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Jura - These Screes Don't Forget

Jura - These Screes Don't Forget


Postby Craiging619 » Sat Feb 18, 2023 2:03 pm

Route description: The Paps of Jura

Fionas included on this walk: Beinn Shiantaidh

Date walked: 04/05/2014

Time taken: 64.5 hours

Distance: 17.29 km

Ascent: 1380m

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"Come camping with us", they said.

"It'll be great!" they said.

"I saw a report on WalkHighlands. Jura looks amazing in the sunshine", I said.

"When should we go?" they asked.

"The May Bank Holiday", I replied.

"Which one? There's two", they asked.

"......the first one......" I replied. :(

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Saturday 3rd May - 4.07km distance; 160m ascent.

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I had been camping twice before: a legendary climb of Goatfell in 2007 (one overnight in Glen Rosa) and a two-nighter in Glencoe in 2008 (again, at a proper campsite). Wild camping didn't seem appealing to me, for every kind of reason, but my friends insisted, and eventually I gave in.

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Conditions were ok as we headed over the Rest And Be Thankful. The forecast wasn't *exactly* great, but we had planned this weeks ahead and booked the Tuesday off work and everything. No going back now.

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Ok, this is looking good...? Might we get lucky?

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Quick pit stop in Inveraray and the classic Loch Fyne / Arrochar Alps view.

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Ardrishaig. This still looks really good tbf. Maybe this won't be the washout we feared?

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We parked at Kennacraig, so we would be using the (rare!) bus on Jura. I don't usually use real names for these walks but this report will be too long and confusing otherwise. So for the avoidance of doubt, Fergus is the really tall one, Steven's the bald one and David's the other one who's quite tall.

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You chariot awaits...

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Me, David and Fergus. I'm not actually small, it just looks like it stood next to these two ("I look up to them because they are middle class"...?)

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There are the Paps of Jura! Well, somewhere in that erm cloud... :?

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One short hop later, we had made it from Port Askaig to Feolin Ferry. Most of the group had never been to Jura before, but I had made the one short jaunt in 2010, walking straight in towards the base of the Paps from Feolin https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=115860. This one would be a wee bit more adventurous though.

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Craighouse City Centre. Jings, I hope that's still there actually, what with austerity and Covid and the cost of living crisis... :o

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Craighouse disappears off into the distance. It would be the last civilisation we would see for a *long* old time.

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Saturday, 4pm. A man in a bandana left his camper van to greet us as we arrived at the lay-by, like a Front Of House waiter. As we walked up the hill we kept thinking that his partner was peering out of the caravan to spy on us. Maybe it was our imagination, although at this point our brains were still functioning (relatively) well.

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There are a few rough paths heading gently up the hill from the bridge near Knockrome towards Loch an t-Siob'.

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Ok, this looks...ominous? :shock:

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I checked my phone. Ayr United were soaring to a 4-1 win against East Fife to head into the Championship play-offs against Cowdenbeath. I could tell my signal was disappearing already, so I think I switched to Flight Mode to save battery. I can't remember how this worked actually (four days is a *long* stint in the middle of nowhere), but I think we all brought portable chargers with at least one full charge in them, and resolved to charge all the phones on the Sunday night. Or something.

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There's a proper track by now, but with the massive rucksacks on our backs it had a West Highland Way feel to it.

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The loch is here! Our home for the next three and a half days. Hopefully that cloud lifts, eh? 8)

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There was a bothy next to the loch, so we essentially claimed that for ourselves, dumping a lot of our stuff in there and setting up the tents next to it.

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Steven, probably engaging in some "banter".

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David. Dunno why you're all holding your phones, you'll drain the battery!

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There's Fergus. Oh wait, I'm holding my phone to take these photos. I take it back.

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"It's my yard now!"

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In hindsight this probably wasn't the best place to set up the tents? It could have become waterlogged, sitting on a mini-flood plain next to the loch and the rivers. But in the end, flooding wasn't an issue. The issue was...... everything else. :crazy:

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Really not used to this tbh.

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Already we were spending quite a lot of time in the bothy.

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Sunday 4th May - 4.78km distance; 600m ascent.

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I awoke (well I say awoke, did I ever really sleep?) on Sunday morning to survey the scene. Was it any brighter than yesterday? I tried convincing myself the cloud was lifting, but to no avail.

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Fergus brushes his teeth in the loch, attempting to maintain the pretence of basic hygiene.

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There was a trace of a path as we headed East along the shore of Loch an t-Siob'.

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I had no Strava app in 2014 (it would probably have killed the battery for a four-day trip anyway) and it was a long time ago, so I've guessed a bit with the route map. But we headed along the loch shore then up towards the East shoulder of Beinn Shiantaidh.

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And now, lots of scree.

From my vague memories of the climb, I', not sure if there was a proper path, although the new WalkHighlands mapping says there is (it's tricky to build a path on a slope of steep relentless scree, anyway). And visibility was almost zero, of course. So after reaching the Eastern shoulder of the hill, it was basically just a case of slanting up to the left and trying to keep going. One of the only straightforward things about the Paps (with the possible exception of Beinn an Oir's grassy ramp) is their topography: you just literally keep going up. If you're climbing, you're going in the right direction.

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David would later say that this photo doesn't actually look like me, and I kind of know what he means. I look like a cross between a gangster and a giant.

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Finally, just over three hours after leaving the bothy, we did it. We climbed a Pap of Jura! :D

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You can tell from Fergus and David's hair that there was rain in the air. I don't specifically remember this (I just remember being unable to sleep or feel my fingers for four days), but it figures, considering the eternal dark grey cloud hanging over the hills.

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The summit cairn contained an unusual capsule thing. I think there was supposed to be a summit log book inside, but I dunno, it was nine years ago. All I see from the photo is a bit of chewed-up paper?

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Ok, it rain now. :roll:

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One down, two to go! Erm, maybe. :o

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Right, erm, how do you get off this thing?

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I think the original idea was to try and carry on to Beinn an Oir (the col is 454m, which is actually a high col for Jura). But the group weren't exactly loving this plan, and when the loch appeared out of the mist, David pointed the way to the (relative) safety of the tents and bothy.

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Fergus has got really long hair, and sometimes it catches the wind and attempt to photobomb random pictures.

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A random glimpse of the sea: the only time we would see it in the entire trip. I think of the pictures I saw in that WalkHighlands report before we left...and then I see this......

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The bothy. This bit's actually going on a bit long, but then the whole trip is starting to hurt me.

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Ok, nearly there now.

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Somewhere up there (I think) is Beinn an Oir. Maybe tomorrow? I think Beinn a' Chaolais is a write-off now.

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Which brings us to our "Random Love Heart Stone Of The Week".

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Finally, after six hours of "complex" terrain, we were back at the bothy.

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Everyone forgot a can opener, so we had to resort to Plan B.

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David had to go off for a wander just before sunset (and because, erm, there were no, urm, 'facilities').

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Monday 5th May - 4.44km distance; 600m ascent.

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Ok, Bank Holiday Monday. Is it any brighter? Erm, not really no! :crazy:

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We resolved to give Beinn an Oir a go, but it was clear it was going to be a struggle. The temperature had hovered around 8 (EIGHT) degrees since we arrived on the island. By this point I had forgotten what actual sleep feels like.

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There's something weird about that cloud. Like it's just...sitting on the Paps of Jura? Is it sunny in Tayvallich? :(

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There was actually a trace of a path here (a rarity in the Paps), and I think it was this that led us towards the South ridge. I didn't have much hillwalking experience at this point (apart from the glut of 2013 walks), so I just followed the path. But I had originally been aiming for the grassy ramp on the Eastern side of the summit so, by inadvertently being directed to the South ridge, we ended up on much steeper and more complex ground.

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DEER! Actual reindeer! The first sings of other life we had seen since the bandana man in the camper van (and his partner peering out the window).

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No, come back! Have you got food?! We love you!!!?!

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No, they can't be bothered.

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Things worsened significantly at this point (and it hadn't exactly been a party up to this point). The cloud closed in, the rain returned and as we headed back onto the scree of the Southern ridge...the wind arrived. :shock: And dear god, what a wind.

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The timestamp says it was just after midday (about 2hrs 15mins after leaving), but by now time was essentially an alien construct. The group began speculating that we should turn back. Some of the gusts of wind were pretty bracing, and a steep scree slope is quite an easy place to lose your footing at the best of times. And the ridge was getting steep. Not just steep up ahead, but steep on both sides too.

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Fergus yelled at me: "Craig, I don't think we can go on!"

I did my usual: "But we're nearly there!"

"Craig, Fergus is shaking! He might have hypothermia!" - Steven wasn't for messing around.

A brief and lively 'debate' ensued, before a democratic vote resulted in the other three high-tailing it off to the dark abyss on the right hand side and ordering me to follow [insert political gag here]. I stood still: well, as still as I could stand in this buffeting wind. It was impossible to bring out the OS map in these conditions, but from my memory of the topography I figured we must have been almost at the summit. It certainly looked like it: we had been climbing forever, and we were at a small flattish bit, so I think we'd reached the 760m mark. 20-25m to go? I didn't take it very well. :?

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On paper their decision was actually even more dangerous. Rather than reversing and retracing their steps, they just legged it off to the East. But as luck would have it, we quickly ended up on the grassy slope, which by now had almost merged with the main South ridge, so after about five minutes of steep descent on the scree, we were back in better conditions (again, everything was relative on this trip).

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Oh, the loch again. Never thought I'd be happy to see that grey lump of water under its traditional grey bank of cloud, but by now I'm just glad to be alive.

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Around 4hrs 15-30mins after leaving (and staring obliteration in the face), we were back.

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Give me dinner, give me any food, give me things to eat.

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That's not the clouds clearing, is it? I swear to......

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It was now so wet, cold, miserable and other-worldly that we agreed to just spend the last night in the bothy. It didn't help me sleep any better, and I don't think it was any warmer, but at least it felt marginally safer. David had heard a noise outside one of the tents last night, and speculated that it was a deer. The last thing we needed was for things to turn violent.

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Tuesday 6th May - 4.00km distance; 20m ascent.

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I was first up at 6am on Tuesday (mainly because, well, I didn't sleep at all), and headed out to the wee pier. Was that...no, it couldn't be, I must be hallucinating...?

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......the Sun? Just as we're leaving?!?!? :roll: 8)

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Wakey wakey, rise and shine! Time to go back into the actual world.

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Sleep well lads? :crazy:

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Actually struggling to believe this now. It's like the old "waiting for a bus" analogy, but with near-death camping / hillwalking experiences.

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We had to time it right for the bus back to Craighouse and Feolin Ferry, so before 7am we were long gone.

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Now the Paps start to appear, backed by blue skies. As we're leaving...... :?

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We reached a corner in the faint path, and had a 'humorous' (not humorous) debate about where the quickest route was. I was cutting across the hillside and maintaining height before dropping down afterwards, but the others wanted to descend round to the left then curve back right. I ended up a couple of minutes ahead of them, which was somehow used as proof that they were right. Maybe they hadn't slept in four days either.

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Was it actually sunny everywhere else that weekend? Did I dream this whole thing?

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"And I could see the other world was here
Can you hear it now?
We're just on the brink"

(Nothing But The Sun, Runrig)

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We reached the bridge just before 8.30am on the Tuesday, 64.5hrs after leaving. Piece of cake. Dunno what all the fuss was about?

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Yeah, bit of advice: bring warm clothes and waterproofs.

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There WERE no paths! Oh right, we're back in Craighouse now, apologies...

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Back on the ferry to Port Askaig. If that hotel isn't open, then I dunno...

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We wandered in looking like we'd just been to Antarctica. The waitress asked if we wanted breakfast or lunch, and we were confused, 'cause we'd been up since forever (technically I'd been up since Saturday morning). Eventually we settled for lunch.

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What's that peering in through the window? And the clouds are gone? You're having a giraffe! :roll:

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They've seen better days.

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As have I, frankly.

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The Calmac boat felt palatial, considering our accommodation for the last four days.

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Oh good, there's still some rain around. That pleases me a lot more than it should, but the timing of that sunshine was just horrendous.

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Inveraray. The calm after the storm.

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I staggered into the flat. Everything felt different. I had been to Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore with my wife in March, and it was genuinely easier to acclimatise after that. My feet felt like radiators and for some reason I needed a constant stream of ice cream for a few days afterwards.

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After all our deliberations about whether to go to Jura in the first May Bank Holiday or the second one, we would end up going on a hillwalk in the second weekend after all https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=115523 (minus Fergus but with another friend). And of course the sun shone all day. We actually got a better view of the Paps of Jura from the Arrochar Alps than we did from the *actual* Paps of Jura themselves. But it was nothing if not an experience. It taught me the value of a warm home, it taught me to turn back if the weather's all too much and it taught me that Jura deserves a bit of respect next to its name. Anyone who thinks they can just breeze in and climb all three on a weekend: be warned. The Paps of Jura *like* cloud. In fact, they seem to actively seek it out, even on a May Bank Holiday weekend.........

(P.S. Ayr Utd got gubbed by Cowdenbeath in the Championship play-offs after all. :? )
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Craiging619
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