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Sunday, 16 November 2014

Suilven

Suilven is one of the classic Scottish hills. At 731 m it is a Graham so not a Munro or a Corbett. As winter climbing was off the agenda due to the mild November weather, Abdalla and I drove the 3 h to the North West. I decided to do Suilven as a trail run from the East (see route). The best walking route is probably from Canisp lodge near Lochinver. But we chose to go in from the East because I rather run more and drive less. My GPS route is shown below. 
Previously I had seen Suilven from many angles and because of its unique shape it was a hill I always wanted to do. Here I saw Suilven whilst kayaking with Giulio and the other Tayside sea kayakers...
 ... and here from Stac Pollaidh whilst walking with Ana. 
 The route from the East was bog central especially after the recent rain falls. Also the paths are faint or do not exist and so the going is slow.  As a consequence I gave up on the idea of also doing Canisp, shown here to the North. 
 I approached via the long Eastern ridge. After the first top there is a large drop but a small Cairn on the Northern side marks a scrambling descent to the bealach (on the left in the photo). This is not straight forward, exposed scrambling. It is like the Aonach Eagach but with more exposure. 
 Here the Eastern top from higher up. I started the run at the end of the loch seen in the distance. 
 Whilst much of the lower ridge was in the clag the ridge itself was cloud free. And then one of those special Scottish vistas: the summit of Suilven with the Atlantic in the distance. I could see the isle of Lewis out in the ocean. 
 Here another photo of the top...
... and here is one taken with my iPhone. 
 Here the view back to the ridge...
 ... and here a self timed shot with me running. 
 It was a long slog back to the loch. But luckily the wind stopped and warm late autumn sunlight was lighting the glen. 
 I was a little worried about Abdalla who was for the first time walking in the Highlands proper. He had a map, compass, binoculars and I had asked him to play it safe and to stay close to Cam Loch. I was glad when I saw him  on a small hillock near the car with a smile on his face. 
 It was 5 degrees but we nontheless grilled three lamb chops which went down well.  
A long drive home but we both got our fix after too many dark and wet November days in Aberdeen.

HW

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Journey to the Bell Rock lighthouse

The Bell Rock lighthouse is an iconic feature of the North sea coast of Scotland. It marks a piece of sandstone which had cost the lives of thousands of seamen 18 km offshore. From 1807 to 1810 Robert Stevenson and 60 men erected the lighthouse using Aberdeen granite. Here is a BBC video report: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12330017 and here is an article about its construction:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/empire_seapower/bell_rock_01.shtml. 
The coordinates are 56° 26.065'N 002° 23.230'W or grid reference: NO762269.

Since moving to Scotland I saw the lighthouse from the coast and always wanted to see it up close. Unfortunately I was unable to join an earlier kayak trip but when Joan mentioned a second trip this year from Kingsbarns, which is 21 km away, I was very keen. We were nervous about the fog but Tim and Mike are experienced sea navigators and they were joined by Joan, Ian, Robbie and myself. Here we are about to launch.
 Conditions were exceptionally calm but the mist persisted. 
 Here the A team is checking our navigation.
 After 2 h 30 min we heard a diesel engine of a large ship and sounds which were generated by the fog horn of the lighthouse. Here is Robbie approaching the ship which is moored near the Bell Rock. 
 Finally the Bell Rock lighthouse emerged from the mist and at the same time a helicopter flew above. 
 We reached the Bell rock after 3 h and 5 min and the water was still flats. There were many seals for which the Bell rock is an ideal habitat. 
 Here are two of them. 
 We had lunch and were chatting with the lighthouse keepers while they were waiting for the helicopter. Here is the helicopter from the Northern lighthouse board.
 On the way back the sun came out at times.
 Here is Ian, far away from land but in the sun. 
Later it became windier, the fog returned and it was difficult to follow a bearing due to waves that came nearly at a 90 degree angle. Here is our return route. We saw land about 3 km North of Kingsbarns.
Here we arrive. We had paddled over 46 km. 
HW

Skye, Tay dolphins, Abroath

Finally another blog entry after a summer with much sea kayaking, hill running, cycling but less climbing. During the 19-20th of July Karin organised a trip to Skye, paddling to the Black Cuillin on the first day and then around Soay, a small island to the South of Skye, on the second day. The starting point is this stunning beach in Elgol.
 I had brought my fishing gear and BBQ as we were grilling in the evening. Soon I had two mackerel and a large pollack. Here are Karin and Gordon on their way...
 We transported our kayaks to paddle in Loch Coruisk, a loch which I had seen several years earlier whilst doing the Black Cuillin traverse. 
 On our return the tide was out and so we had to do a sliding return into the water.
 The evening was wet but I BBQ'd the mackerel and pollack together with lemon, salt & garlic. A very hungry school party ate the rest in no time. The next morning we paddled over to Soay and around it...
 ... to have lunch on the other side. 
 A week or two later we had planned an easy paddle on the Tay but the dolphins were out. So we tried to get close.
 Here is one of them, less than a kilometre away from our front door in Broughty Ferry. 
 In August Paul and I went to Arbroath for a kayak fishing trip. Paul had also bought a creel in order to catch some lobster. We managed to launch and position the creel without any incident although it was a bit of a precarious affair. 
 Clouds came and went but we only had a few drops of rain. Here is Paul paddling near Auchmithie...
 ... and here we are leaving Auchmithie bay. We soon caught a few mackerel for dinner. 
 On our way back we collected the creel and despite 0.5% expectation there was a lobster in there. Here is Paul paddling home with his prey. 
What a great country to live in for active people. I hope we chose the right future for this great nation in a few days time...
HW

Monday, 26 May 2014

Loch Sween & Sound of Jura

May in Scotland is the month for being outdoors. And that's what Ana and I do. Last weekend we met with Gerrardo, Gordon and Robbie in Tayvallich which is a small village in Kintyre, a peninsula to the West of Glasgow. After endless single track roads we met in the Tayvallich Inn for a pint and for Ana, who had organised the trip, outlined the plan. After a night on the campsite only disturbed by certain characters giving a speech to the nation at 1 am and again at 4.30 am, we launched our kayaks from Tayvallich bay. Here are Gordon, Ana and Gerrardo. 
 We first paddled North to explore the vegetated upper arms of the loch. It is a beautiful forrested area with much wildlife. We saw geese and an osprey. 
 We then paddled southwards...
 ... to reach Castle Sween after 16 km which overlooks the loch. 
 Here is Robbie launching again after our lunch break. 
 We decided to visit the McCormaig Isles southwest of Loch Sween. 
 As there are strong tidal currents in the area we paddled to the Island of Danna first, which is close to the mainland, and then crossed from there first to Corr Eilean. 
 The currents were strong but we were a good team and so had no problems. Here is Robbie with a sailing boat ahead and the Isle of Jura in the distance. 
On the way from Corr Eilean to Eilean Mor, the largest island, I caught a pretty decent pollack for tea. We reached the sheltered bay of Eilean Mor. 
 There are some wild animals on the island.
 McCormaig was an Irish monk who lived on the Island. Here is the ruin of a chapel...
 ... and here are Ana and I with a replica cross as the original had eroded away. 
 We then went back to the Eastern shore of Loch Sween...
 ... to find a campsite after more than 26 km of paddling. You can carry a lot of food & drinks on a sea kayak and so dinner was opulent. I tried to grill the haddock but there very little was not burnt or raw but Gerrardo recommended boiling it in sea water and that worked very well. Also Robbie brought a bottle of Jura whisky and with the Isle of Jura in sight we drank nearly all of it. 
 A proper camp needs a fire. Here is Gordon starting it whilst I manage the process. As a note for all fashion victims, the headgear is a combination of a pom pom hat with a mosquito net and I wear croqs from TK max. 
 We started the fire perhaps a little too early...
 ... because we watched the evening skies and the sun setting on the Isle of Jura. 
 Early in the morning it started to rain and breakfast was miserable. However, the clouds went for our launch.
 The martimime forcast stated strong winds so we were unsure whether to return up Loch Sween or through the Sound of Jura. We decided to have a look. Here is Ana...
 ... and here is Robbie with two geese above him..
 The initially force 3-4 winds dropped and we entered the Sound of Jura. 
 It turned out to be easy paddling under initially gorgeous skies. Here is Ana...
and here is the team going North...
 ... and North.
 I was trying to fish again but to no avail this time.
 After passing a few more islands we reached Carsaig bay after 18 km on day 2 and so 46 km in two days. Just a 2 km walk over to Tayvallich to fetch our cars for the return journey.
A fantastic trip, one of the best so far!
HW