15 May 2010

Half a Paddle

I've just got back from a week long trip, with the university, to the west coast of Scotland. We were based in Oban and the week was split into three distinct section: two-and-a-half days climbing, two days canoeing and two days sea kayaking. This post focuses solely on the days spent canoeing.

Loch Awe with Beinn Mhic Mhonaidh and it's surrounding mountains in the background.

I have been paddling for just over half a decade and I think I can count the times I've been in a canoe on the ten digits of my hands. For this reason, I decided to get some canoeing instruction when we had to choose which activities to engage with on the Oban residential and to be honest I am glad I did. Not because I was in desperate need of instruction (it was beneficial nevertheless) but because of what we achieved in the two days of paddling with half a paddle.

Kilchurn Castle sitting at the head of the Loch.

Looking down Loch Awe to Innis Chonain from Kilchurn Castle's highest turret.

On the first day we were on Loch Awe and we managed to get to Kilchurn Castle, which is something I've tried on previous visits to the area with little success, and that alone made the two days extremely rewarding. For the remaining part of the day we made our way north-east, against the wind, to one of Loch Awe's many Crannogs, where we looked at the many different strokes needed to do what is basically the same thing; move the boats forwards, backwards and sideways before making our way back to the castle and the awaiting minibus.

Sailing back down the Loch.

To be honest I wasn't that enthused for the return journey down the Loch, we would be paddling with the wind, but my energy reserves were depleted after the two-and-a-half days of climbing. This problem was rectified however by the half hour spent rafting the five canoes together, building an A-frame from a set of poles and rigging a sail; we were soon beating our way, down wind, past the castle and this gave me the chance to recruit some energy from an unknown resource meaning that when we got back to the campsite I was back in the game.

Abseiling down Uamh Nan Claig-Ionn's Poppleton Pot.

This had its advantages as I was able to take up the invite for an evening jaunt into the cave systems around Appin. We managed two systems and one of these was the deepest cave in Scotland, Uamh Nan Claig-Ionn, which is translated as Cave of the Skulls, and required a couple of abseils and then a couple of ladder climbs to get back to the surface. I suppose it wasn't a bad way to spend an evening, but I found it difficult to get out of my sleeping bag the next morning for our canoe trip down the River Awe.

At the top, and below the barrage, on the River Awe.

Holding on for dear life.

On the final rapids of the River Awe.

Countless cups of coffee later and I found myself pushing off from the rocky bank of the River Awe and ferrying across the outflow from the barrage on the Pass of Brander. To be honest the river wasn't that spectacular and for this reason it was probably best that we were navigation the compensation flow by canoe; it would have been tedious in a kayak.

More pictures of the week can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

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