This year Unexplored Scotland has been sea kayaking on Islay for the first time. The original plan was to circumnavigate the island and tick off some of the whisky distilleries on the way. The trip would have been a challenge with good weather but unfortunately, that was not to be. After 3 glorious days of good weather, whisky distilleries at the shore and some wildlife the weather has turned. Force 5-6 meant that we had to put in a 3-day break and do the cultural thing on the island and visit Finlaggan, the capital of the Lord of the Isles, an archaeological excavation at Lagavulin and amongst other things.
On our last day we still managed to paddle around Loch Indaal to finish off a memorable trip on the exposed Island. Some of the highlights were the many seals and the best bothy (including an honesty library) I have ever stayed in.
This week was pretty windy with a constant South-Westerly wind around Skye. This meant that it was hard work paddling at times and that the areas we could go in 5 days was a bit limited. However, we managed to do quite a lot of good sea kayaking including a visit to Eilean Donan castle. We also encountered some friendly seals where we camped at the second night and saw some Otters too. One was just laving lunch when we spotted it.
Last weekend was the first day of high winds and some force 4 winds in almost 2 months. Starting at Kyleakin we encountered quite a few common seals, who were sheltering from the southerly wind on some small islands near Kyle. We got pushed along a few km paddling north towards Plockton. However, we decided to stop a bit earlier at Port Lunge and then do the tourist thing and go for a coffee in Plockton.
The second day was a lot more enjoyable with less wind and we managed to paddle over to the Strome Islands and then along the coast to Plockton to finish the trip. Even though it was wet and windy, it was a fantastic trip with some wildlife.
In late June we have done our first Raasay Rover trip of the year. We managed to circumnavigate the Island starting at Portree. On the first day we had to battle 1.5 metre swells coming in from the north. It was pretty hard going to cross from Portree to Raasay but we all made it in time to put up our tents and have a nice BBQ for dinner. The second day was really hard work. Even though we suppose to be sheltered by the island we managed to paddle into the wind pretty much all day. We had to finish a bit earlier and then have an easier paddle in the morning to get back to Portree.
Today at a 3 star sea kayaking training we paddled from Rosemarkie to Chanonry Point and then over to Fort George to get away from the easterly winds. On the way we didn’t spot much of wild life apart from a lone common seal having a nosy at us. However, when we got across to Fort George we saw the most amazing display of local Bottlenose Dolphins jumping and fishing I have ever seen. They came over to us several times to have a good look at us and were not bothered about our presence at all. At some stage they got as close as about 2m to the kayaks. This display went on pretty much all day. I have to admit that it was very hard to coach today with all the distraction going on in the background. We even saw Spirtle several times, a dophin that made news because it received severe sunburns last year. It looks like the sunburn has healed very well indeed.
One last note. I wanted to assure readers that we didn’t approach the dolphins and stayed at least 100m away from them. They approached us and were not in the slightest bothered by us. Hence they stayed for the whole 4 hours while we were at Fort Geoge.
The weekend saw the last winter skills course of the 2017/18 winter season. It has been a weekend with some great weather and lots of sunshine. However, the snow is now slushy and it became more difficult to find places to use ice axe and crampons. On the way in to Coire an t-Sneachda we also spotted an avalanche coming out of Jacobs Ladder. It was a great finish to the season and I’m now looking forward to Spring and summer with lots of kayaking.
This weekend saw some really great weather. Well Saturday wasn’t that good really but we made the most of it and got though a lot of skills. On Sunday we went into Coire an t-Sneachda and got onto steeper slopes. We also had a look at using crampons there and used them on the ice fall below Fiacaill Ridge. Most of the snow we cam across was pretty stable. All in all it was a fantastic Easter weekend with great sunshine and a fantastic group.
The weekend saw some great weather and milder temperatures. There was also very little wind. On Saturday at Coire na Ciste it was very quiet and only skiers were in the area. At lower slopes the snow disappeared from more exposed areas and was very soft underfoot. On Sunday we went higher to have a look at steeper slopes and work with crampons and harder snow. Furthermore we had a look at cutting steps and climbing up and down small cornices.
The weekend saw again some winds from the east with some snowfall and spindrift. The road up to the Cairn Gorm ski area was therefore impassible. On Friday we walked up to the Sugarbowel car park and then down to the stream. There we did some avalanche awareness and ice axe arrests. After that we went up to the Cas car park and saw the extent of the spindrift. Poor visibility to less than 50m and the snowplough couldn’t really clear much of the snow.
On Saturday we went to Drumochter to get away from the strong winds and have easy access to steep slopes. We managed to go through quite a lot of skills and have a look at some of the big cornices there. Sunday saw some calmer weather. The wind has eased and it was easier to have a look at some rope work.
The last 5 days has seen some really mixed weather. On Saturday we had milder weather with some spindrifts. Because of this the snow gates to Cairn Gorm Mountain were not open. Therefore we went to Drumochter, which had some really good snow conditions. The snow was a bit soft, but really good for doing the sliding skills like ice axe arrest. Sunday looked like much the same but according to other people there were some inversions.
Monday we managed to go high and saw some impressive inversions from 1000m. This meant that we managed to see all the higher tops, while the glens were foggy. When we walked up for the snow-holing on Tuesday the weather was great with some hillfog. However, when we started digging it all cleared up. The snow was in part very easy to dig and we had our snowholes ready after 2 hours. This called for a beer, opened with an ice axe (number one mountaineering tool). We started to do some navigation to get to the summit of Cairn Gorm. The visibility was very poor and you could stand 20m away from a big feature like the weather station on the summit or a ski tow and not see it. We then bailed out early in the morning as there were SSE winds gusting up to 60 mph forecast.