Category Archives: Canoe across Scotland

5% Chance of Rain

Most of the places I’ve been to this month have been promising 5% chance of rain or less but this seems to have been more a sign of the Met Offices’ optimism that actual reality.  With a few more days off than expected this month I have managed to catch up with lots of friends and family, finish the bolting work at a local sport crag and get to some pretty cool places on personal trips.

First up I joined Tristan and Lizzie with a host of other kayaking friends for a week of sea kayak day trips from Glen Elg.  I’m usually not a big fan of day trips in a sea kayak but in the knowledge that there would be some stormy conditions and some other paddlers that like that sort of thing it felt like a good opportunity to put my dislike of faff aside.


Kag, Tristan and Lizzie paddling into Kyle of Lochalsh in stormy weather.  Our first day saw us launching at Sconser and surfing all the way to the Crowlins, through the Crowlin gap and on down to the bridge.IMG_9076

Lizzie and Kag taking a break under the Skye bridgeIMG_9087

Kayakers under Kilt Rock.  The longest day on the water was Staffin to Portree, a trip I had wanted to do for some time.  It was fairly tough paddling into a head wind at the end but worth it for some amazing coastline.  Being based in Glenelg this was a fairly long day to fit in before it got dark.  The fish and chips in Portree at the end of this were amazing.

Sam making sure Pep knows where to go.IMG_9094

Sam approaching the waterfalls of Kilt Rock

Kag passing one of the many pinnacles on this section of coast.

Next up it was straight to Wales for a couple of days work. As usual in October the weather didnt quite play ball despite again promises of 5% chance of rain.  I did manage a couple of routes at Gogarth with ChuckyIMG_9160

Chucky on the brilliant top pitch of “Concrete Chimney”.

From Wales I did a massive drive up to the Reiff Climbing Festival.  Saz, Al and I had decided to go to the festival no matter what the weather.  It turned out to be terrible weather for climbing but great fun with a good group of people.931A5574

Adam and Ailsa getting packed in the back of their van for a day of rather damp cragging.931A5592

Ailsa, Ali Hodnett and Adam sheltering under the shipshape block at Reiff.931A5593

We did manage to find the shortest routes in the UK.  Reiff is known for short routes but I think these could be the winner!  Adam struggling on one of the trilogy of Severes on this wall. 931A5596

It did dry up to try a couple of harder routes.  Adam making the off the deck dyno on “Lilidh”

I had a few days around Fort William before heading back up to Assynt with Bob and Adam.  Assynt is not somewhere I’ve spent a huge amount of time until this year but I just cant get enough.

Stoer Lighthouse.  We woke up to this view after a late ascent of the Old Man of Stoer and then headed off on a two day canoe trip from Elpin to Boat Bay.  Connecting Loch Veyatie and Loch Scionascaig and a series of smaller lochs has become a bit of a classic and I was keen to see how hard the portages were.


Bob portaging Eas Dubh Uidh a Glaigeal on the outflow from Cam loch.  931A5656

And going back upstream to pretend that he’d ran it.  This portage is probably not necessary but the falls are spectacular.931A5693

Adam supplying some moral fortitude for the second portage.931A5703

Adam paddling under Suilven.  We had originally planned to do a climb on Suilven as part of this trip but the weather didnt quite play ball and we didnt have quite enough hours of daylight.931A5727

Can you see two canoes?  Bob (back) and Adam (front) in the middle of 2 km portage between Loch Veyatie and Loch Scionascaig.  This, the “eastern portage” is essentially a 2km portage and rumored to be harder than the western one.  As 2km portages go it was pretty straightforward and easy.931A5733

Bob and I have done quite a few portages over the years.  I wonder when he’ll notice that I just take photos and he does all the pulling!

Bob completely in his element on cooking duty with Cul Mor in the background.
931A5745Autum colours at Cread Dubh above the Spey.  Its quickly been turning to winter in the highlands and the colours have been fantastic.  Every time the weather starts to get me down I realise how many amazing adventures there are to be had in Scotland at all times of year.

I’ve also been tidying up some qualifications this year and this month finally feel able to take stock having completed the last one on the list (for now!).  I moved back to Scotland “full time” 5 years ago and wanted to bring my qualifications up to speed in the UK.  On one of my many long drives recently I started to count up the cost in both time and money of doing this.  The good news is that its been a lot of fun and I’m now at a stage where I don’t feel the need to work too hard on any other qualifications, the bad news is that I worked out I have spent over 60 days on training courses in the last 5 years (bearing in mind that I have only been in the UK for 36months of that period!) and its cost me at least £8000 just for the courses (not the kit or the consolidation days).  The process has been massively rewarding and through it I have re-engaged with so many friends and made so many new ones.  When I started in the outdoors at 18 I’m not sure what I expected but certainly not the huge variety of work and adventures that can be crammed into a few short years.

Also posted in Assynt, Assynt canoeing, canoe, Climbing, Kayaking, mountains to the sea, mountainstothesea, North Wales Climbing, Scottish Kayaking, Scottish Sea Kayaking, Skye, Stoer Lighthouse, Suilven Canoe, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Canoeing Across Scotland

My 101st post on the blog. Could have also been titled “Not the best rest and recovery” as my ribs are still aching but are now joined by my lower back. Bob Taylor and I set off last Friday morning to cross Scotland by canoe.
Day One (Kinlochleven to the East end of the Blackwater)
We left Kinlochleven at 11am with the boats on trolleys for the first 7km uphill portage. Actually the first 2 km are what its all about as you essentially gain most of the 300m in that distance before gaining a concrete conduit to get up to the Blackwater.

Unloading the trailer in Kinlochleven looking up at the route of the portage. It was 1degreeC when we left and never really rose any higher. This was perfect, I cant imagine what it would be like in summer pulling boats up this hill.
Bob with boat heading up the first hill.
Still going up..
Bob and I on the conduit. Kinlochleven can just be seen (the whitish spot in the valley on the lower left is the sea on the west coast)
Finally on some water. It took 3 hours to get the boats up the hill to the blackwater but it was all worth it, paddling in some flat calm on a beautiful high loch.
Bob with 10km of the Blackwater still in front of him late in the afternoon.
The tent lit up on the first night, camped at the East end of the Blackwater ready for the heinous portage the next day.

Day Two (East end of Blackwater to the river Gaur)
We got up and out of camp as it got light and headed off initially trying to connect sections of the Blackwater river with each other but quickly gave up and pulled the canoes behind us instead.
Bob contemplates another boggy section. This first portage was meant to be just over 3 km but we frequently had to take the long way round small streams and large bogs. It was quite useful the ground being frozen as the boat slid pretty easily on the frozen turf.

No water in sight. Potentially the highest part of the crossing getting closer to the small Lochan a’ Chlaidheimh at the top before another long portage down to Loch Eigheach at the head of the Gaur.
Crossing yet another small stream – at times the boats were quite handy as you could slide them halfway across and then climb across them! We both spent much of this day imagining different contraptions that would make this easier.

Camped on the side of the Gaur after a very long day. The last 600m to the road down to Loch Eigheach seemed very long indeed after dragging the boats what should have been 7.5km but was probably more like 10.
Day Three (River Gaur to Dunalastair Dam)
We woke up to find a hard frost and temperature refusing to rise above -5degreeC and not a breath of wind. Lieing in the tent looking at the maps on the first night we had realised that we had totally forgotten about Loch Rannoch, incidentaly the largest loch we would have to paddle. We slowly got into some very cold drysuits and headed downt the Gaur river which was rather low on water.
My socks frozen to the canoe.

Finally across Loch Rannoch and past the Rannoch Dam feeling very pleased with ourselves after meeting an incredulous gentleman who asked “where you headed, Perth?” to which we replied “yes”. We then explained very poorly that we had come from the West Coast and that we were not doing it for charity…
Day Four (Dunalastair Dam to Pitlochry)

Another cold and frosty morning and another portage around a dam to get into the upper Tummel river. We scouted this portage the night before which made things go a bit quicker only to discover that there was no water in the Tummel river and all the throwbags etc were completely frozen. We chose to portage the hard rapids.

Dunalastair Water in the morning light.
Loading the boats for the portage around the dam.

Lunch on Loch Tummel Island.
Finally a pint of beer in the Kingfisher pub in Pitlochry. We had a couple of pints, some fish and chips and then wandered pitlochry looking for the portage route for the next morning.

Day Five (Pitlochry to Perth (and a bit further))

We got up early and did a quick portage of Pitlochry at 615 not even meeting any vehicles on the road and then waited for the bakery to open for some bacon rolls to keep us going. Once on the water we were able to keep a good 10km an hour all the way to perth.
Approaching the bridges in Perth, the tidal limit for East Coast. Just to be sure we paddled an extra 11km down to Abernethy. Thanks to my Dad and Sister for dropping off some pies and irn bru and my dad for helping with the shuttle.
For anyone interested in this route, some notes on logistics –
Total route is about 150km
Portages – hard! there is two painful ones, one on the first day and the other from the blackwater to the gaur. The uphill portage on day one is tough to start but the last 5 km are really pleasant.
Gear – we took 2 boats and two trolleys. The trolleys were lifesavers and this does seem to be safer to do with 1 boat. We took enough gear to be comfortable, drysuits and waterproofs, Wellies, trainers and river shoes. We took enough food for 4 days (three dinners) knowing that we would make pitlochry before we ran out(only just!)
Timing – We both thought winter would be better. Frozen ground, no midgies etc though we did paddle in the dark every day and could certainly have made more distance with more daylight.
Shuttle – its really long though very obvious.
Route – It seems that some people portage down to run the Garbh Ghaoir (the river above the Gaur) but this doesnt really make sense as it is a further portage and doesnt quite make sense (to us) on a map.
Also posted in cross Scotland canoe