View Full Version : Geocaching in Knoydart

7th February 2013, 02:07 PM
This is one of my favourites from my scottish holidays in December 2012/January 2013. Have to wait a year to do the second attempt to claim two caches in Knoydart.

Be warned, both caches has a T ranking of 4.5, just because it is a long walk to get there! :ohmy:

After camping on Rum&Canna in June for a few days (https://www.gagb.org.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=4972), I did a walk on Skye in September.
In bad weather from Kilmarie Car park to Loch Coruisk, with one night in Camasunary bothy (my first night ever in a bothy) and one stormy night next to the Memorial Hut in my tent before a walk back to the car park.

I really enjoyed this experience, I decided to search for two Geocaches near Sourlies at the end of the year which means to walk in to Sourlies from Inverie on one day and after a night at the end of Loch Nevis return to Inverie where I stayed in the bunkhouse.
Before I started the walk, Ness (a friend, hillwaker, but not geocacher) helped me to sort out some clothing and we reduced it to 2 pairs of spare socks, socks for sleeping, sleeping clothes and fleece. Because of the possibility that the bothy is occupied the tent was also in the backpack and naturally all the necessary things for cooking, hygiene and for the evening (EBook-reader, notebook, pen), 450ml thermo flask with hot tea and 1,5l bottle with apple juice. Also the GPS device and a photocamera.

I had no idea about how long it will takes from Knoydart Foundation Bunkhouse to Sourlies Bothy, only that it should be possible before sunset, because a year ago a party of us had planned to go in with a boat to Sourlies and walk back. This trip was cancelled due to adverse weather.

I started about 9.30, alone. Ness want to follow me a few minutes later to accompany me for a few miles before heading back to the bunkhouse. Without a buddy I took the first turn up the hill, but after a few metres and a look at the map I recognized that I was wrong. The next turn was the right one. Up this little slope I got the first problems with my bronchia (asthma). What the hell? Sad to say, but I think this is because of all the mould in the sleeping rooms at the bunkhouse.
When reaching the only gate on the track a car stopped behind me. Just in time, no need for the driver to leave his car. I opened the gate for us and then I closed it after passing.
First "wildlife" sighting after a few hundred metres. A highland cattle in the middle of the track. I have no problems with them, but Ness does. A few metres behind I saw two stags very close to the path. They watched me, how I walk along in mist and upcoming rain.


After a few minutes it was only a question of time until I will be soaked. But I didn't care about my feet, they were safe and warm in Smartwool socks and wellies.
Yes, wellies! After my "long" walk in September I know that I can walk a long distance without any problems in wellies. So I left my usual walking boots in Mallaig and took only the wellies and light walking shoes to Inverie.

Passing the monument hill I turn left at the remains of the cairn and enter the path to Sourlies. Before the bridge was a large puddle with mud on both sides. With wellies on I walked straight through the puddle. Within an hour I reached Druim bothy. Wow, 5km in less then an hour. So far no sign of Ness. The further path is not suitable for quads any longer and was also a burn, very glad about my wellies now.


This was a first impression, I didn't know what to expect over the next few miles. But first up a little hill, down and over a bridge without railing. After a few hundred metres the uphill part started, the bealach and Ness were still out of sight. Later Ness told me, that she could not see me when she was near the bridge, despite the fact
that I had a bright blue rain cover over the big pack. So I must have walked really fast.
Crossing the bridge, the first metres the path is flat and the ascent start very soft. The way was muddy, puddles, no burn to follow. But I have to cross a burn which run very fast crossing the path. And then I saw the bealach. I have to walk up all this way? Gosh! Ok, according the map I have to manage nearly 550m ascent but to see where the path run is different to just looking on the map. Especially when you walk in the rain of late December, the tops of the hills around covered in low clouds and when the path is a muddy burn. Where the clouds are not so low the snow was visible, even on the bealach. Nice, but it was my decision to do this hike.

Look back to Inverie was a nice view with a little bit of sunshine on Loch Nevis. No rain behind me.


Time for a short break to check the conditions of my clothing and to fix the rain trousers (a little bit too big). Because of walking with poles the rain ran into the sleeves. Shoulders were also wet, but the belly was dry. The trousers felt damp, but not wet. After this check I was glad about the walking poles. Another burn cross the path. To the right was the steep slope, to the left, the hill. The burn was too wide to jump with a
backpack. It also looks too deep for wading.


A metre up the hill the ground was visible under the water surface and something which I could use as a stepping stone. Using the poles as stilts and a big step I could cross, but at least one foot in the burn. No problem with the wellies. After crossing the burn the good path ended.
The track was now furrowed and water runs down the hill. But it was easier to walk in the ditches with the running water, because the ground there was rocky or sandy, not muddy and slippery like the soil next to the ditches.
Slow but steady I walked uphill always with the bealach in sight, but the bealach didnít get closer. It felt that I was as slow as a snail. Not exhausted, not tired, just slow. This was depressing. In the meantime I was soaked and with the altitude the wind getting cold and colder, the way wasn't an easy walk and the bealach seems further away then ever.

The rain stopped but then the hail started. Think positive: It was soft hail, snow pellets, no rain and the wind was from behind, so a free view. Eventually I was nearly at the bealach. A last gaze down to Inverie and then forward. Or not. An ice and strong wind hit me and no shelter. Pulled the head in a little more, buff and cap lower to the forehead and go. Passing the cairn and a few metres down the wind softened and after about 3 hours a first view to the glen and River Carnach. I didn't take a look to the GPS so no idea how good this time was or about the distance I walked.

I couldn't see the tops of the hill because of low clouds. Good view down to the glen, the descent is much shorter then the way so far. Not like on the map, the serpentines began short after the bealach.


On this side the path was much better because not muddy. I was so glad about the wellies now. On the other side I had several times to choose where to walk but on this side you have to walk in the water which ran down the slope. In some turns the water took a shortcut and the path was dry for a few meter and then you entered
the burn again. From time to time I balanced on an edge, because the water was too deep or the steps too
high. Also I unlocked blockade when stepped on dry grass. The water was then dirty and I had to wait until it was clear again so that I can see the ground and where I walk.

The cache of the day was the one at the Carnach pools (http://coord.info/GC28R3C), but I was soaked and even of the movement I freeze. Still 2km direct to the geocache in Sourlies (http://coord.info/GC28R2N) and Carnach pools (http://coord.info/GC28R3C). But why was one direction "E" and the other "S". Carnoch was in front of me (350m below), how it can be that both caches has then the same distance from my point? Where are the Carnach pools then? Ok, no Carnach pools today. But first down into the glen. The weather improved, rain has stopped several minutes ago. The wind was kindly, almost warm and my clothes begun to dry. But for how long I can kept this state. There was a risk to get soaked again, but not because of rain. I stood on the bank of a burn in spate.
Definitely too far for a jump, regardless of the backpack. It was difficult to estimate how deep the water was, high current and both sides of the burn were muddy. No other chance then to use the stones which were covered with water and hoping that theyíre not slippy. They weren't slippy but the first stone was wobbly. This I recognized not before I had my whole weight on the leg which balanced on the stone. The next stone was
a very small one. With support by the walking poles I managed the crossing without a bath.


Time for lunch: a wee cup of tea and a cereal bar. 2 kilometers left to Sourlies. I checked the GPS, time to sunset, all clothes are dried and there is a rover track along the river. Contra my decision 350 metres higher I turned left when reaching the river and not right to the bridge.
A few meters on the rover track and another river crossed the way. No bridge, no stepping stones, to difficulty to estimate how deep the water is. Doesn't matter. I have to cross the river, today or tomorrow when I want to find the geocache. I left the track and look for something similar to a ford, the one where the track crossed seems too deep even for the wellies.
All was fine until the last step before leaving the water. Suddenly I felt water in my left boot, because the trouser was in the wellies and so it was tight the boot was not full with water. After the crossing no need to pull off the wellies.
The rover track degraded. More bumps, mud, bog holes, puddles, little burns to cross. But the most time old tyre marks were visible. Why a car drive along here? It wasn't a comfortable walk, the meters on the GPS which give the distance decrease so slow. Then I was near the geocache hide and with the backpack I climb down to the bank and search for a little plastic box in a camouflage bag. I looked here, there and everywhere.
The arrow jump here, there and everywhere. 2m, 3m, 5m, 2m, 8m. WHERE IS THIS F...BOX?
Climb up again, go to the other side of the rock. This time I left my rucksack but also the GPS at the top of the steep bank. It was easier. But still no success. I was nearly the point to give up and climb up when I saw the camouflage bag. 2miles detour just to sign a small log sheet. Silly.

close to GZ

7th February 2013, 02:08 PM
2km to the bridge and about 2km from there to the bothy. At least one hour walk for optimistic people.
The way back to the river was easier then the way half an hour ago. Don't know why. Maybe because I found the cache and the joy about it. Reaching the ford it seems much less of water runs there.


So I crossed the river now next to the track. Without water break in water in the wellies. Further long the track round the corner and I stood in front of the notorious plank bridge.
When you donít want to pull off your shoes and trousers then you must use this bridge. A kind of dare. But I wasn't excited. No? Really, I was calm. It was astonishing. A small plank rope bridge, rusty railings, at least one plank missing. And no panic? What happened to me in the last year?


I took the obligatory photos, then the trekking poles in the right hand, both hands on the railing and step by step, plank by plank (when exist) I walk over the bridge. After a few steps I have to lift the left hand because the wire was too deep. Each step I watch my steps to check the next plank, two planks I didn't use because of its
damage. Arrived on the other end of the bridge, the river wasn't complete traversed. There is a branch, on the other side of it the track cables are fixed, but no planks. The river was not in spate so I climbed down the podest, walked through the branch and up the bank.

Now the "moor" was in front of me. In the map a track is marked, but I was warned that no real track exist, I have to find my own way. With the little hill at the shore a landmark for bearing was there, why not walk crosscountry? With the trekking poles I could check for bog holes. But it was not only bog on the way, but also lots of puddles. This wasn't funny and it took so much time. I start with to do a higher risk. There was a reason to wear wellies, I can cross also puddles which are deep like my ankles.

Deep like ankles, ANKLES! My knee is obviously higher than my ankles.
I was stuck with my right leg even after the check for bog holes. The left wellies was under water until the ankle. My stand was very wobbly and then I fell on my bum and sat in the middle of a puddle. Just because of the big rucksack I'm not laying on my back like a big blue/green/black bug.
It felt like a minute, but within seconds I stood up again, because I pulled on my trekking poles and leant then on them. The trekking poles weren't drowned. It would not be a problem to free the foot, but I would prefer to keep my wellies. It took time, power, patience and sense to release myself.
Two steps back and I was safe, now with two wet feet. I was surprised, it seems that this time my waterproof trousers was really waterproof. The bum of my trekking trousers underneath was dry.
Maybe I should try to find this dubios path on the map. So bearing to the river and the shore. Sounds easy but wasn't. Again there was huge puddles with the moors under surface water. The same kind where I got stuck several minutes ago. And suddenly I was on a path heading to Sourlies. Sometimes it disappeared closed to puddles and appeared meters later, visible in the high grass. When the path disappeared and not appeared again I had reached the fen. Now I know what the blue line on the map means.


The fen was small grassy islands, separated by channels, some of them filled with waters, in some of them I saw kelp. So the level of channels depend on the tides. The tide comes in, it was short since the tide changed so the water wasn't deep. When the channels were narrowed then I jump from one island to the next one. Was the channel wider then I waded splashing trough. This was funny, much better then the bog. Two small rivers running through the fen, but no problem to cross them and climb down and up the small banks.
The detour to the Carnach pools and the bog needed too much time, tide was in and it was not possible to reach Sourlies on the beach. So a last effort up the little hill and using all 4 extremities and the bum downhill to the rocky beach which was still not covered by the sea.

Not far anymore I was dampened. I saw two people on the beach a few hundred metres away, it seems I have to pitch the tent. First I have to managed the walk over the slippy stones and avoiding the kelp which
covered more slippy rocks.
Both figures has reached a wee stone hut and process a big branch. One moment, I was warned, but ... "Is THIS Sourlies bothy?". "Yes, it is." Gosh, when you know only Camasunary and Guirdil Bothy then this is a shock. I also know the Coruisk memorial hut, but this is not an open bothy.
At this moment a third bloke came out of the bothy. Inner I prepared to pitch the tent, but I risk to ask whether there is space left for a fourth person. "No problem". So I entered the bothy, switch the light of my head torch on and looked around.
On the left hand there was a sleeping platform, 2 benches on the wall opposite the door, on the right wall a fire place and right hand a huge table where the other blokes stored their luggage.
I deposited my rucksack on a folding chair, next to the fire place. Pulled off the waterproof trousers and hung them over the clothesline. Several of them and plenty of hooks were provided.
Then off with the wet socks and with a cloth I dry up the wellies in the inner and put on one pair of the spare socks. Strange, in the bothy it was so cold, that my damp trousers steamed in the beam of the head torch.

For the 20kilometers including the detour to the Carnach pools I needed 5hours and 20min walk additional 1hour 8minutes without movement for the GPS (taking photos, reading the map, search for the cache also.).
I was hungry, time for cooking. I carried my rucksack to the table, where one of the blokes cleared a little space for me and took out my kitchen stuff and set it up on the bench near the fire place. Mmh, first I need some water, but I hadn't the platypus bottle with me, the thermos flask was still nearly full and I didn't open the apple juice. I had to down the tea, this warm me up and I had something to carry fresh water. Also to swallow a paracetamol pill. One is not much for the pain which started in the back, but I had no other medicine.

Where can I find water? Out of the bothy, left, follow the path and there is a small burn. A very small one. Not much more then the ones I had to follow down the way into the glen. But my thermo flask was small enough. To small, less then half a liter, I needed 500ml for my noodles so I also brought my Berghaferl with me. Just in the moment I reached the bothy again, a downpour started attended with hail.
I cooked my noodles and the three blokes (Tom, Thommie and Ayden) had several attempts to start the fire. But in the end they gave up. All the smoke goes into the bothy and not through the chimney, without fan the fire goes down. No chance to warm up the bothy a little bit. It was freezing cold. During my dinner I cuddle with the pan to keep warm. Time to make the bed. The groundsheet on the bench, then NeoAir, sleeping bag with my
comfy air pillow.
NeoAir 60cm wide, bench about 65cm and knee height. Warmer than sleeping on the floor. The platform was occupied by the three men. Nobody trusted the hammock over the wooden platform, it was impossible to climb in and out, especially when people were laying below it.
It was early in the evening, but dark in the hut. It was cold and the comfiest place was in the sleeping bag. I must have fallen asleep for a while, but awake because I had a need.
So I sat up on the bench, put the wellies on and stand up .... OUCH, such a pain.
Something was blocked in my lower back and it was complicated to stand up. I feared the pain before I went to bed, but I expected the usual muscle pain, not this concentrated pain. My awkward movements during the attempt to reach the door were unremarkable for the others. So they offered me Ibuprofen. But I refused because I didn't want to mix two painkillers. After some steps it got better, only a crunchy feeling in the back when I lifted my right knee. Please NO, please not the same problem which I had in summer, when a
big joint in the back was blocked for weeks until I went to the doctor for help. I hoped that this time it was only tensed up muscles and that Paracetamol and sleep will help.

Because of the clouds it was complete dark even of full moon. But the rain had stopped. Must be lot of rain in the last about 2 hours. Hardly a dry place on the grass, go for the loo with crocs would be very cold and wet. I had my wellies. But where is space for me away from the water and the bothy? I could choose between thorns and dried bracken. In summer a difficult choice between scratches and ticks. In winter it is easy.
Ehm, where is the bothy? When I left I watched for puddles, burns and thorns and not the direction. The beam of my head torch wasn't far. So I listened in the still air where the little waterfall was and the sea and found then the burn and the path to the bothy.
Another reason to reach a shelter during daylight, then you know the area.
When I returned the blokes cooked they second dinner after roll with bacon, now noodles with cheese, brussel sprouts and a dessert. I was still stuff from my dinner and had to refused a taste.
Still too early for the night sleep, but with no fire the only warm place was again in the sleeping bag. I tried to read a little bit with my EBook-Reader, this needed no extra light from the torch. I was tired, not my legs, but my mind. The cold and the wetness need too much power, after a few pages I put the book and my glasses away and went to sleep. It wasn't easy to find a comfy position: narrow bench, back pain and the cold. In this night I
rolled over very often, not really awake but enough to secure that I'm not falling down the bench.

When I looked the x-time on my mobile (I had it with me as alarm-clock) I decided that 7am is a good time to leave the bed and check for the weather. In rain jacket, underneath still the sleeping clothes and wellies I go out into the fresh air.

standing at GZ

Oh, snow. Snow on the tops and the slopes of the hills around and on the grass around the bothy it was a mix of hail and snow. Not much and already begun to thaw. White covered the area looks so different then at the evening before. But it wasn't cold, no wind. Put on the trekking clothes and prepare the breakfast:
Chocolate porridge. I love chocolate, so I took also 2 spoons cocoa powder to the dehydrated milk, porridge and sugar. Easy to cook and the best start for a cold day. Before I left to heading back to Inverie I searched (and found) the geocache near the bothy.
Mission complete!
The three others would follow 1 or 2 hours later, closer to the low tide. When I reached the rocky beach it was almost covered by the sea, so I had to boulder. Lucky, the back pain has gone overnight. Beside this I had the big backpack, compact trekking poles in one hand and waterproof trouser which was at least 2 sizes to big, so I was glad about that I'm sure-footed, for my height long legs and grippy wellies. I didn't want to use the "short-cut" over the hill but want to keep close to the shore. After the boulders I have to scramble following a sheep path. Not really a path, it were the traces from sheep according the poo here and there. I have to cast the poles up hill and climb then. Nice morning exercise with the backpack and a trousers which slide every few
meters down. Wet rocks and wet, shriveled grass aren't grippy and some spures not wider then a foot.
Probably the shortcut would be the more easier way, but too late. Eventually I managed my route and followed the sheep path to the marshland.

This time no jumping from one grassy island to another, just careful steps into the water and out again. No risk to block the back joint again. When at the begin of the bog I followed the river bank, there was a path the most time. The path end about 100m before the bridge. Big puddle, bog, a little pond. I managed to get to the bridge with dry feet. One hour has past since I left the bothy.
The first burn, the one with the wobbling stone, was fast passed. Much less of water in it and I could choice other stones to cross. These stone wasn't visible the day before.
In these burn was less of water, but on the obviously path was more water. I balanced very often of the edge beside the path, not because of the water, but in the gully path was ice, the hail and snow from the night. So I can not see where I stepped.


Several meters up the path to the bealach I took a look back and saw 3 figures at the begin of the marshland. I will see when they overtake me.
With each meter in height less of water running down the hill but now more ice was on the path and finally a solid blanket of snow. The path was still visible, because the snow was deep on the path because of the
wind, on the side of the path contours and grass was remarkable. Suddenly I wasn't sure, I thought I missed a turn and the path. I was on the way to the bealach so there was only one direction: uphill.
A few meters further I could be sure that I was still on the path and the first serpentine was in front of me. I didn't lose the path, it was only very well covered by the snow and because it was without a ditch at this part it was not obviously where the way is.
Good for the blokes whom followed me, they don't the way but they have only to follow my traces in the snow. The way uphill was hard in its conditions: hard to find, rough, slippery mud hide under the snow. But it was not so frustrating like the way up to the bealach fromInverie.


Shortly before the bealach, when I looked back I saw the group of three several metres below. With my speed and their speed they will overtake me near the bealach. I had to slow down then, the wind up there was high, several times I had to stop and lean on my poles to keep the balance in higher gales. The wind was icy and I felt sad that I left my thick gloves in the bunkhouse.
It was harder on the bealach and much harder when the hail came. The hood was pulled far down, the collar pulled closed, only a slot was left but the hail still hit me and was painful in my face and also the not protected hands.
I turn my back into the wind, waited, took a breather and thought about the options. Wait in this position like a pony on the meadow until the hail end (it was still painful) or walk further down the hill, hoping that in lower levels it is warmer, no hail and no wind. The path is bad for the next few hundred metres and I could see only a few metres in front. But it was so icy, so I turn into the wind and hail and walked down.

Several times I slipped on the wet ground or stepped in a little bog hole. After a few minutes it was over. Where are the guys? They should be behind me after my stops. But nobody was on the bealach.


The way down gave me a push and like a pony on its way to its barn I speeded up. Like on the other side of the bealach the burns wasn't no longer in spate. The way down into the glen was long. Today no rain accompanied me so I could look around and need less of concentration maybe this was the reason why it seems much longer.
Then there was the bridge over the river, up and down the hill, crossing puddles and I stood in front of Druim bothy. The end of the hike was only one hour away. Just over the second wooden bridge, through the mud behind it, 100m to the rover track, passing the hill with the monument on top, gently uphill trough the forrest and .... Why is the next forrest up there? The way goes trough this forrest! Since when is there an ascent?

NO, I DON'T WANT DO THIS! The pony stumbled into a mental low which extended to the physical condition. As if that hadn't been enough the drizzle begun. I was so tired. Beside a few stops to take some snapshots and catching my breath on the bealach I walked all the way without a break. Time for a cereal bar, load some energy. Maybe the sugar will brighten up my mood.
Chewing, I pushed me the last metre in height and I could speed up when it was flat and downhill to the gate. A last time I need some power to open and close the gate. Take care down the road because of the loose stone, left on the crossing, over the bridge, left, passing the ponies, right, along the wall at Knoydart Lodge and in the open corridor from the bunkhouse. FINISH!

In Inverie is (at the moment) only one active cache (http://coord.info/GC2PJZG), hopefully the second cache (http://coord.info/GC1PY3G)there is re-activated at Easter.

Who want not do to such a long hike or boat trip to Inverie / Sourlies, there are several caches (and small series) starting at the A87 and then heading to Kinlochhourn where the road ends and then just up to 2 miles along the shore of Loch Hourn. A worthwhile walk.

Thanks to Jeff and Allieballie for proofreading :applause:
@Jeff: I'm NOT a whale :lol:

7th February 2013, 03:45 PM
Sounds like an epic journey and stunning scenery :)

Simply Paul
21st March 2013, 02:06 PM
Excellent story! I held an event at The Old Forge is June 2011 and did the two local caches there (hoping to place a fresh one with the pub's help this summer) and enjoyed my visit to this stunning area so much I'm going back to follow in your footsteps with two events this June:

Friday 14th - Now^here (A'Chuil Bothy north of Glenfinnan) (http://coord.info/GC3TPTB) and Saturday 15th - Another Meet at The Old Forge (Inverie, Knoydart) (http://coord.info/GC47YP4). The last time I was on Knoydart it was as a 2 day visitor using a boat. This time I plan to park at Mallaig, take the train, walk in from Glenfinnan (with a Bothy overnight stop), pick up two remote caches I failed to reach in time in 2011, evening event at The Old Forge (rather than the lunch event last time) and the boat to Mallaig the following day, having camped on Long Beach. Should be a lot of fun.

I hope some other cachers will feel brave and join me :)

21st March 2013, 02:54 PM
Hello Paul

And again an event from you which I can't attend. I'm not in Scotland before begin of August. So I miss also the chance to enter the InPin :(.

Simply Paul
23rd March 2013, 11:06 AM
I know my usual June dates don't suit everyone... Sorry :(
The good news is the InPinn will still be there. Have you considered holding your own events at 'interesting, odd places'? Taking other cachers to remarkable places - either by placing caches there or holding events - is one of my favourite things about the game.