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 Justine's Journal

CackleTV Productions


Rannoch Moor crossing
Friday, September 18, 2009

Crossing Rannoch Moor is one of the classic Scottish canoe journeys, which can form part of a crossing of the whole of Scotland from West to east. I wanted to film this varied journey for my upcoming canoeing DVD, and experienced and talented canoeists Dave Rossetter and Scott Simon volunteered to take me and Barry across the moor ( in reality looking after us as much as they were being filmed on the adventure). We only had 3 days so Dave very wisely decided that we’d start at the highest point and let gravity help us eastwards. Other people start at the sea and have a gruelling 6km carry uphill before they can float on water! We met at Loch Ba at 9am on Monday, to be greeted by a thick mist and a thicker swarm of Scottish midges. Dave and Scott politely kept quiet about how long it took Barry and I to sort out our gear for the 3 day trip and patiently kept swatting. By 10am we were as organised as we were going to be and after a short drag across the heather we were afloat.
The midges and the sound of the busy road were soon left behind, and we were alone on a mirror calm loch, weaving our way between tiny tree-covered islands. How very peaceful. After a few kilometres we reached the start of the first river, and the first whitewater section of the trip. To novice canoeists like Barry and I, the river looked really rocky and shallow, and surely impossible to paddle down? We were certainly nervous about how we’d avoid all the rocks. Dave and Scott showed us how it was done –there was one rock which acted like a magnet for both their bows, but they did a very slick job of weaving between all the others and lining themselves up to slide down the tongue over a couple of ledges. Barry and I started off well, but parked ourselves on a couple of rocks lower down and had to get out and pull the canoe off. It was great fun though, and we did really well on grade 2/3 rapids considering it was only the second time Barry and I have been in a tandem canoe in whitewater.
A few exciting hours later, we reached another loch. The sun won it’s battle with the mist and the impressive peaks of Glencoe came into view around us. What a glorious day. Another grade 2 river flowed from the end of the loch which Barry and I survived! We made camp on a peninsula at the start of the next loch, in a vain attempt to find a breeze to keep the midges away. It looked like the plan had worked for about half an hour, but as we started to cook, they found us, letting us know wherever we had an exposed millimetre of flesh. We all hid in our tents to eat! The weather remained good for the final 2 days, which were full of pretty lochs, grade 2/3 rivers, and a couple of short portages around dams and weirs. Barry and I were really glad we’d borrowed a trolley from Surflines as it made the carry so much easier. Poor Scott’s trolley had a flat tyre and was designed for a seakayak so it didn’t work very well and he ended up carrying his canoe the old fashioned way.

The rivers gained in volume as we got lower and on the pushier sections we had to line the canoes down some of the grade 3 rapids. It was really interesting to see how that worked. Dave and Scott tried to sail across the bigger lochs but dare I say it, the weather was too good and we had to paddle the entire 15 km length of Loch Rannoch.
The last morning saw the biggest excitement as Barry and I completely messed up the very first rapid of the day. We were trying to sneak left on a grade 3 set of drops but got our canoe pinned at the first hurdle. The bow was stuck on the rock and the stern was stuck on a bit of tree stump. The whole canoe was stuck in the flow of water and buckled really worryingly. I thought the canoe was a gonner but fortunately Scott and Dave took a small saw out of their emergency kit and cut through the tree. Within 5 minutes they freed the boat. The damage was 2 buckled gunnels and broken fittings on one of the seats (and a bit of a bruised ego for me). I think we were pretty lucky. And as Scott pointed out, at least I was filming it so it’s a good story line!

I’m now at Glenmore Lodge for the Scottish Open Boat symposium which starts tonight with whiskey tasting! That might not help my learning process at the sessions tomorrow!! I'll be showing about 20 minutes of video from the upcoming canoeing DVD on Saturday night, which I hope will go down well!

Thanks very much to Dave and Scott for making such a fun trip possible and for keeping us ( or getting us) out of trouble! Dave is a level 5 kayak coach and aspirant level5 canoe coach and is available for coaching and guiding through his company Standing Waves. Scott is a level 5 canoe coach based out of Wales who is relocating to Scotland in October and will be available for coaching/ guiding from then.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful pics, Justine - especially the first. My favourite time to paddle!


1:41 pm  

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