Monday, 5 October 2015

A Rannoch crossing by packraft.

Having previously paddled both Loch Ba and Loch Laidon separately I've harboured a desire to connect the two into one trip. The practicalities involved in making this a reality using canoes have prevented this in the past however using packrafts make it logistically far more doable.
Rambo and I drove in separate cars to Bridge of Orchy railway station where Ramsay parked his vehicle then we both hopped in my car and drove up on to Rannoch Moor. We parked adjacent to Loch Ba and readied our rafts and luggage next to the new road bridge which carries the A82 over the outflow of Lochan na Stainge.

We were soon on the water, threading our way through the islands that litter the western end of Loch Ba. The water level was significantly lower than the last time that I'd been here (in November 2013, but we were able to get through without incident.

Once our into the main body of the loch we picked up a nice steady tailwind which was a real blessing when paddling what is in reality a posh rubber dinghy!

We paddled on towards Eilean Molach (the pretty wooded island in the middle of Loch Ba), pausing to take in the fantastic views of the mountains on the western fringe of Rannoch Moor.

We made great time and soon arrived at the start of the Abhainn Ba, the river which connects Loch Ba with Loch Laidon.
 Based on past experience I'd assumed that the river wouldn't be navigable (Graham had paddled the top section in his canoe on our previous visit but the water level had been higher and it had still been very scrapey). To my surprise and delight we managed to wind our way through the first few rapids without too much problem, the ultra shallow draught of our little boats meaning we could run the rapids. This was a major bonus as it saved us having to deflate the rafts and hike through the peat hags of the moor. Finally we reached a section that looked just too bony to attempt so we landed and portaged round.
A short walk saw us back on the water and we were able to continue for the majority of the river which varied between deeper wide sections and sections of rapids. It was really good fun to paddle although we were a bit concerned about how much damage our boats were sustaining from the extremely abrasive rocks.
An unfamiliar view of the Bridge of Orchy Hills seen during one of the wide stretches of river.
From our previous visits I knew that the last 500m of the river would almost certainly need portaging with the water levels this low and this proved to be the case so we had no option but to land again after the final wider section. 
The hike down the bank wasn't too bad and certainly beat having to walk the whole river as expected. 

Soon we could see Loch Laidon beyond the final section of rapids.
After a short breather we launched onto Loch Laidon.

After a short paddle we entered the area of small islands which signals the junction of the main body of the loch with an arm which points west towards Glencoe. This was where we were heading to find the campsite that Graham and I had used on our previous visit (
We soon found the spot and landed to set up camp before the light began to fade.

We soon had ourselves established and were able to enjoy the sunset over the Buachaille and other Glencoe hills.

As the sun lowered in the sky the wind dropped leading to sporadic outbreaks of midgies so we lit the firebox hoping that the smoke would suppress them a little while we cooked our dinner.

Once it had gone dark the temperature dropped and the midgies vanished so the firebox came into it's own for warming us and brewing up on.

The moon came out and lit our camp in a silvery light and despite the lowering temperature we stayed up late chatting and enjoying a dram until we'd finally exhausted our supply of firewood.
On Sunday morning I woke before Ramsay and got up in time to see a beautiful sunrise. The light bathing the scenery was a lovely warm amber colour.

I ate a leisurely breakfast while enjoying the views while Rambo had a lie in before emerging from his tent.

We knew we had plenty of time before we had to be at Rannoch station to catch our train so we took our time packing up before getting on the water and exploring the western arm of the loch.

After that we retraced our track back on to the main body of the loch and headed east with a freshening wind pushing us along.
 The view back southwest.
After paddling for a while we landed for lunch.
Then it was onward towards our destination. 

Soon our landing spot came into view and we prepared to land and pack up the rafts for the short walk to Rannoch station.

When we arrived at the station we were pleased to see that the tearoom was open so we treated ourselves to a celebratory pot of tea and slice of carrot cake!

 After that it just remained to wait for the train and make the short twenty minute ride back to Bridge of Orchy to collect Ramsay's car (and pick up mine from Rannoch Moor).
Here's the video that I made of the trip.


1 comment:

  1. Fantastic trip, write up and video. Superb campsite as well and a chance to visit places you'd never see on foot. Been a long-time ambition of mine to kayak across Rannoch Moor, pack rafting makes it more feasible. Mind you even I was wincing at the scraping sounds as you negotiated the rapids! Great stuff.