Posts tagged ‘Isle of Rum’

April 13, 2011

A wilderness slackpack on the Isle of Rum pt4 – stormy weather

by backpackingbongos

I was woken a few times during the night by the wind rattling the bothy roof and a gentle patter of rain.  A couple of nocturnal trips to the loo due to a rubbish bladder were like a climbing expedition due to the sleeping platform being high in the roof.  Rich and Pete were up at first light, they were going to do a circular walk over a couple of low passes linking Glen Guirdil to Glen Shellesder.  I on the other hand was going to have a lazy day to rest my knee and generally bum around in the environs of the bothy.

Day 4 – 1.9 miles with 170 metres ascent

I was on holiday after all so it was nice to have a good lie-in to around 9.30am, luxuriating in a nice warm sleeping bag.  I went downstairs and spent a while drinking cup after cup of coffee and having breakfast whilst looking out of the window.  It was grey and drizzly outside and I could not be bothered to go and get wet yet so I sat and read the bothy book from cover to cover.

I started to feel a bit chilly sitting all alone in the dark building and thought that it would be nice to have a fire.  However we did not have any wood.  Some friends had stayed the previous September and told me where they had located some driftwood.  With Ibuleve gel and supports on my knees I pulled on my waterproofs and set off up the hill behind the bothy.  It was good to be out in the fresh air after the darkness of the bothy and the first rise on the path brought spectacular views along the coast past Glen Shellesder.  I could see the caves in the bays below and set them as my wood collecting objectives.

The scale of the surrounding landscape was brought into perspective by the two small figures walking towards me on the path below.  It was Pete and Rich and I stood for a while until they reached where I was standing.  It turned out that they had visited the bay where I planned to look for driftwood and had found nothing.  However an exploration of the caves was highly recommended so I left them to head back to the bothy whilst I descended to Glen Shellesder burn.

From the notes in the bothy the burn can be a tricky proposition in wet weather but it had not risen too much.  I got across easily a few metres upstream from the ford and crossed boggy ground towards the coast.  Steep slopes took me to the stoney beach with its waterfall, a line of cliffs in front of me.

I wanted to see what Pete had named the ‘vagina cave’, a tunnel that leads through the hillside.  After scrambling across treacherously slippery rocks I got to the entrance but did not walk right through it to avoid a wade in a pool of water.

The cave next door opened out into a large chamber with evidence of man-made walls inside and blackened rocks where people had lit fires.  The ground was covered by the accumulation of years of goat dung with bones scattered around.  At the far end there is a small opening and views to the beach on the other side.  Here I hit the jackpot and found a pile of dry planks, although they were covered in goat dust.  Pleased with my haul I loaded my sack with the smelly wood and made my way back to the bothy.

I dumped the wood with a victory flourish next to the fireplace and set about warming up with a hot drink and cooked lunch.  The rest of the day was spent relaxing with the guys in the bothy.

During the late afternoon the weather made an unexpected improvement, the skies cleared and the sun made an appearance.  Pete and Rich climbed the hill to the west of the bothy to explore Long beach and came back with an impressive goats skull complete with a set of horns.  Rich intended taking it home as a souvenir, so spent a while scrubbing off the goat gunk.

The evening was a fine one, the sun bathing the bothy surroundings in a warm glow and we all walked around taking numerous photos.

It was good to have a fire in the evening and we enjoyed our last night out in the wilds, the next day we would be heading back to the relative civilisation of Kinloch.  Popping out for a pee I noticed a magnificent stag silhouetted against the sky right behind the bothy, a bunch of his mates coming to join him until Petes appearance scared them away.

Bed time came even earlier that night and we decided that our plans for the next day would be dictated by what the weather threw at us.  We hoped to be able to continue along the coast and explore around Kilmory bay.

Day 5 – 6.8 miles with 420 metres ascent

I think that we were all woken at some point during the early hours by the racket that was going on outside.  The roof sounded like it was going to be lifted from the bothy and the rain was hammering down.  I laid there hoping that it would stop as otherwise it would be an unpleasant walk across to the other side of the island.

By dawns early light it sounded even worse and I felt like staying in my sleeping bag all day.  Duly up and packed we would take it in turns to stand by the door and watch curtains of rain being blown down the valley on the strong wind.  The Guirdil river which the day before was easy to cross was now a raging torrent and was getting higher all the time.  New streams had appeared on the surrounding hillsides and the ground around the bothy full of puddles.  Not the best day for a hill walk!

It was decided that we should seek the easiest way out to Kinloch and that the main Glen Shellesder path should be avoided because the river would be in spate.  Although more of a climb it was decided that the Glen Guirdil route to the Bealach a Bhraigh Bhig would be taken as it avoids major watercourses.  I seeded an idea in the others heads by suggesting a camp at Kinloch would be rubbish in this weather and that we should get a room in the castle.  We were not sure if the castle was open yet, but within a few minutes they were just as enthusiastic about sleeping somewhere warm and dry as I was!

Being the man with the dodgy knee I set off headlong into the wind and rain a good twenty minutes earlier, time for me to dawdle though the tussocks before being caught up.  The route to the bealach was actually not too bad and the rain eased up a bit.  However it was heads down through the mist until we started to descend the other side.  The Abhainn Monadh Mhiltich is marked as a fairly minor stream on the map but was now a major torrent, difficult to cross in its higher reaches it would have been impossible lower down.  It was with a bit of relief that we reached the firm surface of the main Harris track at Malcolm’s bridge.

You may have noticed a lack of photos from the day as I had double wrapped my camera deep inside my pack to keep it dry.  Although by this point it had stopped raining I had no inclination to dig it back out again.  Pete on the other hand was photographer extraordinaire that day as he is in the process of researching and writing a guide-book to the small Isle.  Myself and Rich were his models striding purposefully across bogs looking like the rugged outdoor chaps that we are.  This is why Pete was often up at the crack of dawn marching up and down hills with purpose during the week, whilst I was lazing around.  Look out for his Cicerone guide next year.

We made rapid progress on the final few miles down to Kinloch and were beginning to wonder if we would be able to get a bed for the night.  If not we suspected that the campsite would be a boggy morass.  I was keen to get my boots dried for the journey back home, my feet now resembling prunes after a prolonged soaking.

Luckily there was room for us at the castle hostel and it was with great relief that I got my boots into the drying room and my feet into my down slippers.  I spotted that one of the bathrooms had a nice big bath and I was soon laying in piping hot water slowly turning the water a shade of brown.  Arriving at lunch time we had a few hours to kill which was mostly spent by me in the castle reading room, relaxing in a comfy chair reading a book.  An exploration of Kinloch itself took all of ten minutes as the settlement is hardly a major metropolis.  The village shop appeared to double up as a bar with a contingent of contractors who already looked the worse for wear.

The wild weather made a return whilst we had dinner in the bistro and the castle manager thought that there was a possibility of the ferry being cancelled the following day.  We could do nothing but wait.

Waiting and travelling

The tiny castle bar was a microcosm condensing the worst of Scottish drinking habits.  A band of contractors had been cooped up on Rum for a few months doing renovation work and it was their final night. Most of them hated the place and a nightly alcoholic ritual had got them through.  Although good-natured it was not our scene and we left the impending carnage after a couple of hours for the comfort of our bunks.

The wind and rain lashed down once again during the night and it was a long wait the next day to find out if our ferry would be running.  The weather was not favourable for a few hours on the hills so time was killed sitting, reading and eating in the hostel.  Pete however did manage to twist the managers arm for a free tour of the castle and we wandered around open-mouthed at the opulence of it all.  For anyone interested in the history of Rum and some background on the castle Pete wrote a good post which can be found here.  My effort extends to the following three photos.

We finally got the news that we were waiting for, the ferry was running and may be arriving early as the bad weather meant that it had to turn back on the way to Canna.  Gear was grabbed and a mass exodus was made into the castle mini bus for the short hop to the pier.  Standing waiting for the ferry it was obvious that it was rough out there as we watched the white horses out to sea.  It was an odd band of people waiting, looking like a straggle of survivors from a post apocalyptic movie.  One of the contractors was still clutching a bottle of Buckfast and was looking worse for wear, rather him than me considering it was going to be a rough crossing!

It was rough on board and I felt rather green, I sat mostly in silence trying to keep my eyes fixed on the horizon.  Rich went upstairs for a lie-down whilst Pete managed fish and chips!  The ferry rolled and lurched with waves hitting one side and splashing over the boat.  I was glad to get off.

It was a further twenty-four hours before I got home.

April 10, 2011

A wilderness slackpack on the Isle of Rum pt3 – across the hills

by backpackingbongos

I spent a contented night in the tent, one of those rare pitches that are lump and bump free and totally flat.  A heavy rain shower in the night only served to make me feel even more cosy.  Morning came cloudy but bright, the hills once again clag free.  Pete was already up and packing his gear away, he had another big day planned.  He was going to follow the coast around to Guirdil bothy and dump his gear before heading off on a lightweight assault of the Orval horseshoe.  Rich and I planned to have a later start before lugging our gear directly over Orval and down to the bothy.

Day 3 – 7.2 miles with 720 metres ascent

I love lazy wild camping mornings, time to potter around, drink coffee and have a leisurely breakfast.  The previous evening we were a little nervous just in case the herd of Highland cattle gathering around the lodge came to pay us a visit.  Thankfully they didn’t but during the morning this fine beast ambled down to the beach to feed on the plentiful kelp.

Packing up I realised that much of my gear had a nice goaty slick to it and was carrying a distinctive odour.  I suppose that is one of the pitfalls of spending the night where wild goats hang out.  We crossed the beach and climbed up to the mausoleum to have a close look at it, surrounded by cows it was more of a moosoleum.  Anyway it has the splendid Rum Cuillins as a backdrop, is there any better resting place?

Harris lodge itself was firmly locked but a good peer through the window showed that it would be a cracking place to stay.  Our first destination of the day would be the conical hill of Ard Nev which could be tackled directly from Harris bay.  However after a couple of days walking rough tussocky bogs we decided that the main Kinloch track would be quicker and easier and much better for my knees.  It certainly made for a quick ascent and we soon had a good view down to Harris and across to the Rum Cuillin.

The summit of the track hits the 250 metre contour before its descent towards Kinloch.  With height gained we made a direct beeline for Ard Nev, its steep and rough slopes being hard work after the easy-going track.  During the ascent it was re-named ‘Hard Nev’.  The leg work however was worth it for the grandstand view of the Cuillins.

Gaining the southern shoulder before the final summit cone, Orval showed itself to us for the first time.  From this angle it is a large grassy dome, it was not going to reveal its full splendour until our descent down to Guirdil.

For a while this image kept popping into my head, perhaps I was pronouncing Orval incorrectly?!

Both of our legs were a little wobbly when we finally reached the summit of Ard Nev and we hunkered down for a spot of lunch.  The views were extensive, although it was clear that the weather was beginning to change with a freshening wind and a few spots of rain.

The descent north-west was on easy grassy slopes and we began to make a mental note of the best line of ascent up the very steep eastern ridge of Orval.  Lines of wet crags were defending a direct ascent and we picked our way up the best we could, each taking a slightly different line.

A couple of hundred metres below the summit we left our packs and made a quick ascent to the trig point and cairn, the summit itself being fairly uninspiring with the clag beginning to gather around us.  Returning back to our packs we could see a figure that looked like Pete contouring round the Bealach a Bhraigh Bhig, we waved but he did not spot us.  Packs back on we walked to the line of crags that guard the summit to the north.  The views down into Glen Guirdil were pretty impressive and the sheer cliffs made my stomach knott up when I got too close to the edge.

The descent to the Bealach a Bhraigh Bhig was much steeper than the map suggests and we had to gingerly pick our way down a small gully before arriving on easy grassy slopes.  The valley below presented us with a perfect u shape, framed on the horizon by Canna.  I have now promised myself that Canna is probably going to be my next island destination.

A narrow pony path is picked up at Bealach a Bhraigh Bhig and we followed it for a few hundred metres before breaking away across rough boggy ground.  There is no proper path down into the glen but we managed to patch together a series of deer tracks until an old wall was reached.  Here a reasonable path leads down to the bothy.  My knees were giving me trouble during the descent, probably due to the uneven boggy ground.  With a pack on you tend to lurch from one step to another.  Rich being the good chap that he is decided to push on ahead to dump his pack and come back up to take mine down the last section.  Approaching the bothy it was Pete who made the ascent back up, Rich had timed his arrival just as some tea was made!

Guirdil bothy is in a sublime location, right on the beach at Guirdil bay.  It is dominated by Bloodstone hill which towers above it, looking much higher than its 380 metres.  A perfect little bothy, surrounded by rugged hills and with the sea lapping at the shore a few metres away.  What more can you ask for?

The inside is split into two rooms, the right hand side being the main living area with a fireplace and a few benches and chairs.  The room next door has a ladder leading up to a sleeping platform high up in the roof.  You do have to be carefull getting up in the night for a toilet trip!

When I first arrived at the bothy there was a huge stag grazing on the kelp on the beach, he had a magnificent set of antlers on him.  Later that afternoon we spotted a sea eagle perched on the ridge to the left of the bothy.  We stood and watched him through binoculars until he finally took off round the corner.

The rest of the day and evening was spent simply relaxing in the idyllic environment and watching the clouds getting lower on the hills.  The previous inhabitants had left some wood for the fire but it was wet and green.  We suspected that it had been taken from live trees up the valley.  A small fire was got going with the peat bricks that Pete still had in his pack before we retired for an early night.  Whilst standing in the dark outside brushing my teeth, numerous pairs of eyes reflected from the light of my head torch.  A herd of deer had gathered for the night to eat kelp on the beach.

April 7, 2011

A wilderness slackpack on the Isle of Rum pt2 – the rugged coast

by backpackingbongos

Pete upset the spirit world by proclaiming that he does not believe in ghosts.  The Dibidil spirits got their revenge by paying him a visit in the night.  Nothing explicitly went bump in the night but he said that he was aware of something entering the room whilst he was sleeping, whatever it was touched his hand.  Rich spent the night in the other room and did not get up and I had not felt the urge to hold Petes hand that night.  I had read of a few ghostly going on in Dibidil prior to the visit.  The best one being three climbers who has bedded down for the night on the floor, all in a nice neat row.  They woke up the next morning to find that they had all rotated 180 degrees in the night.  Beware if you visit Dibidil on your own!

Day 2 – 5.8 miles with 530 metres ascent

I slept the sleep of kings in my bothy bunk, comfy in my down cocoon.  Although only 8am it looked like Pete was long gone, he had decided the night before to finish the horseshoe if the weather looked ok.  It was a bit cloudy outside but the hills were all clear.  Rich had wisely invested in a lie-in and was just stirring in the room next door.  I would love to say that I quickly packed up and headed out for a big mountain day but instead continued the bothy pottering theme.

A couple of hours later I decided that I would start my slow walk to Papadil lodge along the now much fainter pony path.  My knees had not suffered too much the day before and I wanted to continue to take care of them.  There was also the small matter of possibly the roughest section of coast on this backpack beyond Papadil.  Slow and steady would be my motto.  I arranged for Rich and Pete to meet me at the ruined lodge and started the climb up the large boggy tussocks to the path contouring above the bothy.  As I gained height I spotted Pete ‘the mountain goat’ making quick progress down from Sgurr nan Gillean.  The views back to Beinn nan Stac and Askival were stunning, I felt a bit deflated that I had to leave out such magnificent peaks.  However just to simply be in such wild and remote coast and mountain scenery is a privilege.

I managed to lose the path completely near Loch Dubh an Sgoir probably because I was spending too much time gawping slack-jawed at the scenery.  Sgurr nan Gillean looked fantastic from there with just a small amount of mist grazing its summit.

Relocating the path once again due to a cunningly placed cairn, I made steady progress to Loch Papadil which suddenly revealed itself nestled in a bowl in the hills.

Approaching the loch from above the location of the path once again eluded me and I ended up surrounded by the usual tussocks from hell as I struggled to pick my way down.  The lack of stability underfoot was less than perfect for my knee, helped even less by a big hole that swallowed one leg.  By the time I reached the trees I was rather hot and flustered and had to flick off a few ticks that had managed to hitch a lift from the long grass.  I knew that there was a lodge somewhere in the woods which had been taken over by rhododendron and it was a boggy battle to find it.  From what remained nature had clearly won the battle.

Across the river there was a lovely grassy clearing with the low walls of ruined buildings.  I made myself comfortable and ate lunch whilst I waited for the other two to appear.  There are several areas in the direct vicinity that would make perfect wild camping spots, flat and grassy and the remains of an old fire pit to have a campfire with the plentiful supply of fallen wood.  However Papadil does have a bit of an atmosphere about it, fine in the daytime but I think that I would get the willies if I spent the night alone there.  This feeling may well be influenced by stories I have read of campers nearby fleeing in the night after being visited by some invisible force.  The accounts are the same, campers wake up with the sensation of being sat on, pinning them down.

Anyway within half an hour Rich and Pete appeared on the hill above and managed to make a rapid descent to where I was sitting.  Plans were made for the rest of the day.  Pete had been keen to push on to Guidil bothy whilst myself and Rich fancied a wild camp next to Harris bay.  The talk of a fine forecast (I had managed to check the weather on my iphone) and a driftwood fire on the beach soon changed Petes mind and we all headed off together towards Harris.

The route to Harris is rough and pathless and you have to pick a line with care to avoid cliffs shelving steeply into the sea.  We made a beeline straight up steep slopes to roughly the 120 metre contour which gave fine views back to the loch and the pinnacle which guards its seaward side.

The Allt na Gile makes a deep gash in the hillside and we contoured its steep slopes to cross the stream before contouring round the other side.

Traversing further along the coast we constantly had to adjust our route as lines of cliff rose up to meet us.  The going was rough but not half as bad as the map suggests and we had the company of some outstanding coastal scenery.  Wild, remote and rugged, these days it is this sort of landscape that really rocks my boat.  Mountains and the sea blended together in perfect harmony.  I have the feeling that not many people explore the coast between Papadil and Harris bay which is a shame because they are missing something special.

Approaching the 200 metre contour I needed a rest as I was struggling to keep up with the other two.  I hoisted my pack off and arranged to meet them at the spot we had picked as a potential camp spot.  I sat there for a while taking in the scenery, happy just to be in such an isolated spot.

Towards the near horizon I spotted a cairn, unusual considering that there is no vestige of a path.  I also spotted Rich and Pete loitering at the cairn getting ready to set off once again.  A steady traversing ascent brought me to the cairn and a breathtaking view to the north, Harris bay looking magnificent with Orval as a backdrop.  I could just make out the other two as specs on the hillside, looking insignificant amongst the grandeur of it all.

From the cairn a vague path started and it was good to disengage the brain and simply follow it as it gently took me down at an easy gradient to the new bridge over the Abhainn Rangail.  I soon came to a raised beach, something that I have only ever seen on the Isle of Jura.  An old settlement had obviously used the rounded stones to build their boundary walls.

I made my way down to the chosen wild camp spot and what a great spot it was.  Perfect flat short-cropped grass like a bowling green, an oasis amongst the rough ground.  The sea to one side and the mountains on the other.

There was however a distinctive smell in the air and the reason for the cropped grass became apparent with all the animal droppings on the ground.  The heady aroma was coming from a few metres away, a herd of wild goats had made camp on the beach and we were spending the night in their on-suite.

Thankfully camp was completely tick free and it was nice to be able to wander around without having to watch out for them crawling up your leg.  My boots were like two sponges full of bog water and my feet like prunes, it was good to lay in my tent for a while giving them some air whilst listening to the waves lapping the shore.

After a long mountain day Pete was the first to get his dinner on the go, cooking his favourite backpacking treat of tuna fandango.  This looked a damn sight more appetising than my freeze-dried add water to a pouch muck.

Fed and drift wood gathered around an old fire pit, I wandered up the slope behind camp to get an overview of our chosen spot.  The location really could not be any better.  There was not a soul around for miles and we just had goats on the beach and highland cows by the lodge and mausoleum for company.

As afternoon drifted into evening the camp fire was lit, the dry bleached driftwood catching with only a twix wrapper as kindling.  Some of the driftwood almost looked too good to burn, like the skeleton of some long extinct animal.  The heat of the fire took the chill out of the air and it was a fine way to pass a few hours.

April 4, 2011

A wilderness slackpack on the Isle of Rum pt1

by backpackingbongos

I have to admit that my excitement the week before departure was tinged with a small amount of apprehension.  My knee was still playing up, with the daily two mile dog walk giving it grief on the downhill sections.  I was constantly worrying about how it would react to a backpacking sack filled with enough food to last a week whilst walking across trackless, boggy tussocks.  Well there is only one way to find out……….

Travelling to the start of a backpack in your own vehicle provides an umbilical cord, a comfortable safety net.  You can set your own schedule and carry spare clothes and food for when you emerge from the wilderness wet, hungry and stinking.  Vehicles are not allowed on Rum without a permit and there is nowhere to drive anyway.  It was therefore pointless hauling the Bongo up to the West Coast of Scotland to abandon it for a week.  Instead countless single tickets were purchased for the train and Rich and myself left our fate in the hands of the British railway system.  Leg one took us to Glasgow where we met up with Peter Edwards and we were treated to some fine hospitality at chez Edwards.  I have been following Pete’s fine blog for a while now and it was him that inspired me to visit the wonderful island of Jura a couple of years ago.  Pete is getting married this weekend and the trip to Rum was sort of a stag do.  Unusual in the fact that he had never met the pair of us, alcohol was lacking during the backpack and there was a severe absence of dancing girls on the island.  Pete has done a brief preliminary post here.

A train journey is never complete unless at some stage there is a ‘replacement bus service’, this involved a travel sickness inducing run up to Crianlarich.  The twist and turns of the road alongside Loch Lomond nearly getting the better of me.  It was with some relief that we boarded the train to Mallaig.  Not the prettiest of towns in the Highlands, that afternoon it did its best to resemble a Greek island, a calm sea glistening under a blue sky.  It was a convivial atmosphere waiting whilst the ferry docked, the total number of passengers boarding numbering less than twenty.  Thankfully the sea was like glass for the five hour crossing over to Rum, in bad weather the journey would be purgatory.  We were the last stop after Eigg, Muck and Canna, the number of passengers dwindling at each island.  It was simply stunning standing up on deck watching the islands come and go, the best part being an almost complete circumnavigation of Rum itself.  We stood with binoculars tracing our route along the coast, picking out the bothies we would be staying in.

Darkness was setting in when we finally disembarked with a handful of residents onto Rum.  We were soon left alone as we walked along the shore side track towards the designated camping spot just outside of Kinloch, the only settlement on the island.  The word campsite is probably a bit too grand a term as there is in reality only a few spots where you can pitch a tent, most of the ground being rough and tussocky.  There are however a couple of great wooden shelters where you can cook and fire pits with logs provided.  Best of all though is its location right on the shores of Loch Scresort.  Tents were pitched by head torches and we then walked the few minutes to the castle with its bar and hostel.  Clean clothes and spare food was left in the drying room before a convivial evening was spent in front of a roaring fire drinking Red Cuillin.

I later went back to my tent and burnt my dinner………………

Day 1 – 5.4 miles with 360 metres ascent

I awoke to the sounds of Rich and Pete moving around camp and there was an orange glow in my tent.  I stuck my head out just in time to witness a fabulous spectacle, the rising sun peeking through a gap in the clouds.  Boots were hurriedly put on and a few minutes spent snapping away.

What a splendid way to start the first day of a backpack.  The plan for the day was to head along the coast to Dibidil bothy to spend the night.  With the promise of good weather Pete was keen to do the Dibidil horseshoe, a demanding circuit of the Rum Cuillins.  That involved walking to the bothy first, dumping gear and then setting off on the high and often exposed route.  I had a sneaky suspicion that my knee would not be too happy with that so I decided that my day would only involve a stiff limp to the bothy.  Pete and Rich were soon packed and on their way while I pottered around camp for a couple of hours taking in the fine location.  It was whilst packing that I was mugged.  A couple of hooligan hooded crows managed to steal my coffee and sugar bag when my back was turned.

All packed and fully laden for five nights in the hills I located the old pony track to Dibidil and started the gentle ascent up to the 200 metres contour.  The ground was wet and slippery and I took my time to ensure that I stayed on two feet, my knee stiff and complaining a little bit.  The outlines of the Rum Cuillin ridge just popping up over the horizon.

The path then contours the hillside, generally at around 200 metres.  The seascape to the left is magnificent, a backdrop of the west coast with the Small Isle in the foreground.  Most impressive of all were the Skye Cuillins looking all dark and pointy with the odd fleck of snow.  The Isle of Eigg was then to become the dominant feature of the rest of the day.

The Rum Cuillin were soon visible in all their pointy glory.

The path is generally fairly easy to follow although bogs and tussocks are doing their very best to take it over.  There was one section where I lost it all together for a few hundred metres, with deep bog grabbing at my boots.

At the Allt nam Ba the path crossed the top of a waterfall, the curve of the valley framing the Isle of Eigg perfectly.  I later read that a hiker lost his life here trying to cross the stream in spate, he slipped and was swept over the waterfall.  Usually it is a benign stream and it just reinforces the dangers and power of even small amounts of water when it is moving quickly.

The final section of path contours a steep section of hillside high above sea cliffs.  A slip there would not be worth thinking about, whilst thinking about it I managed a minor trip on my Pacerpole but kept upright.  A section of path that would need lots of care in snow or during high winds.  Then rounding the corner the bothy finally came into view, nestled into the rugged landscape.

Suddenly there was a view to make the heart leap as I entered the foot of Glen Dibidil.  The high corries of the Ainshval peaks were lined up in such a way that they had a good resemblance to the three sisters in Glencoe.  This really was mountain scenery at its finest.  Unfortunately the highest peaks were swathed in cloud and I began to wonder how Pete and Rich were getting on navigating the narrow rocky ridges.

Getting closer to the bothy I noticed a tent pitched outside.  From a distance it looked like a laser comp and I hoped that it was Rich’s set out to air rather than because the bothy was full.  I always get a shiver of anticipation when approaching a bothy, what will it be like? will folk already be there?

Approaching the door I noticed that it has been upgraded to hotel status, I opened the latch and stepped inside, my eyes struggling to adjust to the darkness.

No one was at home and the only signs of life were Pete and Rich’s abandoned gear.  I claimed the bottom bunk and set about unpacking and making a late lunch.  I love spending time in remote bothies, there is an atmosphere about them that is hard to articulate.  Dibidil is a fine specimen and well looked after, with none of the accrued rubbish left in the more accessible ones.  I spent a couple of hours bimbling around, eating, reading the bothy book and wandering around the surrounding cropped grass in my comfy slippers.

During a visit up the hill with the bothy spade I noticed that the area was a bit of a tick magnet, a few had to be brushed off my clothing and bare skin before becoming attached.  I am hoping that the long bit of grass that tickled my nether regions did not have a predator laying in wait on it!

As the afternoon drifted along curtains of mist and drizzle marched down the valley and I wondered how the boys were getting on up the hill.  They finally appeared at around six, slightly damp after abandoning the horseshoe half way round.  The navigation had got a bit tricky on some of the connecting ridges, plenty of scope to get onto difficult ground.  The rest of the evening was spent relaxing in the bothy with a small fire going and relaxed chatter.  The next day would be a real test for my knees as we would be traversing the wild pathless coast beyond Papadil.

April 2, 2011

Back from the magical Isle of Rum

by backpackingbongos

It’s probably not possible to get jet lagged travelling by boat and train but that is how I feel at the moment.  I got back late this afternoon after a two day journey from the absolutely splendid Isle of Rum.  There were doubts yesterday that the ferry would be running as there was a gale raging over the island and white horses out to sea.  We were glad to see the Calmac ferry appear in Loch Scresort after being defeated by the weather on the way to Canna.  It was a bumpy journey back to Mallaig!

A week was spent on the island exploring its wild and rugged landscape with great company.  During a five day backpack we did not see another soul, just deer, goats, highland cows, ponies and a sea eagle.  Nights were spent in remote coastal bothies and I had what is probably my best ever wild camp.  I will do a full trip report over the coming week or so, in the meantime here are a couple of photos that to me capture a perfect moment in time.

Just after dawn on the first morning the rising sun lit up my tent and I rushed out to get a photo.  A perfect Hebridean welcome.

After a day of mist, wind and rain at Guirdil bothy the sun made an unexpected appearance in the evening.  A welcome interlude as a few hours later whilst laying in bed it sounded like the apocalypse had come to Rum.

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