Unfinished Business – Rum, Easter 2012 Part 1   19 comments

So why “Unfinished Business”? Before I dive into the post let me tell you a little story from a previous visit to this island.

Back in 2008 me and GM took an impromptu trip to Scotland one October. After messing about on Bidean in Glencoe for a day and stroll to Peanmenach bothy on the coast of Moidart, we decided on a few days in Rum to capture the main ridge. We had a great walk around the coast to Dibidil bothy (a storming spot) and set out for the ridge the next day. A few hundred feet short of the summit of Askival on it’s scrambly south ridge, GM decided a hand-jam was in order. A sizeable chunk of Askival came loose and sliced open his hand in an expansive manner and re-arranged several of the bones. The rock bounced down, missing my head by a foot or so and GM and fell on me, nearly taking us both off. With calm understatement GM told me he thought he’d bust his hand. Remarkably we managed to get back down to the bothy with relative ease, pack up, walk most of the way back to Kinloch before getting a handy lift from a brand new Coastguard helicopter. So ended, abruptly our first visit to Rum with none of the peaks of the main ridge climbed. So Rum was classified as unfinished business. Now it was time to go back….

(My original photoset on Flickr is here)

We were originally planning to go Jura with several of the boys, but all of them apart from me and GM cried off with some poor excuses. We decided to keep Jura ready for next year and return to Rum. I decided to fly up from Bristol (not much more expensive than driving) with GM picking me up at Glasgow and taking us up to Suie Lodge for a brief overnight stop. The weather the next day was cold, wet and windy and we almost bailed out but thought we may as well go for it. Almost all the heavy snow that fell couple of days previously had gone, killing the debate about whether we should have taken axe and crampons. We reached Mallaig in the rain (made packing at the car a nightmare), bought the tickets and waited for the ferry.

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Small Isles Ferry

The rain stopped and things looked a little less grim, although the cloud was still down to a few hundred feet above sea level. Surprisingly there was a dogfish swimming quite nonchalantly about in the harbour which was quite something.

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Dogfish in Mallaig Harbour

There were several people waiting for the ferry although most had enough stuff to set up a small settlement so we assumed they were hostel bound

The ferry journey even on a day as grey as this was still enjoyable and I passed the time looking for dolphins without success. The views across to Eigg were still great although Rum was barely visible under a heavy blanket of cloud.

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Eigg

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Loch Scresort and Kinloch

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Jumping ship

Walk in, 7.7 miles, 1,200 feet of ascent

On reaching Loch Scresort we left the hostellers behind and started the long walk in to Harris on the far side of the island, chosen for its ideal start point for a circuit of the main ridge.

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Struggling with the weight of flapjacks

Despite the dreary low cloud the walk was still enjoyable with a sense of adventure in heading off to a remote corner of an equally remote island. It’s easy-going along a wide 4WD track and we made good time. As we passed a few highland cattle and deer Harris came into view and it became clear this was a special spot. The cloud lifted to an encouraging degree and we could see the full sweep of bay from the mausoleum to the cliffs and the large raised beach clearly visible.

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Harris

We set about finding a decent campsite for the weekend. Pete over at Writesofway had told me of spot by the beach with a fire-pit and plenty of wood to burn but we noticed another couple had pitched up just across the river so we thought it a little impolite to intrude on their privacy. We eventually decided on one of the smaller enclosures up near the raised beach which didn’t have the beach fire potential but did have better views. It was a pretty cracking spot, with the sea in front and the mountains behind and a real sense of wilderness. I loved it, nothing is better than getting your tent set up in a wild location and then just soak up the atmosphere with brew.

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Our pitch amongst the stones

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GM, raised beach and Ruinsival

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Looking south along the coast

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GM enjoys a brew

We spent the rest of the evening pottering on the beach and collecting water and various bits of driftwood to sit on and provide improvised laminate flooring in the tent porch. We dined on stir-fry and noodles and watched as the skies cleared, the stars came out and the main ridge slowly revealed itself. It was magical, if a little chilly and the late evening light was truly magnificent.

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Yours truly admiring the sunset

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Sunset

Life seems pretty simple at such times as you settle down to simple pleasures, a hot brew, a homemade flapjack and a view not many people get to see. We kept our fingers crossed the weather forecast for the next day might be wrong.

Main Ridge, 7.4 miles, 3,250 feet of ascent

It wasn’t. The next morning we woke to dull leaden skies and despite the sense that it was only going to get worse we decided to give the ridge a try.

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Enjoy the view while you can

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Calm before the storm

It started drizzling within an hour and the climb up to Ruinsival was a little unrewarding. Once on the top my mood improved as we crossed the strangely eroded gabbro rocks on the summit, almost like a gabbro pavement.

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Ruinsival summit

We were in the cloud but it wasn’t too cold and things could be worse so we pressed on, exploring the cliff edges of Leac a Chasteil as we went.

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Standing on the edge

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Don't do it

Only as we hit the nameless summit at 759m did the weather suddenly turn wetter, windier and colder. Onwards to Ainshval you get a first taste of the real flavour as the ridge suddenly narrows and changes to basalt which was astonishingly slippery and pretty un-nerving. We managed to get down an onto Ainshval without any incident.

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Ainshval, cold wet and windy

Then the fun really started. We tried to follow the ridge down towards Trollaval but lost the route. We ended up on some of the scariest terrain I’ve been on for many a year, a series of small ledges of slippery basalt that just seemed willing us to a nasty fall. We slithered and picked our way slowly down, GM calmly, me in an increasingly agitated state. As we descended we were acutely aware of the risk of not being able to continue down or return the way we had come. You often read in guide-books “no place be in bad weather and poor visibility” and treat it glibly. However Rum has mountains that are not to be trifled with and all the way down I kept thinking “not again”.

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Forced smile

As we neared what we hoped was the bottom of the worst I slipped and nearly came off a very short down-climb, I’d have done myself a nasty if I had fallen. Fortunately my bone-head saved me from slipping as I jammed it into the rock as a makeshift point of contact and after recovering what was left of my composure and checking to see if I needed a change of underwear we seemed clear of the difficulties and the col was in sight below us.

I’d had enough. I was wet, cold and my nerves were shredded so I wanted to head down. GM decided to plough on alone. I didn’t say it at the time but I really didn’t want him to carry on. He’s an extremely experienced mountaineer and climber so the ridge was well within his compass but the previous hour and the last visit to Rum was messing with my head. He headed off to Trollaval and I started the long and lonely trudge back to camp in the drizzle. I stopped at Loch Fiachanis and there were some wafts of blue sky which cheered me up a bit. Short-lived though and the rain was soon back. I was relieved to get back to the tent, get changed and warm up with several brews. GM showed up a couple of hours later and I was mightily pleased he’d managed to do the main summits (and mightily relieved he’d done it without incident). The rain was pretty much set in for the day so after a well-earned meal of anchovy carbonara we settled in for a wet and windy night. Second attempt at the main ridge, second epic, albeit with a happier outcome. As I said, Rum is not to be trifled with.

Enjoy the slideshow, a little longer than normal but I thought the music seemed to fit. Sorry for the lack of photos of the ridge. Not really a day for the camera in more ways than one. More Rum adventures to follow

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19 responses to “Unfinished Business – Rum, Easter 2012 Part 1

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  1. Hellfire! Real drama. Should you two be allowed out together? If it worried you, I hate to think how I would have reacted.
    Surprised to see how many people were getting off the ferry.
    Loved the slideshow. The snippets of film really add something. Thought the music must be Big Country – it’s not one I know, but they have a very distictive sound.

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    beatingthebounds
    • I’ll put it down to experience 🙂

      Probably not as bad as it seemed, more the memory of the previous escapade that spooked me. GM was pretty cool with it as always.

      Glad you liked the slideshow and the video inserts, some more to come in the next instalments, may even leave the audio on me singing if you’re very unlucky

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  2. Glad you managed to come through what sounded like a very hairy descent Andy.
    I was wondering how you got on with the weather, was watching the forecast and I must admit it hadn’t looked great.
    Harris seems like a fine place to camp with loads of atmosphere, will have to keep it in mind if I eventually get to visit.
    Looking forward to the next instalment.
    Paul

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    • Thanks Paul. Considering the poor forecast we got some pretty ok spells of weather, but we saved the ridge for the worst of it! The descent had some interesting moments that’s for sure

      Harris is a magical spot and well worth the effort of walk in. There are loads of spots in and around the bay and more wood on the beach for a fire than you could shake, well, a stick at. Rum is a superb island and well worth the effort with some spectacular coastal scenery and wild corries even without venturing onto the main ridge

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  3. Started off with some idyllic looking pictures, pity the weather didn’t co-operate the next day! I can remember that scary feeling of being somewhere where you’re having trouble carrying on, but don’t feel able to turn back either – not my favourite feeling in the world! 🙂

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    • Can’t grumble at the weather, we had some pretty decent spells and I’ve got an excuse to go back now as well. Probably been in worse scrapes than this one but the remoteness and the previous trip played on my mind I think more than anything. Still a fantastic trip, more to posts to follow

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  4. Pity about the weather, but those pictures are extraordinary for the conditions (or maybe because of them), just brilliant. I can imagine that hair-raising descent on pathless wet rock in clag, time to call it a day I think.
    Finding others pitched in your intended spot in such a remote location adds to my puzzlement: I have a very good grasp of location popularity for walking and camping south of the border, but having limited experience in Scotland I find it much harder to predict: it tends to be the opposite of expectation so far.

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    • Rum is remote Geoff but the really good spots are few and far between, plus in Scotland remote can still mean popular, everyone heads off to get away from it all and everyone else!

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      backpackingbongos
    • Thanks Geoff. Have to say I’m pretty chuffed with some of those images from that first evening. Considering how nasty it was in the morning it was pretty special. It wasn’t a big deal finding a camp spot and the one we chose had superb views, the bay is pretty big so you’d always find a quiet corner. It was Easter I suppose and we didn’t see anyone else all weekend so we had the bay pretty much to ourselves

      The other people moved on after the first night but we couldn’t be bothered to move the tent. Caution though, the bays and beaches look great for camping, every other square inch of Rum I’ve trodden on was either rock or bog 🙂

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  5. Harris bay is a simply stunning spot, shame that you did not get a pitch in the smelly sheep fank by the beach. I loved it there in front of a drift wood fire.

    It would appear that you are often slithering down a dangerous slope on your bottom each time you visit Scotland………

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    backpackingbongos
    • We did spend the last evening down at goat central by the beach with a roaring fire (piccys and vids to follow). We could have moved down there but our spot up by the raised beach was pretty good as well (bit of trek to get water though)

      I do seem to have a propensity for finding the interesting bits – I just love a damp feeling in my nether regions. Oh hang on that’s a thought for a different kind of website………

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  6. Andy, great looking trip report. I like the video as well. Some interesting weather you had – I suspect that we will have more of the same for a number of weeks yet. So it is back to winter ! Never been to Rum, there are so many excellent places to visit in Scotland.

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    • Thanks Mark, glad you liked the vid, we did have a real mixed bag of conditions. I’ve heard we’re in for the coldest May on record! Rum is simply superb and well worth the effort to get to. I’d love to visit the sandy bays on the northern coast as well so I definitely need another trip. So much to see, so little time 🙂

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  7. Sounds like a great trip with variety and a bit of drama. I do like a bit of weather. Can’t wait to get up to Scotland again, it’s been far too long. Bit of a major descent for you there as well – wet rock is never fun and, like you said, you avoided a “nasty” with some quick thinking and perhaps a little luck. We all need it at times. Like the video too and the sunset looks superb.

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    journeymantraveller
    • Hi Maz. Certainly was a great weekend and Rum is simply superb. Wild Scotland at its very best. That descent was very unpleasant but I can look back with a wry smile. Probably over-reacted a bit, but my previous experience tainted my confidence ever so slightly. That basalt was just like polished glass! We had an equally good evening the following day with a roaring beach fire, post on that to come later this evening when I get around to it.

      Feeling a bit guilty I’ve not checked out your fine blog for a few weeks, I’ll be over later to see what you’ve been up to 🙂

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  8. I first thought this was about a trip to the Caribbean – and quickly saw that I was wrong =) Great trip report and stunning photos, good to see that you’re not shy to take the camera out in wet conditions. Looks like this wee island, after Skye, is also joining the list of places to hike in the future.

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    • Hi There, many thanks for the comment, Rum is indeed a spectacular place and well worth a trip in any weather. Mind you after that day on the ridge I could have done with shot of something warming! I’m lucky I have a waterproof camera for my kayaking so it’s handy to take some route shots in bad weather, all adds to the storytelling 🙂

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