Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Birthday Trip to Loch Shiel

November 10th 2013

As I still had a bunch of holidays left to take at work and after a quiet year for getting out I made plans to spend a week on the shores of Loch Shiel around my birthday. I invited the usual bunch, some could make it whilst others couldn't, I was still going to go solo anyway but it's nice to have some company. We set a date and made arrangements for leaving the vehicles somewhere safe for a week, it was going to be me, Stephen, Colin and Jason, both Josh and Pete were busy with other things.

I set off at some ungodly hour and was hitting the borders before it started getting daylight, Glasgow was a doddle and I was soon stopping at Tyndrum for a coffee mid morning, a text from Colin said they were just leaving Balmaha. I arrived at Corran just in time for the next sailing, drove on, paid and drove off the other side. The drive through Glen Tarbett was pleasent in the sunshine, the eastern end of Loch Sunnart had a feeling of days gone by, various rusty structures and marine scrap. Leaving the main road at Strontian I took the single track up and over Scotstown and down the other side to Polloch.

The road was steep in places but there were a few stretches of tarmac where the sun hadn't reached yet, it was pure bottle ice and I was nearly in the ditch a couple of times. Arriving at the FC car park in Polloch I decided to take a drive down the forestry track and see if I could get to a decent put in place for the canoe, it didn't look to bad at first but eventually I was scraping the underside of the car on the deep ruts, I managed to get to the old jetty I'd spotted on Google Earth and quickly unloaded the car and headed back to the car park. Getting back I realised how much kit I'd brought and whether it would actually fit in the boat, with a bit of persuasion it finally all fitted and I heaved the boat into the water.

It was a nice paddle down the swollen river, the pools we'd seen on another visit were about four feet under water, one main channel heading out into the loch. Turning the corner to head west to the camp site I was blinded by the low sun, it seemed to take forever to get to the beach and the heavy boat didn't help.
Landing on the same beach we'd visited back in 2010 I hopped out and went off looking for good tent pitches, with weather warnings for the coming days I settled for a sheltered stand of Birches nestled up against a plantation. I got the Kelly Kettle on and wondered down the beach picking up firedogs and driftwood, the sun was almost dipping behind Ben Resipol behind me so I cracked on and got the tent and stove setup, a bit of luxury camping this time.
I was glad I brought I few bags of logs with me as most of the firewood to hand was pretty soggy, no biggy as I had enough to see right for a few days, as it turned out the week would involve a lot of chopping and splitting of damp wood and drying it next to the stove, an endless cycle.

Colin and Jason appeared at the mouth of The River Polloch a while later, I fired up the Kelly again and sat on the beach watching them come up the loch. They’d had the same sun blindness problem I had and couldn’t see me waving until they were almost at the beach. We said our hellos and they went off to sort their shelters out, Col had his Bergans lavvu whilst Jason was being creative with a tarp system.

Over the next few days we spent our time relaxing and exploring the local area, Colin was away for a paddle most days, exploring the islands and shoreline of Shiel, myself and Jason went for treks into the woods and onto the tops, tracking deer and whatever else we could find, Stephen caught up on his reading and chilled out under his tarp. The weather worsened as the week went on, a couple of the days were truly miserable, the wind blew down my stove pipe in the middle of the night, I heard it go but couldn't be bothered going out to deal with it.
I had a great week despite the weather, it was nice to chill out and slow things down for a few days.

I took a few pics but they're not great, the constant damp wasn't too good for my camera unfortunately.

My humble abode for the week

I spent a good chunk of the week looking out this door

Om nom nom

Col putting up defences mid week

Stephens day shelter

Jason and his tarpology

Creepy oak in amongst the pine plantation

Looking NW up Loch Shiel from a high point

Tree meets rock, tree wins

Stephen & Jason

Col out for a paddle


I paddled up to the burial island one morning when it was good and misty, a couple of minutes after landing there a single crow came and landed in a tree above me, it kind of freaked me out so I took a couple of shots and paddled off again

Colin made a great little video of the week ...

Thanks to those who managed to make it, it was a good laugh and just what I needed. I ate like a king all week and enjoyed 10 hour kips on my Exped downmat every night.

Right, I'm off to chop some wood

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