Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Days like these

There are few places quite like Torridon. And when the weather is good, none that are better.
On days like these, it is almost entirely possible to forget the nightmare of damp, midge ridden torment that is just as much a part of this landscape - in fact my earliest recollections of these mountains are filled with midges and like most who return, I have a few horror stories that make those who have never been, question why they ever would.
Not a question that needed asking on this day.
Of course it still requires a bit of leg work to reach the good stuff and a little time to work out how to make the best of what's on offer. This was my third variation of a route that finishes with the classic descent to Annat, and there is one more to ride which I suspect will be the best yet.
Heading on and up, Beinn Damh beyond - a mountain I distinctly remember climbing at the age of six. And the midges.
An Ruadh stac looms above the bealach, our high point for the day - not so high really but then everything in these parts starts at sea level.
The start of a long and varied descent, past lochans...
...beneath steep cliffs...
...across rolling slabs...
...along fine singletrack...
...and more slabs backed by the finest views of the greatest ridges the mainland has to offer... finish like so many of these routes, amongst the pines... the coast - our camp for the night. It really doesn't get much better than days like these.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Island Years

I have visited so many places - in the boat, with the bike, to climb or simply walk - that have left me with memories that will last for years to come, but rarely do I consider just how many years it might be before I return. Sadly, it is often longer than I might have wished. Priest Island - one the islands that provided inspiration for Fraser Darling's Island Years - is such a place. It was exactly five years ago that I last visited, camping on the island on the second night of a four day trip exploring Loch Broom and the Summer Isles. It seemed about time to return.
Leaving Mellon Udrigle beneath heavy skies, though they would clear soon enough, the winds light leaving only the rolling swell from the north which we would meet soon enough.
Chris passes Rubha Beag to begin the 5km crossing and unlike most it passed almost without noticing, the mountains of Coigach and Torridon a constant distraction...
...along with the first puffins of the year. We saw only a few and less than I expected...
...before reaching the dramatic, sculpted sandstone cliffs of Priest Island.
The calm of the island's south coast rapidly gave way to more exciting conditions...
...its west and north facing cliffs catching the swell which rolled with the volume of winds only recently spent.
The tempting channel and arch that forms the northern tip of the island - not so tempting today with breakers closing the exit.
Beyond, paddling through thick foam, we passed Toll Eilean a Chleirich...
...and ran with the swell, on along the east coast, the waves gradually losing height...
...until this sheltered but steep boulder beach provided a welcome point at which to break the paddle.
Spending some time ashore, I watched as always for whales or dolphins - and as is often the case, it was the fulmars who stole the show.
Back on the water, and beneath more sheltered cliffs, we explored a few of the deeper geos...
...before heading south-west on the crossing back to Greenstone Point...
...and later, the sands of Mellon Udrigle. Perhaps I will return before another five years have passed. I hope so.

Mountain Biking in Torridon

A few images from two days riding amongst the Torridon giants - enjoying the sandstone slabs, sun and blue skies that filled long days in an area that has given me so many memorable days.
Climbing beneath Liathach and the mid-day sun.
Linking fast single-track with faster slabs above Annat.
Beneath Beinn Eighe, the northern pinnacles of Liathach in the distance.
A little down on the way up, Beinn Damh beyond.
And one of those lines that draws the eye, the descent from Bealach a Choire Garbh that cuts across the southern flank of Maol Chean-dearg.

More to follow on these and a spectacular day of heaving swells and sandstone cliffs around Priest Island in the kayaks - if I was lacking inspiration to paddle of late, I found it here.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Riding by Red Tarn

I had been eyeing up this descent for some time. From the ridge above, from the mines across the valley and often enough on the map. The gradient looked perfect and the track a mix of pitched slabs and flowing singletrack. The problem is its popularity - taking a bike here would be pointless on most weekends. On this night, I had the place to myself.Just the birds and the sound of snow melt running to the tarn below.
The start of a superb run, dropping approximately 700m over 5km and on par with any of the other also excellent descents in the immediate area.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Just because

A gratuitous post - just because I like the shot.
Paddling on calm seas off the west coast of Cumbria.