fences.
This path weaved steeply and reached a look out point just below Finsthwaite Tower, followed by the tower itself.
The tower is a two-storey folly. The site commemorates the 18th century wars and honours officers of the Royal Navy. You can read more about it on the Imperial War Museum website.
From here we headed north and then north-east, along pleasant woodland trails. When we reached a t-junction in the path we turned left.
This path led out of the woodland and over fields into Finsthwaite.
We passed the church and forked left.
Then turned right at the t-junction and left at the finger post marked ‘High Dam’.
A slim path led past houses and through a small gate onto a field.
We followed the grassy trail and kept heading north, over a bridge that crossed Finsthwaite Beck.
The trail followed the beck uphill before we had the opportunity to cross the beck again higher up.
Finsthwaite Heights Summit
We followed the trail to the south west, passing through a gate until we met the path junction. Here, we branched off the trail to reach what seemed to be the highest point of Finsthwaite Heights.
Finsthwaite Heights remined me of Dunmallet. A ‘summit’ in the trees.
Finsthwaite Heights Descent
We left to the south, following a trail that passed to the west of Summersides Wood. As we descended, we were treated to a beautiful view of Finsthwaite.
We reached the main road and followed it to the left back into Finsthwaite. Opposite the church we turned right to head across the field to the south.
A series of stiles and gates led us past Finsthwaite House and in to Wintering Park.
We ascended slightly before dropping back down to the place we’d initially peeled off for Finsthwaite Tower. We retraced our steps over Newby Bridge.
Bigland Barrow Ascent
From Newby Bridge we turned left onto a side road which ran south with Great Wood on our right. After 350m we forked right onto a bridleway. We followed this through a series of gates onto access land past a small reservoir. Keeping heading south, we ascended gently and passed over a stone stile to gain the main ridge.
Bigland Barrow Summit
We lost the light just as we reached the summit of Bigland Barrow.
The summit of marked by a huge tower and we took in the last of the views before donning our head torches for the descent.
Bigland Barrow Descent
We left to the south of Bigland Barrow for 250m before passing through two gates and heading north-east. A stone stile and another gate led us to a lane which we followed north east alongside Miller Beck.
We followed the finger post for ‘Fair Rigg 1/2 m’ across a field and over two stiles, still walking in a north-easterly direction. We passed through a gate onto a track which we followed to the junction of Back Lane, where we turned left, crossed the main road and reached the car.
What next? My final Outlying Fells of Lakeland – Muncaster Fell, Irton Pike and Boat How.
Adventurer Nicis a Munroist, Wainwright ‘Compleator’ and is hiking her local Outlying Fells of Lakeland in the wake of the corona virus pandemic. Let her know what you thought of this post by dropping her a comment.
Walking the Wainwrights of the Lake District, UK is something I’ve done once before. I hiked my first Wainwright fell in 2017 and I quickly caught the hill bagging bug! I completed my first Wainwright round in September 2018 – all 214 fells in 364 days. Then, two years later I moved to West Cumbria from South Yorkshire, delighted to be closer to my beloved fells. Regular Wainwright walks were suddenly far more accessible to me.
In 2021 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, I decided to embark on my second Wainwright round. A round with a twist! This time I’d be hiking them one book at a time. In the 1950s and 60s Alfred Wainwright published seven guidebooks entitled ‘A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells‘. I decided I’d hike each collection of fells together in a single continuous route, one book at a time. Seven multi-day Wainwright walks in total.
At the time, I was working three days a week in research and analysis in front of a laptop. So this left me with Friday to Monday to dedicate to my series of micro adventures. I would embark on seven Wainwright walks on my days off from work.
Wainwright Routes – The Planning
I planned each of my Wainwright bagging routes in the komoot app. Primarily, I used the following resources to plan my Wainwright walks –
Alfred Wainwright’s guide books
a Wainwright fells list
a variety of blogs
Anyone who knows me knows that one of my favourite things to do is plan peak bagging routes. I enjoy it almost as much as the hiking itself!
Overall I would be walking over 600km and climbing over 30,000m in ascent.
Lake District By Bus
A quirky part of my Wainwright bagging was that I planned each of my Wainwright routes to start and finish at a Lake District bus stop.
Ultimately, this ‘Lake District by Bus’ approach ensured that I never had to worry about taking my car into a congested National Park during the busy Spring/Summer months.
Furthermore, travelling around the Lake District by bus also meant that I could undertake my Wainwright bagging routes in an environmentally friendly a manner as possible.
Bus Services for Walking The Wainwrights
The bus services I used to service my Wainwright routes were –
The X5 and X4 were always my first buses which led out of my home town of Cockermouth, Cumbria to the hub of the Keswick Depot bus station or the Penrith Depot bus station. From either of these points I could connect to the rest of the Lake District. Luckily, the X5 and X4 buses also took me directly to the Northern fells.
The 77 and 77a buses transported me from Keswick to both the North Western fells and the Western fells. This service follows a gorgeous route down Borrowdale alongside Derwent Water.
The 508 bus from Penrith allowed me to access the Eastern fells and Far Eastern fells via Ullswater. A really pretty route down the side of the lake.
The 555 bus from Keswick to Rydal transported me to the start of the Central fells route. This is a fantastic route down by Thirlmere via Grasmere.
The 505 bus allowed me to get back from the Southern fells by taking me from Coniston to Ambleside. From there I could get the 555 back to Keswick and the X5 home.
Lake District by Bus Recommendation
In conclusion, I highly recommend using the Stagecoach bus services of Cumbria to explore the Lake District National Park.
In the main I found the buses to be punctual.
The drivers were super friendly and helpful which always made me smile.
Seeing the Lake District from the top deck of a bus is very relaxing and the time flies.
I actually fell asleep on one of the buses which shows how comfortable the journey was.
Moreover, most of the buses have USB charging points.
This means you can charge your phone whilst you travel the Lake District by bus which I found very useful.
I was always taking lots of photographs along my journey and so the extra opportunity to recharge my phone battery along the way was handy.
On the other hand, a pitfall of the 77a route in particular is that the service regularly has to be cancelled during the busiest weekends of the year. This is due to inconsiderate car parking on the single track roads around Catbells. Unfortunately, this does lead to bus using hill walkers getting stranded at the wrong end of the valley. Luckily, the service wasn’t disrupted during my visits. Finally, it’s also worth noting that this service does not operate during the winter months.
The Lead Up to Walking The Wainwrights
I prepared for this walking challenge by meticulously reviewing my walking kit and making refinements. In addition, I went over the Wainwright routes with a fine tooth comb multiple times before locking them in. It was important for me to ensure I was using all available paths, reducing the pathless elements of the routes to a minimum as I knew that would slow me down. Furthermore, I wanted to avoid private land and wall/fence hopping which is often associated with long distance hill bagging challenges.
My fitness was on the low side before the walking challenge began. We had just come out of another national lockdown and I hadn’t been out in the mountains regularly. I knew I wanted to start with one of the shorter Wainwrights routes. As a result, I decided on the Northern Fells.
The Wainwright Routes
The Northern Fells – Walking The Wainwrights
I walked the 24 Northern Wainwrights over three days in April 2021 starting at the Keswick Depot bus station in Keswick and hiking Latrigg first. The route ended with Souther Fell and finished at the Mungrisdale Road End bus stop on the A66. The whole Northern fells route was 79.5km in length.
The Eastern Fells – Walking The Wainwrights
I walked the 35 Eastern Wainwrights over four days in April 2021 starting at the Kirkstone Pass Inn bus stop on the Kirkstone Pass and hiking Red Screes first. The route ended with Little Mell Fell and finished at the Longthwaite Road End bus stop near Watermillock. The whole Eastern fells route was 96.4km in length.
The Central Fells – Walking The Wainwrights
I walked the 27 Central Wainwrights over three days at the end of April 2021 starting at the Rydal Church bus stop in Rydal and hiking Loughrigg Fell first. The route ended with High Rigg and finished at Dale Bottom bus stop near Keswick. The whole Central fells route was 71.6km in length.
The Western Fells – Walking The Wainwrights
I walked the 33 Western Wainwrights over four days in May 2021 starting at the Honister Youth Hostel bus stop at Honister Slate Mine and hiking Grey Knotts first. The route ended with Fleetwith Pike and finished the circular at the same Honister YHA bus stop. The whole Western fells route was 99.5km in length.
The Southern Fells – Walking The Wainwrights
I walked the 30 Southern Wainwrights over four days at the end of May 2021 starting at the Stonethwaite Road End bus stop in Borrowdale and hiking Bessyboot (Rosthwaite Fell) first. The route ended with The Old Man of Coniston and finished at the The Ruskin Centre bus stop in Coniston. The whole Southern fells route was 102km in length.
The North Western Fells – Walking The Wainwrights
I walked the 29 North Western Wainwrights over three days in June 2021 starting at the Rosthwaite General Store bus stop in Rosthwaite and hiking Castle Crag first. The route ended with Sale Fell and finished at the Dubwath (Junction with A66) bus stop in Dubwath. The whole North Western fells route was 73.9km in length.
The Far Eastern Fells – Walking The Wainwrights
I walked the 36 Far Eastern Wainwrights over four days in June 2021 starting at the Patterdale Hotel bus stop in Patterdale and hiking Place Fell first. The route ended with Troutbeck Tongue and finished at the Town End bus stop in Troutbeck. The whole Far Eastern fells route was 99.4km in length.
Walking The Wainwrights – Conclusion
Walking the Wainwrights and accessing the Lake District by bus was a really fulfilling experience. In short, my Wainwright walks were slow enough to truly appreciate the views and catch up with friends but fast enough to feel like a properly challenging series of walks.
About the Author
Adventurer Nicis a Munroist and double Wainwright ‘Compleator’ who in 2020 hiked a piligrimage from her birthplace of Sheffield to her home in West Cumbria. Let her know what you thought of this post by dropping her a comment.
Howes and Seat Robert are two classic routes featured in Alfred Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland guide book. The original routes take in seven outlier fells of the Lake District National Park – two on the Howes route and five on the Seat Robert route. This route card incorporates all seven hills into a single circular and is a fantastic option for someone peak bagging the Outlying Fells of Lakeland.
Adventurer Nicwalked this route on Thursday 24th December 2020. These were Outlier numbers 101 to 107 of 116 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these outlying fells too.
Howes and Seat Robert Route Stats
Fells: Howes (583m), Nabs Moor (493m), High Wether Howe (531m), Fewling Stones (509m), Seat Robert (515m), Great Ladstones (440m) and Langhowe Pike (401m).
We left the car park and headed to a large gate by Haweswater information board. We passed through the gate, designed to keep deer away from the road and followed the track uphill.
Soon we reached a fingerpost and turned left following the sign to Gatescarth Pass.
This stony path weaved up the hillside. We passed through a kissing gate and continued uphill.
Stunning views surrounded us, to the right towards Blea Water and to the left towards Haweswater. The sky was a beautiful hue of early morning sunrise pastel colours.
It became very icy underfoot as we reached the top of the pass.
There was an option to peel off to the left to hike Branstree but we kept going straight on following the fingerpost sign for the byway towards Sadgill.
We passed through another gate and started heading downhill with views of the Longsleddale valley which was glowing in the sunlight.
We passed through a gate at the bottom of the pass and then turned left at the fingerpost marked Swindale Head and Wet Sleddale. Hopping over the stream we made our way on the grassy trail which was boggy in parts in the direction of Mosedale Cottage to the north east.
We passed through a gate and at this point we could turn left for Branstree or right for Tarn Crag, two Wainwrights. Instead we continued heading north east for Mosedale Cottage.
We reached the white-washed bothy but didn’t enter due to the current COVID restrictions. It was also a little early to stop for lunch, but is a great shelter under normal circumstances.
We continued past the bothy, crossing Great Grain Gill and continued along the path. Soon we crossed Nowtly Gill and turned left after this, following the tracks of a farm vehicle up the hillside.
At around the 500m mark we looked over our left shoulders to see the white Mosedale Cottage from above.
At the top we turned right and made for the highest point, on a rocky outcrop.
Soon, in a vicious cold wind we reached the summit of Howes.
The Summit – Howes
We took a few photos on the summit but we didn’t stay for long. It was bitterly cold in the exposed position and we needed to retreat to lower ground as soon as possible.
We glanced across to Ulthwaite Rigg, a fell we’d hiked as part of another long Outlying Fells of Lakeland walk a few months earlier.
We left the summit to the north east and weaved down through the crags of Howes onto another farm vehicle track that would guide us towards Nab Moor, our second of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of the day.
The track led us to a fence which we passed over before we continued north to the summit of Nabs Moor.
The Summit – Nabs Moor
Nabs Moor summit was marked by a small rock on a boulder.
The sun was now shining on us which took the edge off the wintery gales. We admired the views into Swindale valley before starting our descent into the Mosedale valley.
We headed south east initially before turning east to walk beside Swine Gill towards Mosedale Beck in the valley bottom.
We had two choices here. Either turn right at the bottom and follow the path to the bridge before looping back onto High Wether Howe from the south. Alternatively, we could find a way across the river here, approaching High Wether Howe from the west and cutting around two kilometres from the route. Luckily the dry weather allowed us to go for the latter option.
We crossed the fence for the second time of the day and used a small island in the river to aid our crossing. Dry boots all round!
We ascended High Wether Howe on the right hand side of the fence. As we reached the top we turned left and crossed the fence for the third and final time. Just short of the summit we stopped for lunch, as the rocky top of High Wether Howe gave us some much needed protection from the wind. Lunch today was a family favourite recipe from the night before – potato, cheese and onion, baked in the oven. It was cold now but was still delicious!
The Summit – High Wether Howe
We topped out onto the summit of High Wether Howe and took some photographs before continuing north to Fewling Stones.
We passed a lip of ground where a perfect collection of icicles had formed. They glistened in the sunshine.
We continued north under bright blue skies until we reached the top of Fewling Stones.
The Summit – Fewling Stones
The summit views of Fewling Stones were less dramatic than the earlier summits of the day as we were walking further and further away from the bigger fells, but the hillside was glowing in the sunshine and it had turned into a lovely day for hiking.
We left the summit of Fewling Stones to the south east. We walked over pathless terrain passing to the north of Haskew Tarn before ascending Seat Robert, our fifth summit of the day.
The Summit – Seat Robert
Seat Robert had the most established summit of the bunch, with a large wind shelter and summit cairn. We both commented that there wasn’t much of a drop in height between the five outlying fells on this side of the valley which meant that that hardest part of the walk was the pathless tufty terrain. You just have to be careful not to twist an ankle on the rough ground between the fells around Seat Robert.
We left Seat Robert to the north, staying left of Gambling Crag and following a series of intermittent farm vehicle tracks to Great Ladstones. There were patches of thick ice galore on this part of the route.
The Summit – Great Ladstones
The summit of Great Ladstones was marked by a cairn. We left the summit to the north east and made a beeline over pathless terrain to Langhowe Pike.
By this point we were beginning to tire but we knew we had a couple of ascents left.
The Summit – Langhowe Pike
Langhowe Pike summit was marked by a cairn. We admired the views back to where we’d walked from. It had been a great day of hill walking so far.
The Descent to Swindale Head
We left the summit, making our own zig zags down the hillside towards the bottom path. We made it to a gate at the bottom beside a dry stone wall.
From here we followed the path south-west to a bridge in the Swindale valley, just upstream from the dam.
After crossing the bridge we joined Swindale Lane to continue south west to Swindale Head.
At the farm at the end of Swindale Head we went through a gate to the right of the buildings and turned right at the finger post marked ‘Public Bridleway – Mardale via Old Corpse Road’.
The Old Corpse Road and the Final Descent to Mardale Head
We followed the bridleway up between two walls to a gate.
Passing through the gate, we then crossed a stream heading uphill to the north.
We continued along the Old Corpse Road as it swung west.
We soon realised we were walking just below the summit of Hare Shaw, a fell that we’d hiked as part the Naddle Horseshoe a few months earlier.
At the top of the pass we could appreciate the snow-capped High Street mountain range before the southern tip of Haweswater came into view.
Many would argue that this is the best view in the far eastern Lake District National Park. Rough Crag drops dramatically down into reservoir forming a dramatic peninsula.
We stopped for photographs close to two ruined buildings just off the path.
We followed the zig zag trail down to the road where we crossed over and took the lakeside path back to the car.
The lakeside path was also beautiful, with the water reflecting a gorgeous sunset glow.
Due to erosion, the path at the end is not recommended, so we finished the last part of the route on the road back to Mardale Head car park.
A Dramatic Finish
At the very end of the walk we had a ‘heart in mouth’ moment! The car key wouldn’t work. It was so cold that I think it had affected the battery. Luckily there’s a back up key hidden inside the push button casing so I used this to gain access. Unfortunately it meant setting off the car alarm in the process! The sound of our alarm must have carried down the valley until I managed to disable it! Oops!
Gummer’s How and four other fells at the south of Windermere beckoned. This would be our next Outlying Fell bagging outing.
Adventurer Nicis a Munroist, Wainwright ‘Compleator’ and is hiking her local Outlying Fells of Lakeland in the wake of the corona virus pandemic. Let her know what you thought of this post by dropping her a comment.
Blawith Knott is one of Alfred Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland. This hike links Blawith Knott to 5 other outlying fells in the south of the Lake District National Park over a distance of 20km including Burney, Tottlebank Height, Wool Knott, Yew Bank and Beacon Fell. This route card is a fantastic option for someone peak bagging the Outlying Fells of Lakeland.
Adventurer Nicwalked this route on Monday 24th August 2020. These were Outlier numbers 77 to 82 of 116 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these outlying fells too.
Blawith Knott, Burney, Beacon Fell and More Route Stats
Fells: Burney (298m), Blawith Knott (248m), Tottlebank Height (236m), Wool Knott (223m), Yew Bank (207m) and Beacon Fell (255m).
I parked in the big layby on the A5092 on a sunny morning in the southern Lake District. I had just dropped my partner James off in Keswick to start his walk of the 214 Wainwright fells in a single round and I was feeling emotional! A hike alone in the outlying fells to clear my head was just what I needed.
I walked west along road for a short distance before turning right to follow a sign which read ‘Woodland 3 Miles’. I walked over the cattle grid and continued along the tarmac single track road.
After 400m I turned right to head steeply up a grassy path.
To the left in the distance I could see over towards Duddon Sands.
The navigation to the first summit was easy as the grassy path led right to the top of my first fell of the day – Burney.
There is a trig point on the summit of Burney but the grassy lump 10 metres away is actually the highest point of the fell. So I deviated there for a photo.
The Summit – Burney
The views were absolutely outstanding at this early stage and I knew I was in for treat for the rest of the walk.
I could pick out Black Combe, Buckbarrow, Whit Fell, Stickle Pike, Caw and Walna Scar up and onto the Coniston Fells along the skyline and it was stunning!
I suppressed a pang of sadness that I was experiencing such beauty alone.
Blawith Knott was visible up ahead and I followed the grassy path from the summit of Burney which headed off to the north-east.
As the ground became a little slushy underfoot, I took a small detour to visit Burney’s sibling – Little Burney. I went over the summit of Little Burney and headed north-west over pathless but easy grassy ground until I picked up an established path. If you’re not keen on visiting Little Burney, you can stay on the path the whole time and cut out this pathless section.
The path became a little steep and loose as it descended towards a crossroad in the path.
I continued straight on and the path led over a stream, weaved through bracken and then navigated across boggy terrain to gain higher ground onto a tarmac road.
Here I turned left and walked along the road, ignoring the first right-hand fork. Instead I turned right at the main junction, following a cycle fingerpost.
From this junction I continued along the tarmac road uphill before the road started to descend giving me a clear view of my route of ascent up the south-west ridge of Blawith Knott.
The turn off for the grassy path up Blawith Knott came after around 1km of walking on the road and was just after a stream crossing.
I followed the path directly to summit of Blawith Knott.
The Summit – Blawith Knott
Blawith Knott was marked by a cairn.
I saw one other hillwalker approaching the summit just as I was leaving.
I left the summit to the east with Tottlebank Height in my sights. Again, I followed a grassy path, this time down through some bracken.
There wasn’t much of a drop between these two fells. I passed a small tarn to the left.
Then I continued on before taking a right-hand fork in the path up to the summit of Tottlebank Height.
The Summit – Tottlebank Height
It didn’t seem like five minutes since I was atop Blawith Knott but here I was on Tottlebank Height!
I paused for a short while on the summit to enjoy the view before heading down to the north/north-west.
In hindsight it probably would have been easier to retrace my steps to the path junction and turn right as it was a little bit of a tricky initial descent over grassy tufts and bracken with a few hidden boulders to navigate over before I reached the bottom path.
I passed a small group of people with binoculars before crossing a stream. At the next path crossroads I continued straight on towards Wool Knott.
I crossed another couple of streams as I followed the trail uphill. The path snaked through the bracken towards Wool Knott. I peeled off the path to the right as it bent left at the top of the pass in order to reach the summit of my fourth outlying fell of the day – Wool Knott.
The Summit – Wool Knott
The views from Wool Knott summit are simply beautiful. Not only was it my favourite fell view of the day, it is certainly in my top five of outlying fells so far.
Wool Knott overlooks Beacon Tarn which was shimmering in the sunlight. It was also a great vantage point to see the remaining two fells I was going to hike that day – Yew Bank and Beacon Fell.
I paused and had lunch on the summit of Wool Knott so that I could enjoy the view for a little longer.
As I left the summit of Wool Knott I initially retraced my steps, but then I headed north west to a grassy trod which led down to the main path.
I turned left on the main path which was wide and grassy and followed it until it crossed Mere Syke. From there I forked right to follow a smaller trail through bracken, traversing the northern flanks of Woodland Fell.
I forked right twice more, heading downhill passing a large tree on the left. This led through more bracken and to Green Moor Beck, which I crossed at a ford.
After crossing the stream I walked north, keeping the wall on my left.
The path continued to lead north loosely following the wall.
There were a variety of options here but all trails meet together further up. I chose to cross Hodge Wife Gill near the wall.
The grass was often wet underfoot so I chose the driest of the interconnecting grassy pathways to follow uphill through the bracken. As long as you’re going north-east on one of the grassy paths uphill, you can’t really go wrong.
The Summit – Yew Bank
My trail led me to the col between Yew Ban and Rattan Haw, so I turned left at the top to bag Yew Bank.
The summit of Yew Bank was marked with a big cairn. I was surrounded by lovely purple heather which was still in bloom on this late August day.
From the summit I followed a faint path to the east over Rattan Haw. I passed a wind shelter and soon the path disappeared and the heather and bracken thickened.
I headed ‘off piste’ to the right heading towards what looked like a path that ran parallel that was slightly lower down. This path soon too disappeared so I picked the path of least resistance through the tufty grass and heather towards Beacon Fell in the west.
These fells were definitely the most problematic to link up as it involved around a kilometre of tough pathless walking, but that’s part of the excitement of executing four of Wainwright’s routes in one day. You’re probably doing a route that few people have done, so it makes it extra special.
When I made it to the main path I turned left and I only had one more ascent to go. I walked north on the path immediately below Beacon Fell and turned right to follow a steep path up the side of the fell to the north-east.
Half way up the ascent the path disappeared but it was easy to make a beeline to the summit on a compass bearing, easily avoiding the crags and steep ground.
I tried not to get too distracted by the brilliant views of the Coniston fells (and I failed).
The Summit – Beacon Fell
I arrived at the summit of Beacon Fell to a father and son flying a drone together.
Beacon Fell is marked by a large cairn and from here I could see the Top O’ Selside fells on the other side of Coniston Water.
I could also see as far as Helvellyn to the north.
I left the summit of Beacon Fell following an established trail to the south-west.
The tarn came into view and was just as sparkling and magical as it had looked from the other side on Wool Knott. By the time I reached the edge of the tarn I realised I was now on the Cumbria Way.
I walked south along the Cumbria Way which soon ran alongside a dry stone wall on my right beside some woodland which offered some much appreciated shade.
The path then weaved through bracken, through a gate, crossed over Greenholme Beck and led uphill into woodland.
The path then did a u-turn to the right to run alongside a wall. This led through another gate and along a path with walls on either side of the trail. This opened out into a field where I kept the wall on my right. I passed through another gate at the end. After this gate I turned left. When the path forked beside a large boulder in an opening I kept right. Keeping right kept me on the Cumbria Way where the grassy path rose.
I glanced behind me on this section to see the most beautiful view of the fells to the north.
I passed to the left of Tottlebank Height. And at the end of the footpath I turned left onto a farm track which soon merged into a tarmac road. I walked down the road until I saw a fingerpost for a public bridleway.
I took this right fork and walked down the grassy track. When the track split I took the right-hand fork which led over a stile.
I continued across the field following the trail, which ultimately bent east to run alongside a dry stone wall.
The Home Straight
I passed through a series of gates keeping the Kiln Bank farm buildings on my left. At this point I left the Cumbria Way by continuing south. I passed through a metal gate and peeled off the track following the right of way down to the stream. Crossing the stream using the small stone bridge, I continued heading south.
I then crossed over the wall using the stile. Then, I headed across the field to the stile in the next wall. After this, I continued on passing through a gate in the bottom right of the field. From here I turned right to walk along the track at Raisthwaite.
I passed through the farm yard and through a gate to a tree-lined path. I crossed the stream and went through another gate. Hiking across the field, I went through the gate in the top right of the field and walked straight on following the grassy trail.
I crossed a road and continued straight on, and then crossed a track to continue uphill. I passed a big boulder with a tree growing out of it which boggled my mind.
The final challenge was to make it over the boggy ground to the col to the east of Burney. My legs were tired at this point and I was craving a cold drink! There were no real paths to follow here due to the terrain. This meant it was hard going, but I kept sneaking peeks behind me at the stunning views. Once at the col the path reappeared and I walked downhill to the right of a wall.
I dropped down onto the road and retraced my steps over the cattle grid back to the car.
Potter Fell would be my next Outlying Fells of Lakeland walk.
Adventurer Nicis a Munroist, Wainwright ‘Compleator’ and is hiking her local Outlying Fells of Lakeland in the wake of the corona virus pandemic. Let her know what you thought of this post by dropping her a comment.
#WalkHome2020 was conceived in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to celebrate life in healthy way, even in the darkest of days.
Cockermouth became my new home town in 2020.
Situated just outside the Lake District in the county of Cumbria, it’s far enough away to not feel too touristy but close enough for the fells to feel like they’re on my doorstep.
But Sheffield was once my home. I lived and worked there for over 30 years and I still feel a strong connection to my roots.
During the winter of 2020 I should have been walking the length of New Zealand on Te Araroa – a 3,000km long distance trail from the tip of the north island to the tip of the south island. But as New Zealand’s borders remain closed to the UK at the time of writing, I have had to postpone this trip and pick up some part time work in the UK.
Feeling a bit lost, I thought up an adventure that I could do around my new job – a long distance journey that would mean a lot to me and the Walk Home 2020 project was born.
On 3rd October 2020 I started my hike at the hospital I was born in 36 years ago in Sheffield. I then walked over 330km (over 200 miles) home to Cockermouth, via a selection of national and local trails through South Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire, North Yorkshire and Cumbria.
Walk Home 2020 Q&A
Which route did you take?
You can see the full route I planned here –
I detoured a couple of times in order to re-supply at shops along the way.
The full breakdown of each day can be found here –
Where did the route start?
The route started at the site of the old Jessop Hospital for Women on Leavygreave Road, Sheffield. This was the place I was born in August 1984. Unfortunately the wing of the original building that I was actually born in has since been demolished.
Sheffield is also known as the Steel City due to it’s history of steel-making.
Where did the route finish?
The route finished at my home address in Cockermouth, Cumbria.
Cockermouth is also the birthplace of William Wordsworth and the town is twinned with Marvejols, France.
How did you decide on the Walk Home 2020 route?
The komoot app suggested the most efficient walking route between the start and finish points but I found it a lot of fun to plot my own route, tweaking the suggested tour to include places I really wanted to visit along the way. I also adjusted the route to include national trails like the Pennine Way and local trails like the Dales High Way and the Coast to Coastroute.
What was the total distance?
The total distance was 336km (209 miles). It fluctuated slightly above my initial target due to my mood on the trail. For example, I added in extra mountain summits in the Lake District when I had great weather.
Where did you sleep?
I planned on wild camping as much as possible along the route, but I added in one AirBnB and had two additional offers of accommodation along the route (one night in a friend’s caravan and one night in a friend’s guest house). The other 11 nights were spent in my tent.
Did you walk alone?
I walked half and half both alone and with small numbers friends and family, remaining respectful and compliant with current COVID guidelines.
I walked the Pennine Way section with my friend Becky and was joined for other small sections of the walk by friends Ben, Jess, Megan, Bryony, Adrian, Liz, Eeva, Carla, my boyfriend James and my parents.
My friends Heather, Kate, Laura, Aggie, Katie, Adam and Josh also joined me for short spells to cheerlead from the side lines.
Three Labrador dogs called Moss, Tia and Mack also joined me for sections of the walk.
I experienced a lot of Trail Magic along the way, offers to stay in accommodation, chocolates left along the route and I was recognised twice by people on their own day hikes who had been following my journey on Instagram.
How far did you walk each day?
I planned to walk in the region of 22km to 30km per day. My average day was 24km so my initial estimate was about right. My biggest day was 30km on the Cowling to Malham section of the walk.
How long did the Walk Home 2020 route take you?
I had 2 weeks off work so I had to be finished within that window. I started on Saturday 3 October in the evening and I finished on Saturday 17 October in the early afternoon. I had a contingency day in the schedule that I could have as a rest day but I didn’t feel the need to use it.
How did you re-supply food?
I resupplied along the way using four shops in Hebden Bridge, Gargrave, Sedbergh and Shap. I carried between two and five days of food at any one time. I considered leaving one or two stash boxes along the way containing supplies like gas for my stove, expedition meals and a change of underwear, but in the end I didn’t do this. I took enough gas for the whole trip from day 1 and wore the same clothes throughout.
What did you wear for the Walk Home 2020 adventure?
On my feet I wore the Hanwag Banks Lady GTX. If it was summer I would have worn lightweight trail running shoes but autumn on the Pennine Way will be very wet and boggy so I took the boots and gaiters approach and I have no regrets about this. My boot lace loop snapped on day 8 but I persevered and finished the walk in the same boots I’d started in.
I took a set of waterproofs, a down jacket and a set of thermal (merino) base layers to sleep in. I hiked in a pair of technical hiking leggings, a t-shirt and an insulated mid-layer.
I took a hat, gloves and a buff (which doubled as a face covering in shops).
What other kit did you take?
In my rucksack I carried a first aid kit, a one-person tent, sleeping mat, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, lightweight stove, titanium pot, spork, bowl, water filter, personal locator beacon (PLB), a waterproof cover for my phone, a multi-tool, a set of dry bags, my hiking poles, a compass, water bottles, a trowel for when nature called, a head torch, a sit mat, a small microfibre towel, minimal toiletries, ear plugs, sunglasses, a power bank, my bank card and a small amount of cash.
My luxury item was a light-weight cotton pillow case, which I’ll put my down jacket in at night and use as a pillow. I always sleep so much better if I’ve got a cotton pillow on my cheek.
Can I do the same?
Yes you can! Unless you live a sea or ocean away from your birthplace, you can plot and consider walking or cycling from your own birthplace to your current home address, either as one full walk or in sections. It’s a great way to do an adventure unique to you and everyone’s walk will be different! If you do decide to do it, please tag #WalkHome2020 on social media so I can see and share your journey.
Did you update social media along the way?
I did! I used the hashtag #WalkHome2020 and I updated to my Instagram story daily. Check out the pinned highlights beneath my bio if you’d like to see my full photo diary, including all the ups and downs of the adventure.
Here are a selection of Instagram posts which explain more about my Walk Home 2020 adventure –
Walna Scar, Caw, Stickle Pike and More – Route Introduction
Walna Scar is the highest of all of Alfred Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland. This hike links Walna Scar to 9 other outlying fells in the south of the Lake District National Park over a distance of 26km. This route card is a fantastic option for someone peak bagging the Outlying Fells of Lakeland.
Adventurer Nicwalked this route on Wednesday 24th June 2020. These were Outlier numbers 39 to 48 of 116 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these outlying fells too.
Walna Scar, Caw, Stickle Pike and More – Route Stats
Fells: Great Stickle (305m), Dunnerdale Fells (280m), Tarn Hill (313m), Stickle Pike (375m), a nameless summit 1183′ (361m), The Knott (284m), Caw (529m), Pikes (469m), Green Pikes (420m) and Walna Scar (621m)
Walna Scar, Caw, Stickle Pike and More – Route Report
The Lead Up
A few days earlier we’d hiked the Bannisdale Horseshoe and Knipescar Common, two great walks on the far eastern edge of the Lake District National Park. After a couple of days rest we headed to Ulpha to take on another big day in the hills.
James and I met our good friend Laura in the car park on the road between Ulpha and Stonestar. Laura is a postal worker in the Windermere post office but was making the most of her week off with some hiking.
The ascent was straight forward as there was a clear path which led through thick bracken right from the edge of the small car park virtually to the summit of our first Outlying Fell of the day – Great Stickle.
The ground was firm underfoot and the gradient wasn’t too steep. The view up to the crags ahead was beautiful.
I love the colour of bracken in June and there seemed to be a sea of green in every direction we turned.
As the trail zigzagged gently through the ferns towards Great Stickle, we were chatting away intently. It was one of those ascents that passed quickly due to great conversation.
The Summit – Great Stickle
A large cairn marked the summit of great Stickle, five metres south-west of a trig pillar. From here we were treated to an excellent, albeit hazy, view down to Duddon Sands.
I also loved the view to the other side, which featured Stickle Pike with a backdrop of higher Lake District mountains. I had the feeling this was going to be a great hill day.
The Summit – Dunnerdale Fells
From Great Stickle we pondered over which route to take to Dunnerdale Fells. We followed a series of small interconnecting paths through the bracken to the edge of this pretty tarn which was teeming with wildlife.
The ground was firm enough as we were in the midst of a heatwave, but I would imagine this area could be very slushy in poor weather.
A very modest cairn of two rocks marked the summit of Dunnerdale Fells.
The Summit – Tarn Hill
From Dunnerdale Fells we headed towards Tarn Hill, weaving around ponds and through bracken, avoiding the crags.
I’m sure the size of the cairn on Tarn Hill made the two stones on Dunnerdale Fells feel woefully inadequate.
The view from here, overlooking a tarn (no surprises there) towards Buck Barrow and Whitefell was stunning.
But it couldn’t compete with the view to the other side. Stickle Pike looked so grand up ahead. We were keen to press on.
The Summit – Stickle Pike
We left the summit of Tarn Hill to the north, all the while Stickle Pike was getting closer and closer. It looked far bigger than its lowly 375m height tag!
We aimed for the col between the two fells and followed another path through bracken which wound up and over steeper, rockier ground to the summit. And boy was it a handsome summit.
Hiking fells like this is one of the reasons I love being a peak bagger. I’d never heard of Stickle Pike prior to walking the Outlying Fells of Lakeland but it’s such a fantastic hill and an absolute must for lovers of Lakeland.
We settled down to eat an early lunch at 11:30 am. Laura put us both to shame with her lovely, fresh prawn salad while James and I picked the mould off the bread of our peanut butter sandwiches!
At this point in the walk we were so happy. We already had four of the ten fells under our belts but Walna Scar seemed a long way away. We were under no illusions we would be back at the car at tea time. Thank goodness for the late sunsets at this time of year!
From our summit vantage point we took the opportunity to scout out the route ahead, looking across Stickle Tarn to the junction at Kiln Bank Cross and on to our next Outlying Fells.
The Nameless Summit – 1183′
We descended to the car park at Kiln Bank Cross and followed the trail to the east, passing a cave in the crag.
From there we took a left fork in the trail, which traversed up the western side of Raven’s Crag.
This trail led us straight to the nameless summit which Alfred Wainwright, in his book The Outlying Fells of Lakeland, fondly referred to as – nameless summit 1183′.
This fell reminded me how must I enjoy bagging the hills that are close to the sea. You get a completely different perspective to the land locked fells in the centre of the Lake District. On a hot day like this was it almost felt like we were abroad!
It felt unnatural to be walking away from Caw, the 529m hill looming behind me in the photo below, but first we needed to lose some height to bag The Knott, at 284m.
The Summit – The Knott
So we continued south along the ridge.
It was an undulating route, passing over a couple of other tops. Whitfell and Buck Barrow made for an awesome backdrop.
We made it to the top of The Knott and admired our next objective, Caw.
The Coniston Fells looked fearsome from this angle. We knew we’d later have to ascend a good chunk of that to reach Walna Scar.
The view to Great Stickle, our first Outlier of the day was also stunning.
And of course we were even closer to the sea.
Re-fuelling once more, we had a good giggle during a well earned rest by the summit cairn of The Knott.
The Summit – Caw
We retraced our steps for 300m before turning right along the trail, heading north-east towards Jackson Ground on the map.
This part of the trail was really good underfoot so we made quick progress. We crossed Long Mire Beck and followed the path up to the highest point of the pass before noticing some cairns to the right of the trail. We peeled off the trail and followed the cairns to the foot of Caw, where a steep ascent up the south face was required for 150m.
Around 20m from the summit, an older gentleman passed us with remarkable pace and flexibility. We caught up with him on the summit.
He was a local to south Cumbria, living in Barrow-in-Furness, and after a short chat he ventured off towards his next hill of the day – White Maiden.
The views were simply incredible.
A few friends had recommended Caw as their favourite Outlying Fell of Lakeland so my expectations were high and the views certainly didn’t disappoint!
There were OUTSTANDING views to the highest peaks of the Lake District including Scafell Pike, Pillar, Great End and on to Esk Pike, Bow Fell, Crinkle Crags, Pike O’Blisco and all the Coniston fells – Great Carrs, Swirl How, Dow Crag, Coniston Old Man. In the foreground – Harter Fell and Hard Knott also stood out.
The views off to the other side were striking for different reasons. A sea view and then Black Combe and a number of other familiar outliers from trips gone by. What a treat.
The Summit – Pikes
Laura decided to leave us at this point, so made her own way back to the car from Caw. James and I continued on, heading north-east towards Pikes.
The uninterrupted views of the Lake District giants were heavenly.
It seemed like it was mostly downhill towards Pikes, and there were now only two summits between us and Walna Scar.
A rocky outcrop marked the summit of Pikes.
The Summit – Green Pikes
The amble across to Green Pikes was trouble-free and joyous.
We were now heading directly towards the big mountains in distance and it was difficult to concentrate on where we were putting our feet because of the distraction of the awesome scenery.
Green Pikes was my favourite place to photograph of the day. There is no cairn on the summit but the views are out of this world.
The Summit – Walna Scar
And just like that we had one Outlying Fell remaining! Walna Scar here we come.
We descended off Green Pikes and headed for the wide track known as Walna Scar Road. The path led us past a series of old ruined quarry buildings. What awesome views they’d have if you could stay in them I pondered.
The track wound its way up Walna Scar Side and to a crossroads at the col between Walna Scar and Brown Pike. We turned right to head south up and onto the summit.
The top was marked by a cairn and overlooked what appeared to be the full length of Coniston Water.
Looking back, the zigzag path up Brown Pike and on to Dow Crag was so clear as visibility was great.
We celebrated the milestone, as we were now 40% through Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland and we’d already ticked off the two highest fells – Walna Scar and Black Combe.
The Long Descent of Walna Scar
Thinking about the long walk back to the car, we left the summit and retraced our steps back to the ruined quarry buildings, before continuing through a gate down Walna Scar Road, heading north-west towards the base of the valley, which contained the Tarn Beck and the village of Seathwaite. We filled our water bottles from the stream and couldn’t quite quench our thirst on what felt like the hottest day of the year so far.
We reached the road at the bottom and walked along it for almost 2km under the blissful shade of the large trees that lined the street. The view to Harter Fell from the valley was beautiful, surrounded by woodland and quintessentially English dry stone walls.
Another Ascent Before Finishing the Walk
We joined a path which led gently uphill back towards the Kiln Bank Cross car park for around 3.5km.
As we regained 200m of height the views opened up behind us once more.
By this point we were very tired and a bit low on energy so some high calorie sugary snacks were on the menu to perk us up.
We made it back to Kiln Bank Cross car park and made a beeline for Stickle Tarn. From there we followed the trail beside Hare Hall Beck, laughing as we spotted two Herdwick sheep in the middle of a swampy tarn having a cool down.
We were back on the bracken lined trails for the remainder of the walk, bypassing Great Stickle and picking up the original route of ascent which led these two weary hikers back to the car.
Wrapping Up our hike up Walna Scar, Caw, Stickle Pike and Friends
What a day! 26km and over 1,000m of ascent on the hottest day of the year probably wasn’t the best idea but the views certainly warranted completing this walk on a clear day.
Adventurer Nicis a Munroist, Wainwright ‘Compleator’ and is hiking her local Outlying Fells of Lakeland in the wake of the corona virus pandemic. Let her know what you thought of this post by dropping her a comment.
The Circuit of Devoke Water is a classic horseshoe featured in Alfred Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland. The original route takes in 6 outlier fells in the south west of the Lake District National Park. This route card incorporates and additional 6 hills and is a fantastic route for someone peak bagging the Outlying Fells of Lakeland.
Adventurer Nicwalked this route on Sunday 31st May 2020. These were Outlier numbers 3 to 14 of 116 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these outlying fells too.
Extended Circuit of Devoke Water Route Stats
Fells: Rough Crag (319m), Water Crag (305m), White Pike (442m), The Knott (331m), Stainton Pike (498m), Whitfell (573m), Burn Moor (543m), Buck Barrow (549m), Kinmont Buck Barrow (535m), Yoadcastle (494m), Woodend Height (489m) and Seat How (311m)
A day earlier we’d hiked Flat Fell and Dent, the first two Wainwright Outlying Fells of Lakeland on our peak bagging list, but it was time for something a bit more juicy.
The walk started at a small car park just off the Austhwaite Brow. There were a few cars there when James and I arrived at mid-morning but there were still some free spaces.
The weather forecast for the day was glorious. Sun cream and water were required in large quantities.
We set off in a south-westerly direction along a wide track in the direction of Devoke Water.
At an obvious scar in the grassy bank on the right hand side we peeled off the track, following the faint path which guided us gradually over grassy terrain. The views back across Eskdale were fantastic, right from the off.
Devoke Water, which was a bright royal blue in the gorgeous sunshine, is normally popular with anglers but there were none that day.
The ground was dry from the recent warm weather and we soon reached the summit of Rough Crag.
The Summit – Rough Crag
Out to the west was the large expanse of the Irish Sea and the faint outline of the Isle of Man. The small hump of Water Crag, our second Outlying fell of the day, can be seen clearly, behind the cairn of Rough Crag, in the above photograph.
The Summit – Water Crag
After a short pause, we walked south-west to Water Crag, the second hill in the Circuit of Devoke Water.
To get there, we followed a faint path over grassy terrain, descending and re-ascending a mere 50m between the two fells. I noted that this was in stark contrast to the 600m cols between the giants of the Munro mountains of Scotland that we hiked the previous summer.
Water Crag had sea views that were even better than the panorama from Rough Crag. The sea was a lovely bright shade of blue.
The Summit – White Pike
From Water Crag we dropped down to the south-west, through wet grass that is probably quite boggy after a spate of wet weather but was fairly firm for us. We aimed for the western edge of the tarn where we planned to cross Linbeck Gill and head up the fells on the south side of Devoke Water, starting with White Pike.
We started hiking uphill on the other side looking for faint paths but there was nothing but a few misleading sheep trods. We paused for a drink and a snack and identified all the fells we could see from this vantage point, from Whin Rigg in the north, we cast our eyes right across the skyline of bigger fells over to Crinkle Crags.
Setting back off walking, we pushed to the summit of White Pike.
The top of White Pike was rocky and we were greeted by a slim columnar cairn.
The Summit – The Knott
From the summit of White Pike we left the usual trail for the Circuit of Devoke Water and made our first diversion.
We dropped down, picking our way around the crags and boulders on this side of the hill. We avoided the steepest parts by heading south around the rocks.
After reaching the grassy col we walked over a small hill which led to The Knott, our fourth outlying fell.
We had our lunch here – cheese and pickle sandwiches. A game James and I often played whilst sitting in front of a Lakeland view was to survey the scene and select which cottage out of the valley you’d most like to live in. On this occasion, James picked what looked like a stately home, while I opted for a more modest white washed cottage close to woodland. There were no prizes associated with this game of course, we could never afford a cottage in the Lake District National Park, but nobody can stop us dreaming. We admired the views a little longer, with the exception of Sellafield nuclear power station, which was visible to the north west.
The Summit – Stainton Pike
After lunch we headed off to the south east, picking our way towards next fell – Stainton Pike. Tussocky, hard, grassy, ankle-breaking lumps slowed us down somewhat. I was grateful I’d opted for boots.
The ground then turned a little bit boggy. We crossed Stainton Beck at the point where it forked, before crossing a fence at the most appropriate point. We continued uphill following a grassy rake to the left of the summit of Stainton Pike.
Once we’d gained the ridge, we turned right to head south west to the summit.
The Summit – Whitfell
From the summit of Stainton Pike, we dropped off summit heading for Whitfell, or Whit Fell, if you use the spelling Alfred Wainwright adopted in his guide book.
We crossed the fence by Holehouse Tarn and picked up a faint path which led to the top of Whitfell.
Whitfell’s summit was marked with a trio of features – a very large cairn, an adjoining wind shelter and a trig pillar.
The Summit – Burn Moor
From the summit of Whitfell, we followed a faint path over grassy terrain to the rather lacklustre Burn Moor – the seventh fell on this extended circuit of Devoke Water. It was quite rounded and featureless in comparison to its neighbours, but it made a nice change.
From Burn Moor, a view opened up of Duddon Sands in the south east.
The Summit – Buck Barrow
From Burn Moor we followed a faint path to Buck Barrow, our eighth outlying fell of the day.
In stark comparison to Burn Moor, Buck Barrow was rocky on top, but there was plenty of space between the rocks to walk up to the summit without any scrambling.
We looked across to the west at our next target – Kinmont Buck Barrow.
The Summit – Kinmont Buck Barrow
We descended to find a large wall split Buck Barrow and Kinmont Buck Barrow, so we headed for a large gap in the wall before ascending.
It wasn’t long before we’d reached the large cairn that marked the summit of our ninth outlying fell. It was also the furthest point from the car where we’d started the walk.
We returned to the same gap in the dry stone wall and followed it north. We bypassed the bulk of Burn Moor and walked along a faint path that led all the way back to Whitfell.
By this point in the walk we’d noticed that there had been skylarks above us for much of the walk. In fact, they were the only other living thing we’d seen all day! Their melodic chirping was a great soundtrack to the walk.
As we re-ascended Whitfell from the south we passed another couple – these would be the only other people we encountered on the whole 20km route.
We descended back to Holehouse Tarn and then headed for Yoadcastle, keeping the crags on our left. We weaved around a couple of craggy tops before heading up onto the summit, officially rejoining the original Circuit of Devoke Water route from here on in.
Whilst on Yoadcastle, we scouted out two fells that we’d return to and hike another day – Hesk Fell and The Pike.
The Summit – Woodend Height
We left the summit of Yoadcastle and made our way with ease to our penultimate hill of the day and boy was it worth the wait! Woodend Height soon became my favourite fell of the extended circuit of Devoke Water.
The summit offered the best view of the trip – with at least 16 Wainwrights visible to the north, over Devoke Water – starting with the Wasdale fells and extending east, it was a feast for the eyes.
Woodend Height really offered a stunning panorama. I didn’t want to leave!
The Summit – Seat How
We headed down over pathless but firm grassy terrain to the valley bottom again. Seat How appeared to be a little rocky lump in the middle distance.
Seat How appeared craggy on all sides but we headed to its eastern side where it was possible to weave easily up through the rocks.
The view from the summit was lovely. We’d now appreciated Devoke Water from every possible angle, completing the full extended circuit.
Extended Circuit of Devoke Water Descent
We dropped down from Seat How, again finding the best way off to the east, before heading around back to the track where we’d started the day that morning.
A short walk to the car and that was that. 12 of Wainwright’s Outlying Fells of Lakeland in the bag!
Wrapping Up our Devoke Water Hike
Burnt shoulders and big smiles! That pretty much summed up the day as we stretched our tired muscles back at the car. The Lake District was truly on top form and we were thankful we were there to appreciate it.
What next? Clints Crags beckoned – this would be our next Outlying Fell.
Adventurer Nicis a Munroist, Wainwright ‘Compleator’ and is hiking her local Outlying Fells of Lakeland in the wake of the corona virus pandemic. Let her know what you thought of this post by dropping her a comment.
This is a multi-day Munro bagging route using Camban Bothy as a base for 12 mountains in the areas north of Glen Shiel and Glen Affric, including the Five Sisters of Kintail and the Three Brothers.
The 12 Munros featured in this route are – Sgurr Fhuaran, Sgurr na Carnach, Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe, Saileag, Sgurr a’ Bhealaich Dheirg, Aonach Meadhoin, Ciste Dhubh, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, Mullach na Dheiragain, An Socach, Mullach Fraoch-choire and A’ Chralaig. This route card explains the quickest way of getting to all 12 summits for a peak bagger in a single outing of 3 days.
Adventurer Nicwalked this route on Sunday 7th July 2019 as part of her Munro Bagging Challenge. These were Munro numbers 132 to 143 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these Munros too.
Camban Bothy Munro Route Stats
Mountains: Sgurr Fhuaran (1,067 m), Sgurr na Carnach (1,002 m), Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe (1,027 m), Saileag (956 m), Sgurr a’ Bhealaich Dheirg (1,036 m), Aonach Meadhoin (1,001 m), Ciste Dhubh (979 m), Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan (1,151 m), Mullach na Dheiragain (982 m), An Socach (921 m), Mullach Fraoch-choire (1,102 m) and A’ Chralaig (1,120 m)
We woke up on the campsite of Faichemard Farm Touring, Caravan and Camping Site for the fifth and final time. It had been a good place for us to base our tent for the week and we’d hiked a total of 11 Munros whilst there.
We decamped in one of the biggest midge swarms we’d experienced on the challenge so far. I waited in the car while James took the tent down. He then got in with midges clinging to his entire body. It was a nightmare! I sped off the campsite with the windows down to try and get rid of them all, while James slapped himself repeatedly. If it wasn’t for the midges it would have been the perfect site, really quiet and great facilities. It’s a shame the midges liked to make us a prisoner of our tent.
We arrived in Morvich and parked in a small visitors car park. We didn’t plan on returning to the car for four days.
Day 1 Getting Going
It was 10:40am and we’d left the car a bit later than planned. We knew we’d have a big day ahead, with seven Munros on the agenda. It was only yesterday when we were on the opposite side of they valley bagging the seven Munros on the South Glen Shiel Ridge!
14 Munros in two days was quite an ask, but we were feeling strong and the conditions were perfect. Loch Duich was so still it acted as a mirror for the fluffy white clouds and blue sky above.
Day 1 Ascent
We started the ascent on a clear path that cut steeply up the hill side, ultimately emerging at the start of a magnificent ridge.
The Coire na h-Uaighe was vast and framed by a rocky ridge, it was a dramatic setting and we were excited for the walk ahead.
We headed south and continued uphill to the summit of Beinn Bhuidhe.
Beinn Bhuidhe is not a Munro, Corbett or any other classification and yet it had awesome views of the ridge ahead.
The perfect place to stop and enjoy lunch.
The bulk of Sgurr Fhuaran, our first Munro on the Camban Bothy Munro Route, looked really imposing from this angle.
Lunch consisted of wraps with a Nutella filling, plus sprinkled coconut bites.
We’d purchased a 1kg bag of crunchy coconut bites from Costco and they were so versatile!
We added them to wraps but also ate them loose as a snack.
The ridge wasn’t challenging, it was just fun! It often looked dicey but never actually was.
From this early vantage point we could enjoy views of the Cuillin ridge on Skye to the west as well as the Torridon hills to the north.
Given the fact we’d eaten lunch before even getting close to the first Munro of seven meant that we knew at this point that we were in for a late finish. It helped that we knew a welcoming bothy awaited us.
Camban Bothy Munro Route: Day 1 Summits
Those wanting to hike the traditional Five Sisters of Kintail route will first summit Sgurr nan Saighead, but we skirted around the edge of this Corbett and headed straight for the first Munro of the route, Sgurr Fhuaran.
On the summit of Sgurr Fhuaran we met a really friendly woman called Anne Marie. She was from Inverness and out hiking with her friend. Anne Marie took the below photo of us on the summit of Sgurr Fhuaran and we chatted for a good twenty minutes. I was astounded to discover that she was on 281 of 282 Munros! She was in no rush to ‘compleat’ though.
I asked which Munro she had left and it was Ben More on the Isle of Mull (which had been our first)! She said that one day she’d make it over to Mull to finish her Munro round but it had never felt like the right time.
Instead, she was content hiking her favourite Munros again and again, and that was what she was doing on the Five Sisters of Kintail that day.
Anne Marie insisted that I take her number and said to call if ever we needed a bed, a shower and a meal in the Inverness area during our challenge. A gem of a woman! We now follow each other on Instagram and (to date) she’s still content on 281.
Sgurr na Carnach
By now we were seriously behind schedule and we were certain to finish with head torches in the darkness.
I did love meeting people and hearing their stories during our Munro round though so I don’t regret taking the time to get to know Anne Marie.
We didn’t need to take her up on her offer in the end but she reminded me of it multiple times in the following months.
From Sgurr Fhuaran we headed south down the ridge towards Sgurr na Carnach. The second peak of the Camban Bothy Munro Route.
With the col between them being over 850m it didn’t feel like too much work to get to the second Munro summit.
Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe
We realised that once we were high on the ridge, the summits seemed to come thick and fast. Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe was next. From Sgurr na Canarch we descended south to Bealach na Craoibhe, before turning east up to the summit of Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe.
After posing for a selfie we left Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe and continued along the ridge.
We continued east to Sgurr nan Spainteach, over Beinn Odhar and down to Bealach an Lapain.
If you were just walking the Five Sisters of Kintail, you’d most likely make your way down to the road at this point, but we needed to continue to the Three Brothers.
At 725m, the bealach was the lowest we’d been since before the first Munro.
But luckily Saileag was the smallest Munro of the day so far so the pull up to the summit didn’t feel too taxing.
Saileag had a very unique summit cairn, featuring long rocks balanced on each other, defying gravity.
We took the opportunity to have a short rest on the summit. The views were simply magnificent. There was something about the light that day that made the landscape look so dreamy and inviting.
James admired the view over Sgurr na Sgine and The Saddle, with Ladhar Bheinn and even the hills on the distant Isle of Rum visible in the distance. The Cuillin ridge can be seen on the right of the above picture.
Sgurr a’ Bhealaich Dheirg
We admired the Munros on the south side of Glen Shiel as we left the summit of Saileag and headed to Sgurr a’ Bhealaich Dheirg.
To reach the summit of this Munro, you must leave the main ridge, and head northeast along a short, sharp ridge. A large, impressive cairn marks the summit.
James knelt down in the shelter of some larger rocks to boil the water for our freeze dried meals on the stove while I walked on ahead.
I headed south east along the main ridge towards the col between Sgurr a’ Bhealaich Dheirg and Aonach Meadhoin.
James poured the boiling water into the food pouches, tucked them into his jacket and walked back along the ridge and down to join me.
We admired the views down into Coire nan Eun. This really was a stunning ridge walk and we were blessed with near perfect conditions for it.
We sat on a rock to eat our respective Pasta Bolognaise and Chicken Fried Rice meals, before setting off to summit Aonach Meadhoin.
Within half an hour we were on the summit plateau of Aonach Meadhoin, which was fairly flat and marked with a jumbled cairn.
The sun was sinking lower in the sky and our shadows were getting longer.
With food in our bellies we were re-energised and ready for the final push of the day.
Ciste Dhubh was all that stood between us and a night on the benches of Camban Bothy.
Oh, that and a pesky river crossing… it dawned on me that we’d be crossing the river in the dark.
From the summit of Aonach Meadhoin, the Camban Munro Bothy Route became pathless for the first time.
We headed down into the Bealach a’ Choinich (591m) and the area was teeming with deer.
There were more deer than I’d ever seen in a herd, close to one hundred I’d guess. All enjoying the wet bealach.
Watching them disperse as we neared the bealach was mesmerising. They moved so fluidly over the landscape.
We reached the bottom of the col and started the climb up the final Munro of the day – Ciste Dhubh.
The sun was casting a wonderful glow over the surrounding peaks.
We took an incorrect angle on the initial ascent (the low light impeding our ability to pick up the faint path up the south ridge) so we recovered the situation with a steep grassy pull onto the ridge from the west side.
After walking up along the ridge, we made it to the summit of Ciste Dhubh in the most beautiful light.
As we walked from the summit, the sun was setting directly in front of us, with the bulk of Beinn Fhada silhouetted. It was a sight I’ll never forget.
Over to the left were the series of sharp summits that we’d walked over earlier that day. The obvious peaks of the Five Sisters of Kintail, piercing up and interrupting the hazy, dusky hues of the sky.
As sickening as it sounds, ‘magical’ would be the word I’d use to describe the scene. All the hard times, stresses and strains of life just fall away when you’re faced with such beauty.
Day 1 Descent
Reluctantly, we started the descent towards Camban Bothy, which we knew sat between Glen Lichd and Glen Affric at the foot of Ciste Dhubh.
The route was steep and pathless as we headed off down the north west shoulder of Ciste Dhubh.
A lone stag eyeballed us for half an hour as we zig-zagged to the valley bottom. Luckily the dusk light lasted for most of the descent before we needed to dig our head torches out of our packs.
Then came the river crossing. Fortunately we’d had two rain-free days and we found a place to cross where there were boulders. Mission accomplished!
First Night in Camban Bothy
We arrived at the bothy at 10:50pm and were greeted by Matt and John (friends from Devon and Norfolk).
Camban Bothy has two rooms, one to the left and one to the right.
Matt and John quickly made room for us to sleep on the top bunk of the room to the left.
A couple were already settled for the night into the right-hand room.
We chatted to the guys, scoffed some more food and retired to bed, exhausted. 14 Munros in two days had taken it out of us.
Disturbingly, there was a stuffed toy bunny rabbit hanging from the roof of the bothy, which struck me as very macabre!
We fell asleep with the pungent scent of marijuana seeping into the bothy from outside.
Day 2: Morning in Camban Bothy
Our second day started at Camban Bothy with breakfast outside, accompanied by the other occupants.
We met Nikki and Euan, who slept in the room next door. Nikki was from Nelson, New Zealand and Euan was from Thurso in the far north of Scotland near John O’Groats. Nikki was over here on holiday and they were walking the Affric Kintail Way from Drumnadrochit to Morvich.
We debated the pros and cons of small town life vs city life and hearing of my plans to walk Te Araroa – New Zealand’s long distance trail, Nikki kindly gave me her email address in case she could help with anything.
John explained that he’d walked from the North East to the South West of Senja in Norway, bypassing Segla – a mountain that James and I had hiked earlier that year. I mentally added another ‘must do’ to my bucket list!
Delaying our departure (yet again) for the three Munros on our list for the day, we wiled away another half hour discussing kit – notably space and weight saving ideas, plus water filters like the Sawyer Squeeze.
Day 2 Ascent
We finally peeled ourselves away from the conversation. It’s always difficult when you find kind and chatty like-minded people in bothies. You know you’ll never see them again and yet you really value the conversation so you delay leaving as much as possible!
It was a nice day as we followed the Affric Kintail Way north east towards Glen Affric. We reached the youth hostel – Alltbeithe after about 40 minutes.
Nikki had told us to look out for the temporary Hostel Manager, Graham. A lovely ‘live in’ custodian of this remote hostel. A sign told us he was out enjoying the hills and he’d be back later.
For some reason neither James nor I could quench our thirst so we spent a good 20 minutes sitting by the stream, filtering litres of water for the walk ahead.
We ascended following a path which ran alongside the Allt na Faing. We passed a tall blonde-haired man descending with a big pack. I remember I accidentally said “Good morning”, despite it being 12:40pm already. I had no idea where the time had gone!
We ate lunch at the col under Stob Coire na Cloiche, before ascending west, en route to our first Munro of the day – Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan.
We passed two solo, male hill walkers on their way down, the first was a nice chap who stopped to talk for a while. The second was the famous Graham! He promised to chill a couple of cans of fizzy pop in readiness for our return to the hostel after our walk.
Camban Bothy Munro Route: Day 2 Summits
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan
At the summit of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan we met another lovely chap who took a photo of us.
I can see how thin I was getting in the above photograph and it scared me a little. I really needed to eat more.
Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan is the 22nd highest Munro on the list.
We admired the view to the west, with the Cuillin’s on Skye just visible in the distance.
Mullach na Dheiragain
We descended together down the north-east ridge to Bealach nan Daoine, accompanied by the lovely man we’d met on the summit of Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan, who I think was called Steve.
It was a very long and undulating ridge to the summit of the second Munro – Mullach na Dheiragain. It was necessary for us to go up and over Carn na Con Dhu en route.
We were in high spirits as we said goodbye to Steve (who was continuing north).
We retraced our steps along the ridge before hitting the lowest point at Bealach nan Daoine. From here we headed down into Coire nan Dearcag.
This was part of the walk was a pathless trudge over peaty terrain. An intense heel pain had flared up by this point in the walk and I wasn’t sure why. It had started as an ache but had developed into a shooting pain as the day had progressed. My energy was sapping and all of a sudden I felt really weak and in desperate need of a rest.
James picked up the faint path that got us back to the col between Stob Coire na Cloiche and our final Munro of the day – An Socach.
It was a final push of around 100 metres to the summit and we’d reached our half way Munro! Number 141 of 282!
I collapsed into a seated position on the summit and opened my red dry sack – my snack bag. It was at this point that I noticed a red shiny disc. Could it be? A Babybel! I didn’t realise I had any cheese treats left. Cheese had become my absolute favourite mountain snack. This was just the boost I needed to finish the hike.
James knew that whenever anything miraculous happened, I liked to comfort myself by saying that my Pop (maternal grandfather who’d passed away two years ago) had a hand in it. So James said “Maybe your Pop put it there because he knew you’d need it today?” Well that was it, I sobbed my heart out as I ate it, tears rolling down my cheeks. I think James was genuinely worried I’d completely lost the plot by this point.
Day 2 Descent
Composing myself, we descended An Socach back to the col. The route was mostly following a clear path which helped me progress despite the soreness.
James dived into the hostel at Alltbeithe and grabbed the fizzy drinks from Graham, which buoyed us for the final stretch of the walk back to Camban (where we’d stowed our sleeping gear and food supplies for tomorrow).
The next day should have been hiking the Munros Beinn Fhada and A’ Ghlas-bheinn, followed by a third night in Camban bothy and then Mullach Fraoch-choire and A’ Chralaig the day after that, but I think we both knew that I wasn’t capable of another two days of hard hill walking.
We discussed the options –
Me to rest in the bothy all day while James did the 21km Beinn Fhada route as planned
Skip the Beinn Fhada route and do the final day over Mullach Fraoch-choire and A’ Chralaig a day early
Skip both peak bagging days and walk back to the road along the valley.
Jointly, we decided on option 2. Hoping that a good night’s sleep would be just the tonic I needed to get over two more Munros. We would return to Morvich to hike the Beinn Fhada route another day (and it would be the same distance as the route from Camban bothy so we wouldn’t have really lost anything).
Second Night in Camban Bothy
Back at the bothy we found a large group of Belgians in the right hand room, and the tall, blonde guy in the left hand room (the one I’d made the ‘good morning’ faux pas to earlier that afternoon). He turned out to be a lovely Danish guy, travelling alone. The night before he’d wild camped high in the mountains.
We found the bothy register entry from our friend Emily Scott (fellow Munroist who hiked the Munros in 2018 whilst cycling between them) and signed it ourselves before bedding down on the top bunk.
Day 3: Morning in Camban Bothy
We woke in the Camban Bothy to the sounds of the Danish guy quietly packing up his kit to continue along the Affric Kintail Way.
We slowly got our own kit together.
I ate as much breakfast as possible in order to strengthen me for the tough route ahead.
It would only be an 11km day (in comparison to the 27km previous day) and I’d had a good sleep, but it was raining hard and it would be a tough pathless ascent.
I went out with the shovel to do ‘my business’ and James took what could be the most pathetic looking photograph of me ever taken.
Hobbling like an old woman, I was still dealing with the intense pain in my heels. I toyed with just walking out through the valley once more but I decided to go for it. If this was a holiday I would have retreated, but it was a challenge. It was sometimes going to hurt and if it didn’t hurt every now and then, everyone would do it. I popped two Paracetamol and two Ibruprofen, put on my big girl pants and we set of.
Fully waterproofed to the eyeballs, we steeled ourselves for the two 1,100m+ Munros that separated us from the main road.
Day 3 Leaving Camban Bothy to Finish the Munro Route
We set off in drizzle and we had a key navigational choice to make. We either stayed on the Affric Kintail Way to the hostel and then over a bridge to hit the mountainside at its steepest point. Or we took our chances crossing the river earlier and approach the mountainside where it wasn’t as steep. Option two was the more direct route. Either way it would be pathless after the river because these two Munros are seldom climbed from this angle.
I preferred the direct approach, as it would limit the number of kilometres I had to walk on bad feet. So that’s what we did.
We tramped through tall wet grass until we met the river, at the point where the River Affric, the Allt Cam-ban and the Allt a’ Chomhlain all came together. Gulp.
It was obvious there would be no crossing point that didn’t involve getting our feet wet (most likely up to the knees). I knew that if I got my feet wet the climb would be so much harder, probably three times as much.
James said “I could carry you over that” and I laughed out loud. It seemed impossible that James would be able to carry me across the wide river. In order to do so, James himself would have to cross three times – once with the two big rucksacks, once back for me and then again with me on his back!
I was reluctant but James insisted. He walked us across slowly, using his poles for balance and I stayed dry, my hero!
It’s worth noting that this is NOT a recommended method for river crossing. It was a last resort given the state of my feet (fuelled by James’s desire for me to get up the hillside as quickly as possible!)
Day 3 Ascent
The ascent up Mullach Fraoch-choire was slow and arduous both for me and my feet, but also for James who was finding it hard going so slow. I felt a pang of guilt, as I often did at the times when James was clearly stronger than me. I never wanted for him to feel like I was a burden or annoyance. Our challenge was supposed to be fun.
We got to the spine of the wide ridge and stopped for some peanut butter crackers. There was a nice (albeit misty/cloudy) view down Glen Affric.
Using the first scrap of 4G we’d had since two days earlier, James booked a hotel for the next 2 nights. It was a relief to know we’d be sleeping in the first proper bed for the first night in over a week that night. With the biggest part of the ascent behind us, I found it easier going up the ridge onto the summit of the first Munro of the day – Mullach Fraoch-choire.
Camban Bothy Munro Route: Day 3 Summits
We paused briefly on the summit and then progressed down and onto the narrower ridge which linked Mullach Fraoch-choire and A’ Chralaig.
It was completely non-technical but I do remember the ridge had a smidgen of exposure, and the swirling mist added drama to the scene.
The Na Geurdain pinnacles were sharp and angular.
I made a mental note to return on a sunny dry day to experience the beauty of the ridge properly.
We went over the summit of Stob Coire na Craileig before progressing south down the ridge to A’ Chraliag – our final mountain of the Camban Bothy Munro Route.
I was unbelievably proud of myself for making it to the final summit of A’ Chralaig (sometimes referred to as A’ Chraileag).
It was all downhill from here. Downhill to the Cluanie Inn where I was already planning on ordering huge pizza.
We rested in the thick mist by the summit cairn and planned our descent.
Our car was parked in Morvich and retrieving it had to be our first priority.
We therefore agreed that James would go on ahead of me as soon as we were outside of the ‘death zone’ (i.e. under 1,000m). I’ve no idea why we called it the death zone, it was nothing like being at 8,000m in the Himilayas but the terminology worked for us!
The purpose of James going ahead was to optimising the chances of getting a hitchhike back to the car.
Day 3 Descent
It was approximately a twenty minute drive along the A87 to Morvich from the foot of A’ Chralaig.
I was inevitably going to be quite a bit slower than James so it was in both our interests to separate.
After dropping out of the clouds, I could see the main road down in the glen.
The ground was wet and sloppy but there was a path which guided me down.
I found a crisp packet that James had accidentally dropped on the way down so I knew I was on the right path! He’d dislodged it by mistake out of a side pocket, so of course I picked it up for him.
It was actually quite fun because I had a birds eye view of James catching his hitch which was exhilarating!
Every time a car approached I would will it to stop! But it was probably the twentieth car. I saw the little ant shaped character than I knew to be James get in the car and drive away.
In the end I was 45 minutes slower than James in getting down the mountain so I didn’t have to wait long for him to pick me up in a layby on the A87.
We drove immediately to the Cluanie Inn and ordered two caesar salads and two pizzas. For some reason we were craving fresh ingredients (and cheese of course).
We scoffed our meals whilst James told me about the chap who picked him up. He was a resident of Skye who’d driven to the mainland for a hospital appointment. He was lonely on the journey so was happy to have James’s company. We then drove to Foyers to check into the hotel.
Our hotel room was called Ness and it overlooked Loch Ness. We each had a hot shower and started the recovery process. There’s nothing quite like laying in a proper bed after over a week of intensive exercise and sleeping on a camping mat.
We nicknamed the Camban Bothy Munros:
Grrrrr Fury! – Sgurr Fhuaran
Scary Carcrash – Sgurr na Carnach
Scare My Sister’s Dumbo – Sgurr na Ciste Duibhe
Sale Egg – Saileag
Scared I’ll Be Late Doc – Sgurr a’ Bhealaich Dheirg
Adventurer Nic is a Munroist and ‘compleated’ the list over a six month period in 2019. She stood atop each of the 282 Munro summits with her peak bagging partner in adventure – James Forrest. Let her know what you thought of this post by dropping her a comment.
The Knoydart Munros are some of the most wild and remote mountains in the UK. The six Munros featured in this route are – Meall Buidhe, Luinne Bheinn, Ladhar Bheinn, Sgurr na Ciche, Garbh Chioch Mhor and Sgurr nan Coireachan. This route card explains the quickest way of getting to all six summits for a peak bagger in a single outing of 2.5 days.
Adventurer Nicwalked this route on Sunday 13th October 2019 as part of her Munro Bagging Challenge. These were Munro numbers 275 to 280 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these Munros too.
Knoydart Munros – Route Stats
Mountains: Meall Buidhe (946m), Luinne Bheinn (939m), Ladhar Bheinn (1,020m), Sgurr na Ciche (1,040m), Garbh Chioch Mhor (1,013m) and Sgurr nan Coireachan (953m)
We initially attempted this walk the previous week. We drove to Loch Arkaig from Drumnadrochit, but a flooded road at the eastern end of the loch stopped us in our tracks.
There was a German traveller parked on the edge of the flood. We pulled up alongside him and he explained that he’d walked down the road in his wellies and returned when the water was about to go over his boots at the knee. He said he’d risk it in his car, but only if we went and tried it first. I couldn’t help but laugh out loud!
We immediately initiated Plan B, I didn’t fancy being a guinea pig for this random dude! At this point in the challenge we only had 11 Munros remaining out of the 282. I didn’t even entertain the thought of risking it when we were so close to the finish line.
Instead we headed to Dalwhinnie to complete the Ben Alder Munros first.
Reassessing our Approach to the Knoydart Munros
Two days later, after walking the Ben Alder Munros, we drove to Fort William and considered our options. We could –
a) Try driving the same road to the end of Loch Arkaig and take our chances on the flooding having receded
b) Book the ferry from Mallaig to Inverie and re-plot our walking route
c) Drive to Arnisdale and attempt to get a boat from there across to Barrisdale and re-plot our walking route
d) Drive to Kinloch Hourn and walk in from that side instead (but that would also involve re-plotting our full route)
Not only would options B-D involve route revisions, they would also be longer outings. We’d left the Munros in that area as such that we could walk in through the valley, do the furthest three Munros west in a day, then return to the car over the ridge picking up the remaining Munros. This wouldn’t be possible if we didn’t start at Loch Arkaig.
In addition, options B and C carried a cost and we were trying to keep our overall expedition costs to a minimum.
Given the recent weather and up coming forecast, we decided to stick to plan A and re-attempt the original approach to the Rough Bounds of Knoydart.
That meant getting food supplies from Lidl and getting on our way ASAP, otherwise we’d be finishing our day in the dark.
By pure fluke, we stumbled across our friend Neil and his friend Janey in Lidl. They were there to buy supplies for their long distance walk of The Skye Trail. We chatted for a while before grabbing our food and getting on the road.
En Route to the Knoydart Munros
My worst nightmare then happened. A small, white, scruffy-looking dog ran out into the road right in front of the car. I slammed on the brakes in an emergency stop just as a blonde Labrador came into view, chasing the dog in front.
I didn’t hit either of them but my heart was in my mouth and my stomach was churning as I watched them continue running into the woods to my right.
With both dogs long gone and still no sign of any owners, I meticulously checked the front of the car for any sign that I’d hit anything and there was nothing.
It was a very close shave and it took a good hour for me to calm down. When I close my eyes I can re-live the whole event as if it was yesterday.
With no sign of the earlier flood, we continued down the long, windy and undulating narrow road to the end of Loch Arkaig.
We parked up and got our stuff together. I asked James “Are you going to have a wee before we go?” and he asked “Are you going to drink a lot of water before we set off?” I realised we now routinely spoke to each other like parent and toddler. That’s what over a hundred days together on an endurance challenge does to a couple!
Walking through Glen Dessary
We set off in dry but cloudy weather conditions.
It was a 16km walk into Sourlies bothy and it started off well, on a nice wide track.
Conversation flowed freely and we were feeling positive that we felt well rested and strong despite it being the last few days of the challenge.
I showed my bright outfit off for the camera, complete with luminous pack cover. This was my deterrent to being accidentally shot by a deer stalker.
We walked through a very eerie section of woodland, where the trees were absolutely covered in pale moss.
We then walked through a section of the trail which was covered in raised slippery tree roots.
It felt very much like the natural environment was trying to reclaim the trails.
These paths certainly aren’t frequented as often as other areas of the Scottish Highlands.
A series of easy stream crossings later and we were back out onto more open ground.
A cyclist passed us, heading towards Loch Arkaig where we’d started.
We nodded a greeting, but little did we know he was going to be the last person we’d see for three days.
At the time we didn’t realise just how quiet this area would be.
This was probably amplified as we were entering the area late on a Sunday afternoon just as any weekend explorers were heading home to get ready to return to work.
From Glen Dessary to Sourlies Bothy
The path became rough and it was very sloppy underfoot from the recent heavy rain.
There were also sections of bog to avoid which started to slow us down.
We walked through a valley of mountains that looked like giant versions of the Langdale fells in the Lake District.
From Bealach an Lagain Duibh we could see Lochan a Mhaim in the distance. Another milestone of the route.
We both started to worry about the next day.
It was shaping up to be the longest and most pathless route of the whole challenge with a great deal of ascent.
Darkness fell quickly and James got angry with himself for getting his walking pole stuck in a bog. He really wanted to make it to the bothy before dark and we’d failed to do that.
As we took out our head torches I sighed with the realisation that our earlier positivity had somehow morphed into angst.
We passed a ruin before stumbling across Sourlies bothy just beyond it.
Sourlies bothy was empty which was a relief. Neither of us fancied the pressure of having to socialise in our respective moods.
The bothy had antlers above the fireplace and a couple of large sleeping platforms.
We organised our gear and settled down to a freeze dried meal. For dessert we added Haribo Goldenbears into a Summit To Eat Chocolate Mousse. Delicious!
Food was clearly what we needed as our moods lifted exponentially after this.
Over a hot chocolate, we reassured ourselves of the route for tomorrow (and the various escape options, should we need them). We set an early alarm and bedded down.
Day 1 Ascent
5am in Sourlies bothy – time to get our game faces on!
It was pitch black outside.
We left a bit of our gear and some food in the bothy, ensuring to hang the food from a dry bag on the rafters to ensure Angus (the resident mouse at Sourlies) didn’t deplete our supplies in our absence!
We stepped outside the bothy and looked out across Loch Nevis from Sourlies under the light of the moon.
It was so still and beautiful.
We made a navigational error immediately after leaving the bothy. This caused a lot of frustration and debate between us as to which way was the correct one. Luckily the komoot app came to the rescue – revealing a faint path that was not on either OS Maps or Viewranger.
The route took us up and over the crags above the beach at the far east of Loch Nevis before dropping steeply into what I can only describe as a swamp land! We hopped, skipped and jumped over saturated ground, desperately trying (but failing) to keep our boots dry.
We reached the bridge over the River Carnach. Luckily the new bridge had opened less than two months prior to our trip. The previous bridge had washed away in 2017 and hikers had been making crazy detours in the meantime.
Passing a ruin, we found a good path that took us up to the col between Meall Bhasiter and Sgurr Sgeithe.
From there we peeled off and made a steep grassy ascent, dodging the crags up to 780m where we gained the south east ridge of Meall Buidhe.
The Knoydart Munros: Day 1 Summits
Unfortunately the summit of Meall Buidhe was completely clouded over.
This meant we didn’t linger at the summit to celebrate reaching our first of the Knoydart Munros and instead we got straight on with the walk.
We were soon back below the cloud, heading northeast along the ridge towards Meall Coire na Gaoithe’n Ear.
To the left, we spotted Beinn Sgritheall in the distance, as we marched on in the direction of our second of the Knoydart Munros – Luinne Bheinn.
We continued past Meall Coire na Gaoithe’n Ear along the ridge to Bealach a’ Choire Odhair. From there we approached the ascent of Luinne Bheinn to the north west.
Despite the low cloud, we were in for a treat close to the summit of Luinne Bheinn, a brocken spectre!
This is a phenomenon that occurs when the sun is behind you and cloud in front of you. You see your own shadow with a rainbow coloured halo effect cast onto the cloud.
This was the second time on the challenge we’d been lucky enough to see a brocken spectre, the first being when we were climbing the Inaccessible Pinnacle on the Cuillin ridge on the Isle of Skye.
From the summit of Luinne Bheinn, we walked a short distance, immediately dropping out of the cloud, just as we had done with Meall Buidhe.
Luinne Bheinn offered cracking views down over Lochan an Dubh-Lochain and over towards Inverie.
We decided to stop for lunch looking over Loch Hourn with Beinn Sgritheall towering in the distance. We reflected on our progress with a smile.
After a short break, we dropped down over Bachd Mhic an Tosaich to the Mam Barrisdale pass, before heading over on pathless, rough terrain to the foot of Stob a’ Chearcaill.
An eagle soared above our heads as we looked up at the steep scramble section onto Stob a’ Chearcaill. From here there are a few ascent options, the safest of which is to head for a grassy ramp. We found it difficult to scout out the best way initially but just followed our noses, picking our way through grassy tufts and rocks to reach the top.
As we descended to the next col – Bealach Coire Dhorrcail – we were presented with this view of Ladhar Bheinn. A really stunning mountain from all angles.
There was one final push of ascent required to reach the summit of our third of the Knoydart Munros.
At one point on a small scramble section, I really struggled to hoist myself up a gap between two large rocks.
I was probably exhausted and in need of something to eat, but James spotted me from below as I managed to scramble up.
It was because of this small struggle – which seemed bizarre as I’d scrambled over all of the more technical Skye Munros, Aonach Eagach and countless other graded scrambles in the lead up this one – that I was so emotional upon reaching the summit of Ladhar Bheinn.
I actually cried on the summit. It finally hit me that we were coming to the end of the challenge and I was so proud of myself for overcoming the tough times.
I knew that in time, the pain would seep away and I’d just be left with the awesome memories of the rugged mountain scenery and I’d no doubt feel a sense of sadness that it was all over.
Pausing for a moment, I sat and breathed in the magic of the west coast of Scotland. I wanted to stay.
From the summit of Ladhar Bheinn, I admired the Isle of Rum (centre) and Eigg (left) before we discussed the descent.
Day 1 Descent
We had two options for the descent of Ladhar Bheinn. Either to retrace our steps or to descend north east to Barrisdale and follow the section of the Cape Wrath Trail back to Sourlies from there. Both would involve a great deal of walking and further ascent.
As the crow flies, the distance was 10km but unfortunately we’re not crows.
We chose to descend into Barrisdale and pick up the Cape Wrath Trail. The views were out of this world as we picked up the northeast ridge. Knoydart really is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, even on a dull day!
It was 3km of walking down the ridge until we reached and crossed the Allt Coire Dhorrcail. From there we followed a path that took us around the spur of Creag Bheithe and down a zig zag path to the Barrisdale bothy and campsite.
We were back at sea level, and a walk of 14km and a climb of nearly 500m still stood between us and Sourlies bothy. What remained of the walk was the kind of thing most people would stretch out to last all day on a nice Sunday. By contrast we’d already walked 26km and climbed over 2,000m and still needed to squeeze in the additional 14km. This was going to take all the strength we had.
The Last Push Uphill
It was getting late in the day and we set ourselves the target of reaching the highest point on the pass by dusk (at approximately 7pm).
We made good progress on the flat wide track, before picking up the stalkers path up Gleann Unndalain.
We got to the highest point of the pass, just as it was getting too dark to continue without head torches. Under the light of our torches, at 7pm, we ate our dinner. Hopeful that it would give us enough energy to complete the long descent back to Sourlies bothy.
It started drizzling and we quickly scoffed our dinner and continued walking. At least it was all downhill (ish) from here. We came off the path before it met the Allt Coire an Lochain and headed south over the pathless hillside towards the banks of the River Carnach.
Our concentration levels were high as we made our way over wet, steep ground in the pitch black. There were a few scattered crags to avoid.
The Long Dark Valley
Once we reached the river, we simply had to keep it on our left until we reached the bridge that we’d crossed earlier that morning. It felt like a lifetime ago!
Following the river seemed like a simple approach but it was far from it. There was bog, slick large slabs, dense woodland, bogus faint paths, countless stream crossings and it felt like an obstacle course. We were sure it was ten times harder in the dark than it would have been in daylight.
Our progress was painfully slow, often less than 2km per hour. At this rate we’d be getting back to Sourlies after midnight.
After hours of slow route finding, the main track appeared and we were finally making progress again. We saw a bright light up ahead, more powerful than any torch we’d ever seen. It seemed to be illuminating the hillside in waves. James wondered if it was a lighthouse but I knew there were no lighthouses around here. We were far too deep inland.
Eventually we made out a six wheeled vehicle and surmised it was a farmer or land owner lamping against the fell side. What for, we had no idea! They probably thought our presence was as bizarre as we thought theirs was, although we never got close enough to see them properly.
We crossed the bridge, relived to be back on familiar ground and we navigated our way across the swamp that we’d danced across earlier that morning. It also took us a while to pick out the route around the crags to Sourlies but we made it.
Back at Sourlies Bothy
I prayed there would be nobody sound asleep in the bothy. It was just after 11:30pm and I didn’t want to disturb anyone. But our luck was in – it was empty. We could spread out, stuff our faces with recovery food, cry about how much it hurt and laugh about how broken we we made ourselves all in the name of fun. We stretched out our tired muscles. I was amazed by how much strain I was able to put my body under without it giving up on me.
I got the shock of my life when I removed by boots and socks. My feet looked like zombie feet!
We’d been hiking over 40km for a total of 17 hours and 42 minutes and my feet had been wet within the first hour of the walk. I likened it to getting ‘prune’ fingers in a 17 hour bath!
Don’t even get me started on the smell. They were putrid. It was as if the flesh had actually died.
I started panicking that I’d never be able to walk out the next day. Surely the bottoms of my feet were going to totally peel off. Just at the point when I only had 5 Munros left to climb out of 282.
I aired them the best I could. Hanging my bare feet over the edge of the bench, trying desperately to dry them out.
We settled down to sleep just after 1am. I reluctantly covered my pathetic feet in dry socks and nestled into my sleeping bag, but I really struggled to nod off. My hips were so sore and my legs were in pain – the spasms came on and off throughout the night.
Morning in Sourlies Bothy
We woke in Sourlies bothy after a fitful sleep. My body was screaming at me. But laying down hurt, sitting up hurt and standing up hurt. I couldn’t win!
There was one thing I was keen to check….my feet!
I gingerly removed my socks and was absolutely astounded to see that the soles had gone back to normal overnight.
No blistering, no peeling skin, no white or red patches.
They were as good as new! Remarkable!
But now for the worst bit….putting my dry feet into yesterdays wet boots. James captured this photograph of me whilst I was geeing myself up to put them on.
After all the hardships of yesterday, this somehow felt like a bigger challenge!
We had four Munros on the agenda before getting back to the car – Sgurr na Ciche, Garbh Chioch Mhor, Sgurr nan Coireachan and Sgurr Mor. But we took the difficult decision to leave out Sgurr Mor. It would certainly require another head torch finish plus we didn’t have enough food to still be walking after dinner. Our energy reserves were heavily depleted and it felt like Sgurr Mor would be one Munro too far.
We read the signs in the bothy that gave us the acceptable lines to take to avoid deer stalking and we set off.
Day 2 Getting Going
As we ascended away from the bothy, we were feeling warm in the morning sun. I said to James that it was a shame we hadn’t seen Angus the bothy mouse. He smiled and said “Actually, I did”. Aghast, I asked him why he didn’t tell me, and he said that Angus was chilling just above the food preparation bench and he didn’t want to freak me out.
It was at this point that I realised James didn’t know me well at all. I would have LOVED to have seen the famous resident rodent of Sourlies!
Day 2 The Ascent
The ascent of the first Munro was tough, it was almost wholly pathless.
We marched up through primarily tufty grass which was rocky in parts.
I can best describe that we hauled our broken bodies upwards in any way we could.
I was thankful for the help of my walking poles.
We stopped for breaks to take on food and it didn’t matter how much we ate, we were never full.
We must have been running a huge calorie deficit at this stage in the route, especially after such a big day yesterday.
James hit the wall half way up the ascent, which was brutally steep. It was one of the only times on the challenge that I saw him really struggle. The best I could do was force him to eat more food and get him to focus on the stunning surroundings and how lucky we were to call this place home for a few days.
With revised motivation, we soon reached the rocky undulating ridge, the summit looked impenetrable from this angle and we were thankful for the excellent visibility.
Behind us were fantastic views over Loch Nevis, including each of the three Knoydart Munros we’d hiked the previous day.
Due to our low energy, we stopped to eat lunch really early and the marvellous views across the Rough Bounds of Knoydart ensured we stayed positive. We’d made it to just below the ‘nipple’ of Sgurr na Ciche. But instead of hitting the steep face head on, we traversed to the right along the 900m contour until we found the main path up Sgurr na Ciche which cut into the north face.
The Knoydart Munros: Day 2 Summits
Sgurr na Ciche
The path wound it’s way up through the crags and we topped out on the summit next to a large cairn.
We’d made it. Number four of the Knoydart Munros in the bag.
With the main ascent out of the way, we were psyched to continue on. We knew the hardest bit was behind us and it was such a relief.
We took some time to really enjoy the Sgurr na Ciche summit views. I think Sgurr na Ciche has to be up there in my top 5 Munro summit vistas.
I needed a bit of first aid first though, I’d somehow scratched the back of my finger on a boulder when scrambling to reach the path up Sgurr na Ciche. It was one of those annoying tiny cuts that just wouldn’t stop bleeding.
We could see as far as the Cuillin ridge from here. It was cloud free and it made us think that our Cuillin guide Adrian would probably be having a whale of a time up there today with some lucky clients. The conditions were perfect for climbing.
We took a big gulp of water and swung around to admire the view in the other direction, down towards Loch Cuaich.
Garbh Chioch Mhor
From Sgurr na Ciche, we descended steeply to the col between this and the next Munro -Garbh Chioch Mhor.
We followed a path that ran alongside a wall and up to the summit of Garbh Chioch Mhor and rejoiced in the fact that it seemed these two Munros were in spitting distance of one another!
The wind had picked up a little by this point, but we were loving the sunshine.
Sgurr nan Coireachan
From Garbh Chioch Mhor, we descended onto the ridge which would lead to our final Munro of the day, in fact, the last of our Knoydart Munros of the route – Sgurr nan Coireachan.
It was a rugged looking ridge, full of lumps and bumps, with the old wall running down its spine.
A faint path meant that navigation was straight forward. Plus, there weren’t many other options than to stick to the crest of the ridge.
Whilst undulating up and down along the ridge, we looked down to the right and we could see the route that we’d taken two days ago on the evening walk in to Sourlies bothy.
I was much happier up on the dry rock of the ridge than I was on the sloppy valley floor.
At 953m, Sgurr nan Coireachan was quite a bit smaller in height than the earlier two Knoydart Munros which was a bonus.
We made the final bit of ascent onto the summit and looked back along the ridge. What an achievement!
Day 2 Descent
With just the descent to go, we took one last glance down the valley and headed off Sgurr nan Coireachan to the south, into Glen Dessary.
The route was easy to follow, using stepped grassy shelves in the hillside.
We made it down to the main path in the valley and paused by a stile to eat the last of our food supplies, a Dairy Milk chocolate bar.
We hit the main track and fast marched back to the car. Concluding that the Rough Bounds of Knoydart really had lived up to their name!
We made it to car just as it was going dark. We ate a huge amount of food that night, including freeze dried meals, cous cous, tinned tuna, rice, noodles, cereal, crisps, chocolate, dried fruit, anything we could get our hands on! Our stomachs were bottomless pits.
I’m ashamed of what came next. Generally, in these circumstances, we made the effort to wild camp away from the car and it would be easy for me to pretend that we hiked back into the wild that night to pitch our tent. But this is an honest article so I’ll share, warts and all! We still needed to walk from here to Sgurr Mor the next day and we were miles from anybody so we crudely pitched the tent right next to the car in the car park. By far our cheekiest wild camp.
Adventurer Nic is a Munroist and ‘compleated’ the list over a six month period in 2019. She stood atop each of the 282 Munro summits with her peak bagging partner in adventure – James Forrest. Let her know what you thought of this post by dropping her a comment.
The Fisherfield Round comprises of five Munros in the Scottish Highlands. The five Munros are – Sgurr Ban, Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair, Beinn Tarsuinn, A’ Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor. This route card explains the quickest and easiest way of getting to all five summits for a peak bagger.
Adventurer Nicwalked this route on Saturday 21st September 2019 as part of her Munro Bagging Challenge. These were Munro numbers 230 to 234 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these Munros too.
Fisherfield Route Stats
Mountains: Sgurr Ban (989m), Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair (1,019m), Beinn Tarsuinn (937m), A’ Mhaighdean (967m) and Ruadh Stac Mor (918m)
We spent the morning walking up An Teallach in glorious sunshine. It was definitely one of the best weather days of the year.
After making it down to the car at Corrie Hallie that afternoon, we switched out our day packs for our overnight packs, scoffed dinner by the car and set straight back out.
Once again we found ourselves on the same stretch of the Cape Wrath Trail that we’d started on earlier that morning, along the Gleann Chaorachain.
We pondered numerous times whether or not we should have stowed gear that morning and somehow linked the seven Munros.
It had seemed like too hard to do at the time…. but now we weren’t so sure!
We passed the point on the trail where we’d turned off for An Teallach earlier that morning and continued on towards Shenavall bothy. Darkness fell quickly so we continued under the light of our head torches.
As we got closer to the Mountain Bothies Association shelter, the path thinned out and the trail to Shenavall became less obvious. Battling the disorientation that nightfall brings, it constantly felt like we were headed in the wrong direction but we persevered.
It was comforting that we were not alone in the dark that night though. We saw lots of head torches in the distance, possibly from other hikers finishing the Fisherfield circuit in the dark. Shenavall bothy eventually came into view and we descended to it, relieved the night walking was coming to an end.
There was already a large group settled in the bothy so we favoured setting up camp on the grass outside in our tent. We bedded down straight away and set an early alarm for the morning.
6:50am – our departure time for the long walk of the Fisherfield Munros.
As we were not what you’d consider ‘morning people’, any day we set off walking prior to 8am was something to celebrate!
The beautiful orange, pink and purple hues in the skies helped lure us out of our grogginess.
So many factors could influence how long the walk would take us – the weather, meeting other hikers, number of breaks and so on, but we made a rough estimate that it would take around 12 hours. So an early start was imperative.
We walked alongside the river for well over 5km, passing a derelict house and a woodland area with at least seven tents and bivvy bags set up, with their occupants either still snoozing or just waking up.
At the river’s edge, we stopped to eat a scrambled egg freeze-dried breakfast meal with coffee, but the midges were out in force so we didn’t stay long.
We carried on and soon stumbled across a foil helium balloon in the middle of the trail.
It was a sad reminder of how far waste can travel if not disposed of properly.
These were the most remote Munros in all of Scotland and I wondered how far the balloon must have drifted to get there.
We picked it up and packed it out of course.
We carried on beside the river until we found a suitable suitable crossing point. Ironically, our guidebook had made specific reference to the fact that wet feet were an inevitability on this section but we made it across successfully on stepping stones.
The dry weather of the previous two days had helped us greatly.
The Fisherfield Ascent
We walked across terrain which was a mix of heather and grass up to a boulder strewn ridge. Describing it as ‘boulder strewn’ is probably the understatement of the century. It’s most likely the longest stretch of boulders I’ve ever hiked across – over 2km of quartzite blocks and large stones.
The original name for this route was the Fisherfield Six, referring to Beinn a’ Chlaidheimh as one of the six Munros along the route.
Continuing on, we headed up to the left towards the summit of Sgurr Ban.
Our decision to tackle the route clockwise was one I didn’t regret. Reversing the route would involve descending over the sea of rocks. I could foresee lots of accidents here as tired and weary legs made their way down.
Ironically, four walkers descended past us just as I’d had that thought. As it was still quite early, they must have wild camped up on the tops.
Out of nowhere, the wind picked up a great deal of strength on the big, flat summit top of Sgurr Ban.
James tucked into a big slab of Cadbury’s Dairy Milk chocolate as we appreciated views across the Fisherfield forest and to An Teallach in the north.
Unlike the previous day there was no sun in the sky but the cloud base was high and we rested for a short while by the large summit cairn, which provided a small amount of protection from the wind.
We crossed the large plateau summit of Sgurr Ban across yet more boulders and descended in a southwesterly direction towards the col between this and the next Munro – Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair.
As was often the case, James descended faster than I did, but I caught up with him down at the col.
We looked ahead and could see the steep line of ascent of Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchair.
It looked rather intimidating but there was a clear path up and the weather was certainly improving.
As we hit the ascent, it was remarkable how much sand there was underfoot. At times it was so soft it was like walking up a sand dune!
The distance between these two Munros felt negligible, but I guess that’s in comparison to the really long walk in to the first Munro.
Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair
We needed to keep an average pace of 2.5km per hour (including breaks) in order to finish the remainder of the walk within the 12 hour target.
This kind of goal setting motivated me to keep going as the hike of the Fisherfield Five got tougher.
From the summit of Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair we looked at the route ahead. We would be able to skirt around the bulk of Meall Garbh before heading west towards Beinn Tarsuinn.
Heading south, we descended down to another col. We had lunch here and I checked my legs for ticks and found six of the little buggers!
Luckily they were all tiny and I removed them all easily and completely. The risk of contracting Lyme disease from one of these tiny ticks was low due to me spotting them and removing them quickly. But I stayed vigilant for symptoms throughout my challenge.
A friend later suggested that maybe I’d walked through tick eggs just as they were hatching and maybe that’s why so many tiny ticks (larva) where found on me at one time. As getting so many ticks in one sitting is fairly rare.
We used the bypass path around Meall Garbh before ascending over terrain which was less sandy and more grassy with small rocks up Beinn Tarsuinn.
The summit of Beinn Tarsuinn marked the ‘halfway point’ of the hike. We’d been moving for exactly six hours.
The weather was now really nice.
It was still breezy but the views were simply incredible and the blue skies made everything look less foreboding and more inviting.
I particularly enjoyed looking at the shape of the river as it flowed into the valley with the jagged pinnacles of An Teallach noticeable in the distance.
To the other side sat Slioch, a Munro which we’d hiked the previous month.
But I was the most enthralled by the tennis court shaped flat plateau of rock part way along the ridge in the direction of A’ Mhaighdean. It was a geological phenomenon. A slightly slanted shelf of rock suspended along the ridge.
We descended steeply from the summit of Beinn Tarsuinn to see that the ridge wasn’t quite as razor sharp as it looked initially.
As I walked along the ridge, I was beginning to understand why this area had been given the nickname – the Great Wilderness.
There were no buildings in sight, no signs of civilisation, it was just an expanse of mountains, valleys and lochs as far as the eye could see, in every direction.