Feral goats at Harris Bay
After the day’s endeavours, I had a cracking night’s sleep at the bothy. However, I did have something of a spooky nocturnal experience (there’ll be none of that, thanks). James had delighted in telling me about various ghostly experiences people had reported while staying at Dibidil bothy – three blokes being rotated 160 degrees while they slept, foot-tugging presences and spectral apparitions. That kind of thing. So there I was aslumber, when I was woken by someone standing next to the bunks – I was on the top bunk, James was below and Rich was in the other room. I was a bit groggy with sleep and had the vague impression that it was Rich standing there. The figure reached out and took my hand – I had a clear impression of the contact and then I drifted off to sleep. Rich avers that he never left his bed that night. It could have been a dream, but if so it was a very lucid one. Spookeeeeeey.
Anyway, aside from this phantasmagorical interlude, I woke well rested at 6am and the weather looked ok. I brewed up as quietly as possible, pulled on my boots and headed out the bothy door and back up the glen.
I made good time, reaching the Bealach an Oir in about 45 minutes. The remaining peaks of the Dibidil Horseshoe, those I’d not managed in the murk the previous day, were cloud free. I had an incident-free saunter up Trollaval…
…and was soon atop the east summit looking onto the west summit that had looked so menacing in the murk the previous day.
The view across the Bealach an Fhuarain to Ainshval gave a good insight into the route up from bealach to summit.
Firstly, however, was the small matter of getting down to the bealach on Trollaval’s south ridge. It was difficult to find the vague path down and I ended up sliding myself down a few slippery slabs on my arse. Brrrrr, I was really glad we hadn’t attempted this section in the murk the previous day. Once down, it was a simple matter of turning the buttress rising above the south side of the bealach to the west and following a vague path up to join the east ridge. From here, the path is discernible as it climbs in the lee of the ridge above the Grey Corrie to the summit. I could feel it in my legs, but the path made matters considerably easier than had it not been there.
Once up, I paused briefly to take in the splendid vista before cantering along the whalebacked ridge to down-and-up over the summit of Sgurr nan Goibhrean, then along to the summit of Sgurr nan Gillean.
The views were tremendous, but I didn’t linger long as there was still a big walk to come in the afternoon. I descended initially south from the summit to avoid the crags on Sgurr nan Gillean’s east ridge. Swinging east after a while, I continued a traversing descent into Glen Dibidil. From on high I could see Rich and James outside the bothy and a little later I saw James loaded up and heading off along the pony path to Papadil.
I was soon back at the bothy, where I caught up with Rich who denied having held my hand in the night. I packed, had a brew and some food and half an hour later we were off on the trail of James. It was hard going along the serpentine path laden with a heavy pack, especially after springing around packless on the Cuillin ridge. Rich was ahead of me and suddenly he disappeared as if vapourised by a Martian death-ray. Happily, his vanishing act was temporary and terrestrial in nature – he’d lost the vague path and wandered off into the convoluted terrain before spotting a cunningly-sited cairn, which put him back on track. This was something of a relief as once he’d been swallowed up by the wild and rugged landscape, it could have taken an age before we found each other again.
Gladly reunited, we stuck adhesively to the path and were soon descending towards Loch Papadil. Here we found James, skulking behind the small area of mixed woodland growing around the ruins of Papadil Lodge.
James had made the walk over from Dibidil without too much trouble from his knee and felt ok to continue, so after a short break we hoisted our sacks and climbed away from the beautiful loch once more.
The terrain between Papadil and Harris is fairly rough, steep and largely pathless, but by carefully picking a route through the complicated terrain we made good progress without too much trouble. Myself and Rich cantered along, while James kept up his own steady pace.
We’d climbed to about 250m along the seaward flank of Ruinsival and just where the mountain drops its shoulder to reveal the broad sweep of Harris Bay, we arrived at a large cairn which – we discovered – marked the start of a distinct track that gradually descended around the NW flank of Ruinsival before skirting to the rear of the bay. This made life much easier, but after a while we decided to abandon the comfort of the path to take a more direct line towards the shore.
This made for a tussocky descent and is not recommended for those carrying a knee injury. Happily, James elected to stay with the path as he was in no particular rush. Myself and Rich crossed the Abhainn Fiachanais and the Abhainn Rangail without problems and picked our way along the shore, delighted to see that there was an enormous amount of driftwood washed up. We arrived at a beach just by the outflow of the Glen Duian River where we pitched our tents by a very welcoming expanse of level grassy ground demarcated by a collapsed low wall.
James soon rolled up and we set about gathering some firewood. A small herd of perhaps twenty feral goats, including a few of this winter’s kids, were hanging out on the beach eating kelp; they seemed largely unbothered by our presence, so the vague aroma of fromage du chevre hung around our campsite for the rest of the evening. We soon got a fire going and sat for a long while reflecting on the day’s endeavours and hatching plots to tackle the following day. It had been a grand day – what would the morning bring?
For a vastly superior account of the second half of this day’s walk, read James’ masterful account here.