Skye Sea Kayak Symposium

This last week Summer has seemed on the wane in Glencoe.  Last Monday I was up a ladder, shirtless, painting our house in warm sunshine, but days since have been grey and with days shortening and nights drawing in there is a hint of Autumn in the air.

It’s been a great Summer, lot’s happening and some adventures to blog about over coming months ; if I ever manage to find time with on-going DIY…  …So wind the clock back to the end of May when Stuart and I headed West for 3 days paddling at the 10th Skye Sea Kayak Symposium.

I’d been looking forward to this for some considerable time. I think it’s the first time the event has been held in the last 4 years.  Stuart and I left work and raced for the ferry from Malaig to Armadale making the Gaelic College, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, on Sleat in time to pitch our tents before Sundown…

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The event attracted around 250 people, paddlers and their families. There was plenty of time to meet old friends and make new acquaintances.

On Saturday I joined a group for some tidal paddling under the Skye bridge. The standing waves that formed at the time felt quite big. Monday was spent in a Greenland rolling session with Cherri Perry & Turner Wilson which I really enjoyed.

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However on Sunday of the event I had hoped to join a group paddling across to the Isle of Rum, but conditions were forecast to deteriorate that evening and so our attention switched to Soay below the famous Cuillin Hills. I’d kayaked here in the past, but it’s a great trip was well worth repeating.

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It was a strong group that left Tarskavaig and for what was quite a long trip (35.6Km) we maintained a great speed with a moving average of 6.0Km/h throughout the day.

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Passing Suidhe Biorach near Elgol

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We reached Soay harbour near low water and it became an uphill haul into the bay…

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Soay harbour : Here Tex Geddes and Gavin Maxwell (Ring of Bright Water fame) nearly wiped out the local basking shark population harvesting their livers for oil.  The harbour was said to have turned red when they butchered their catch.

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The return home was made in good company with good scenery…

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….arriving back at Tarskavaig before the forecast change in the weather arrived.

Date : 26 May 2013 – 1 day before Spring Tide.
Ullapool : HW 08:25 LW 14:50
Max Speed : 9.7Km/h
Trip Odom : 35.6 Km
Moving Time : 5h 56min
Moving Average 6.0Km/h

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Glencoe at dusk.

With long Summer nights there has been plenty going on. Lots of paddling adventures and trips afar; but so little time to blog…

So here’s a photo taken this evening on Loch Leven at Glencoe boat club…

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Buongiòrno Italia. Part 1 – Verona

Annie loves Italy and so we decided on a bit of a road trip for our annual Summer holiday. Cheap flights with Easyjet took us from Edinburgh to Milan. Our schedule was :

We used trains between the airport and Vernoa : The Malpensa Express (€10/person/each way) between the airport  and Milano Centrale and the ‘FrecciaBianca’ (€19/person/each way) between Milano Centrale  and Verona Porta Nuova.  A taxi between the railway station and our accommodation in Verona was approx €25.  We hired a car from Hertz in Verona airport for our week on the Dolomites.

Verona – Dolomites – Milan .  A mix of culture, adventure and chic metropolis.

We both needed time to chill and relax and I really recommend this trip to anyone in need of a get-away.  Verona is just an amazing city, full of history that continues when you turn off the main thorough fare and wander the backstreets.  I shot 880 photos over 12 days, and not many were bad.  Here are the highlights from the first 2 days in of our holiday….

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Milano Centrale and the ‘FrecciaBianca’

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Ponte Scaligero bridge, Verona.

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Verona Arena.

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Bill Shakespeare and Romeo & Juliet’s Balcony

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Ponte Pietra (originally built in 100BC !!)  and Castel San Pietro

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Basilica di San Zeno. Tradition states that its crypt was the place of the marriage of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

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Ponte Scaligero bridge at night.

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Dolomites : Ortisei

Currently on holiday with Annie in the Italian Dolomites. We had two really hot sunny days in Verona enjoying some culture before hiring a car and driving North.

Lake Garda was great to see and arriving in the free upgrade Alfa Romeo we had the delusion of feeling quit chic… It’s been 5 years since I was last in the high mountains in Summer (pre avalanche & divorce) and it’s really great to be just here enjoying the scenery without the compelling desire to want to climb everything in sight (maybe it’s a mellowing age thing?).

Anyway the photo is from yesterday morning before today’s snow. It’s Ortisei under the imposing Sasso Lungo (3181m).

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A friends journey.

All great adventures start with a single footstep.

I’ve received news this evening that my good friend, Paul Briscoe , is ready to start the final phase of his mammoth project; to walk totally unsupported from coast to coast (C2C), his final leg of each of the British Isles nations.

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Paul and I at 3500 in the Alps together.

Unsupported means that he starts the walk carrying all his food and supplies for the journey with no resupply or help along the way. He sources all his water naturally en route – It’s both a mental and physical journey into extreme backpacking.

He’s previously completed 3 nations…

2009 – English C2C – 190 miles – Robin Hood’s Bay (East) to St Bees (West) – 12 days
2010 – Welsh C2C – 275 miles – Cardiff (South) to Conwy (North). – 20 Days
2012 – Irish C2C – 387 miles – Dublin (East) to Bray Head (South West) – 25 Days

Tomorrow, Monday 20th May at 1pm, Paul will start walking from Scotland’s most Easterly point at Peterhead. Carrying >30Kg he initially heads South towards Aberdeen and will then turn West towards the Cairngorms. Taking in the high points along the way, he doubles back on his self and heads South towards Ben Lawers (an additional 90 Km detour to bag Scotland’s 10th highest summit). Now heading North and connecting with the West Highland way, he eventually bags Ben Nevis and it’s satellite peaks before heading towards Knoydart.  The final leg of his journey ends at Ardnamurchan in the West.

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A months supply of vacuum packed dried food.

His final route across Scotland is in the region of 500Km, taking in the extreme East and West points and the country’s 10 highest mountains – all unsupported.  He envisages to be ‘out’ for a month.

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Although it’s his own personal challenge (and there’s sure to be the making of a future book), he is also raising funds for Water Aid.

You can follow Paul on his expedition dashboard, and via the links below. He’ll blog en route when possible and there will also be a track from his ‘spot’ tracker.

www.transnationcoast2coast.com
www.twitter.com/TransnationC2C
www.pinterest.com/paulgbs

All the best and good luck Paul,  stay safe mate…

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Undisclosed location…

While out paddling with a group on Monday…

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I was very fortunate to see an Osprey…

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These birds migrate to Africa every Winter and return to the UK in March/April.  John Wright is passionate about them and blogs regularly about both his sightings on Rutland Water and his travels following their migration. His photos and sketches are simply stunning. The RSPB lists 250-300 breeding pairs of Ospreys across the UK.  My photo; hopefully not too bad taken from approx. 200m with a pocket sized Olympus μ Tough 8010 on full zoom.

Posted in Birds, Nature, Sea Kayaking, Wildlife | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Oronsay & Carna

I’ve never been a great reader; although the occasional novel grabs my interest sometimes I have to persevere and struggle with a book to reach its end. My copy of “Life of Pi” unfortunately added to my carbon footprint taking me several foreign trips to complete with it being carried along multiple times to Asia in the bottom of a suitcase.  Maps on the other hand…

Maps just light my imagination.  I can spend hours and hours scanning over 10m contour lines, constructing the topography of the land in my mind. Adventures are planned and routes fine-tuned to ‘bag’ as many objectives in the time that is available.

When I used to live down South, I’d often look at the junction of Loch Sunart and Loch Teacuis cutting into the Northern flank of the peninsula of Morvern. Loch Teacuis and the islands at it’s mouth, Oronsay & Carna, then almost 500 miles distant at the “back of beyond”, held a place high on my wish list.

Morvern is actually quite accessible, though the short hop over Loch Linnhe via the Corran ferry is enough to keep most tourists away.  Loch Sunart and it’s ancient Oak woodlands are of national importance. Although most of the original woodland was lost in pre-history, much of what we see now has been created from the reversal of de-forestation taking place from the 17th century onwards.

With a ridge of high pressure crossing Scotland, a strong Spring Tide to carry us down Loch Sunart and slack water in early in the afternoon to get through the 2.5knt tidal streams around Carna, conditions to paddle to Oronsay & Carna were near perfect.

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Stuart and I launched at Salen, a small village at the head of an inlet half way along Loch Sunart. Incidentally, the Salen Hotel is a great place to stop for a beer and is currently being renovated with a lovely new green oak conservatory.

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Soon we were cruising on the Ebb tide down Loch Sunart, these naturally seeded scots pines adding to the air of tranquillity.

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This trip has a really remote feel to it, though in reality a road runs the entire length of the North shore of Loch Sunart to Kilchoan (where the ferry runs to Tobermory on Mull) and beyond to Ardnamurchan point and lighthouse.

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Entering a small bay near Dun Challain…

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Arrival mid-tide (maximum flow) at Laga Bay.  Here we could here a cuckoo calling, the first this year and a real sign of Spring.

Sunart was flat and the crossing to Carna easy.

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We stopped at the NW tip of Oronsay for lunch with commanding views back into Loch Sunart and out across to Mull and Coll.

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Oronsay is a tidal island. Glancing at the 1:50k map I’d estimated that maybe we’d have a 200m portage at low tide.

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…I was wrong! the spring tide doubled that and we floundered through the mud and a long carry which took 45 minutes…

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Eventually we re-gained water and paddled into the West entrance of Loch Teacuis. Near Eilean nan Eildean we detoured to look at the geology.  I believe this is a basalt dyke. Normally grey to black in colour it has weathered to bright red due to oxidation of its iron-rich minerals into rust.

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Due to loosing time with our romp through the mud we nearly got stranded in Loch Teacuis. The flood tide was advancing through both entrances and as we paddled through Caol Chàrna on West coast of Carna some real effort was required.

I’ve seen Sea Eagles further down Loch Sunart in the past, but today wildlife was noticeable by it’s absence; only a couple of common seals and some Eider.

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Date : 27 April 2013– Spring Tide.
Oban : HW 07:21 LW 13:45 HW 19:41 (BST)
Max Speed : 10.9Km/h
Trip Odom : 31.2 Km

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