2013 | foot | cape wrath trail
I had heard of the Cape Wrath Trail before; in the summer of 2013 the idea of walking it took hold and would not let go. Time was not a concern for once, and planning began.
The ambition was laudable and good: not having hiked for longer than a day in decades, to tackle “Britain’s toughest trail”—230 miles of wilderness—straight off.
The reality was that I am considerably older than when I last hiked for days, and the trail is not to be underestimated. Still, I am thoroughly enjoying it even if I am tackling it in more attempts than I had anticipated. Here my account.
I originally planned to follow the route as laid out in the recently published guidebook fairly closely, for no other reason than this is pretty much what I would have chosen anyway. I have passed through much of this area before, either on my trike trip or by landy, or in the hill-walking days of my youth, and I have pored over the maps for many happy hours, so I am familiar with most stages of the route.
Not wishing to push myself into completing this in a rush, and very aware that the opportunity—the luxury—of being able to take my time like this is rare, I have opted for what I hope will be a reasonably leisurely approach, allowing plenty of time for photographs, to enjoy the landscape, and for obstacles like river crossings.
As the days will be shortening I realised that the moon might—weather permitting—be important, as indeed is the case from the 17th for several days.
I’ve been obsessing about packing for some weeks now. I do not claim to be an ultralightweight backpacker, content with tarp, bubble-wrap sleeping pad and bivvy-bag, however I do baulk at the thought of carrying unnecessarily heavy things around. I have therefore gone through what I have and augmented or replaced selectively, seeking a good balance between weight and robustness. The hike will take me far from resupply, to rough and remote areas, and as a result I do not wish to risk anything flimsy which might let me down at a crucial moment; likewise I am not hardy enough to sleep on rough ground with minimal isolation.
My final pack list follows. This is how I shall set out, with supplies for six full days, covering the first nine days of the hike (a couple of nights will be in hotels or bunkhouses—see separate itinerary). I’m planning to augment with snacks for lunches from some of the accommodations I’ll be passing.
21 kg seems like an awful lot... but then 6 kg of that is food, it includes 750 g of water and also about 400 g of meths fuel. The really heavyweight items are probably the tent, sleeping mat and the backpack itself, but I specifically like each of those items. The pack will become steadily lighter of course, until I re-stock at Kinlochewe, back to six ration packs.
My other luxury is my iPod, which I have pre-loaded with audiobooks, principally The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, which between them should provide some 54 hours of listening. The iPod Classic should have 36 hours of battery life, but to avoid the bitter disappointment of a dead battery at an unwelcome moment I shall take a small power pack with me to recharge in the field. The other electronics are my Sonim tough-phone (huge battery life) and Garmin GPS: the GPS will only be switched on if necessary to pinpoint where I am—ideally I shall never use it—and I’ll use the phone very sparingly, sending grid-references every hour or so to my partner, as well as texting. I shall leave my iPhone behind, as it would be a deadweight after the first day...