Sometimes you plan things months, even years in advance, sometimes you just go on a whim and hope for the best. This trip was a little of both.
Jon had been thinking about the Suilven kayak route for years and had a clear plan of where to get in and out, where we could leave a car, where to camp and roughly the difficulties we might face. On the other hand, doing an overnight trip out of our river boats was something we were completely new to and you might expect more than three days planning would go into the logistics of this. I actually arrived with no idea if all my stuff would go in my boat. Winging it at its very best, it all went surprisingly smoothly…
|Map image from Bing maps - blame them for the squint.|
Jon and I arrived late friday night at a car park just outside Inverkirkaig. Jen was already there, but there was no sign of movement in the truck - she was already fast asleep. We pitched the tent on a convenient bit of grass beside the car and dropped off with the sound of the Kirkaig to lull us to sleep.
The next morning was the big test: does everything fit in the boats? Turns out pretty much everything did, with only a bit of violent coaxing. Jen had to leave her sandals behind and we did put an awful lot of kit in Jon’s boat (thanks Jon). Piling all in my car, we headed for Elphin to put on at a bridge over the Ledbeg river. We dropped the boats, then I moved the car to a layby just up the road. We were off!
|At the put in with Suilvin in the background|
|Cam Loch, a bit windy.|
|You can see some of the debris on the left of this fall, there's more on the right.|
Not wanting to miss out though, we decided to run the grade 3 drops above the bridge. It was a good introduction into loaded boat paddling. Changing the speed and direction of the boat is much harder work!
|Photo taken by Jon Harwell|
|Photo taken by Jon Harwell|
The portage was hard work, but then we had fun messing about below the last fall.
|Loch Veyatie, photo by Jen Hartnett|
|Jen heading off into the distance to look for firewood.|
|The wall of Suilven.|
The path up the side of the wall is very steep and eroded, and a little precarious in places.
|"Very steep and eroded" - exactly as advertised!|
|Looking towards the other peak of Suilven (you need climbing gear for it),|
photo taken by Jon Harwell
|On the ridge to the summit.|
|At the summit cairn.|
|Camp, waiting for dinner to cook.|
|Fire! Somewhat short lived.|
At some unidentified time during the night Jon and I were woken by Jen slightly panicked in her bivvy tent after she was nuzzled by (probably) a deer!
The morning dawned sunny in the east with clouds approaching from the west. I made pancakes for breakfast! Packing up was a challenge as we tried to remember how everything fit in the kayaks the day before, but since I’d carried the food at least my boat was a bit lighter.
|It will all fit back in, right? Photo by Jen Hartnett|
|Rapids with Suilven in the background.|
|Jon nails the line|
|The gorge above the falls.|
|Last few eddies before the falls|
|Long way up!|
|Two pyranhas and a tuna climbed out of a gorge.|
|The bog was deeper than it looked!|
|Falls of Kirkaig|
|Seal launching below the Falls of Kirkaig, photo by Jen Hartnett|
Down into the gorge we paddled. Most of the rapids were grade 3 with a bit of 4. We portaged one with serious pinning potential that would probably clean up with a bit more water. The level was a bit on the low side and there was a lot of rock dodging, though we didn’t have to get out and walk until some shingle bed rapids nearly at the sea forced a quick hop out and drag. Inverkirkaig bay was looking a bit dreary in the rain but we were happy to have made it all the way!
|Inverkirkaig bay, tired but happy paddlers.|
Jen jogged up the road to get the truck and we packed up and drove back to Elphin to get my car. Onwards to the next adventure!
Thanks to Jen and Jon for being my (usually) tireless adventure companions and helping me with all the carrying and hauling!A few lessons learned:
1. Make sure your dry bags fit in the back of your boat. We had a number of bulky dry bags that were of no use.2. Head winds are hard work.
3. Watershed drybags make good pillows.
5. Waterproof socks are not very waterproof.
6. The "real" tent was so, so, so much better than the bivvy tent.
7. Loaded boats do not like to change what they're doing which is good for holes but bad for eddies.
8. Learn effective forward paddling!
Moroccan lentil curry with polenta
Knorr vegetable stock pot
Most of a tube of tomato puree with garlic
Block of ready made polenta (find it in the pasta aisle)
In a zip-lock bag:
1 cup dried lentils
Handful of dried sultanas
Handful of chopped dried apricots
Handful of chopped sundried tomatoes (you can get them just dried without the oil)
Coriander, cumin, ginger, leaf coriander, mint, paprika (just chuck a bunch in)
All the ingredients fitted inside the pot I was going to cook in and they’re all in waterproof containers, so they don’t need to go in a good dry bag.
Pour the contents of the zip-lock bag into the pot and add the stock pot and tomato puree (half the tube to start with).
Fill 1/2 of the pot with water and put on to boil with a lid.
Chop up the polenta into bite size bits.
Once the lentils have been bubbling for a few minutes you might need to add more water, keep checking this. Add the polenta to the pan as well.
Simmer until the lentils are cooked.
Gluten free and vegan
I used the guide written by Jake Holland here as a vague idea of what to pack.
Dry bag - Sleeping bag, toothbrush/toothpaste, waterproof jacket, waterproof trousers, contact lens kit, head torch.
Bottle of water for cooking (ideally I would just take a filter) and Ribena to keep me going on the flat.
Dry bag 1 - spare fleece and thermal leggings.
Dry bag 2 (leaky) - pot with frying pan lid, dinner ingredients, sporks x 2, 250ml pancake mix in plastic bottle, maple syrup, oil.
Dry bag 3 (also leaky) - hummus and pitta bread for lunch, cashew nuts for snacks, extra cereal bars.
First aid kit (small).
In front of the footrest: Dry bag with hiking boots, spare socks and spare leggings for the walk.
Between my legs:
Watershed dry bag - Thermarest, primaloft (fake down) jacket, camera.
Lifestraw water bottle.
Phone and car keys in aquapacks.
BA pocket: Cereal bars, Karabiners, sling, pulley.
Group kit in Jon's boat:
Lightweight 2 man tent for Jon and I, stove and gas, pot scrubber, lighter, split paddle, first aid kit.