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Paps of Jura from the West

Paps of Jura from the West

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Nov 02, 2015 1:01 am

Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn an Òir

Grahams included on this walk: Beinn a' Chaolais, Beinn Shiantaidh

Date walked: 31/10/2015

Time taken: 12 hours

Distance: 31.7 km

Ascent: 1811m

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Oh Jura - i have thought about going here so often, pondered the logistics of getting across and of how to do the hills, hummed and hawed, put the date off and latterly, worried about getting them done by the close of the year. Would we take bikes, would we go from Craighouse in the east or strike out directly from Feolin from the west... Then there was the variability of where the ferry docks - Port Ellen was no use if we were on foot, Port Askaig ideal. But trying to ensure we got the right ferry at the right time...more headaches. Typically I discovered that there's a passenger ferry that runs in the summer directly to Craighouse a week after it had stopped running for the season :lol: That would have simplified the logistical side of things. Anyhow it was getting to be late enough in the year for the length of daylight to be a factor, not to mention winter unpredictability for the crossing - it was Time for Jura. Unfortunately the weather forecast had decided it was also time for gale force winds and heavy rain :lol:

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In order to ensure being at Kennacraig early enough to get the 1800h crossing I had to take a proper half day, rather than risking being held up on the roads if we left at 3ish. Consequently we arrived at the terminal with just under 2 hours to spare. The ladies on the ticket desk had a fine sense of humour, and the antics of an unfortunately clumsy Frenchman helped pass the time. The waiting room was stowed out with more than 50 secondary school kids back from a trip somewhere, so peace and quiet was posted missing. We boarded in darkness, with the captain informing us that the winds would be "brisk" on the crossing. We knew the forecast was for winds to strengthen as the night wore on and I have to admit to some apprehension about where we were going to pitch on the island, in the dark and in driving rain and willful winds. The crossing was smoother than I had feared however and we got over to Port Askaig in one piece. I had had presence of mind enough to book our places on the Feolin Ferry which was due to leave at 2130h, but in fact left directly we had boarded, along with one vehicle and another foot passenger. Getting out money to pay the ferryman in the pitch dark with a fierce crosswind whipping at my fingers was a bit of an art. We had a chat to the ferryman and the other passenger, who ran the Fell Race on Jura each year and told us the hills were not bad. The ferryman had a bit of a chuckle when we said we were camping, suggesting that we stay in the waiting room at Feolin. (this would actually be a decent option - toilets, light and a dry concrete floor with a bench running round the walls, wind and water tight)

ImageP1110164 by Al, on Flickr

It was still dry when we disembarked, but there was a smirr in the air which suggested the rain would be along soon. We passed the house by the jetty then turned left onto the track. Creatures abounded, be they deer running out of the dark at us, snipe fluttering off from the ditch into the night or the glowing red eyes of indeterminate creatures in the distance - it was all mildly freaky. We walked for a kilometre or so along the track until we spotted some flattish looking ground on our left. Although not sheltered, it was reasonably flat and the idea of getting the tent pitched before the rain started properly appealed to both of us. We downed packs, got the tent up and snuggled inside as the patter of rain started on the fly. There wasn't much sleep had - the tent was pummelled and battered by the wind all night, making it a rather noisy place. I must have dozed off a few times as I recalled snatches of dream set wither in tents that were flapping noisily in the wind, or on sailing ships flapping noisily in the wind. Morning came quickly and we were up and away just after 8am.

The track is a good one, passing along by Inver Cottage then turning up towards the hills. there was some flat ground just before the cottage that would have made a more sheltered pitch (although stony under the grass so peggin in would not have been easy). We walked past the Hydro station (opened in 2012, serving Jura and about a third of Islay's energy needs) an onwards towards Cnocbreac. This involved passing through a large group of cows with their not-so-wee youngsters. They did not seem very used to people and galloped off, all that is except the bull, who was possessed of the longest set of curved horns I've ever seen on a bull. He stood steadfast on the track, daring us to go past him. I took a "bull-bypass" in the grass to his left, Allison followed. He eyed first me, then Allison, then me. After we had passed him he let out a huge bellow and continued to roar and snort until we were 500m down the road. All mildly terrifying :lol:

Morning - tent pitch
ImageP1110167 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110168 by Al, on Flickr

Inver Estate - with evidence of cow damage, we think
ImageP1110169 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn an Oir/a'Chaolais
ImageP1110170 by Al, on Flickr

The horned ones
ImageP1110172 by Al, on Flickr

Big Bully
ImageP1110173 by Al, on Flickr

From here we left the land of the cattle and climbed slowly towards Lochan Gleann Astaile. There's a channel gouged out of the land taking water along to the hydro scheme - a bit brutal in its execution I thought. The track continues round from the lochan, keeping to the west of Beinn a'Chaolais, with Beinn an Oir behind it. The track comes to a ford over the Allt an t-Sluic Bhrodaich - we turned up towards Beinn an Oir. Whilst still on track, it occurred to me that it would be a splendid idea if we didn't have to humph our full packs over all three hills - hopefully we'd get back down to this point before the light failed. We hastily found a flattish spot just off the track to pitch on, left most of our stuff inside the tent and set off across the peatlands towards Na Garbh Lochanan with fleetness of foot - or at the very least, unencumbered with tent and stuff. I did have a mild anxiety that "estate people" would come and remove the tent, but reckoned that unlikely. Unfortunately the clag drifted in as we moved into the coire, obscuring the upper portions of our hills. Deer watched us from the ridge across the lochan. Silence ruled.

Lochan Gleann Astaile
ImageP1110176 by Al, on Flickr

track continues
ImageP1110178 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn an Oir
ImageP1110179 by Al, on Flickr

View to Colonsay
ImageP1110180 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110182 by Al, on Flickr

Tent pitch #2
ImageP1110184 by Al, on Flickr

Up towards Na Garbh Lochanan
ImageP1110186 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110187 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110189 by Al, on Flickr

We passed the lochans on the left and came to the base of Beinn an Oir. The books talk about this being a scree nightmare, but to be honest, we didn't find it so. The first section involved picking a route through crags and slabs, then we picked up an obvious, cairn marked path and followed it upwards. There was one section of about 50m that was composed of loose mobile small scree, but when you've gone up 250m of mental scree on the east face of Ganu Mhor on Foinaven, Beinn an Oir is a walk in the park. After the worst of the scree there's a surprisingly narrow section before the summit is reached. We paused at the trig point to take stock. Two Corbetts left!! We continued on, past the semi-demolished dwellings of the survey team and on to a large cairn that marked the NE shoulder of the hill. We followed a path for some time then struck off directly for Beinn Shaintaidh which had started to loom intermittently out of the clag, but became steadily clearer as we descended. It looked a fine mountain - only 5m below Corbett height. Picking our way down and off Beinn an Oir took time and patience, over rough boulders, sometimes mobile, sometimes slippy. We had dropped down under 450m as we walked over to Beinn Shiantaidh, which looked steep and quite intimidating initially.

Start of beinn an Oir
ImageP1110193 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110195 by Al, on Flickr

Scree section
ImageP1110196 by Al, on Flickr

Narrow section
ImageP1110199 by Al, on Flickr

To summit
ImageP1110200 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110201 by Al, on Flickr

"Stone age dwellings"
ImageP1110206 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110207 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Shantaidh looms out of the clag
ImageP1110210 by Al, on Flickr

Weather clearing
ImageP1110215 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110216 by Al, on Flickr

Tricky boulder hopping off Beinn an Oir
ImageP1110217 by Al, on Flickr

We picked up a path heading through the crags and this removed all difficulty. There's a flat section with about 100m to go, then some scree/boulders before the summit. The wind was whipping clag over, I wondered if we'd get a Broken Spectre, but we didn't - a semi-fog bow was as much as was on offer from the elements. In the windshelter beside the summit cairn is a cannister, perhaps previously containing a log book, but now with only some coffee wraps and cards. We followed our ascent path on the way down and were soon on our way to number 3, Beinn a'Chaolais. Unfortunately this involves a fair bit of contouring round the side of Beinn an Oir, and re-ascending over some slabs at one point. The bealach between the two is down at 350m, which is a little distressing.

ImageP1110220 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn Shiantaidh
ImageP1110222 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110223 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110224 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110225 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110227 by Al, on Flickr

Almost a fogbow
ImageP1110229 by Al, on Flickr

Heading towards Beinn a'Chaolais
ImageP1110230 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110231 by Al, on Flickr

Beinn a'Chaolais
ImageP1110233 by Al, on Flickr

As we got nearer, Beinn a'Chaolais appeared increasingly steep and formidable. We could see a path leading to a scree run and followed this up. It's the steepest of the 3 hills (the way we did them anyway) and Allison was a bit "papped oot". We had about 75minutes to get up, down and back to the tent before the light went, so I urged her to press on. After the steep scree section there's a rockier ridge that leads to the summit. The sun was sinking over to the west, turning the hills reddish and dazzling the eye. We about-turned from the wee summit cairn and began the descent. As I like descending on scree, i was quite happy to zip down, despite incurring some rips in my waterproofs from the odd stumble. Allison was more demure in her descent. Whilst I waited for her I amused myself by taking pictures of Beinn an Oir and Shiantaidh in the late afternoon sun, the low line of cloud across towards Mull turning pink as the sun set.

ImageP1110236 by Al, on Flickr

Someone's looking thrilled at the prospect of going up that scree run
ImageP1110237 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110238 by Al, on Flickr

towards the summit
ImageP1110240 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110243 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110244 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110246 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110247 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110251 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110253 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110255 by Al, on Flickr

We tromphed across the hillside, to the west side of the lochans and regained the tent just as the light faded - looking across to Islay the entire hillside was suffused in golden light. It was good to have the tent pitched and in a short time the beds were made and I got on with cooking the tea, using my newly created pot cozy for the first time (it's a wonder what you can do with radiator foil and gaffer tape 8) ). In our haste to pitch the tent we had managed to find some quite impressive bumps in the ground under us, which made for some uncomfortable sleeping. The night was dark, with only a faint streetlight glow coming across the hills from Islay, and the stars were out in profusion, the Milky Way clearly evident running like torchlight through the myriad of starlights.

ImageP1110257 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110258 by Al, on Flickr

We had a lazy day ahead of us on Sunday - no hills to climb, no way off Jura until the ferry at 1400h. We rose late, had a leisurely breakfast and set off, taking the other track that continues north before turning and joining out outward track at Cnocbreac. We met a man from the estate, who chatted for a bit, then enjoyed the fine sunhine and views over to Islay, Colonsay and - in the misty distance - Mull. Passing the farm we had another encounter with the cows, but fortunately "Big Bully" was on the other side of a hillock from us, and we were not sorry about that! We stopped for lunch on the shingle of Whitefarland Bay, amazed at the weather for what was the 1st of November. We got back to the ferry waiting room, read for a bit then had our 5 minute crossing. Too early for the calmac boat, we nipped into the Port Askaig bar for a drink - Allison downing a pint of Finlaggan Islay Ale, me a couple of cask strength Port Askaig 12 yr olds (a fine choice - I couldn't come to Islay without havign a dram). Then onto the ferry. Whilst waiting to depart I watched an eagle fly high over the channel and execute a series of long graceful loops as it flew northwards, without a single wing flap, just riding the thermals. A lovely smooth sail back to Kennacraig followed, the sun setting on the Paps as we rounded the south of Jura. What a fine weekend, far better weather than I'd expected. I was also pleasantly surprised by the ease of access to the hills from the west - if one had a bicycle and used such machinery to access the hills, I'd imagine that it would be easy enough to do the 3 hills in a day and get back to the ferry. As it was, we enjoyed the walking pace on this lovely island.

ImageP1110261 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110264 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110267 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110270 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110271 by Al, on Flickr

Inver Cottage
ImageP1110272 by Al, on Flickr

Caol Ila Distillery
ImageP1110276 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110277 by Al, on Flickr

Feolin ferry terminal
ImageP1110278 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110280 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110281 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110282 by Al, on Flickr

Snug in the Port Askaig bar
ImageP1110286 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110287 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110295 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110297 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110300 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110301 by Al, on Flickr

ImageP1110307 by Al, on Flickr
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Re: Paps of Jura from the West

Postby simon-b » Mon Nov 02, 2015 11:10 am

A beautiful island, which I've only seen from a distance, looking quite like your Satmap route profile! Well done for sorting out the logistics; a productive trip.
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Re: Paps of Jura from the West

Postby jamesb63 » Mon Nov 02, 2015 12:30 pm

Great report the Paps sure have a lot of character in you pics
and some of your sunset pics look like it could be in some far flung
foreign islands ,and as you say it was 1 November ,thanks for sharing !
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Re: Paps of Jura from the West

Postby malky_c » Mon Nov 02, 2015 12:49 pm

Nice! If it hadn't been for some other commitments this weekend, I would probably have crossed your path :D . Sunset more than makes up for what appears to be the inevitable clag on these hills.

Still hoping to get out here before the end of the year, hopefully in decent weather. My plans were to be rather similar to yours, but if the cold weather sets in, I may take the easy way out and camp next to the bar in Craighouse. No doubt I will be back to look at the finer details of your report again - cheers :)
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Re: Paps of Jura from the West

Postby Guinessman » Mon Nov 02, 2015 1:47 pm

Quality report as always, one day ill have a go at Jura
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Re: Paps of Jura from the West

Postby Sgurr » Mon Nov 02, 2015 1:50 pm

Full of admiration (envy) at your energy levels. Since Chaolais was husband's completion Graham we did it the luxury way, staying at the hotel and setting out to Jura on the early Sunday ferry (then 8.30 a.m.)

I suppose being in full Cobetteering mode, you didn't think of going Chaolais first, though I suppose you could have returned through the bealach between it and Beinn na Oir.

Jura is tough (even the wee hills).
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Re: Paps of Jura from the West

Postby weaselmaster » Mon Nov 02, 2015 2:08 pm

Sgurr wrote:Full of admiration (envy) at your energy levels. Since Chaolais was husband's completion Graham we did it the luxury way, staying at the hotel and setting out to Jura on the early Sunday ferry (then 8.30 a.m.)

I suppose being in full Cobetteering mode, you didn't think of going Chaolais first, though I suppose you could have returned through the bealach between it and Beinn na Oir.

Jura is tough (even the wee hills).

It would have made more sense to do Chaolais first, possibly from the more gentle west side then down the scree - that's something I might try if I do them again. It was also a possibility to leave Chaolais for the Sunday, given we had plenty of time and knew the forecast was good - but I'd chosen a spot too far away from the start of the hills to feel comfortable about returning from. And yes, the priority was getting Beinn an Oir done on this trip.

I did enjoy Jura more than I'd expected to and would like to go over the 7 tops they do in the fell race - again one for the future. Tough but charming :wink:
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Re: Paps of Jura from the West

Postby PeteR » Mon Nov 02, 2015 2:56 pm

Looks superb :D .........and steep :shock:
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Re: Paps of Jura from the West

Postby Patrick » Wed May 25, 2022 4:48 pm

An inspiring report - after reading it, we decided to do a similar thing in April this year and climbed the Paps from the western side. It felt so liberating to step onto the ferry with only a backpack! Three excellent days (and four cheap ferry crossings!).
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