Monday 20 December 2010
Tuesday 16 November 2010
Jim shows off the new light sabre on the fromt of his buoyancy aid
I try to photograph a cormorant hanging its wings out to dry.
Sunday had a better forecast so we headed off for Penmon and a trip to see the seals on Puffin Island. Here's what we saw.Seals on the beach
Seals on the rocks
Very cute baby seal on the rocks
And an incredibly bright rainbow (the photo doesn't really do it justice)
Friday 8 October 2010
And here he is again, at the bottom of the pitch.
This is what we went to look at, a highly decorated passage just off 'Straw Chamber'. The ceiling is covered in straw stalactites and helictites, and they're all glittery white.
Here's a close up.
Finally, all good things come to an end, and we have to leave. Here's Chris nearing the top of the fourth pitch.
And here's me just reaching the surface.
What a great way to spend an evening! All that remained was the long (well, it seemed long) walk back across the fell to the car and a very welcome set of dry clothes. Caving is a fantastic winter activity 'cos you don't need daylight. Thursday nights are caving nights from now on. I'm going to write up as many trips as possible and may eventually put them in a separate blog but for now, they're going to get mixed up with the paddling. You never know, I may entice one of you salty sea dogs into an underground adventure...any takers?
Friday 1 October 2010
Just starting the descent of the daylight pitch.
A bit further down.
Dave gets to the bottom of the first pitch.
Then a section of easy crawling.
After another two pitches, named 'sneaky' and 'the crap trap' and a fair bit of wriggling, swearing and getting stuck we reach the Easegill main drain. It is somewhat sobering to see where the waterlevel was yesterday.
Foam was all over the place, sometimes twenty feet above our heads and a good reminder of the power of water. I wouldn't want to be here in the wet. We went for a short stroll down the stream to the sump and a brief forray into waterfall passage. The noise of falling water in the confined made conversation impossible. Eventually it was time to make our escape back the way we went in.
Here's Dave emerging, hot and bothered from the top of Sneaky pitch.
Me in the crawly bit.
Approaching the deceptively awkward wriggle before the final pitch.
Having not been caving for so long, I felt like I had used every muscle in my body. The final pitch out was easy and we were soon walking back to the car in the dark. Great to have an activity not dependant on daylight.
Now I've just got a load of muddy ropes and kit to wash. I think salty sea gear is preferable to mud!
Monday 6 September 2010
Loads of boats ready to launch at Hallsands beach
Tim puts the new P&H Delphin through its paces...
Hard to tell where the spray ends and the bird poo begins. This rock stank!
Here's Dave inspecting his culinary handiwork. With three nights camping and three of us, we each cooked an evening meal and tried to outdo each other in deliciousness. On the menu a la Dave was chicken breasts marinaded in ginger and lime roasted over a bed of hot embers, served with herby sweet potatoes and salad leaves with olives and feta cheese. Dave was most concerned that we shouldn't get scurvy so pudding was a fresh fruit salad.
Here's Dave playing...
And here's our route to the midgiest campsite on earth, on Eileach an Naoimh, the most southerly of the Garvellachs. Within seconds of landing, the wee beasties were eating us alive. Our priorities were headnets, DEET, a smoky fire and then unloading.
It was Robs turn to cook and he produced smoked salmon on oatcakes as an appetiser, vegetable soup starter, followed by tagliatelli carbonara (with loads of bacon and mushrooms) and the piece de resistance, baked on the fire, chocolate brownie with custard.
Day three promised another smooth paddle so we set off on an exploration of the Garvellachs and then island-hopped our way to the Cuan Sound and made for the Bridge over the Atlantic.
Conditions were glassy smooth and we reached the Clachan Sound at low water, fortunately at neaps so there was plenty to float the boats. The final pull of the day was across to Kerrera and a campsite in the Shadow of Gylen Castle.
My turn to cook and the menu was Mexican. An appetiser of jalapeno peppers was followed by spicy bean and chorizo sausage wraps, with avocado salad, cous-cous and sour cream. Pudding was swiss roll and custard.
Next morning we parted company. I was on a tight schedule to get home ready to pack for another trip away so I paddled straight up the Sound of Kerrera back to my waiting van, while Dave and Rob took the scenic route round the island.
A short period of settled high pressure weather made this trip a lovely calm experience. We didn't cover any vast distances or paddle particularly fast, it was just a good chance to chill out a little, cook good food, drink whisky and enjoy the scenery.
Tuesday 3 August 2010
Next morning set off to cross to Arran. All was well, light wind and no rain, until I got to Lochranza. From here on it was a struggle to make progress. The headwind slowed me down and made sure that the rain found its way into my cag and down my neck. It was thoroughly miserable. Once I decided that I'd had enough it was another 5 km or so before I found somewhere I could land and camp. One problem I've discovered with solo expeditioning is that I have to find very easy landing places as I can't just carry my boat over rocks. I take a trolley with me, but it can only cope with fairly smooth surfaces.
I awoke at 5am to find it dry and flat calm. By a more normal start time of 9am it was drizzling and the wind had increased, again in my face as I set off. I planned to reach the village of Blackwaterfoot for lunch, in the hope that there would be a cafe. No luck, but I did manage to replenish my dwindling rations and then shelter in a bus stop to eat lunch.
I set off again just as the sky lightened and rain eased. I had also turned a corner and now the wind was partly behind me. It made for much more pleasant paddling conditions. I finally stopped for the night on the southern shore of Arran, almost opposite the island of Pladda. Ailsa Craig appeared out of the gloom as clouds lifted and the remaining afternoon and evening were clear and sunny.
During the evening I spent at least an hour sitting on rocks looking at and photographing a pair of seals. At a guess I would say they were mother and pup. Their expressions and movements reminded me of a pair of fat tourists sunbathing on a beach. Here are some of the pictures.
Next morning I set off in sunshine, a new experience! I made rapid progress past Pladda and round the corner to Holy Island, where I stopped for an early lunch before continuing to Brodick. The funfair was in town and the whole bay was subjected to the raucous blaring music that accompanies the nausea inducing rides. I made a swift exit and continued on to a picnic site just north of Sannox. This was a fantastic place to camp, but as the water drained away as the tide ebbed I realised I had made a bit of a mistake. It was going to be nearly impossible to launch again at anything other than high water, that meant a 5am start. I began to wonder how motivated I was going to be next morning.
I needn't have worried. After a dry night, I packed away a dry tent for the first time this week and was away from the campsite within 45 minutes of getting out of bed, a bit of a record for me. It was lovely paddling off into flat calm sea in the soft light of dawn. No one else was about, and the place was mine. I made quick progress across to Bute, then Great Cumbrae and back to Largs where my trusty paddle waggon was waiting for me.
Arran and Bute lack the spectacular rock scenery that other islands have in abundance but the relatively sheltered location made this trip possible when I might have backed off other more committing trips.
Sunday 20 June 2010
Sunday 6 June 2010
Once we reached the far side, Pete said goodbye and turned right to paddle a short round trip and back to Angle. I turned left and headed for the exposed point of St Anne's Head. I had to keep a fair way offshore as big swell was crashing into a rocky coast, sending spray skyward. The next bit of coastline was demoralising. Waves were still big and unbenownst to me, I was paddling in an eddy, reducing my speed to a mere 4km/hr. I was heading towards the red cliffs of Gateholm Island.
After Gateholme, my speed improved and I started thinking about a place to spend the night. The map showed places with names such as Rainy Rock and Deadman's Bay, but by now I was within a stones throw of Jack Sound, the gap between Skomer and Midland Isle and the mainland, and so despite knowing that the tide would be against me, I thought I'd take a look.
Flow was swift but by sneaking up the eddies I was able to pass through Jack Sound and round Wooltack Point for a little respite at St Martin's Haven. As a tour boat spewed at least fifty passengers onto the landing stage I decided this was not the sort of place for a surreptitious wild camp and continued on to St Bride's Haven. This was more like it. A quiet beach, few people and a small patch of flat ground by a restored limekiln for my tent.
Next morning I awoke to blue sky, little wind and a choice; straight across St Bride's Bay to Ramsey or round the edge of the bay for more interesting scenery. The scenery won, and I set off towards Stack Rocks and Broad Haven.
Following the shore is definitely more fun than a crossing. You can at least be certain you are making progress, and the view changes constantly. I was in a very relaxed mood as I cruised along the back of St Brides Bay, watching the surfers at Newgale. Perhaps I was looking to the right a little too often, as all of a sudden a towering wave came out of nowhere to my left. I turned my boat to face it and paddled as fast as I could, to make it over just a second or so before it broke. The roar as is crashed was incredible and I was rather glad I was safely to seaward. Could have been interesting and once again the sea reminds me to keep alert.
From Newgale there were fantastic cliffs all the way to Ramsey Sound. Loads of arches and caves, layered rocks folded and buckled and tiny bays accessible only by kayak. As I reached Ramsey sound, an hour into the south going flow, I thought I'd have a go at getting through. The water was flat but moving fast as I eddy hopped my way towards St Justinian. Round the corner Whitesands Bay was heaving with people, so I sped on past to Porthmelgan, a small sandy beach accessible only on foot along the coastal path or from the sea. Above the beach I found the perfect campsite, complete with four legged friends.
Next morning, another beautiful day, I set off for the first time with tidal assistance. It was a good feeling being swept round St David's Head. The rest of the day was a fantastic series of cliffs, caves, arches and small bays. I went for a brief explore at Abereidi to find the 'Blue Lagoon', an old quarry, now flooded. At Strumble Head I had a choice of narrow gaps between islands or round the outside. The narrow gaps won.
After Strumble Head, I made for Fishguard Lower Town. I'd paddled a long way and felt I deserved an ice cream.
Back on the water I set off to find somewhere to spend the night, and passed some amazing rocky sculptures....
...and then found an ideal campsite.
A slaty pebble beach (boat friendly), flat grass, fresh water and ample firewood. What more could I want. A little later I had a visit from a contingent of Haverfordwest Canoe Club out for an evening paddle. I am more than a little bit jealous that they have this sort of scenery for an evening paddle.
The final day of my solo expedition was remarkable for the rock formations. Words aren't needed but here are a few pictures.