Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Return to Loch Etive.

A couple of years ago Graham and I had a memorable weekend canoe sailing trip to Loch Etive ( ). At times I felt that the conditions on that trip stretched my canoe sailing abilities to their limits. Since then I've gained both in terms of experience and equipment so when an opportunity to return to Loch Etive arose I jumped at it.
I met Dave and Andy (and Nora the Labradoodle) at the old ferry slip at Taynuilt on Friday afternoon (later than I intended having slept in, sorry guys!) Tom and Graham would be joining us the following day. We set up our boats and got on the water as quickly as we could and paddled through the Bonawe narrows. Thankfully we timed this for high tide and slack water as the tide can flow strongly here and we had no wind to assist us.

  Due to the lack of wind we were faced with a fairly long paddle to reach our intended campsite at Rubha Bharr (about five miles away) and we knew that due to our late start daylight would potentially be in short supply. The weather was stunning though so we set off and reveled in the scenery.

  As we traveled slowly up the Loch the mountain scenery that I remembered from the previous visit started to open up. It was new territory for Dave and Andy and they were suitably impressed.

At times we were able to gain a little assistance from a light breeze and at others it would vanish completely leaving paddle power as our only method of making progress. As we approached our campsite the sun sank below the hills on the western shore of the loch and the temperature immediately plummeted.

We rushed to pitch our tents and sort our gear before we lost the daylight completely and Andy set too finding some finding some fallen wood for a fire to keep us warm. As we cooked some food we had to put on plenty of layers of clothing to keep warm. Lighting the fire helped though and we managed to stay up until about ten thirty before tiredeness and dwindling supplies of wood drove us to our tents (which were already coated in frost).
I slept well and woke at eight and could hear that Andy and Dave were already up. As it was the rutting season the red deer stags had been roaring all night around our camp but strangely they didn't seem to disturb me much. A beautiful autumn morning greeted me when I opened the tent door.
There had been a heavy frost overnight and the tents and boats were well coated.

Breakfast was a somewhat chilly affair as we waited for the sun to gain enough height in the sky to warm us.

The water was once again like a millpond so we felt no pressure to go out sailing. Instead we waited to see if the wind would pick up so that we could go and meet Graham and Tom. It was glorious in the sunshine and soon warm enough to be in shirt sleeves as we alternated between loafing about camp and carrying out routine tasks such as gathering more firewood.

Eventually Graham and Tom sailed into view far down the loch and we watched their progress through the binoculars. There appeared to be a definite dividing line between the windy area where the guys were clearly sailing well and the dead calm area stretching from our camp for a couple of miles southwest. We decided to wait until they hit the calm area before paddling to meet them.

We soon met up and Graham and Tom recounted tales of F5 winds and nasty short duration chop further down the loch. This seemed completely improbable in the near total calm of our area and just goes to show how conditions can vary.
Soon we were all back at camp enjoying the late morning sunshine.
After lunch the wind finally made an appearance so we ventured out to sail a little further north. It was too late in the day to make the head of the loch but we still experienced some enjoyable sailing in stunning surroundings.

Once back ashore we had plenty of time to get sorted out before the sun went down. The tasks included entertaining Nora!
The sun inexorably dipped below the mountains and the temperature dropped but this time we were treated to a stunning sunset.

Meanwhile dinner was made and consumed and bottles were opened and the contents enjoyed!

Next it was time for a fire for heat and toasting marshmallows (thanks Graham)!
We stayed up a little later on Saturday night, chatting and drinking round the fire but were still tucked up before midnight as the stags serenaded us to sleep!
Sunday morning once more dawned fair as we started the process of breakfasting then breaking camp.
Soon enough we were ready to leave and the wind direction suggested a relatively easy downwind run back to Taynuilt.

Further down the loch the wind freshened and we had a really enjoyable run down towards the narrows.

At the narrows themselves there was a small tidal race caused by the incoming tide forcing through the narrow channel and the wind blowing in the opposite direction, it was great fun sailing through it before rounding the old ferry slip and landing back at our starting point.
All that remained was to pack up the boats and gear and head for home.

Loch Etive is a great venue for a trip, it combines relatively easy access with fantastic mountain scenery and a great wild camp site. I'm sure it won't be our last visit.
Some video of the trip here;