It’s a rather novel way to start a day hike to be standing by a pier waiting to be picked up by a boat. My hosts had to take a boat to Mallaig for a service (bit more complicated than an oil change and new plugs) and offered to drop me at Camusrory at the head of Loch Nevis.
The loch was glass this early in the morning, and we saw seals lounging on the rocky shore.
I alighted at Camusrory and watched my lift chug away. The rumble of the diesel engines diminished and I was alone… not for long, though, as workers on the estate were starting early. A flurry of activity on quad bikes and excavators seemed incongruous in this majestic place and I hurried by them, seeking the solitude of the glen.
At the ruins, I turned left and followed a path up to Mam Meadail. At this point, I still hadn’t decided where the walk was going to take me. The route to Inverie, where I was due to meet the Western Isles ferry at 3pm, could be straight forward as the track I was following provided relatively easy passage to Gleann Meadail. However, weather permitting, I was keen to take a right at the head of the pass and head up broken slopes to a col east of Meall Buidhe.
I would then traverse the ridge west down to Inverie in, hopefully, plenty of time to make the Western Isles ferry. However, I did have a get out of jail card… should I miss the ferry, that there was the chance of a lift at six pm. Longer on the hill or longer in then Old Forge drinking optimistically-priced beer and enjoying the cold shoulder from some of the locals.
Gaining the pass took longer than expected, although I think I was thrown by the 1;50,000 map I’d borrowed. The breeze was gentle here and I opted to head for the bealach and up to the Munro. I took a bearing and ascended among craggy slopes.
I enjoyed the task of route finding, sometime scrambling directly up crags or following boggy balconies to easier ground. Reaching the ridge, I turned left and headed up, again on steep broken ground. The walking was challenging and exhilarating.
Then the cloud descended and a heavy mist clung to the highs slopes. I switched on the Satmap as a back up, but stayed with the compass as my guide. Focussed on the climb, the adrenaline kept the burning in my claves at bay, and the stiffness in my back.
Reaching the summit, the could cleared and my route towards Inverie appeared, albeit temporarily.
Not wishing to linger in the mizzle, I dropped down heading west to the saddle between Meall Buidhe and Ant Uiriollach. To the north, Knoydart showed its true colours as walls of lonely peaks stood to attention. To the south, I could just see the track to Inverie I would have been following. On slopes just below me to the left, two deer with young grazed.
I pressed on along the ridge along a faint path and made a relatively easy descent, that is until I reached the snout when the sloped steepened and picking a good line again became tricky. After a couple of undignified moves on my backside I was trudging across a soggy field to a bridge across the Inverie River.
Thinking the main challenges were over, I sank up to my crotch in the bog. – skills honed (or not) in the Dark Peak moors came to the fore and I dragged myself out… only to go up to my waste again. The flattest section of the walk provied to be the most physically challenging.
I sloshed my way towards the bridge and then battled to the path heading to Inverie. On easy ground again and the sun came out. I made my way to the Old Forge and, armed with a couple of pints, removed boots and socks to dry in the sun as I waited for the Western Isles. Fellow drinkers maintained a 3m exclusion zone.