Sunday, 30 June 2013
He had it all planned out. He would pick me up in Glasgow at 4:45 am in time to catch the early ferry from Kennacraig to Port Askaig on Islay. ( Port Askaig and Jura Ferry seen in the picture above from the top deck of larger ferry. MV Finlaggan) We would then cycle in by cunning means to bag the summit of Beinn An Oir then cycle back to get the ferry and drive back to Glasgow, returning around 1:00am. A long day but a fine wee adventure.
I had walked over the Paps of Jura years ago with the club we were in at that time but Alex had missed that trip back then. Now he was keen to bag his Corbett and I was more than happy to revisit both islands again A shot of one of the Paps from the ferry heading for Islay. Looks like a pastel or watercolour here due to the diffuse light. It's a two hour trip to reach Port Askaig then a ten minute hop over to Jura on the smaller boat. The strength of the current pouring through the narrow gap between the two islands through the Sound of Islay is impressive and we hit it in full flow. If you fell in off the pier you would be sucked out to sea in minutes when it's at its wildest.
This wee ferry requires big engines for its short crossing.
We arrived on Jura shortly before 11:00 am and set off on the bikes, heading for the western slopes of Beinn An Oir (Mountain of Gold) near a long trail of scree and erratic boulders called 'The Witches Pavement.' Alex was a driven man as usual. No time to stop for photographs. He was off into the distance in a flash. Dumping the bikes at the end of the track we took to the slopes and came across a variety of animals.
'How much food have you got with you? Alex asked me.
Not that it was any of his business but I had a packet of six pork and pickle pies, a Cornish pasty, three packets of ready salted crisps, a six pack of Bakewell slices, a slab of cheese, a large well known brand of smoked sausage and four king sized mars bars.
'I don't want to run short.' I informed him. 'It's going to be a long day. How? What have you got?'
'Packet of fags and two sausage rolls.' He looked at me in expectation.
'Well you cant have any of mine.' I protested. 'I'm down to one Mars Bar and a Bakewell Slice here. You should have asked earlier.'
We've hardly started walking!'
'Getting up early makes me hungry. I don't smoke so I have to eat food instead.'
'You fat greedy bastard.' Throw me a crumb here!'
'No! I need to ration myself now. Have another cigarette if you're hungry. All the fashion models swear by them so they must work.'
He settled for that.
Not doing the full traverse didn't bother me as I'd bagged them years ago and Alex was focused only on Corbett's for the moment. Even at that we didn't have that much spare time left to catch the ferry. On the mad downhill dash back along the track Alex's front brake stopped working which made the brilliant kilometres long freewheel at a steep angle even more exciting for him.
One of the walk back. Alex a happy man with a new Corbett under his belt.
We got back just after one o clock in the morning. A long but enjoyable day.
Video this week is one I found when searching for images of the Aiguille De La Vanoise. The iconic needle of the Vanoise National Park. A 9000 foot blade of rock in the French Alps that I climbed years ago with three friends from my old club.
It was my first proper rock climb in the alps and my last. Scared the bejesus out of me so much that I decided to just walk up the Alpine peaks after that.
It was down in the guide book as a useful training climb for more serious alpine ascents. After bagging the sofa sized summit on this shark fin arête with massive exposure on both sides of the foot wide ridge I decided the serious stuff would have to manage without me. Worth a watch. Spectacular in full screen and 480 definition. These guys make it look easy though. We bailed out after the summit when we came to a hanging abseil into space. 'Continue without incident' was all the guide book said at this point. Useful training for what! Flying? I've climbed harder stuff technically in the UK but never with this level of screaming exposure on each side. Imagine a 9000 foot high INN Pin ( long side way up) on Skye and that's close in feel to this narrow blade of rock.' Mammy- daddy' was muttered several times on this. I last used that phrase when I was five years old. What a tick though! Thanks to Brian and JB and JT.
Sunday, 23 June 2013
For those who don't know the story this University explanation is the most interesting one I could find. I will be covering the University campus later. This is the official site.
These two buildings are inspired by the exotic east and would not look out of place rising from the jungles of the Indian Subcontinent built when all things Indian completely fascinated the west.
Instead of a seagull just imagine flying foxes in the photograph below. Very like a temple.
A very happy heron. Don't know why though as a new intruder has taken up residence in the pond.
This looks like a Red Eared Terrapin, originally from the swamps of the Southern United States. Invasive species are a real pest these days and while they may be cute a few of these things will strip a pond of all its animal life. This one is the size of a dinner plate. Give it a score of years and you may have hundreds of them invading every waterway in the city. I can see why folk do it as they don't want to kill them in front of their kids and think it's a good idea to set them free in the wild but they do not belong here. DO YOU WANT TO KILL A BRITISH FAIRY! DO YOU WANT TINKERBELL AND THE NATIVE WILDLIFE TO DIE!
Shake a fairy. See if any golden dust falls out on your life. My post for Tinkerbell.
On the video front here's a very different kind of Tinkerbell. Just for the terrapin a visual and aural explosion of Southern Delta Blues to remind it of the heat and swamps of Louisiana. No cotton mouths or other swamp snakes slithering along on Byres Road although there maybe a few night crawlers from time to time. I first discovered the music of The Black Keys due to this underrated and largely misunderstood film. It's an interesting modern fable about betrayal, salvation, redemption and love. Aw! Black Snake Moan.
Maybe this is what Tinkerbell looks like in the modern age :) Samuel L Jackson learned to play guitar for this film (assisted by a lot of blues greats in the background). Great song and a film which really captures the atmosphere and sweltering humidity of the deep dark southern lands. Sweet home Alamama indeed.
Blistering song that introduced me to The Black Keys before they hit the big time.
Friday, 14 June 2013
This Corbett turned out to be the best of the trip for me. Not only was it shorter at around 10 kilometres uphill but it also started by using the Beinn Eighe Mountain Trail which is a beautiful circular path of great variety and interest. It is steep and rugged in places but well made. If anyone is in this area with adventurous teenage children used to walking in the outdoors this is a great summer route even in dull weather. It would be tricky in snow or ice due to sections of bare quartz rock. Beinn Eighe was Britain's first national nature reserve established in the 1950's and a lot of time and effort has obviously gone into this trail to make a viable path through some stunning terrain and natural native woodland habitats.
Next to the wooden visitor information shelter in the car park you follow a quiet underpass beside a stream flowing into the loch which then leads uphill climbing through rugged terrain.
As you climb higher through the Caledonian pine woods, home to red squirrels and pine martins, the views open out over Loch Maree and its surrounding mountains. It felt nice to be climbing in the shade of the trees in the crisp cool of morning as it was shaping up to be another hot day.
The whole of human evolution compared against a dragonfly is measured in the same brief time span we judge their short existence to be. They may live fast, short individual life's on the wing after an underwater stage but their time line history is on an impressive scale. Over 300 million years.
This modern example is a four spotted chaser, a fast flying predator that catches other insects on the wing. Looks like some sort of fly is on the menu here as a pair of small wings seem to be sticking out its mouth. Hope its a cleg.
A superb panorama.
The summit of Meall a' Ghiubhais itself ( I notice it's down as Ghiuthais on my other sheet 19 map for Gairloch and Ullapool) is a great viewpoint with views over a wide area.
Sorry to put you off your dinner. I'm away now for mine. In the words of a popular carrot muncher. That's all folks!
Might as well end with a final Emilie Simon video. Best known for her skills sitting behind a piano here she straps on an electric guitar to play live in a very different interpretation of the old Iggy Pop Classic.
'I Wanna be your Dog.' Moody and very atmospheric. Beauty, elegant grace, Belle Epoque flair and Rock and Roll. Not often that happens together at the one time.
Tuesday, 11 June 2013
This photograph was taken from the tiny but beautiful park sandwiched between the sea loch and the River Ewe.
Although it feels serene and remote now during World War Two Loch Ewe was a busy place.
It was codenamed 'Port A' and was a secret base for the Arctic Convoys helping to support Russia with much needed supplies and equipment, sailing to Archangel and Murmansk from here. Nineteen Arctic Convoys in total braved German U boats and air attacks and almost six hundred ships made the hazardous crossing. Merchant craft being escorted and protected by a guard of Naval warships.
Convoy PQ 17 was one of the hardest hit during that time with only 11 out of 36 merchant ships reaching Archangel.
I learned this from the Information boards and Memorial to all the sailors that died in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic.
for a starter before munching a tasty sandpiper sandwich it was 6:00am. A wash and much needed outflow at the Poolewe toilets saw us reaching the car park at the start of the track beside the River Ewe just before 7:00am.
Even the swift act of getting the bikes ready and pulling on boots saw us covered in midge. After an application of midge cream over arms, hair and head they simply changed tactics biting me on the eyeballs, inside the ears and around the lips instead. I wanted to round them all up and put them on the naughty step but the driven man beside me was keen to tackle his mountain for today.
The driven man took the lead, pleased he could actually see his carrot/Oops sorry Corbett, in sight most of the way.
' Are you not going to keep me company? It's a wonderful view from the top. We might get a breeze up there. It's getting really hot now. Even hotter than yesterday.'
I handed him my lucky rabbits foot as there was very little meat left on it after our last rest stop.
'There will be a breeze at the beach.' Ta Ta. Have a good day up your lump.'
Many years ago in my puppy prime I had climbed Beinn Lair via Wisdom Buttress, V Diff. An esoteric and spectacular rock climb which has scant protection on its 700 foot of slabby verticality. I seem to remember Brian, our bold lead climber in a rope of three, resorting to several body belays on ledges as normal protection on this rock route was conspicuous by its absence. I think we got eight runners in 700 feet and most of them were small wires. Size one or two.
It was almost a solo with a rope on. Real adventurous stuff. A tenuous line weaving a path up, around and under overhangs. It's the classic of this crag and is arguably the remotest climb of its grade in Britain. I see it's up to Severe grade now probably due to the lack of protection and its isolation.
Had a good chuckle watching Alex toil up this skyline to his hard won prize.
There are bands of Lewisian Gneiss running through the Torridonian sandstone and other material like Cambrian Quartzite in this area which is probably responsible for this startling effect. Very unusual. The rocks in this area are some of the oldest found anywhere in the world.
After visiting here I stayed on the path system and visited the heights above Letterewe reached via the low pass of the Stathan Buidhe as I fancied looking down on the islands in Loch Maree. I'll keep that for Part Three though.
Eventually Alex returned from Beinn Lair and we walked back to the bikes together. An eleven and a half hour day during which I covered as much ground as Alex, just less vertical height. Seen nine other walkers over two days. This still feels like a remote area where anything can take place.
Really weird pink flamingo sunset over the tents.
Might as well include another gem from Emilie Simon off the same flower themed album 'Vegatal'
Stunning artwork throughout.