First Scheduled Winter Skills Course of 2019 – Mild and Thin

So far this winter has been very mild apart from some good snowfall in October and December. The deep gullies still have some snow. However, even Easy Gully (Number 2) in Coire na Ciste is starting to get a bit thin on the snow. We really need some new snow.

The course went really well considering the conditions. We went up to Ciste Mhearad on Saturday to do all the “walking on snow” skills and had a day at easy gully at Coire na Ciste on Sunday. We had some winds of up to 40-50mph and even a few snow flurries.

Ciste Mhearad

Checked out the snow conditions at Ciste Mhearad yesterday to see if there is a chance to do some snowholing next week. The is an existing snowhole at the west side, near an old avalanche. There you get about 2.5m depth of snow. At the opposite side you get one spot with about 3m depth but this would need a bit of cooling as it doesn’t look very stable. All the snow is very wet and would be easy to dig but would also mean that you would get soaking wet and the hole would shrink by the morning. It might be an interesting night if we decide to go snowholing.

Grivel equipment

Grivel Order

Last weekend a delivery from Grivel arrived. We have decided that this season we will upgrade some of our winter equipment. This meant to splash out on some good money on shiny Grivel crampons, ice axes, crampon extenders and crampon bags. What we got are:

  • 1 Grivel AirTech Evo Ice axe (53cm)
  • 1 Grivel G1 Ice axe (53cm)
  • 3 Grivel G12 NewMatic Crampons (C2)
  • 2 Grivel G12 NewMatic Crampons (C2)
  • 5 Grivel Crampon Bags
  • 2 Grivel 190mm crampon extension bars

I hope that this will go down well with all our clients to have newer and just a little better equipment for the coming winter seasons. I’m looking forward to using the new toys.

Sea kayaking near Kyle

Last Sea Kayaking Trip of the Season

October saw some pretty windy conditions, just to finish off a rather windy season. However, there was a weather window which we managed to use and the Saturday saw some really nice weather with a lot of seals. We paddled from Kyleakin up the coast to Plockton and then stopped for the night at Duncraig Cove. Before that we made a little visit at the Highland Farm to have a look at some Lamas and rather interesting looking goats.

The railway station at Duncraig offered us some great shelter from the elements while we cooked and had dinner. The following morning we had a very short paddle top Plockton to finish the day.

This blog is dedicated to Martin who suggested to have it updated more often.

Ardbeg Distillery

Whisky Galore

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.

Sea Kayaking Eilean Donan

Windy Week Sea Kayaking

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.

sea kayaking seals

Wind, Rain and Seals

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.

Sea kayaking Portree

Raasay Rover

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.

Dolphin sea kayak

Dolphin Mania

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.

ice axe arrest

Last Winter Skills Course

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.