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The day I swam across Loch Quoich to climb Gairich
by Mountainlove » Tue Jul 21, 2015 12:27 pm
Route description: Gairich, Loch Quoich
Munros included on this walk: Gairich
Date walked: 19/07/2015
Time taken: 5 hours
Distance: 7.4 km
Ascent: 716m71 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
The more I thought about the idea the more I loved it and my brain went into overdrive. How could I take my hiking gear, I need a wetsuit, what would I do in an emergency?
By the time I was dressed the plan stood. I would buy a lilo which I could use to transport my gear across and use in an emergency situation. I would buy a pair of fins, and remembering that one of my friends owned a wetsuit, all it needed was a phone call to ask for it... The more I thought about the idea, the more everything fell into place.
Speaking to some friends with cold water swimming experience they all thought I was insane (specially as there would be no one watching me) but even they had to agree that my plans should work. On top I got some great information (including about everything what could go wrong)
5 days later I had my gear together. I had planned to do a test swim (as the last time I swam was 8 months ago) but when Saturday arrived I knew I could not wait any longer (and miss a good opportunity) after all what can possibly go wrong. Time to head to Loch Quoich and set up camp.
Gairich across the water and my tent during sunset
I woke up Sunday morning, when the rain which had drummed against my tent at night, had stopped. Looking out of my tent the low clouds had cleared and it was overcast yet bright. Getting up I was as exited as a child at Christmas. Forcing my porridge oats down, I could not wait to leave and felt like bouncing. The only company I had was a group of highland cows, who had been my neighbors throughout the night and watched my frequent trips between car and tent ( to get my gear together) with curiosity.
Cows kept watching me
I had stored my hiking shoes, trousers, T-shirt, jacket, underwear, socks, towel, hat, mobile phone, camera and a muesli bar and water bottle in a dry bag, which was double bagged in another 10 l dry bag. Wearing my wetsuit I grabbed my fins, lilo and diving gloves and walked barefoot towards the shore. Stepping into a cold 10 C lake is never fun, but with a wetsuit it was bearable. With my fins on, dry bag strapped across my back, arms resting on the lilo, I started kicking my fins and the adventure could begin.
The walk towards the shore...with slightly different hill walking gear than normal
Excited and ready to go with Gairlich and the 1.55 km distance across the water behind me
The loch was calm and I soon got into a good rhythm. I had no clue about the distance, or how long it would take me, but I was there to find out. Within the first ten minutes or so the cold crept into my exposed toes and made me wonder how long frostbite in a lake would take. Wriggling my toes in my fins did not help and soon they felt pretty numb. Looking across the water towards Knoydard was rather special and resting my head on my neoprene groves, I looked dreamily across the water. The water below me was pitch black and made me wondering how deep the loch was. Wasn't there supposed to be a Loch Quoich monster in the water? I remembered reading something about it online.. Half way expecting a tug on my fins, from the 'monster' lurking beneath me, I had lost all sense of time and for a while the other shore did not seem to get any closer. Finning my way across the loch, time seemed to stand still. Only by looking back I was able to see that I covered some distance. The constant movement of my legs kept me warmish, but I knew I could not stop, as I wanted to avoid getting any colder. Finally the other side seemed a bit closer and I decided to take a quick break to take some photos. Leaning across my lilo, I swung my leg around and sat straddled on top of it. Just as well I had many year of practice doing that abroad .When I found my balance I carefully opened my bag to get my camera out and snapped away. Quite nerve wracking and I was only able to relax again when everything was sealed back into the bags.
Over the sea
Half way across full of smiles
Black water...and god knows what lurking in the depths
Shouldering my bad once more, I let myself into the water and and reached the shore 45min after setting off. Needless to say I was well chuffed with myself and felt as if I stepped on land no one else has been.
Myself on the other side with my dry bag , lilo and fins
Drying myself off, I put my hiking gear on and was ready to climb Gairich. Carrying my gear towards some bracken I hid my lilo, fins and wetsuit and shouldered my dry bag. Deer hoof prints led up along side a burn and I decided to followed them. The ground was extremely boggy and my original plan to follow the burn was soon scrapped. Instead of a gentle start, it was straight up with frequents slips on wet grass. Pretty tiring but the views back across the loch were amazing, specially when I spotted a orange dot in the distance, which was my tent.
The start of the walk and bracken where I hid my lilo
Lovely views back
A bit higher up
The southern half of the loch
The way up
Having a rest
Huffing and puffing I climbed higher, filling my water bottle in one of the many burns. It was only 2.5km in distance, but I still needed 1.5 hours to reach the cairn. Celebrating in solitude with my muesli bar and water, I did not linger long and returned as soon as I finished eating.
Views from the top
The way back down
On the way down
Getting down I made the mistake to follow the burn, which turned out to be a 1 hour walk through soaking ground. Close to the shore I walked through some trees when I came across the remains of a stag. It always had been my dream to find anthers attached to a skull and lifting the head by the horns, I wondered how on earth I should get it across the water. My thoughts were soon interrupted when realized the horrendous smell coming from the head. Upon closer inspection the skull had still bits of hair and flesh attached to it. The thought of rotting flesh smell during the full journey back home, soon made me change my mind and with a heavy heart I left my find behind.
Back down at the shore, putting on my wet gear was a lot less worse than I had imagined, actually quire refreshing after the walk back down. Wading into the water with my gear in hand, I realized that the wind had picked up. Hoping for the best I started swimming and soon had to change direction slightly to stop the waves splashing all over my head. Swimming into the wind was hard going, as it pushed against my lilo and made the return journey a lot harder than I had expected. Pretty knackered after a full hour of swimming I reached the shore. Crawling onto some rocks I sat down to take a breather. Feeling pretty shattered I looked across the loch and up the mountain. Somehow it seemed unreal that I had managed it.
My 'landing' rocks
Back on the other side, knackered but happy
Getting up I gathered my things and walked barefoot across the rocks, my toes came back to life and the stiffness I felt in my legs lifted a bit. All I wanted to do was sleep, but instead I had to take my tent down, pack my car and drive 4 hours back home. Certainly my least favorite part of the journey.
Needless to say I crashed into bed that night., dreaming about the day and guess which mountain will be conquered by lilo next?
Sgurr Mor is waiting for me!
by rockhopper » Tue Jul 21, 2015 12:39 pm
definitely one of the more interesting ways to approach this hill
...just not sure I'll be adopting it any day soon - cheers
by malky_c » Tue Jul 21, 2015 12:46 pm
I'm sure you could have rinsed it out on the swim backMountainlove wrote:Upon closer inspection the skull had still bits of hair and flesh attached to it. The thought of rotting flesh smell during the full journey back home, soon made me change my mind and with a heavy heart I left my find behind.
Great report, and certainly an unusual approach. Have occasionally thought about swimming across narrow parts of lochs to save time walking round (such as Loch Eilt, getting from the Mallaig road to Essan bothy), but the complication of keeping stuff dry has just seemed like too much effort. That's a novel way of dealing with it - sticking everything on a lilo .
However, I think I will stick to using a canoe in the future - slightly more comfortable!
by SAVAGEALICE » Tue Jul 21, 2015 12:52 pm
by Mal Grey » Tue Jul 21, 2015 1:03 pm
Have you thought of looking into Packrafts? Inflatable canoes that weigh so little you can carry them across the hills. Not cheap mind...
by dav2930 » Tue Jul 21, 2015 1:20 pm
by mgmt! » Tue Jul 21, 2015 1:33 pm
- Posts: 540
- Joined: Oct 18, 2010
by oslaallen » Tue Jul 21, 2015 2:36 pm
Loved the use of lilo (a super pink one) but I'm not sure it will make my kit list! Can't wait to read your next swim/hike adventure
by spiderwebb » Tue Jul 21, 2015 2:55 pm
by LeithySuburbs » Tue Jul 21, 2015 3:35 pm
Anyway, I'm impressed (and not very much impresses me ).
by Steven001 » Tue Jul 21, 2015 3:42 pm
by Mal Grey » Tue Jul 21, 2015 3:55 pm
by gman » Tue Jul 21, 2015 4:26 pm
by tomyboy73 » Tue Jul 21, 2015 4:42 pm
by Alteknacker » Tue Jul 21, 2015 4:46 pm
And with style - a PINK lilo!
walk-bike-swim..... Begins to sound like a triathlon!