Lucky 13th: Paps of Jura overnighter
by malky_c » Tue May 17, 2016 11:46 pm
Route description: The Paps of Jura
Corbetts included on this walk: Beinn an Òir
Grahams included on this walk: Beinn a' Chaolais, Beinn Shiantaidh
Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Corra Bheinn (Jura), Scrinadle (Jura)
Date walked: 13/05/2016
Time taken: 10 hours
Distance: 25 km
Ascent: 2115m7 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).
Grahams: Beinn Shiantaidh, Beinn a' Chaolais.
Sub 2k Marilyns: Corra Bheinn, Scrinadle.
Date: 13 and 14/05/2016.
Distance: 25km (plus about 10km on the bike - nice and flat).
Time taken: 10 hours over 2 days.
Weather: Sunny and a bit hazy, with a grey bit in the middle. Warm sun, cold breeze.
The Paps of Jura vie with Beinn Mhor on South Uist and Caldcleuch Head in the Borders as the most awkward Scottish 2000 footers to reach from Inverness. The former had been visited very easily due to a convenient work trip to the Uists, and the latter had just been a very long drive (even from Glasgow) for a short walk. Jura would involve a bit of luck and some quick planning if I was to manage a visit in good weather. The few times I had seen the Paps, they looked impossibly far away and usually under a cap of cloud.
The approach can be made via two ferries and a bit of Islay from Kennacraig, or by the more expensive but quicker passenger ferry from Tayvallich. Either way, I intended to leave my car on the mainland. The Kennacraig approach appealed as there would be a chance to spend a night in Claddich bothy on Islay on the way back, but in the end, the Tayvallich approach won out due to the timetable, which was more appropriate for my Friday/Saturday visit.
I had been eyeing up the weather, and by Tuesday I had decided that the trip would be a goer. I booked Friday off work and hired a car for my wife so I could take ours away for the long weekend - always knew Jura would come at a cost!
I left in plenty of time for the ferry and arrived in Tayvallich with an hour to spare. Driving south for hills has become a bit of a chore recently, despite the walking being mostly enjoyable. However, I felt a little twinge of anticipation heading for Jura in the same way I used to when we would head to the far northwest from Dundee. The sun was shining, the air felt balmy, and there was a nice café with an outdoor terrace right next to the pier where I could get a coffee and a bacon roll. A pretty good start .
Café at Tayvallich and preparing to leave:
I had decided to bring my bike in the end - it would limit my route choices, but allow me a little extra time in bed the next day. Almost everyone else on the boat also had a bike too, but there was plenty of room. Unlike the passenger ferry over to Knoydart, this boat was mostly covered, so I took photos through the window - a bit blurred. There was a small back deck but it was a bit cramped out there with everyone else. The journey over was scenic, and passed in no time. The Paps were in view for at least half of the journey, looking clear and inviting.
First sighting of the Paps:
The Knapdale peninsula is a very bumpy bit of Argyll. Ben Cruachan very hazily present in the background:
Some crap wildlife photography:
…and off the ferry:
Once off the boat at Craighouse, the temptation was to head for the distillery, but instead I got on my bike and pedaled off to the north. While the beaches here aren't up to Harris and Lewis standard, it was a great feeling heading up the coast on the bike. The road was flat and there was a feeling of being a long way from work and normal life.
Stopped for a few photos on the cycle up the road:
I reached the triple-arched bridge at around 11:20am and abandoned my bike. It was time to get walking. I gradually caught up another guy on the path into Gleann an t-Siob. I had originally planned a circuitous route with lots of contouring and crossing which would prevent me from having to lug my camping gear up any of the Paps, but I was feeling the freshness of the first day out, and decided on impulse to head up towards Beinn Shiantaidh and take it with me. I left the good path and made for the col at Lochanan Tana.
Time to start walking:
Paps from Gleann an t-Siob – Beinn a’ Caolais, Beinn an Oir and Beinn Shiantaidh:
Beinn an Shiantaidh and Corra Bheinn:
First though, it seemed silly not to go up Corra Bheinn with it being so close. I dumped my bag at one of the lochans and made my way easily to the summit. Above about 300m, the going was much easier than expected. I got my first views of the northern parts of Jura, which stretch on for ages.
Beinn an Siantaidh from Corra Bheinn:
Mull in the distance:
North along Jura from Corra Bheinn:
While it was tempting on paper to carry on to Beinn Bhreac, it looked a long way away over rough ground, and less appealing than the Paps. So it was back down to the bag and onto the scree of Beinn Shiantaidh.
Gruelling scree on Beinn Shiantaidh:
Despite calling it 'grueling' above, there wasn't too much small scree on the way up. A reasonable path headed for the SE ridge and got me some initial height, then a short stretch of scree took me to the main obstacle on this hill - larger boulders. Easy enough to scramble over, but rather slow, and you never knew when one was likely to move. I passed a couple of guys who had stopped off on a sailing tour of the west coast to come up here - pretty sure they said they were anchored down in Glenbatrick, which looked idyllic from higher up.
Then I was at the top - and it was clear! There were 3 girls on the summit having a long lunch, and the guy I had passed earlier caught up. Busiest hill in a long while for me - and on a Friday too! Some thicker cloud was moving in, bringing a bit of gloomy greyness with it, but the remote Scrinadle was still in the sunshine. I decided I would pay it a visit.
Scrinadle and Loch an Aircill:
Beinn an Oir and Beinn a Chaolais from Beinn Shiantaidh:
Pinnacles on Beinn an Oir:
Summit ridge of Beinn an Shiantaidh:
…and looking back on the way down:
More steepness on the way down, where I passed yet another walker and a fell runner. The walker directed me to a useful rake which descended easily through the steepest, craggiest part of the slope, but was not obvious at all. With my heavy bag, I was grateful.
Off to northern Jura:
I had a break at the col then pulled out my mini-rucksack from the large bag and moved a few things into it. I was going to take a little detour. Easy walking to the north took me around the northern end of Beinn an Oir and down to more heathery ground. Scrinadle didn't look too bad from here. There were some nice lochans to break up the journey, and before long I was on the summit. It was no longer in the sun and the haze had moved in a little, but it was a great spot.
The northern summit overlooking the coast promised to be an interesting further detour, but I was already out on a limb. I sat down for a bit and watched a speedboat pass through some rocky reefs in Loch Tarbert. Glenbatrick looked like a fine spot. Apparently David Cameron has links to this estate through his wife's family, but it's all tied up in confusing shell companies set up offshore. I thought all of this might come out in the recent Panama papers leak, but I haven't heard anything. Either way, this place is far too good to be ruined by his presence.
Beinn Shiantaidh and Beinn an Oir from a lochan on the ridge:
…and again from Scrinadle:
Loch Tarbert and the northern summit of Scrinadle:
Colonsay in the background:
Beinn an Oir:
Finally time to turn around and retrace my steps back towards Beinn an Oir. Rather than head for my bag, I found a nice grassy rake following a dried up streambed which led me most of the way onto the northern ridge of Beinn an Oir. Possibly the gentlest way up it, although there are plenty of angular blocks to trip over higher up.
Nice grassy rake onto Beinn an Oir:
What had seemed like a scrambly impediment on the ridge from Beinn Shiantaidh turned out to be grafted onto the side of the hill, separated from the main north ridge by a fault. Easy walking led onto the flatter summit area, where the ruins of the Ordnance Survey camp stood. There was a path of sorts cleared through the boulders here. Again I was happy to have views, if a little grey and hazy.
Beinn Shiantaidh from Beinn an Oir:
‘Pathway’ to the summit:
The SW face of the hill fell away with impressive steepness, and Beinn a' Chaolais looked a bit threatening. I guessed there was probably a direct way down in this direction, but my bag lay on the col to the east, so I went that way after retracing my steps to the ruins. I was surprised to find a path following down a broad heathery terrace at a reasonable gradient - it appeared to double back on itself and head to the col. That made Beinn an Oir the easiest of the 3 Paps to climb. I took a more direct route, but even this wasn't too bad, being mostly on heathery ground.
Beinn a’ Chaolais and Islay:
Back at my bag, it was time to do one of the more awkward parts of the walk I followed a descending traverse towards Na Garbh-lochanan, which went right across the grain of the topography. I continually had to scramble down across ribs of rock, sometimes re-ascending to find an easy way through. It didn't take too long in the end, and I was at Na Garbh-lochanan by 6:15pm. In my plans, this had been one of about three possible stopping places I had in mind. As soon as I got there, I could tell it was the perfect place to camp, and it wasn't worth looking anywhere else.
Beinn a’ Chaolais from the Gleann an t-Siob traverse:
Awkward descents on the traverse:
Na Garbh Lochanan:
After I had pitched the tent, I spotted something spiraling up into the air across the lochan. I was slow with the camera as usual, but I was pretty sure it was some kind of eagle. What a great spot
Not sure what I was looking at here – juvenile golden eagle?
I felt like relaxing for the rest of the evening, but instead I left the tent and headed directly for Beinn a' Chaolais. Steep again, but I managed to avoid the worst of the scree by a little easy scrambling. Once on the east ridge, it was just a case of grinding to the top.
Beinn an Oir and Beinn Shiantaidh:
Beinn Shiantaidh and Loch an t-Siob:
Beinn an Oir from Beinn a’ Chaolais:
My tent next to one of Na Garbh Lochanan from Beinn a’ Chaolais:
Nastiest scree of the day – avoided on the way up:
The weather was turning back towards sunny again, and I finally got some unobstructed views across Islay. With the sun starting to get lower in the sky, things were looking better than they had all day.
Beinn an Oir and Beinn Shiantaidh:
Crepuscular rays over Islay:
Some Laphroaig while looking over to Caol Ila distillery. Close but no cigar:
Lowlandman’s Bay and the mainland:
In fact everything was strongly reminiscent of my first outing with the backpacking tent about 4 years ago. Then, I had been traversing the Rhinogs in Wales to finish off the Welsh Hewitts, and I had put the tent up at Llyn Hywel before wandering up Rhinog Fach last thing in the evening. The camping spot by the loch, the steep scree and broken rock, the crepuscular rays out over the sea to the west were all very similar. I can't say that's what I was expecting Jura to remind me of, but there you go.
I spent quite a bit of time on the summit as it was the first place today that I'd found a reliable phone signal. By the time I was done, the cold breeze was slicing right through, and I was glad to get moving downwards again. Ironically, there was probably enough grass up here to pitch a tent.
Much better weather later on – Beinn an Oir and Beinn Shiantaidh:
I really disliked the descent. The scree had mostly worn away leaving a hard surface with ball-bearing like scraps of rock covering it, and it was difficult to control what I was doing. I've been down stuff like this a score of times before but never found it so slow and awkward - maybe my knees had had enough for the day by then. I had kept completely dry boots all day, until not 10 steps from the tent, I disappeared up to my shin in a bog .
Got so close to the end of the day with dry boots until…
My camping spot:
The camping spot was just right though. It was noticeably warmer down here in the sun, and the pesky breeze had died down completely. The temperature was just right to sit around comfortably outside, and there were no midges at all. Even better, I had remembered to stick a beer in the loch before heading up Beinn a' Chaolais, and it was now chilled to just the right temperature. This is what all camping should be like .
Then as it got colder it was time to wrap up and head up onto the outcrop above the tent to watch the sun setting over Colonsay. Then bed.
Sunset from just above the tent:
I was rudely awakened by my alarm at 5:30 am the next morning. I was booked on the 8:45am ferry back to the mainland, and I didn't want to miss it (although that would hardly have been the end of the world given where I was). It was freezing outside with frost on the tent, but as soon as I packed up and climbed over the col to the eastern side, I was sweating buckets.
Beinn a’ Chaolais next morning. Almost makes you want to go back up. Almost:
The walk out followed vague tracks until I hit the more established path down by Loch an t-Siob. I hit bad luck again on the mostly dry ground and fell into a bog up to my waist! Luckily it was warm and sunny enough to dry me out fairly quickly.
Beinn an Oir from Gleann an t-Siob:
…and Beinn a’ Chaolais…
Loch an t-Siob and Beinn Shiantaidh:
Soon I was retracing yesterday's steps, and today was looking even better than yesterday. I had time for a leisurely trundle back down the road, trying (and failing) to get a decent photo of some oystercatchers on the rocks by the beach. I rolled back into Craighouse to discover I would be the only person on the ferry this morning.
Bridge at the start of the walk:
More bimbling on the way back to Craighouse:
Perhaps I will do the tour next time over:
I would love to have stayed another day, but the miles I have been racking up on the car recently meant I was keen to combine my Jura trip with a visit to Arrochar, to avoid yet another long drive down south. I thought I'd take even more photos on the journey back to Tayvallich, but instead I sat inside, and even fell asleep for the final half hour of the boat ride .
I'm pretty sure I'll be back again though. The bothies of the NW coast of Jura are crying for a visit, and I wouldn't mind a night in the pub in Craighouse either.
(link to next day)
by Sunset tripper » Wed May 18, 2016 1:07 am
A great island and sitting in the beer garden at the Jura Hotel it could easily have been the carribean.
All the best on Rum you have chosen a great place for the finale
- Posts: 2471
- Joined: Nov 3, 2013
- Location: Inverness
by Beaner001 » Wed May 18, 2016 7:54 am
All the best for Rum, hope the weather does it's bit to make it a great way to finish
by weaselmaster » Wed May 18, 2016 6:26 pm
Good hills these ones. Glad you got the weather for the camping part.
Enjoy your finale on Rum - maybe take some in your flask for that occasion
by Sgurr » Wed May 18, 2016 7:04 pm
by iangpark » Thu May 19, 2016 3:02 pm
by Guinessman » Thu May 19, 2016 3:26 pm
by jamesb63 » Thu May 19, 2016 4:19 pm
definetly somewhere I will have to go to
Passed by it on the Campbelltown road loads of times
and it always stands out
by Collaciotach » Fri May 20, 2016 10:17 pm
Enjoy your reports a' bhalaich
by malky_c » Thu May 26, 2016 11:03 pm
Sgurr wrote:If it wasn't malky_c, I wouldn't believe anyone bar a fell runner could have packed our 4 expeditions into one. Fantastic. Suppose you were on too much bouldery stuff to spot adders. We found a lot there around this time last year.
Thought you might find this a bit frustrating, since I remember you had quite a long day getting to Scrinadle. I was surprised I didn't see any adders on the lower parts - was on the lookout as I really expected to see one sunning itself on the more grassy areas.
by litljortindan » Thu May 26, 2016 11:33 pm
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