Cape Wrath Trek Day 6

The day dawned; grey, wet, and windy. It was only just after 4am, but I couldnt sleep. At some point during the last couple of hours, I had managed to kick my rucksack outside of the tarp slightly, I had also slid down my sleeping mat, and my bivvy bag was now getting a good soaking. The rain was hammering off the tarp and the wind did its best, big bad wolf impression; huffing and puffing at me, thankfully to no avail. I did manage to secure a good pitch last night after all.

I was still warm and dry inside my sleeping bag, inside the bivvy, but I was seriously contemplating terminating this walk. I had a great old wrestle with myself, asking the old familiar questions that crop up when the going gets tough.
Why am I doing this again?
Am I really enjoying it?
What’s the point?

All questions on other trips that I have successfully ignored, pressing on regardless, looking back through the old rose tinted and convincing myself that, yes, it had been worthwhile, I did get good photos, I did enjoy the trek, the downsides weren’t that many, and I do have the memories. But this time it was different. I couldn’t ignore these questions and the overwhelming appeal of sitting at home in front of a warm fire and a nice glass of red wine. My knees were sore, the weather was miserable, and I had no idea of the weather forecast if it would clear or not. My journey this day was supposed to take me over Carn nan Conbhairean and the southern ridge of Ben More Assynt – a ridge that apparently rivals the Aonach Eagach – and then on to Conival, Eas a’Chualainn waterfall and then down to Glencoul Bothy. A hard day in store.

Looking at the maps, there were a couple of other options, but all 3 involved similar long walks in these torrential conditions. 2 other alternatives were to stay put, but I really didnt fancy that in the tarp. If I had the tent, I think I would have done. The other option was to quit the trip altogether, walk back out to the A837 road, about 7 kms, and phone someone to come and get me. I struggled with this decision for about 3 hours.

Staying put was not an option – not in the tarp.
Go on or go back?
Its not as if I hadn’t been to Cape Wrath before. I walked there from Sandwood Bay in 2008.
The hills will still be there tomorrow – a favourite saying of mine.
I am generally a fair weather walker, but dont mind a little bad weather now and again. But this was some of the worst weather I had seen.
Go on or go back?
Going back had the advantage of a clear track. of visibility. of easier walking. of a warm fire at the end of the day. To be out of the rain.

Decision was made. I was going home. Time to be sensible, and not stubbornly carry on, pretending Im enjoying it. In reality I hated that day, in getting myself into that situation, and having to make that decision. Looking back now, I know I made the right choice. The wisest choice. Oh dear – a grown-up choice.

15.5km today. sore, tired, and wet.

additional pics from the week

Cape Wrath 2008


10 thoughts on “Cape Wrath Trek Day 6

  1. There was a really tough trek in front of you. Perhaps If you had the tent then things may have worked out differently. I reckon you took the right decision.

    Lovely close-up photos.

    • Thanks Duncan, Im pretty sure I would have stuck it out if I had the tent, at least for a couple of days. It really was some of the worst weather I had seen. On the walk back out, I had to cross a small burn – well it was small the previous night – the bridge crossing it (plank of wood) was about a foot or so above the burn then, and in the morning was well below the water. Almost a 2 foot rise in water in a small tributary over the space of a few short hours. The main river was quite a sight to behold though. That had risen by well over a metre overnight, and the power and noise of the water tumbling through and over rocks was really impressive. Just a pity I couldnt get a photo.
      The rain didnt let up once over the following week so I reckon I did indeed take the right decision.

  2. David, I have enjoyed your account of your 6 days on the Cape Wrath trail. Sorry you had to stop. Some fine photography. I am looking to do this at some point, but work and home commitments mean that I will probably do this in sections.

    • Thanks Mark, doing it in sections could be a good call… (never thought that I would say that :)) but after reading the comments on your section hiking post, I feel a new found admiration for section hiking, especially after reading Philip’s first post.

  3. Thanks, David for allowing me to do this walk with you…..from my warm dry study and a large brandy sitting beside me!
    I am glad you saw sense and came home. There really was no point at all in those conditions…and you have nothing to prove! I think you will probably look back on that starry sky photo and dream a little about it.
    I will. It is a beautiful area. Going sailing out west now, so hopefully i too will have more starry memories. The one I have at the moment is of when we sailed back from Ireland to Gigha and found a little tiny cove with only a thousand seabirds and stars for company………

    • Thanks Diane.

      Looking back now, all the bad memories are slowly fading away, leaving the tranquil moments behind them for me to dream about. The starry sky moment was definitely one of them.
      Your sailing memory sounds fantastic also.

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  5. It’s a shame you did not stick it out as the scenery from Oykel bridge onwards is fantastic, although any fool can get wet as they say! If you’re going to try it again I suggest buying a Vango Helium 100 Tent. I did the trail with one in 2009. It’s a fantistic little tent weighing about 1kg, with reasonable storage space it’ll will stand up in a gale, it’s also easy and quick to pitch. I picked one up on ebay for less than £100 a fantastic bargain! Also, I did have a night in a B&B in Ulapool which helped with morale. I hope you do try again as it’s a fantastic achievement – just make sure the ranges around the cape are not closed to civilians as I was forced to press on and complete my treck in 12 days as the ranges were closing on day 13! Good luck if you do try it again.

    • Hi Graeme, I did stick it out a bit further than Oykel Bridge, walked from there up to near the foot of Ben More on day 5 of the trek. 26km.
      I hear what your saying about the tent, but I rarely use one now, unless Im taking the kids out. Much prefer a tarp these days. even for 4 seasons – Lying under the stars, I can see so much more, and be much more aware of whats around me, especially the nocturnal wildlife, which you would never see enclosed in a tent.
      One of the reasons for choosing to do the trek in May was also that the MOD dont use the range during some of April/May due to lambing season.
      I may try again someday, but its not a high priority, I have walked the final leg before – from Sandwood to the Cape, but never say never…

      thanks for the comment.

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