Corbeteering in Knoydart again.
For the last two days I was back in Knoydart again for some Corbeteering with Jim and Aileen. Corbett's are rightly regarded as being harder than Munro's to complete. Walking up all the Munros is a big task and one that will take you right across the country. But Corbett's are less popular and therefore have fewer paths. They also have a drop on all sides of 500' so there are no easy ridge walks that get you several Corbett's. Beinn an Aodainn lies right in the hart of Knoydart and epitomises everything about a Corbett.
Just getting to the start point along the Kinlochhourn road is a bit of a mission. You then have 12km of the shore of Loch Cuaich to go along, the first half of which has no path. It is of course flat but it is certainly not level. The going is over rough tussocks of grass and heather. The second half is along a track that emerges from the loch. Loch Cuaich is a reservoir flodded in the 1930's I think and there are houses, roads and tracks under the water still. When you see a well made stalkers path or track that ends by entering the loch it is because the path was there well before the loch.
We went with the plan to spend the night at the two dams at the far end of Loch Cuaich. This worked out very well, we found a lovely camping site next to some big boulders for shelter. We were not the first to camp there and we carried out some rubbish left by previous campers. The morning was breezy and cloudy on the tops. We followed the east ridge all the way to the top of Beinn an Aodainn which is brilliant. It is long, interesting and very narrow in places. The rocks are amazing too. Solid, rough gniess in swirly patterns and huge slabs.
Just before we reached the top the clouds broke apart and we got to see the very impressive views from the top. The Saddle and the Forcan Ridge were clear, Rum, Rois Bheinn and countless other hills were set out for us with sunshine and clouds blowing past the biggest peaks. All you could see was rough, wild mountainous landscape with no apparent touch of man at all. Knoydart certainly is one of the last great wild areas in the country.
We came back down snow slopes in the coire on the east side of the peak. There is still serious snow cover on all the summits and the snow today was soft enough to make it very easy and quick to descend. Take care you don't fall through into a stream though. We packed up the tents and walked back around by the loch, looking back on another very fine Corbett and another brilliant experience of wilderness.
It has been a harsh winter and the deer are certainly paying the toll. We saw six deer carcasses of recently dead deer in just a few kilometres along the loch shore. Deer are forest dwelling animals and we cut down the forest a few hundred years ago. Now, the deer stop the forest from growing again by eating the sapling trees as soon as they start to grow. With no natural predators the deer multiply at a greater rate than they would do normally and sometimes there is not enough food or shelter for them in the winter. The remnants of the ancient forest are still there to see. Bleached root bowls of trees are laid out along the shore of the loch and everywhere in the peat of the highlands, a skeletal reminder of a wilderness long since dead. The dead deer and the dead trees made it very clear that the way these estates are managed now is not the best way to do it. There is a tradition of deer stalking in the Highlands and it is a valuable source of income to the estates but there are other options that can bring in a financial return as well as bring back biodiversity, a healthier and wilder state for the landscape to be in. It would be so nice to see the forests back in the Highlands full of deer and a much wider variety of wild animals.
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