A very belated WR - but one of my favourite 2018 memories.
It's quite a mission to get to Rum from the south coast, but I'd determined to do so last year, so I did. First I spent a couple of days sea-kayaking round the Arisaig coast and skerries, then came over to Rum for a few days (by ferry), staying at the brilliant bunkhouse.
Kayaking off Arisaig
Eigg and Rum from Arisaig skerry
Honoured with a minke whale for company off Eigg (taken from the ferry to Rum from Mallaig).
As well as exploring Rum, which I absolutely adored, I really wanted a day in its Viking-named peaks. Modest as they may be compared to their big brother Cuillin, having now had that day, I declare them absolutely sublime. As you follow the burn up to the Bealach Bairc-mheall the peaks of Hallival and Askival come into view. The way they tower above you is as magnificent as anywhere you'd care for.
On top of that, right from my early start, I was going to have a day of just me and the hills. No one else was around - I felt very lucky.
Sunrise over Loch Scresort
Anyone know what this variegated leaf is called?
Hallival and Askival from the Coire Dubh
Onec up at Cnapan Breaca the clouds put on a beautiful morning show and Eigg keeked out from behind Hallival. Down below I could see the red-roofed shearwater observer's hut. Do you reckon there's a massive burrow underneath it full of high-tech tracking equipment? (I think Rum must have got to me by what was now my Day 4 on the island. Everything is observed and researched to the point where I felt like part of a top-secret experiment myself. Kept checking the sea too for a Prisoner-type white balloon...)
Early clouds from Cnapan Breaca
Hallival and a bit of Eigg from Cnapan Breaca
Shearwater burrows were everywhere, looking like anything from a miniature rock-temple entrance to just a hobbity hillside home. Tagged shearwaters from Rum travel up and down the coast to feed, as far south as Ireland. They were going to be out all day, not returning til after dark, so this was all I was going to see of them on land.
Like fulmars and petrels they've got amazing nostrils which helps them spurt out the salt and hang on to the water from the briney sea, which means they don't need fresh water. Rum has about 40% of the world's shearwater population burrowing on it, nice and high. It's their droppings that help make the hills so rich with grass at the top.
Shearwater burrow under boulder
Grassy shearwater hobbit burrow
Lots of hobbity shearwater burrows under Hallival top
Shearwater feathers under Hallival summit - think a raven or an eagle got that one.
The other striking feature which makes this place so extraordinary - as if Viking names, insularity, possible crazy scientists and bird-burrows aren't enough - is the geology here. Under my feet the rocks were suddenly rounded, like pebbly gravel. Like my beloved Assynt, Rum's a magnet for geology students. Jed who runs the bunkhouse today had first fetched up here as a student. And no wonder. For walking its variety is excellent. It's gabbro-grippy, slabby, sometimes scree, then sandy and pebbly, and these tops entertain some lovely scrambling.
Igneous pebbly rock on Hallival
More crazy rock on Hallival. Over to the north and northeast of the island, it's all much more sandstone.
I'd had a superb eagle treat the day I arrived and took off exploring, but today the hilltop crags were puffing out ravens (as MacCaig might have it) and the odd wheatear. At ground level, deer and goats were going to be my earth-bound companions for the day.
Golden eagle on 'North Trail' three days earlier
Scruffy wheatear today
Askival 'puffing out' ravens
I scrambled up Hallival and tumbled down it the other side (not literally). Hallival was more of a mission to descend than I'd anticipated, and looking back up at its helter-skelter terraces from the bealach explained why. I think its called cyclic layering or something. It's fun - just takes longer than you think!
Cyclic layering (probably) - the south side of Hallival
The clouds hung pretty low, keeping Skye's tops just covered until the end of the day. On Askival's top, as I scrambled up its delightful crags, it closed in for a while until although I could hear the ravens I could hardly see them until they swooped out of the white around me.
From the trig point at the top, there was a momentary glimpse back to Hallival's summit and then the cloud set in again, so I descended to the beautifully named Bealach an Oir (the 'pass of gold').
Hallival from Askivall - Skye behind
On up to Trollval, where the wind was behind me. That meant that while I was spared the whiff of the goats who were lounging around up ahead, they and the herd of deer nearby both got a good whiff of this human. The day gradually turned from cloudy to sunny, as though the gold from the Bealach an Oir was disseminating out into the views. My eyes wandered down Glen Dibidil to the bothy, with Muck out to sea beyond; over Beinn nan Stac to Eigg; and west over Fiachanais towards the Outer Hebrides.
Goats and deer on Trollval's east flank
Down Glen Dibidil to bothy, Muck and Ardnamurchan
Over Beinn nan Stac to Eigg from above Bealach an Oir
West over Fiachanais from ascent up Trollval
Looking back up descent from Askival...
...and over to warty Ainshval
Looking NW to Orval Ard Nev and Fionchra (left) and Barkeval (right)
Just as I was thinking, funny though - 'here's Trollval, but no troll', whose profile should suddenly appear but ... Brrrr.
The troll of Trollval
Past that wee horror and up on top, I basked in the sun with Eigg for lunch and nothing else but peace. Moments like these.
Lunch and Eigg
Over Beinn nan Stac to Eigg from Trollaval summit
Skye under cloud still
The 'other' Cuillin and co
Trollval's triangular Buttress with Canna keekin' out and Outer Hebrides beyond
Lovely heart-shaped Loch Fiachanais and Glen Harris
Harris Lodge - the Bulloughs' old hunting lodge - and enclosure
One last gulp of coffee and one last look down to Eigg, Muck and Ardnamurchan from this cracking little viewpoint and it was decision time. I'd intended to head up Ainshval, but wasn't so sure now it came to it.
Down Dibidil to Eigg Muck and Ardnamurchan beyond
It was about six hours since I'd left the bunkhouse. I'd had a bit of a false start owing to some rubbish sign-posting or newly erected fencing or something on the south side of the castle so I was a little later than hoped on Trollval. But really it was the descents that had slowed me down. They'd also played merry hell with my dodgy knee which felt as though it was going to buckle completely if I put any real weight on it.
I looked over to Ainshval, with its delightful volcanic, warty, bubbly rocky base, which made it look as though it was still hot, and curled my lip. Could I actually be bothered to do it as well, or was I really too tired by now? I had hours of daylight so that wasn't a problem, but my knee was pretty exhausting and I still had the walk back out. So, that was me decided. Yes, I could do it, but I really wasn't in the mood.
As it turned out, that was a good move. Unlike my decision to stay high round Atlantic Corrie. That was knackering - if not physically then certainly on the mind. With out-of-practice balance, it was hard-going. In the same way that the coast of Britain is infinitely long, so is weaving in and out of the contours of this rocky, tumbled corrie. It's also daft if your balance isn't what it should be! I should have just dropped down and back up the other side to the bealach.
Deer in Atlantic Corrie - showing the way (me ignoring).
Nothing for it but to plug away, stop when the knee needed a break, drink some water and crack on. It took me a couple of hours. Back at the bealach the sun had come out over Skye. I looked over to the Cuillin where I'd walked in May in the one dollop of horrendous weather that otherwise-glorious month (specially timed, my trip!). Sgurr na Stri was holding its charming own and Camasunary where I'd beach-cleaned looked pretty tidy from this distance...
Bonkers route back round Atlantic Corrie
Skye Cuillin and Sgurr na Stri from Bealach Bairc-mheall
Blabheinn and co
Easy going after this, back down to the Coire Dubh and the dam. There I ran into a couple who were also staying at the bunkhouse. Their plan had been to kip at Dibidil bothy and do the boggy coast walk back the next day. But they'd misnavigated Hallival, and underestimated how hard the scramble up to the top is with heavy packs, so hadn't actually summited. Instead they'd decided to abort and climbed Barkeval instead on their way back.
Up until meeting them I'd been feeling a bit frustrated about my knee and my time, and my need to practise balancing! But that little encounter made me (privately) massively grateful again about what had been a gorgeous day for me. I bounced off down the track, pausing only to admire the impressive gorge, stopped at the village store to pick up some veggies and headed back to another lovely evening of good craic in the bunkhouse.
Gorge above dam in Kinloch Glen
More golden eagle the next day, pursued by hoodies
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