After a harrowing experience of the area in his youth, Chris Carter finally found a window of opportunity to return to Knoydart, earlier this year. With experience, camera skills and the gods of light and weather now on his side, you'll be glad he did. His photostory is a mid-summer reminder of the beauty of the mountains, even without our beloved ice and snow.
In the summer of 2003 a school friend and I planned a trip to hike the Cape Wrath Trail as a way to celebrate completing our GSCEs. Our journey started just south of Knoydart and only one day in we quickly ran in to trouble as torrential rain and wind set in from the west. Despite being only 16, we were experienced enough to push through but what happened next was unexpected, unfortunate and almost disastrous.
After reaching the shores of Loch Quoich, Mark's health took a turn for the worse. With darkness falling and with Mark unable to swallow any food or water, we were faced with the arduous decision of carrying on through the elements to get help at Kinlochhourn, or knuckling down for the night to try and take shelter - with the risk of further deterioration. With no phone signal and all of our gear already wet we opted for the former, and after a momentous effort from Mark through the night we arrived at Kinlochhourn in the early hours of the morning. My Grandparents came to the rescue and picked us up, but unfortunately our Cape Wrath experience was over before it had really begun.
It took me a while to get over what might have been, but I hadn't ever given myself the chance to put things right. A fantastic spell of early summer weather combined with lots of free time meant it finally felt right to go back again. A lot more experienced now, I'd planned an ambitious trip to take in the peninsula's highest Munro and arguably its grandest Corbett in a circular route that also included Luinne Bheinn, Meall Buidhe and Sgurr na Ciche.
I've wild camped in some pretty stunning places in Scotland, but pitching a tent on the summit of Ladhar Bheinn on the first night with the Black Cuillin silhouetted against the skies will live long in the memory. The conditions experienced on this trip didn't ring true to what you would usually expect from Scotland either - bone dry with not a hint of rain in the air made water hard to come by and even resulted in having to melt snow on a few occasions in favour of not losing any height. There was very little wind, with the exception of a few gusts at night and most impressive of all, not a single midge in sight.
Despite the epic campsites and incredible sunsets, the highlight of the trip was without doubt the ascent of Sgurr na Ciche via Druim a' Ghoirtein and especially the traverse around to Ben Aden. With the exception of the Cuillin and a few other parts of the west, there aren't many places that feel as rugged, remote and isolated as this in my eyes, despite not being too far from the likes of Barrisdale or Sourlies geographically.
All in all it was a trip that has elevated my opinion of Scotland higher than it has ever been, and more importantly has made me realise how my reasons for being in the mountains have changed. Whereas it used to be about going as far and as fast as possible, this trip was more about capturing a journey, reminding myself that sometimes there isn't the need for speed or for rushing through things. A reminder that beneath the brutal nature of Scotland that came close to catching us out 15 years ago, lies a unique beauty that is unparalleled.