A Wintry Cairngorm Traverse

Posted in Hiking, Hills with tags , , on November 29, 2016 by Jinja Coo

We set off from Achlean in Glen Feshie under blue skies with some warmth from the sun overcoming the frosty temperatures and walked further south than we should have to start ascending – mostly due to lack of concentration – but in doing so we chanced upon a small herd of the Cairngorm’s reindeer grazing.

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Rather than follow an easy path up the hillside we opted for a rising traverse back on to the path we should have taken in the first place and by now the sky was greying and the tops disappearing into the mists forming above.

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Reaching the cairn of Carn Ban Mor, we were now continuing where a couple of us had left off previously, to Sgor Gaoith across the undulations of higher ground with little sign of anything beyond a few hundred feet, but that was about to change.

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Our arrival at the summit coincided with a thinning of the cloud and patches of clarity allowed us views that were all the more interesting for the gaps between the detail. However, there was no sign of Loch Einich on the north side of Sgor Gaoith, just a seemingly endless drop to the unknown below us.

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We had set up this walk with two cars and so rather than turning back to retrace our steps, or looping back, we continued on along the spine of Sgor Gaoith before dropping into Gleann Einich. The sky by now was finishing as it started, clear and blue, with the sun’s descent colouring the tops in orange and highlighting every craggy edge not covered in snow on the hills to the east of Gleann Einich.

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A final, quick march along the good track to Whitewell finished of an enjoyable walk just as darkness settled in for the night.

Glen Kinglass

Posted in Hiking with tags , on November 24, 2016 by Jinja Coo

I have now seen Glen Kinglass in all seasons and this was my third trip into the area this year alone. Though very cold, and with the first snows of this coming winter on the higher tops, autumn was definitely still evident. We had chosen this walk with the aim of hopefully hearing, and perhaps seeing, the deer rut taking place.

A single deer we passed on the way in didn’t hang about, hopping easily over a fence and disappearing into a forestry plantation. I had hoped the corries and slopes surrounding Loch Dochard, our destination, would allow the noise of any roaring stags to be directed towards us, but none were heard there. We lingered awhile anyway for lunch and to enjoy the great views and seasonal colouring on the hills and shoreline.

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On our return journey we had all but given up on the deer when we were amazed by a close encounter with a very chilled out stag who stood proud, posing even, despite our proximity on the path a few metres away – an unforgettable encounter.

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Previous visits: Spring, Summer (1), and (2) and Winter.

Garvellachs

Posted in Paddling, Sea Kayak with tags , , , on November 24, 2016 by Jinja Coo

Finally, after three previous attempts I made it to the Garvellachs, a group of islands between Mull and Jura. Two contradictory things struck me, they were much closer than I expected and they were much bigger than I expected, the latter (combined with the amount of bog and bracken) thwarting my intentions of exploring the bulk of our chosen home for the night on foot.

The choice of the Garvellachs as a destination for the weekend was a late one, when a few days before there had been a reasonable forecast on the cards, unlike each of the previous times when paddling had been limited by weather and resulted in less exposed paddles nearby, looking across at what should have been.

We set off from Easdale and headed southwest under bright skies with the black silhouetted Garvellachs lying single file ahead of us. Contrasting the blackness of our destination was the warm colouring on Mull’s long, southern coast – a palette of oranges, browns and greys … somewhere else to visit someday.

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With three main islands, we managed to alternate our way down the west, east then west coast of the chain before rounding the southernmost skerries and landing first at the historic, religious site on Eilach an Naoimh for a wander and snack. Another surprise for me – I knew of the ruins from the map and research, but would have never expected such an extensive or well kept site on such a remote spot.

As well as interest in the ruins, we had good views of Scarba, Jura’s northern end and in the distance Colonsay and Islay too. No doubt the monks who stayed here will have enjoyed the views from time to time, but it must have been an uncomfortable and hard life here.

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Slight swell and smooth reflective surface had been enjoyed west of the islands on the way down, now on the east, we were exposed to the winds and the sea became a bit choppier and a drop in temperature was felt too.

We both managed to squeeze our tents into small patches by the pier on Garbh Eileach and were changed and warmed up in time to enjoy the colours of sunset on the eastern shore and hills to the east. We passed on seeing the actual setting sun over Mull which would have involved a walk over rough, boggy ground, but it was impressive all the same.

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Clear skies continued later with a starry night – no photos though, I messed up my camera settings in spectacular fashion.

Next morning, sunrise gave us more nice colouring on the scenery to the east and the promise of more good weather for our return journey.

Leaving Garbh Eileach, we island hopped our way back via the Eilean Dubhs (Beag and Mor) and Belnahua, where we sat in glorious sunshine brewing up tea then wandering among the old slate mine ruins. This is somewhere I have always fancied spending a night and exploring more in detail. There is no shortage of flat, dry ground to pitch a tent, it is a short hop out and back and there is tidal interest and great open views of all the other islands and hills around … another one for another day.

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Looking back to the Garvellachs (centre) with southeastern Mull on the far right…
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Tides (neaps) were picking up by now and we had to slog a bit to get up to and across Cuan Sound and the final scenic leg back to Easdale bringing a long overdue paddle with good weather to an end.

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Views from Loch Torridon

Posted in Sea Kayak with tags , on November 23, 2016 by Jinja Coo

It had been too long since I was out in my kayak with too many other hobbies getting in the way, but finally I made it on to the water and though it didn’t seem like the best choice at first, given nearby alternatives, it turned out very pleasant with calm weather and clear views of the stunning Torridon hills surrounding us.

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As well as the usual seabirds and eagles, we saw some porpoises on the water but no otters. It is over a year since I last saw one, perhaps another sign I have not been on the sea as much as I used to.

Loch an Eilein

Posted in Hiking with tags on November 22, 2016 by Jinja Coo

If I ever live in Aviemore, I can see me walking round Loch an Eilein throughout the year and at all times of day, it is always a nice place to spend time, but autumn certainly adds a whole new dimension with the seasonal colours. Though largely a woodland setting, the scenery does vary along the way and the short loop of easy walking can be taken quickly or enjoyed more slowly with lots of lingering along the way.

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