Wild moment: Pam Beattie

Published: 12th February 2016

"Somehow I missed the start of the path into Coire Dhorrcail and I ended up almost crawling on all fours at times to gain height..."

It was mid-July 2014 and the weather forecast was for a lovely weekend. I set off from Edinburgh at 5.45am to spend a couple of days’ hill walking in Knoydart. I had tried and failed to book accommodation, but an 8am phone call from Glencoe car park succeeded in making contact with the warden and a bed was booked for the night at the Inverie bunkhouse.

At 10.30am I started on the path beside Loch Hourn and I got my first sight of the majestic Ladhar Bheinn as I rounded the corner near  Barrisdale. The mountain really did look impressive in the sun, but as I ate some lunch in the bothy I was aware that the heat had already affected my appetite.

I pressed on. Somehow I missed the start of the path into Coire Dhorrcail and I ended up almost crawling on all fours at times to gain height. I considered turning back and making my way directly to Inverie but I’d come to climb Ladhar Bheinn and I don’t give in easily.

With relief I finally spotted the path and I climbed up through young saplings to reach it. The relentless heat in the Coire was not helping; no amount of liquid was cooling me and I tried to get some shelter from a large rock. The climb up to the ridge was a struggle but the path on the ridge was good and some scrambling added to the interest. The views over Loch Hourn to Sgriethal and east to Sgurr na Ciche were wonderful.

I finally reached the top at 7.45pm – over two hours later than planned! And I still had an estimated five hour walk to Inverie.

I started the descent after a phone call to the warden to say that I might not make it to the bunkhouse that night. About 10pm, with the light beginning to fade, the path down to Mam Barrisdale became faint.

I was then in a dilemma. I was not familiar with the track to Inverie and, even assuming that the bunkhouse was open, to arrive at 1am was inconsiderate to other visitors. Fortunately at this point I was standing beside some large, relatively flat, rocks so the decision was made to spend the night on the hillside.

I changed into fresh dry clothes, used my wet T-shirt as a pillow and wrapped an emergency blanket around myself. I took some time to settle down; the gentle breeze rustled the foil blanket and sleeping under the stars was a totally new experience to me.

I finally nodded off about midnight and rose again at 4.40am to complete my journey to the bunkhouse where I received a warm welcome.

Feeling refreshed, and after a sojourn into Inverie, I walked back to my car in Kinlochhourn – the heat was too energy sapping to make the intended climbs of Meal Buidhe and Luinne Bheinn. I finally made it back home about midnight, exhausted.   

Part of the awar-winning new native woodland at Li & Coire Dhorrcail

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