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Dangers of Eaval crossing

Dangers of Eaval crossing


Postby Hebrideswalks » Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:52 am

Route description: Eaval (Eabhal), North Uist

Sub 2000' hills included on this walk: Eaval (North Uist)

Date walked: 24/08/2017

Distance: 10.5 km

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Please be aware that the stepping stones crossing can be very dangerous after heavy rain and at new or full moon, even when it isn't 'high tide' but generally speaking the tide is at its highest point in the month. We discovered this on our walk today and very narrowly avoided serious difficulties so I want to warn other walkers because the description does not make the dangers completely clear. Reading other reviews of the walk, it seems people have had very varied experiences of the crossing depending on the weather and, I assume, the phase of the moon. Our experience correlates most with that posted by 'AlexSkye' except we went ahead and crossed on the outward leg of the walk (not the right choice on reflection and with a little difficulty at the time but no real concerns) and then very nearly ended up in real trouble on the way back. Yesterday was very heavy rain (so the walk was very boggy throughout, not just in the first half as mentioned in the guide). Aside from this, the mountain is an enjoyable and fairly quick climb and the route and views are beautiful.

However when we got back to the stepping stones on the return leg, we encountered real problems. The guide says that the crossing may not be passable at very high tide. Despite it being well over an hour after high tide, when I tested the first couple of stepping stones, I quickly found myself in waist deep water in a fast flow. We knew the light would soon begin to fail but we had no choice but to wait to see if the tide dropped so that we could cross. In the meantime, we walked up and down to try to identify the best point to swim across, or a place to sleep for the night, if all else failed.

Eventually, half an hour later when the water level had dropped just a little, making a few of the stones visible (but most still well submerged) there was only five minutes of light left, so we decided to try to make the crossing. The alternative was wait much longer and attempt it (and the remaining walk) in complete darkness, swim, or sleep on the moor. None of these were great options so we decided to cross and made it, just, but it was difficult and dangerous and we had to do it in a very awkward and precarious crouched position, feeling below the water with our hands - almost crawling - to avoid being knocked over by the flow. We were submerged to above our waists and upper arms, grappling for slippy rocks submerged well beneath the water. We are both young and very fit, plus have lots of experience swimming in open water so we knew that if we fell in, we would likely be ok. Nonetheless, it was a sobering experience and I can well imagine that someone less steady-footed, perhaps not confident in the water, would not be able to make that crossing and would be stranded on the moor.

When we got back, we tried to calculate when would have been a good time of day to do the walk to ensure the crossing was manageable on both the way out and back and we realised that, on a day like today, there were no possible timings that would have worked to make the crossing straightforward both ways - the water levels were simply too high throughout. Please, please do not do this walk when there has been heavy rain and/or there is a new or full moon unless you are experienced and in river-crossing. Be safe!
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Re: Dangers of Eaval crossing

Postby weaselmaster » Thu Aug 24, 2017 9:26 pm

Useful to know - have that hill on the list for next summer. Sick Kid (so feart of water I think she's a witch) will really love the gripping description of your own crossing. We'll need to visit during a drought I suspect :wink:
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Re: Dangers of Eaval crossing

Postby denfinella » Fri Aug 25, 2017 1:43 am

Thanks for posting this - useful to know. Perhaps heavy rain rather than tides were the problem here - what do you think?
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Re: Dangers of Eaval crossing

Postby dogplodder » Fri Aug 25, 2017 10:19 am

That sounds scary. Thanks for the warning. :o
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Re: Dangers of Eaval crossing

Postby Hebrideswalks » Fri Aug 25, 2017 7:56 pm

denfinella wrote:Thanks for posting this - useful to know. Perhaps heavy rain rather than tides were the problem here - what do you think?


Could well be! :) I think a good thing to do would be to try to time your crossings as close to mid-tide as possible and if the outward crossing looks difficult, assume that the return won't be any better and could be a lot worse.
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Re: Dangers of Eaval crossing

Postby Sgurr » Fri Aug 25, 2017 9:32 pm

We had read of possible difficulties and rather pooh-poohed them as there were no problems at all either way when we did the walk in June 2015. Very salutary to read of your experience.
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Re: Dangers of Eaval crossing

Postby denfinella » Thu Jul 18, 2019 1:02 pm

Quick update on this: we crossed the stepping stones two hours after high tide and they were well above the water level, and the stones themselves were dry and free of any seaweed. Also met some walkers on their way back who must have crossed nigh on high water. The seaweed / driftwood line is just below the stones, so I reckon the WH description of the tides is about accurate, and the loch above isn't usually tidal.

I think the issues faced by the OP must have been due to a high loch level due to previous rain, rather than the tides (though this may have exacerbated things). Still useful to know that it can happen though.

Will post a proper walk report eventually, but I'm a few weeks behind at the moment :wink:
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