Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Ailsa Craig Adventure Part 2

Eventually, the Ailsa Craig began to loom larger and I felt the crossing was coming to an end and the new adventure about to begin.

A solitary gannet seemed to fly out to meet us, then guide us to shore.

But before we got there, it wheeled to the left and headed for the high nesting areas ...

While we turned to the right towards the lighthouse, where...

Our next escort took over, just to make sure we were not up to any fishy business..

I dropped anchor on the rocky beach near the lighthouse. In fact, I dropped three anchors just to make sure the boat didn't drift off while I was exploring. One anchor was over the stern to hold the boat from bashing the beach, if the waves got up, and two anchors on the shore well above high water, as the tide was still rising.

The seal also seemed willing to watch over the boat (or should that be under it ?) as I climbed the hill.

To be continued ...

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Ailsa Craig Adventure Part 1

Because I spent a great deal of my life living and working in south Ayrshire, I often wondered what it would be like exploring Ailsa Craig or " Paddy's Mile Stone " as many locals refered to it. Many years ago, my brother Douglas spent a week on the island and much to my envy, told the family many stories of his visit. I often dreamed of setting foot on the island for myself.

Even when I got the boats, I still only dreamed of seeing the place. The Ailsa Craig lies 10 miles off the Ayrshire coast and is in a very exposed part of the sea. At full throttle my boat will only travel at an approximate speed of 5 miles per hour, making the crossing duration at least two hours. Anyone who knows the sea will know that wind conditions can be very unpredictable and a flat calm sea can form white breaking waves in a matter of minutes. I know when the waves start to break, my nerve and the boat's ability start to strain and its time to head for shelter. There is no shelter between the mainland and the Ailsa Craig.

However, the fine spell of calm weather we have been enjoying this week, plus my brother mentioning that he and a couple of friends were going to kayak across to the island, built up enough courage in me to attemt the crossing. Why have a boat and only sail it on ponds ?

We arranged to meet at Lendalfoot at 8.30am. A quick glance at the tide tables ment it was low tide at 8am so I knew I would have a struggle launching my boat off the chosen beach. I arrived 7.00am hoping to catch the last of the tide before low water rocks barred my way to the sea.

I will be honest and say it is the worst launch point I have ever had. It took an hour and a half to get the boat into the water on my own. I used planks to keep the wheels from sinking into the soft gravel shore, pushed and hauled over small rocks and just before I reached the waters edge, the trailer wheels jammed solid behind some large bed rocks. I then had to push the boat off the trailer.. move the wheels over the rocks, winch the boat back onto the trailer and kept repeating that process until finally I got the boat afloat. I hope to never have to repeat that process..but it was all good experience. This photo shows where I got the boat to single handed.

I finally got the boat anchored in time for the rest of the party to arrive, however I then had to carry the engines and my gear for the day down. Not an easy task after exhausting myself getting the boat into the water. It was a very hot morning too..but there was not a puff of wind.

It took the kayaks ten minutes to load up and transport across the same beach, then we were off.

If the wind gets up, the kayaks are far more sea worthy than my boat. Breaking waves cannot get into the kayaks as the paddlers have a spray skirt around the cockpit to keep water out. If one of them is unlucky enough to fall over, they can easily roll back up and continue the crossing.

If my boat gets swamped by a breaking wave..it will quickly wallow and easily turn over with no way to right it again. The engines will fill with salt water and not start again.. in other words.. if the wind got up during the crossing.. I was in hot water..in the cold Clyde

The kayaks can move fast and effortlessly due to their slim long lenght. We were soon leaving the misty mainland hills behind

My boat is even faster and goes with far less effort..but at a cost of hearing a noisy four stroke outboard.

It looked a long way across the ten miles of sea to the Ailsa Craig. I knew my throttle wrist would be very tired by the time we got there..if we ever did.

To be continued...

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Boating Season has finally begun

The beautiful warm spell of weather this week finally made me dust off the boat, service my engines, change wheel bearings on the trailer, and head for the coast

For the first adventure of the year, I wanted a challenge, to go somewhere I had only dreamed of going before, to include a hill climb, to see loads of wildlife, and to be not too far from home. With the help of my brother .. I found it all.

Where did I go for the first boat trip of the year ?

I will start posting the adventure ... as soon as I get unpacked ... it is one of my most memorable ones yet

But here is a clue to where I went :-D

Stay tuned

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Cononish and Beinn Chuirn

If you are wondering what happened to my updates... relax.. I didnt fall down a mine shaft .. I had to attend family matters in Ayrshire for a couple of weeks and didn't have access to my photos. Im now back on track and have a few hikes to update .. but first I will finish my walk in Cononish

Leaving the summit cairn of Meall Odhar, we headed for the great gash on the side of Beinn Chuirn where the Alt Eas Anie burn tumbles down the cliffs. I suspected this was the site of the gold mine. On the way, I was concious of passing what looked like a car park where a couple of tin huts were located but didn't realise the Gold mine entrance was there too..so I missed it :(

I did find the two lead mine adits on the cliffs on the Eas Anie. This one looks as if someone has cut a hole in the grating to gain access. They are braver than me as I didn't fancy exploring underground. Some research on the net told me that the lead mines actually join up with the upper levels of the gold mine.

Above the mines, the Alt Eas Anie burn tumbles over the cliffs in a spectacular waterfall

Happy at finding the adits, we then started the steep assent of Beinn Chuirn. The views soon opened up and Ben More and Stobinian looked great capped with snow

As did Ben Oss and Beinn Dubhchraig

But none matched the magnificence of Ben Lui and its centre gully

Beinn Chuirn is one of those hills with many false summits but eventually we reached the lip of Coire na Saobhaidhe ..

And followed the lip to the top where we ...

Finally reached the summit cairn. Russel is checking his GPS to make sure it is 880m high. I didn't doubt it was as my weary legs were now quite stiff.

We had our lunch on top as we admired the views over to Ben Cruachan ..

And back again to Ben Lui before heading for home.

Although we missed the gold mine entrance.. it was a gem of a day on a jewel of a hill.

Im just sorry Holly my dog missed that walk..but she was still suffering from her broken claw from a couple of days before :(
Its now sorted .. my vet pulled it out with a pair of pliers :-o but Holly was brave and has enjoyed a few good walks since :-D

My thanks again to Russell for accompanying me on one of the best walks so far this year :-D

Friday, 4 May 2012

Cononish and the Gold Mine

Just before reaching the summit of Sron nan Colan, I caught my first glimpse of Ben Oss and Ben Lui reflected in a little lochan. It was one of those rare days when the sun is shining in clear blue sky, yet the atmosphere is as clear as can be. We could see for miles. :-D

Moments later we arrived at the summit cairn. Beinn Dorian was just coming into view to the north east. It was also capped with snow.

Looking west, I could see our next summit, the rounded top of Meall Odhar standing above the forest line. Above that the spectacular corrie of Saobhaidhe on Beinn Chuirn caught my eye and to the left, Ben Lui looked magnificent capped in snow

As we started walking along the ridge towards Meall Odhar, I zoomed in on the view towards Ben Lui. The Cononish Gold mine is just beside the tin huts in the foreground of this shot. Above that the great gash of Eas Anie cuts the flank of Beinn Chuirn and hides the remains of two more lead mines. And topping the photograph is Ben Lui and its Centre Gully.

That view brought back memories of climbing the gully many years ago, on a cold misty winter's day. I was dreading reaching the summit in case the snow cornises were too dangerous to cut through and it could have meant a long slow descent back down the gully. Although I was with a friend, we didnt have a rope, so I was very relieved to find a route already cut through the top cornise :-D

Looking back the way we had come, Ben Challum was receeding into the distance.

To the south appeared some unidentified hills.. possibly some corbetts or grahams just north of Ben Vorlich on Loch Lomond ?

Finally we arrived at the summit cairn of Meall Odhar. That is when we decided to extend our walk to take in the Top of Beinn Chuirn. After all .. it was such a lovely day .. all the gold in the mine below couldn't buy the experience of being on the hills that day

To be continued ...

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Cononish and the lead mines

Sunday's forecast was looking very promising and when Russell phoned to ask if I wanted to go walking around the hills at Cononish.. I just couldn't say no. I have been researching the mines on the Ochils lately so a change of venue and the prospect of some new mines made my mind up :-D

The forecast proved true to prediction and it was a beautiful morning as we started walking up the old mine path on Sron nan Colan

It was obvious that it had been a large mine in this area, due to the amout of spoil littering the hillside. I guess the miners in days gone past were like rabbits digging burrows, the spoil from the hole was just dumped behind them as they burrowed into the hillside ?

We quickly gained height on the steep path and great views of Ben Challum opened up above Tyndrum. A sprinkling of snow against clear blue sky highlighted the rocky ridge to the summit.

The lower tops of Meall Buidhe and Beinn Odhar, although clear of snow, looked just as inviting

But it was Ben More and Stobinian to the south east, that really sparkled on such a beautiful day.

Near the top of the hill we were walking on, was a fenced off area which indicated we had arrived at the mine adits. (An adit is an mine entrance) Although I had no intention of entering the mines, I wanted to get a photo or three so clambered over the fence and approached the first adit.

Happy with my photo, I then made my way to the second adit but this was more like a winze. (A vertical shaft between mine levels) I could not see the bottom but it was a long way down. I didnt go any closer as I didn't want to find out how deep it was by falling in. It is only one of the dangers of old mines. Winze can be in the floor shadows and down you go without seeing it..that is if gasses that have collected underground dont get you first .. or a rock fall entombs you forever.. nope..not for me ...give me an open hillside anyday :-D

These mines were lead mines and first started in 1741 and finally exhausted in 1923. A large exposed vien of lead ore was open mined down the length of the hillside. Happy with my exploration, we then headed to the summit of Sron nan Colan to see the views to the west... and look for the gold mines ..

To be continued ...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Stuc Odhar and a broken toe

Leaving Glen Finglas reservoir behind, I made a straight line for Stuc Odhar. Holly was running happily by my side. We were both full of the joys of spring. It was great to feel some warmth in the sun.

I found a recent quad track and started to follow it as it seemed to go the way we wanted. Progress was quick as we walked on the flattened heather. It was a little boggy at times but nothing hard going.

As I gained height..I was surprised to see Stobinian and Ben More appear covered in so much snow. It was warm work where I was walking.

I was putting in a good distance between me and the loch, so not surprised I was breaking sweat.

Ben Venue looked magnificent on the far side of the loch.

I stopped to take a photograph of the final push for the summit of Stuc Odhar....

That is when I noticed Holly was falling slightly hehind. When she stopped beside me she sat down and offered me her paw. I found this a little strange until I noticed one of her claws had broken and was twisted at an odd angle. I could see that she was in a bit of pain and had difficulty walking. Her broken claw kept getting twisted about as she put foot on the uneven heather surface and the long grass was grabbing at it. Unfortunately I dont carry a first aid kit or anything so tried to bind her paw up in a plastic bag. She just lay down looking miserable :( Her limp was painful for me to watch :(

She found walking very difficult and although she tried..she kept sitting down and looking at me with big sad eyes. I had no other choice but to leave her as it was at least two miles over difficult terrain ....

Or to carry her out ..and she is a very heavy lump. I took a last look at Stuc Odhar, grit my teeth and headed downhill .. carrying my pooch under my arm. When we finally got to the car.. she licked me silly. I think she really appreciated the lift.