The club’s May meet was to be a bit different! Rather than booking a Mountaineering Club Hut as normal, we had decided to tackle the magnificent Knoydart hills from the base of Druim Bothy which sits alongside the Allt Gleann Meadail about an hour’s walk from Inverie village. The bothy which is owned and maintained by Kilchoan Estates, is available for hire by groups and sleeps up to 10 people – or maybe one or two more at a squeeze.
The bothy has a gas cooker, a wood burning stove and a proper toilet – unfortunately there was a leaky roof which didn’t help the sleeping arrangements. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine a more sublime location for a hillwalking weekend.
Bearing in mind Knoydart’s location there was some serious military precision spaghetti logistics involved to ensure that all the group arrived at the bothy.
Bill Dallas, James Fraser, George Henderson, Susan Henderson, Rowena Hepple, Jim Hughes, Paul McGrandles, Ian Millar, Alan Orr, Ian Pollock, Norrie Shand and Alastair Shaw.
The 1st Battalion Perthshire Highlanders i.e. Norrie, George and Susan had planned to be the first to land on the beaches of Knoydart. A camp on Arisaig beach on the Wednesday was to be followed by a Thursday ferry trip to Inverie and another camp on a Knoydart beach before access was to be gained to the bothy on the Friday. It was planned to meet up with the Lancashire Fusiliers, Jason and Andy Bostock and Mike Lever who were looking to head over to Knoydart after a week’s munro bagging in the north west.
However, the weather put a serious dampener on the plans and the Wednesday night was spent instead in the comfort of the Alex Macintyre Hut in Ballachulish – and with no improvement in the weather forecast, the ferry crossing was delayed until Friday and the Thursday night also was also enjoyed in the Hut.
Despite the very wet weather, George and Susan managed to stomp up the Corbett of Mam na Gualainn above Loch Leven on the Thursday. Jason and Mike went off and bagged the twin munro peaks of Beinn a’ Bheithir in fairly nasty conditions. Having been on the end of another soaking, they decided to keep their powder (and their last pair of clean underpants) dry and resolved to leave Knoydart for another time and headed back to Lancashire to lick their wounds.
In the meantime, while Norrie was “minding the hut”. The Intelligence Corp comprising James, Ian and Ian dropped in on their way past Ballachulish up to Glenfinnan. Chief Logistics Officer Ian Millar had come up with a master plan involving a walk up Glenfinnan and Glen Dessarry to spend the night in A Chuil bothy before heading over to Druim via Sourlies bothy the next day. Laden down with extremely heavy packs (including ample liquid refreshment) and facing a mammoth hike, the other members had fears that their walk might actually lead up Glen Finished to Glen Disarray – but time would tell.
The Deeside Reconnaissance Regiment (Rowena, Ally and Bill) had headed up to Mallaig on the Thursday evening but it appears that their reconnaissance mission only succeeded in locating The Steam Inn where camp was set up for the night!
Perthshire and Deeside reconnoitred in Mallaig on Friday morning and after a hearty breakfast, they took the 10.15 am ferry to Inverie in mercifully dry weather. The Deesiders had brought their bikes with them to aid the trip to the bothy. Fortunately, Fay fae Kilchoan met the group at the ferry and was able to zip down to the bothy on her quad bike with some of the heavier items and a supply of wood for the stove.
The Dishonourable Larbert and Paisley Artillery Company of Jim, Alan and Paul followed shortly afterwards on the mid-day ferry. They were lucky enough to catch sight of a magnificent sea eagle on their journey across. Like any good regiment they took great care in ensuring that the proper uniform was worn –
The group were soon ensconced in the bothy and the evening’s refreshments, including some “special” Lucozade and barley water, were unpacked. Bill decided to have a run to Inverie to see if he could book a table for the group in The Old Forge on the Saturday evening. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to get a booking – but so as not to waste the journey he decided to run back to the bothy (as is his wont) over the munro of Meall Buidhe while the others enjoyed a relaxing afternoon.
As early evening beckoned, some of the group stirred. George and Susan elected to head up the Corbett of Beinn Bhuidhe which sits behind the bothy – miraculously they were caught up by Alan who had decided to join them and ensure that they didn’t get lost!
The Senior Squad of Jim and Norrie decided to make the 5k hike up to head of the Mam Meadail to meet James and the Ians and help them back down to the bothy with their heavy (albeit slightly lightened) packs.
Having arrived at the head of the pass, Jim and Norrie peered down the other side to see if there was any sign of their colleagues. Finally, a couple of figures were spotted – moving slower than a wet week in Dalwhinnie. Eventually they could make out the profiles of James and Ian Pollock – but there was no sign of Ian Millar.
When at last they reached the head of the pass they transmitted the news that Ian Millar was hors de combat and had decided to spend the night in Sourlies bothy and head over to Druim the next day.
The three had enjoyed a great evening in A Chuil bothy where they had the company of a mountain guide, Jack McCreadie who was leading a party of three including a 14-year-old lad and his mother over to Inverie.
The walk over had proved very eventful with several pairs of hairy legs bared for the hairy river crossings. Ian Millar had got his pacing all wrong and wisely decided that Sourlies would be the limit of his efforts that day – he did though have the company of a couple of young ladies and another hillwalker in the bothy to ensure that he wouldn’t get too lonely.
As Norrie and Jim headed back to Druim with James’ and Ian’s packs, George, Susan and Alan had reached the top of their targeted Corbett and were also bounding back down to the bothy.
Other walkers in the glen at this time would have been taken aback at the sight of some scary beasties in the burn.
That evening a really great night was enjoyed in the bothy. It was Jim Hughes’ turn to have a dry month this time round and soon he morphed into his DJ persona “Jim the Spin” as a load of old favourites reverberated round the room courtesy of Ian Pollock’s Bluetooth speaker. Everyone, of course heartily joined in the singing, without worrying too much about things like whether they actually knew the words or not. With no electric light in bothy, illumination was by candle light only. There were also some flashing LED lights which might have led anyone descending the glen late in the evening to assume that some sort of wild rave was being held in the most unlikely of surroundings.
The weirdness continued as at one point during the evening the spirit of Mick Jagger slipped under the door and inhabited Norrie’s body – a frightening sight indeed.
During the course of the evening Jack McCreadie’s party dropped into the bothy for a reviving cup of tea whilst Bill headed back up the track to help young Tom with his pack which was much appreciated.
Unfortunately, the forecasters had proved correct and Saturday dawned with glaur and rain to the fore. Undeterred, Bill set off to tackle Luinne Bheinn and Meall Buidhe from Mam Barrisdale.
Alan, Paul, Rowena, Ally, Jim and James soon shook themselves into action and, despite the inclement weather, set off to tackle the same two hills form the Gleann Meadail side. A soggy traipse up onto the west ridge of Meall Buidhe and a typical Knoydart undulating hike over a false summit saw them eventually reach the summit cairn, soaking but with spirits still high. As they set off for Luinne Bheinn they met Bill coming the other way and his description of the ground to be covered and the conditions was enough to deter the group from carrying on to the second munro. All that is except Ally who had the bit between his teeth and determined to head on to Luinne Bheinn despite Bill’s words of discouragement.
Back at the bothy, Norrie, George and Susan were having a “lounge day” while Ian Pollock tried desperately to gee himself up enough to go and meet (he hoped!) Ian Millar at the head of the Mam Meadail and relieve him of his pack. It wasn’t easy though to estimate when he might make it to that point. Finally, Ian Pollock managed to get his seven layers of clothing on and set off – while the others hoped desperately that no other fearful hillwalkers would bump into him in his psycho-killer attire!
Fairly soon the main platoon arrived back and dried out, with Alan having been given a practical lesson by Bill on river crossing as he took the direct route back. He passed with flying colours despite the masochistic clach dooking finale.
With a welcome break in the weather, Paul, Norrie, James and Alan headed off to the Old Forge – to be joined later by Rowena, Ally and Bill – and even later still by Ian Pollock and Ian Millar who miraculously had sufficient energy in his tank to make it all the way to Inverie. Most of the group managed to get something to eat, despite the Pub’s peculiar times for serving. Certainly plenty of well-deserved beers (and eventually whiskies) were downed gratefully. An out-of-tune guitar was plucked from the wall and the 45 Degrees Soul Orchestra “treated” the patrons of The Old Forge to an impromptu concert.
Meanwhile back at the hut Jim “the Dream” Hughes had decided (as pensioners are entitled to do) to have an afternoon nap. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t set his alarm clock and failed to wake up before 17.00 pm – the designated time for McGrandles Cup eligibility. He therefore gained the trophy (to be presented later) in a new record time of 17.05 pm, a record that will never be beaten.
Once the gang returned from the Old Forge the shenanigans from the previous evening were resumed with much crooning, hollering and “tasteful dancing” lighting up the bothy into the early hours. Norrie’s guitar made a late appearance and Bill popped his singing cherry with a tender rendition of a Jackson Browne song.
On Sunday morning James, Paul, Jim and Alan packed up and set off for Inverie and the ferry back to Mallaig.
George, Susan and Norrie crossed their fingers in hope of better weather as they geared up ready to tackle Meall Buidhe and Luinne Bheinn. Ian and Ian had also targeted Meall Buidhe and set off just behind the other three. A pleasant clamber up onto the ridge was enjoyed in the sunshine as the Ians overtook the Perthshire crew encumbered by Norrie’s less-than-lightning pace. Unfortunately, as they progressed towards the summit of Meall Buidhe the weather closed in a bit and the hoped-for panoramic views didn’t appear as hoped. Ian and Ian passed the others on their way down from the summit, encouraged by the carrot of some more beers in the Old Forge.
On Meall Buidhe’s summit Norrie decide to call it a day and head back to camp. The weather wasn’t atrocious by any means but he had done these hills first time round on a misty day and determined to save Luinne Bheinn at least for a better day. George and Susan headed onwards and upwards towards the second munro and were rewarded with a few breaks in the cloud revealing the spectacular landscape.
Bill had decided to reprise his Luinne Bheinn walk and then head over to the magnificent Ladhar Bheinn, this time in the company of Rowena. Ally, having just done these hills was content to go for a cycle run. Bill and Rowena made the inspired choice of setting off a bit later and they were rewarded during their walk with some of the most magnificent panoramas available to hillwalkers in Scotland. Ladhar Bheinn is rightly cited as many experienced hillwalkers favourite munro with spectacular views in every direction, but particularly over the sea to the Skye Cuillin.
Norrie had got back to the bothy and found time for his late afternoon nap – after eventually managing to unlock the door as a slightly incorrect code had been given. Ian and Ian had already set off to their home from home i.e. the Old Forge where a gargantuan intake of ale and a couple of suppers each replaced the calories they had burned off in the previous three years! Despite their hearty consumption they did eventually make in back to the bothy to join in the last nights slightly more subdued festivities.
Inevitably Monday turned out to be a glorious day as most of the remaining group headed back to Inverie for the morning ferry – the Deesiders having the benefit of a longer lie in and a later ferry. As refreshments were taken by the side of the bay in the morning sunshine the party were reminded of how Knoydart is such a special place. A few members had been there approaching 10 times, whilst for others it was their first time. Despite the less than perfect weather It would be very surprising if everyone who attended this meet didn’t return to this wonderful corner of the country very soon.