Cape Wrath Trail

Day 2: GR884976 - Morvich

Day 2 brought little relief I awoke with stomach cramps but absolutely starving. So much so that I cooked up some noodles with a flapjack as an aperitif. I didn’t manage to get the tent down before these too had gone the way of the previous night’s meal and throwing up again. At the time I was sure that I’d had some ‘bad’ water from a burn, but I was also using purification tablets and so this was an unlikely cause. I think now that it was a combination of fatigue with minor sunburn / stroke, not something that you expect in the Highlands. With no other choice, my next move was to walk the mile or so down the River Carnoch to where the book suggests a climb to the track that heads for the Bealach heading down Gleann Unndallain. This in itself was not too much of a challenge, and although no track existed of such, I did come across many reassuring boot prints. The view back was a wonderful one; it was just a one at the time that I was unable to appreciate it.

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[Climbing Carn Mor]

The following climb to find the track was one of toughest of whole trail. This is without a doubt a scramble with all four limbs required to navigate rocks, waterfalls, and some very steep boggy ground. The climb is a hard one where on many occasion I found myself conceding height to descend to find a better or easier route upward. Its worthy of mention too that this area is tick city central, several times I looked at my trousers and saw half a dozen plus of the blood sucking sods climbing up my legs hoping for a section of flesh to plug themselves into. Doing this section in short trousers is a big ‘no-no’. Again the views back to my previous night’s camp were sight to behold, especially with clear blue and cloudless skies, but again this brought with it more heat and added further misery.

I eventually reached the track, an obvious one and not easily overlooked. I followed it up the Bealach which I think probably wasn’t a difficult one, but was still a chore. Eventually at the Bealach the views down to Gleann Unndallain were (like many others) a joy to behold. The track down is not difficult, and has some beautiful photogenic views in places.

[Climbing Carn Mor]

I made Barrisdale Bothy at about 11am and was glad indeed that I hadn’t attempted this section of the walk on the previous evening.

Once at Barrisdale I made good use of the cool shade the Bothy offered and also took full advantage too of the toilet! I cooked up a good meal here and felt slightly better for it, better still, it stayed down. I got talking to a man who was out there to do some running and we chatted for a good 20 minutes or so about both of our intended adventures. It was nice to have some human company, even though I’d only been out 2 nights this is a lonely place.

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[Loch Hourn]

I left the bothy at about midday for the walk along Loch Hourn. The map here is very deceiving. It looks like a leisurely walk along the loch but in reality it’s very tough with several switchback climbs. The views back though are stunning and it’s well worth stopping for a few minutes to fully take in.

It was about 2 miles into this 7 mile walk I gave up in my own head and started thinking the walk was beyond me, at least in terms of the timescale I’d set. I started thinking ahead and where I’d camp down for the night. The plan had been to get to Morvich for a decent camp, dry room and shower. I knew that the way I was feeling there was no chance of this happening. With about 2-3 mile to go before reaching the loch head I had a quick stop for a drink and some more food and a man passed me with his dog. He and the dog were feeling the heat too, I could see the same amount of sweat dripping from his head as mine and the dog was wanting to plunge into every burn crossing.

Not until the end of the loch did I catch up with them again as the dog took full advantage of the easy access to the water. I passed saying hello again and only 50 or so metres later I came to the farm buildings. I also noticed a small car park with 2 cars and a van parked. Bright idea time I thought, If one of those cars is his I can maybe hitch a lift! I walked a little slower and looked back to see his intended direction and it was indeed for the car park…the van in fact. I wouldn’t usually be so forward but without hesitation I walked over and explained my sickness the following night and this morning and asked if he was heading for the A87 could I have a lift. He agreed but said he may be a while yet as was going to buy a burger roll from the farm the farmhouse. I said that I’d shout the burgers and drinks in exchange for the lift, a small price to pay.

This was almost a huge error. The section I was skipping was only about 4-5 mile, and one I had walked before. For some reason I didn’t think to check the maps and simply assumed the road section would not be too different. After 30 minutes in his van I started to worry. “17 miles this road”, I was told. The journey itself was not a chore as I listened with genuine interest to his goal to complete the Munros. He only had 27 to go and bought the van specifically for the task. I looked through some of his stunning photos on his camera and we chatted about the wonders of highland walking (and climbing!). His final destination was Perth and so I was dropped at the junction of the A887. Checking the maps again I realised I was about 30 miles from Morvich. What an error of judgement I thought, skipping 4-5 miles only to find myself so far from my intended goal. I stayed by the roadside and tried to hitch again. My chances were slim though with only a few cars passing and all of which were ignoring my gaze and speeding past. After a good 40 minutes or so I gave up hope and looked for a camp. I found a poor looking one eventually and walked back for my bag, a car came around the bend and in vein I stuck my thumb out, “ a single woman” I thought, “no chance”. But joy! She stopped and what’s more she was going past Sheil Bridge!

We chatted for the good 30 minutes or so the journey took and she explained I was the 8th hiker she’d picked up today. “You will indeed go to heaven” I said, whilst also apologising for the stench of sweat I could even smell myself.

I made Morvich at about 6pm and had a shower, dried my boots, and ate well. I decided that night the end goal of Cape Wrath would not be reached and I would just walk as far I could before time expired and I would make my way home. I still felt very ill and ‘knew’ the timescale was beyond me.