#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 –
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.
We descended steeply, following a faint path into a boggy peaty section between Beinn Tarsuinn and A’ Mhaighdean.
In our guidebook, we’d read that it could be wet here but the ground was firm and dry in the main.
This was a relief and we made decent progress.
We headed uphill, following a faint path most of the way, whilst bypassing crags.
After seeing nobody since the ascent on Sgurr Ban we were surprised to summit A’ Mhaighdean at the exact same time as another hiker. He approached from the northeast as we arrived from the southeast.
We were now stood on (what’s widely reported to be) the most remote Munro on the whole list of 282. Another Munro bagging milestone achieved. It felt great!
Ruadh Stac Mor
As we left the summit of A’ Mhaighdean, we put our waterproofs on as it started to rain lightly.
Luckily, a clear path led us to the col between A’ Mhaighdean and Ruadh Stac Mor – our fifth and final Munro of the day.
Next came the scramble up red stone scree. This was such a stark difference in terrain from the soft sandy approach to Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair and the grey blocks of Sgurr Ban. It was amazing to think these peaks were all part of the same walk!
There were a few awkward big red blocks to scramble over before we reached the summit of Munro number 5 – Ruadh Stac Mor.
The Fisherfield Descent
With all five Munros now in the bag we readied ourselves for the long descent. We started down a short bouldery section, taking our time on the slick rock, before aiming for the gap between two lochans – marked on the map as Lochan a Bhraghad.
The groans of the rutting stags were echoing all around us.
Keeping Ruadh Stac Beag on our right, we dropped downhill following a burn to the north west.
The rain kept coming and going but luckily it was never too heavy.
We crossed some lumpy bumpy ground to join the stalkers path which would lead us along Gleann na Muice Beag. Our average hiking pace was up to 5km as we enjoyed a gentle descent deeper into the valley. The path then ran alongside the western bank of the Abhainn Gleann na Muice.
We crossed the river just before Larachantivore. We managed to get half way across on stepping stones before realising we couldn’t complete the crossing with dry feet. So we sat on a large rock in the middle of the river while we removed our boots and paddled the second half barefoot.
This worked quite well as it was refreshing for our tired feet but kept our boots dry.
Then came the notoriously boggy section. People have been known to fall into waist high bogs here. We avoided the worst parts by testing the ground with our hiking poles. Prodding to test the depth of each section of ground.
We finally reached the river opposite Shenavall bothy and we removed our boots again to wade across.
We met a Belgian couple in the bothy who were walking a section of the Cape Wrath Trail from Fort William to Ullapool. They’d originally intended on walking the whole trail but had been caught in a bad storm in Knoydart and Iris had an accident during a river crossing which almost saw her swept away. We swapped adventure stories for a while before going to bed early.
This time we slept in the bothy itself rather than the tent. I found a total of two more ticks – bringing my total for the day to eight. And then found an additional one on James. I removed them all before settling down to sleep (removing ticks was certainly becoming second nature!)
In the morning, we got up leisurely and said goodbye to our two bothy-mates. It was a 2.5 hour walk back to the car, which was parked by the Dundonnell River.
Upon reaching the car, I immediately scoffed two bags of crisps back to back.
We then had one of those delirious moments, common during our Munro round, where we went a bit wappy. We put High Hopes (by Panic at the Disco) on high volume as we drove to Ullapool for food supplies, singing the lyrics at the top of our lungs.
Food, Shower and More Food
We bought food to last two days and drove on to Ledgowan Lodge in Achnasheen.
We dried the tent on the grass by the bunkhouse and prepared a massive lunch.
My portion alone consisted of two toasted bagels, three poached eggs and half a smashed avocado.
Doing a challenge like this means there is zero guilt associated with eating large meals. I certainly made the most of it!
Food came before showers on this occasion, as it often did on the challenge.
In the bunkhouse we were given rooms 1 and 2 (single rooms only) and we had the place to ourselves for the night.
We caught up with family, friends and social media after a few days off-grid in the Fisherfield wilderness.
Before long our thoughts turned to food again. We cooked sweet potato, pepper, onion and spinach curry with naan bread, rice, poppadoms and dips. All washed down with a pint of Irn Bru and an episode of the IT Crowd.
My tick removal duties weren’t yet over as I found yet another two ticks on James’s foot before we went to the main hotel so that James could do some work on the WiFi.
At one point a man walked past us and said “so this is where the cool kids hang out” but I heard it as “so this is where the coke heads hang out” and looked at him horrified. The Fisherfield Munros had scrambled my ears!
We nicknamed the Fisherfield Munros:
Scary Bants – Sgurr Ban
Male Ache Covers My Fear Of Chairs – Mullach Choire Mhic Fhearchair
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.
There are nine Loch Mullardoch Munros – mountains which encircle Loch Mullardoch in the Scottish Highlands and they are rather awkward to access. This route links Carn nan Gobhar, Sgurr na Lapaich, An Riabhachan, An Socach, Beinn Fhionnlaidh, Mam Sodhail, Carn Eige, Tom a’ Choinich and Toll Creagach. The route card below explains how these nine Loch Mullardoch Munros can be walked over two days, incorporating a wild camp.
Adventurer Nicwalked this route on Saturday 28th September 2019 as part of her Munro Bagging Challenge. These were Munro numbers 242 to 250 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these Munros too.
Loch Mullardoch Munros Route Stats
Mountains: Carn nan Gobhar (992m), Sgurr na Lapaich (1,150), An Riabhachan (1,129m), An Socach (1,069m), Beinn Fhionnlaidh (1,005m), Mam Sodhail (1,181m), Carn Eige (1,183m), Tom a’ Choinich (1,112m) and Toll Creagach (1,054m)
The previous day we’d climbed the Munros north of Glen Strathfarrar. Our friend Sally had kindly offered to let us stay at her house so we woke there and drove to Mullardoch House through Glen Cannich from Drumnadrochit. The nine Loch Mullardoch Munros were now in our sights.
The Beginning (and almost a Premature End)
We parked just below the dam and walked uphill along the tarmac road when a tractor and a four wheel drive vehicle with a party of hunters passed us. I started to get anxious that our presence hill walking that day might be heavily discouraged. The convoy stopped up ahead to fire practice rounds with their shotguns just off the track. Eventually, we caught up with them and we greeted the tractor driver. He was an older gentleman dressed in hunting attire with a deerstalker style hat that reminded me of Sherlock Holmes. He asked us where we were headed in a very upper-middle class accent. My heart sank, I was certain we were about to be told that the mountains were a ‘no go’ area.
We replied with a description of our proposed route of the Loch Mullardoch Munros, starting with Carn nan Gobhar. “Well it’s a great day for a walk!” he guffawed, a broad smile stretching across his face. He explained that they were planning on taking a boat to the end of the loch but that they’d be finished deer stalking at 4:30pm. Sticking to the crest of the ridge would ensure that we’d be well away from their activity. With a ‘rather you than me’ chuckle, he added that he’d be drunk on whisky back at his cottage by the time we were done walking for the day.
The vehicles descended to the boat house by Loch Mullardoch to start their day, whilst we followed the track ahead. The track gradually became less clear as we yomped further up the hillside. A lone figure walked briskly up ahead but we never caught them. He/she was moving faster than us (most likely not carrying overnight gear).
We made it to main ridge and followed it up to the summit of the first of the Loch Mullardoch Munros – Carn nan Gobhar.
Carn nan Gobhar
Next to the summit cairn which marked the top of Carn nan Gobhar, we had something to eat.
It felt quite early to be having lunch but the first ascent was always the toughest and we’d earned our lunch.
We looked back over to the north side and we could see down into Glen Strathfarrar and the mountains we’d climbed the previous day.
The summit of Carn nan Gobhar was covered in small rocks which were awkward to walk along but the sun was shining and I was happy have got the first summit in the bag.
Sgurr na Lapaich
From the summit of Carn nan Gobhar, we descended west to a col before heading uphill again towards Munro number two – Sgurr na Lapaich.
The ascent began on a path but ended with a slippery scramble over boulder strewn ground. It was muggy and the rocks carried a light sheen.
The sun was long gone at the point we reached the summit but cloud was washing over the tops on and off, teasing us with occasional bright spells.
The weather couldn’t make up its mind whether or not it wanted to be sunny or dull.
We were making good progress as we descended from Sgurr na Lapaich in a southwesterly direction along the ridge.
We started to noticed how vocal the stags were. The rut was getting underway and we went on to see deer in huge herds throughout the afternoon and evening. I secretly celebrated the fact that they were managing to evade the hunters that day.
We ascended and approached An Riabhachan, over its long flat summit.
From the summit of An Riabhachan we continued along a rocky ridge with many undulations before reaching the cylindrical summit trig pillar of An Socach (one of three Munros with the same name).
At 1,069m, An Socach wasn’t the highest mountain of the day but the views were the most spectactular due to the weather being back on our side.
We enjoyed stunning views down over Loch Mullardoch and An Socach’s long southeast ridge.
As much as I wanted to get down and settled for a the wild camp, I was happy to rest here momentarily and take in the beauty of the area.
An Socach Descent
We paused on the descent as the rays of sunlight cast a heavenly glow over Loch Mhoicean and Loch na Leitreach. We could see the westerly Munros of Glen Shiel in the distance. It was a beautiful scene.
Beauty aside, it was a pathless descent over grassy, mossy and wet ground – ankle twisting stuff. Large herds of deer surrounded us. They probably wondered what on earth we were doing there, descending into a remote valley so late in the day.
Weariness had set in and yet we were tiring ourselves out further by guessing the height of the river from above and fretting about it.
We knew we’d have to cross it in order to continue our route on the other side of the valley. Yes, we’d had many a thigh high crossing during our Munro challenge but getting all wet before a wild camp was never an appealing prospect.
We made it to the riverside and after all my whittling, the river was only ankle deep. I took my boots off and slowly ventured across barefoot. The water was cold but I tricked myself into believing it was a treat for my hot, tired and swollen feet.
Wild Camp by Loch Mullardoch
The area on the other side of the river was perfect for a wild camp. The sound of the river would hopefully drown out the moans of the nearby stags.
We pitched the tent, content in the knowledge that the last of the midges had died off a week or so ago.
The camp meals went down a treat, but I managed to spill chicken bites into my sleeping bag.
After retrieving them all (or at least I hoped I had), we settled down to sleep at 8:15pm.
Our bedtime was getting earlier and earlier as the challenge wore on.
Those early morning alarm calls didn’t get any easier as the challenge progressed. In the tent we were warm and cosy as light rain pitter-pattered on the tent fly sheet. We resisted the temptation to repeatedly snooze the alarm and turned our attentions to brewing coffee and eating breakfast. Leaving no trace of our wild camp, we began walking just after our 7am target.
We summised we had an ample weather window to get the remaining five Loch Mullardoch Munros bagged and back down to the car, before returning to Sally’s in time for a shower and meal out at the Loch Ness Inn in Drumnadrochit.
At this point in the walk, some might like to extend the route to take in Mullach na Dheiragain, Sgurr nan Ceathreamhnan and An Socach, but we had already bagged those Munros from Camban bothy (in the southwest). So we proceeded towards Beinn Fhionnlaidh.
A rough path led us to another river, where we took our boots off to cross. I noticed two ticks on my feet. I removed them in the rain as James got a bit impatient waiting for me. Five months into our challenge and spending 24 hours a day with each other, we now knew not to let our tired snappy outbursts get the better of us. We chatted it out on the ascent of Beinn Fhionnlaidh, all was forgiven and we both got over it quickly.
The ascent of Beinn Fhionnlaidh was pathless and long but we made it to the summit just as the rain had dissipated into a mist.
James strode ahead of me and by the time I reached the summit he was sat enjoying his John Grisham!
Heading south down the broad ridge, we marched on. We had a decision to make – either make a pathless traverse around the bulk of Carn Eige in the direction of Mam Sodhail, or summit Carn Eige twice. We chose the former.
Navigating over bouldery terrain to gain the col between Carn Eige and Mam Sodhail, we stopped for a break and stowed our heavy camping gear before walking up Mam Sodhail as an ‘out and back’.
The ascent seemed fairly quick and trouble free. The cloud had persisted but at least it wasn’t raining.
Mam Sodhail has a big storm shelter which offers full protection from the wind on all sides. We sat in it for a short while but the true summit was actually 45 metres further on, by a small cairn, so of course we visited that too.
We returned to the col to retrieve our gear before starting the ascent up Carn Eige (sometimes spelt Carn Eighe).
The summit trig pillar marked the highest point of the entire Loch Mullardoch Munros route and is the bulk that separates Loch Mulladoch and Loch Affric.
Once again the cloud gave us a bit of a break and at the summit of Carn Eige we were treated to views back across to the long eastern ridge of Mam Sodhail.
Tom a’ Choinich
After leaving the summit of Carn Eige we looked in the direction of the next Munro – Tom A’Choinich. The route would take us over some dramatic looking pinnacles along the narrowing ridge. The route incorporates the Munro Tops of Stob a’ Choire Dhomhain, Sron Garbh, An Leth-chreag and Tom a’ Choinich Beag. A forboding moody atmosphere came as a result of the clouds coming and going over the ridge.
There were a lot of ups and downs to the summit of the fourth Munro of the day – Tom a’Choinich.
I needed at least a couple of breaks for snacks and water as I felt really low on energy.
When we made it to the summit cairn I had a sit down and really struggled to get back up again!
It was a much more straightforward walk between Tom a Choinich and Toll Creagach. My pack had started to dig into my hip so we swapped packs for the last part of the walk. A great benefit of adventuring in a pair.
We descended east from Toll Creagach to a col. Next we ventured in a northly direction, heading for the edge of Loch Mullardoch over a never ending sea of mushy ground with the occasional batch of heather, grass and rock thrown in for good measure. It was really tough going. We hit a section of ferns that were up to our shoulders.
Frustratingly, the dam seemed to be in our sights for the entire descent but it took us an age to reach it. When we saw a gate, we assumed (wrongly) that there may be a path on the other side of it but somehow it was worse on the other side. Another gate led us to a muddy path but that didn’t last either. We made our way into a small ravine and climbed up the other side and over a stile. But we couldn’t get down to the road becuase of a 5 metre drop over a small cliff.
It really did feel like we’d either made a series of bad navigational choices, or it was just that we were so exhausted that it would have been fine with fresh legs. We managed to swing around a fence on the edge of the cliff and made it down to the road from there, back to the car.
Back at Sally’s we put our meal reservation back to 8pm and had a hot shower (for Sally’s benefit as much as our own) before heading to the pub. Between us we devoured a burger, seafood pasta and a lamb dinner followed by sticky toffee pudding, toffee sundae and pannacotta. Scrummy!
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.
…a Multi Day Munro Bagging Hike with Wild Camping in the Cairngorms National Park
Prepare for a whistle stop tour up and over the 14 central Cairngorms Munros! The Cairngorms National Park is a wild and dramatic place to explore. Ben Macdui (the UK’s second highest mountain) can be connected to Cairn Gorm, Carn a’Mhaim, The Devil’s Point, Cairn Toul, Sgor an Lochain Uaine, Braeriach, Monadh Mor, Beinn Bhrotain, Beinn Bhreac, Beinn a’Chaorainn, Derry Cairngorm, Beinn Mheadhoin and Bynack More. This is a Scottish Highlands multi day expedition of champions and an exciting way to approach these 14 Cairngorms Munros. This route card explains the quickest and easiest way of getting to all 14 summits for a peak bagger.
Adventurer Nicwalked this route on Saturday 7th September to Tuesday 10th September 2019 as part of her Munro Bagging Challenge. These were Munro numbers 206 to 219 for Nic. Here, she explains how you can bag these Munros too.
Cairngorms Munros: Route Stats
Mountains: Cairn Gorm (1,244.8m), Ben Macdui (1,309m), Carn a’Mhaim (1,037m), The Devil’s Point (1,004m), Cairn Toul (1,291m), Sgor an Lochain Uaine (1,258m), Braeriach (1,296m), Monadh Mor (1,113m), Beinn Bhrotain (1,157m), Beinn Bhreac (931m), Beinn a’Chaorainn (1,083m), Derry Cairngorm (1,155m), Beinn Mheadhoin (1,182.9m), and Bynack More (1,090m).
A work trip to Norway interrupted our Munro bagging summer but we returned to the challenge in early September. We landed at Edinburgh airport, collected our car from our good friend Lorna‘s house and drove up to Perth. We used a Starbucks car park to layout all our gear from the Norway trip and integrate it all back in with our Scotland peak bagging gear. It looked such a mess and we got some very strange looks from people getting their coffee fix!
We were initially intending to drive up to Ben Wyvis to bag the lone peak at sunset, but just as we drove past Aviemore, we changed our minds. We’d been waiting for a good weather window to tackle the 14 Cairngorms Munros in the centre of the National Park and the forecast was promising 3 out of 4 days of good weather. It seemed to good an opportunity to pass up on.
Heading to Cairngorm ski resort, we exited the car to the biggest swarm of midges. Thank goodness for my midge jumper, a lifesaver!
We quickly put our meals and supplies together, anticipating up to four days in the mountains and set off.
The weather was still warm when we set off from the ski centre but it was getting late into the evening.
This was the turning point in the challenge where I felt autumn was starting to loom, the days felt slightly shorter.
The paths between the ski centre and Cairn Gorm (our first Munro of the walk) are excellent.
We passed a series of disused ski buildings and lifts to reach the summit of Cairn Gorm at sunset.
The Summits – Each of the 14 Cairngorms Munros
We took a great deal of photographs, enjoying the sunset summit views. It were as if the skies were burning. We were chuffed to have reached Cairn Gorm by sunset and felt like we’d kicked day 1 off to a good start. It was hard to believe we’d left our hotel on the western coast of Norway earlier that same morning!
We headed off down to the col between Cairn Gorm and Stob Coire an t’Sheachda on a good path, towards Scotland’s second highest mountain, Ben Macdui.
We hadn’t picked out a spot to camp in advance, so just as we were losing the last of the light we picked a flat spot off to the left of the path. This turned out to be the highest camp spot of the whole challenge – at 1,100m. And boy was it the coldest! My quilt is comfort rated down to -1°C and it was borderline too cold for that night.
I pulled my buff right over my face to get some warmth to my cold nose and we tried to get some rest.
The next morning, we packed up early and headed off on the clear path towards Ben Macdui. It wasn’t long before we were standing on the summit.
To the south, cloud inversions were splintering in the warmth of the morning. It was a stunning sight. We took a slow, steady and steep line off the south side of the mountain. At the bottom, we leave our heavy loads by a stream and head to towards Carn a’ Mhaim. An ‘out and back’ is something that hill walkers do when they can’t incorporate a mountain into a circular. It feels so free and liberating to have an empty pack, as carrying food for up to four days is back breaking!
Carn a’ Mhaim
The ridge to the summit of Carn a’ Mhaim rose steadily in front of us.
We hit the third summit on our peak bagging agenda just as the sun was beginning to kick out some heat. From this vantage point we enjoyed cloud-free views of the other nearby Cairngorms Munros.
We returned via the route of ascent to retrieve our packs before continuing on.
The Devil’s Point
We followed the stream to a path that runs along the valley beside the River Dee. The footbridge enabled us to cross the river easily and we went on to enter Corrour Bothy for lunch. Corrour is one of the most popular bothies for hikers of the Cairngorms Munros, and it was no surprise to see two tents erected outside at 12pm. We ate peanut butter on crackers and debated the route ahead.
We left the bothy and joined a path leading up to the col between The Devil’s Point and Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir, replenishing our water supplies in a stream along the way.
Dropping our loads for the second time of the day, we headed up to The Devil’s Point summit.
I remember feeling grateful for the footpath which was laid here in 2002. It enabled us to truly enjoy the views without worrying too much about navigation on this part of the route.
It was still a clear, warm day and we paused momentarily to enjoy the views, which were stunning.
On the descent, we passed a runner who had also left his bag at the col.
We picked up our bags once more and headed up rocky boulder slopes to Cairn Toul via Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir. At this point, the cloud cover comes out of nowhere, the summit is shrouded and our views are gone.
Sgor an Lochain Uaine
We continued on to Sgor an Lochain Uaine (also known as The Angels’ Peak) and descended from there to a col where we could leave the bags for the third time of the day before heading along the ridge to Braeriach.
Braeriach would be the last of the top 10 highest Munros on our list of 282, so this summit felt special. There was no other mountain above 1,200m left on our list.
The clouds dispersed for a short while, revealing some dramatic views, but sadly they were short lived.
It felt like a long ‘out and back’, especially in the clag, but we were packless and packless walking feels really freeing and light. A real treat! We returned to our bags just as the drizzle had begun.
We decided to camp earlier than planned on account of two things – the first being that the drizzle was forecast to turn into a night of non-stop rain, and we knew we would feel a whole lot better if we managed to keep our gear dry for the night.
The second was that James had just mildly twisted his ankle and it felt like a sign we were getting tired and making mistakes. We got the tent up on a small shelf on a downward slope and boiled up dinner. The rain properly set in and we were relieved we’d called it a day as we snuggled down for the night with our packs, contents and crucially ourselves, nice and dry. Six Munro peaks wasn’t a bad count for the day (seven cumulatively over the two days).
We dozed off at 9pm and caught up on the lost sleep from the night before. It felt much warmer.
We woke to the sound of heavy rain at 6.30am but we snoozed the alarm and slept until 7.15am in the hope it would get better. It didn’t. I lost my spork and threw a bit of a tantrum, but I found it soon after. We made breakfast and coffee in the tent vestibule and James said “when the big things are going wrong, it’s the little things you have to celebrate” as he sipped his warm drink.
Begrudgingly, we got all our stuff packed up and put in our packs before taking tent down, and we were careful to pack the inner and outer components separately. We would head to a bothy for the third night but as always, there wasn’t guaranteed to be space for us.
It was drizzling and we set off on pathless terrain until the land started rising towards our first peak of the day. There are lots of little eroded little paths in this part of the Cairngorms and you never know if you’re on a real path or not, so lots of directional checks are required.
We hit the summit and marched on to the next peak, Beinn Bhrotain, which was fairly closeby. Blissfully, not much descending and reascending was required between the two Munros.
From the summit trig pillar we then decided to take a shortcut on the original descent plan which actually worked out perfectly because a faint path appeared part of the way down, saving us valuable time.
At the valley bottom we had to cross the wide (and now raging) River Dee. We both got wet boots, but it didn’t matter because it turned out to be the first of many river crossings that day. Dry feet are overrated!
We joined a path for a while and then we did a bit of tough off piste walking through lumpy bumpy heather before hitting a more established track in the direction of Linn of Dee. We crossed a thigh high river and then headed through woodland with Derry Lodge as our destination.
By this time, it was dry in the valley, with the cloud only hugging the tops.
We paused to have lunch by Derry Lodge but the midges were atrocious. Pacing up and down whilst eating, we made a lame bid at creating some kind of breeze to keep the midges at bay.
Eventually, we continued on a track that led on to the foot of the next Munro. We turned off the path and hit a small faint path which led us through the heather. We reached the summit of Beinn Bhreac with views shrouded in the clag once more.
Beinn a’ Chaorainn
We headed 5km to the final Munro of the day, across largely pathless, heathery and peaty terrain which kept rising and falling. It was tough going and felt never ending. We made it to the summit of Beinn a’ Chaorainn and started our descent just as the heavens reopened and soaked us again.
The descent was gradual at first but we then hit a steeper scree path. We decided on a shortcut to the bothy but abandoned it half way through when it was really hard going through thick heather with lots of additional ups and downs. Instead we headed for the Coire Etchachan Burn, crossed it and walked up onto a path which led straight to the bothy.
We found the Hutchinson Memorial Hutto be empty, despite four visitors writing in the bothy register that day. The bothy comprised of an entrance room and a main room with one bench and a stove.
We had dinner and lit a fire. According to the bothy register, some wood was left by a chap called Oscar who had carried it in but then realised he’d forgotten his food supplies, so left the wood for the next person to enjoy and returned to his car. We were grateful for the ability to dry out some of our gear.
I slept on the bench and James slept on the floor. It was lovely to be inside a dry room.
We woke after a good sleep in the bothy and had breakfast before heading out. Miraculously, after the poor weather of the previous day, it was dry and visibility was good. There was some light cloud covering the tops but it looked like it was clearing. We hit the path leading up to Loch Etchachan. We passed a group of Duke of Edinburgh Award students, who looked surprisingly fresh faced after what must have been a wet night in tents on the hill. Soon, we passed their supervisor Ellie, who was following at a discreet distance and monitoring them remotely.
We soon reached the col and ditched our packs to climb Derry Cairngorm.
We followed a path which became faint over the boulders every now and then. After pausing for a very tired selfie at the summit, we descended back to our packs, beside the loch.
We then started ascending the second Munro of the day.
We passed some path laying tools but nobody was working that day.
It was a steep but rewarding climb over sandy terrain but the summit tors seemed to appear quickly.
We had to scramble to get on top of one of the rocky tors which jutted from the summit of Beinn Mheadohoin, but it was worth it for one of those ‘Queen of the World’ moments.
We headed off towards the valley which separated this mountain from Bynack More – our final mountain of the day (and also the final mountain of the expedition).
We descended on a gravelly path, which seem common in this part of the Cairngorms and headed down the open hillside to a large loch called Loch Avon, where we stopped for lunch.
Loch Avon looked positively tropical! With beautifully clear water and even a small stretch of beach.
We then crossed the river before joining a rock strewn path heading uphill.
We peeled off the path and headed up the ridge of the final Munro. There was a disheartening false summit and a drop before the final ascent. Often the ground was saturated and slushy, other times it was gravelly, other times heathery and other times bouldery strewn. We really had it all on this expedition across the Cairngorms Munros.
We were delighted to hit the summit. The 14th of 14 Cairngorms Munros.
It was our longest multi-day expedition of the Munro bagging challenge and it felt great to stand on the summit of Bynack More.
The bonus was, we were ahead of time. We thought it would take four full days to complete the full route and in actual fact we were looking like doing it in less than three and a half days. This gave us a massive boost.
The Final Descent of the Cairngorms Munros
The descent was far from straight forward, we were nearly 5.5km away from the car park (as the crow files and we all know you can’t walk as the crow flies!) These Cairngorms Munros weren’t going to make it easy for us to escape.
We descended down a ridge over Bynack Beg in thick heather. Once we reached and crossed the River Nethy we had to climb nearly 300m again to get over the col to the north of the northern spur of Sron a’ Cha-no. It was still the path of least resistance to go up and over rather than around the obstacle. The route from there wasn’t hard to follow. The biggest obstacles were a couple of streams and a weird section of mangrove-like trees growing in a marsh.
I struggled with tiredness so James went ahead and retrieved the car from the upper car park while I gratefully waited at the lower car park. We hobbled into the McDonalds in Perth that evening, both affected by the mileage of the last three and a bit days hiking the wild and wonderful Cairngorms Munros.
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.
My name’s Nic and I’m an addict…..a wild camping addict. At the time of my first camp, I didn’t realise how Wild Camping Lake Distict Fells would become such a big part of my life.
I popped my wild camp cherry in the Lake District in 2017. On a misty, moody day, I kayaked across Ullswater to Norfolk Island. Not appreciating what I was letting myself in for, it was a rough, windy night and I didn’t sleep a wink. But boy did I love every second of it.
Wild Camping Lake District Wainwright Fells
Later that same year I started bagging the Wainwrights. Starting on Great End and finishing on Pavey Ark, I walked them all in exactly 365 days. Bagging all 214 Wainwrights during my days off work and using virtually all of my annual leave.
In order to bag the mountains efficiently I started creating my own multi-day routes and planning wild camps along the way. Most of the time I scouted out my sleep spot on the fly, but sometimes I saw a place in advance and made a beeline for it as part of my route. Wild Camping Lake District Fells 18 times during my challenge was a great enabler to walking wild and wonderful routes.
I loved everything about it. The planning of the routes, refining my camping gear, reacting to the weather, camping alone, embracing bivvying and sharing the experience with good friends.
My Wild Camping Lake District Index
Black Fell was the first of the 12 most southerly Wainwrights that I hiked over 3 days from east to west with my partner James. We enjoyed glorious sunset views over the Langdale Pikes and cracking sunrise reviews over Windermere from the summit of Black Fell, where we camped side by side in our bivvy bags on firm grass.
I decided to get some winter hiking experience in by Blencathra during a deep freeze in early 2018. Two friends and I hiked up to Scales Tarn where we pitched our tents in the dark on the edge of the tarn. By morning we scrambled up Sharp Edge and bagged the Wainwright. I was nervous going over Sharp Edge in winter conditions and I was thankful for the support of Carl and Matt.
My friend Rory bagged his last Wainwright, Cat Bells in the summer of 2018, and invited me along! Attending his final Wainwright was a pleasure and the conditions couldn’t have been more perfect as we ascended. Myself and a few friends camped just off Cat Bells, setting down a few bivvy bags and one small tent just off the summit. The following morning we hiked Castle Crag, Eagle Crag and Sergeant’s Crag before hitchhiking back to Keswick.
I have once visited the Priests Cave on Dove Crag during the day, but on this occasion James and I attempted to find the Priests Cave after dark. Could we find it? No we couldn’t! We scoured the hillside with our head torches until 1am before resorting to bivvying on a patch of grass on the hillside. Luckily the weather was good and the morning view as I drank my coffee was delightful! I reached the summit of Dove Crag in the morning.
I noted earlier that Black Fell marked the beginning of a 12 Wainwright bagging spree, well Dow Crag marked the close of the 2nd day of that three day expedition. The 2nd night was much colder than the previous night. James and I bivvied on the ridge line after the summit of Dow Crag and were treated to a glorious sunset over neighbouring peaks.
I hiked Glaramara as part of a multi day route bagging 6 Wainwrights. Starting in Seathwaite and ending in Stonethwaite, my friend Adam and I left a car in either village. A dark cloud chased us to Glaramara and we felt lucky to set up the tent in time before bad weather hit. Remarkably it stayed dry all night and we fell asleep to the sound of Herdwick sheep munching the grass around the tent.
I had a great cock up on Great Cockup! Yes it’s true, I lost my mobile phone for 15 minutes just off the summit of Great Cockup as the sun was going down. So I channelled my inner Jeffery Deaver (crime author who writes about crime scene investigation and ‘walking the grid’ of a crime scene looking for clues) and I walked the grid of the hillside until I found it nestled in the grass. I’ve always been much more careful with my gear ever since! I slept soundly, alone in the shadow of Skiddaw before walking to Meal Fell, Bakestall and Great Calva the following day.
James and I slept on Hallin Fell on the night of Wild Night Out 2018. We slept in our bivvy bags overlooking Ullswater after racing up to the Lake District following the birthday party of our good friend Saul in Wales. As it was a popular night to be wild camping and good clear conditions, we weren’t alone – but we found a nice quiet spot just off the summit to enjoy our bivvy.
Helm Crag was my 8th Wainwright fell in an epic 13 fell multi day solo walk. Beginning in Glenridding and finishing in Grasmere, the route involved hitchhiking back to my car in Glenridding. I wasn’t an experienced scrambler at the time so was petrified climbing the Howitzer on the summit of Helm Crag but I was so proud of myself for trusting my instincts and going for it. I then bivvied in the shadow of the rocky pinnacle before continuing my journey the next day.
A late winter ascent to Red Tarn was icy and cold! The new tent that my friend Carl and I were using suffered a snapped pole and it was so cold that everything was freezing. It was nearly appropriate to bail on the camp but we patched up the pole and made it through the night to summit the mountain via Swirral Edge the next day, descending on Striding Edge. That night I learned to sleep with everything in my sleeping bag – stove gas, socks and anything with a battery!
High Raise formed part of my Martindale Horseshoe round. I walked this route with James in dire weather. It rained non stop on day one and I was relieved to have packed my dry merino base layers. It was an unremarkable camp, with the tent simply acting as a basic shelter from the relentless rain.
Ling Fell was an awesome summer bivvy. After walking up Sale Fell, James and I ascended Ling Fell and bivvied overlooking a firework display in the valley. It’s amazing how small fireworks appear when you view them from above! We woke to one of the best sunrises I’ve ever seen, before leaving to hike on to Graystones.
Lingmell was my 34th birthday camp. The day began with an ascent of Kirk Fell, bagging Green Gable, Base Brown, Brandreth and Grey Knotts before the long walk to Lingmell. We stopped to eat birthday cake close to Sty Head Tarn before settling on a camp spot close to Lingmell. The group size was bigger than I was comfortable with for wild camping, but we spread our tents out and were fast asleep by 10pm. The following morning we bagged Scafell Pike, Scafell and Slight Side before descending back down into Wasdale Head.
Low Fell is a Wainwright that means a lot to me. James and I had been together a couple of months but we hadn’t dropped the ‘L’ bomb yet. He chose the summit of Low Fell to tell me how he felt about me and I’ll never forget it. With views down to Crummock Water, the romantic camp spot was as near to perfection as I would have thought possible.
Place Fell – the location of my first ever bivvy wild camp! James and I hiked up Place Fell from Patterdale one evening in the late spring. After touching the summit trig pillar we set our bivvy bags down for the night. The sunset was unremarkable and the skies were cloudy. But during the night and into the morning it cleared and we experienced one of the best sunrises. I was hooked on bivvying after this.
Sheffield Pike – symbolically it meant a lot to me to climb this mountain. I was born and bred in Sheffield, South Yorkshire you see! First bagging Glenridding Dodd on the way up to Sheffield Pike, most of my group of friends bivvied on the hillside overlooking Ullswater before waking to a glorious sunrise. A wonderful silky cloud inversion rolled off the nearby hills, the skies were a rich orange and it was magical. The next day we bagged 4 more Wainwrights before descending back into Glenridding.
I always chuckle when I think of Watson’s Dodd because I wild camped with two friends there in 2018. The first – Matt Watson and the second Adam Dodsworth… get it?! It was an unremarkable pitch location and the conditions were dry but overcast, so we experienced neither a cracking sunset nor a beautiful sunrise. The next day we walked Great Dodd, Clough Head and High Rigg. High Rigg was the last of my Central Fells as I was close to completion.
Whiteside is the only camp amongst the 18 that wasn’t above the highest boundary line. It was a long way from any dwellings though and it wasn’t safe to camp higher due to the thunderstorm that passed through during the evening. My friend Adam and I hunkered down. I had a sleepless night wondering if a) the tent was going to be struck by lightening or b) if we’d be woken and moved on by a farmer. Neither of those things happened though and we hit the summit of Whiteside the following morning.
Wild Camping Lake District Notes
It’s important to read up on the following guidance if you’re considering wild camping in the Lake District. This article from the Lake District National Park Authority is very helpful. The National Park encourages responsible wild camping. It’s important that all guidance on leaving no trace and being respectful is adhered to, for the benefit of all wild campers and hikers.
About the Author
Adventurer Nic is a Wainwright ‘Compleater’ and a Munroist. Let her know what you thought of this post by dropping her a comment.
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