Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Beyond the far north

Rubh' a Bhuachaille, Sutherland. Some of the wildest coastline in the UK
58° 37' 37.7959"N
5° 0' 16.4108"W

Sitting on the 58th parallel, the north west tip of the mainland UK is at the same latitude as British Columbia, Alaska and the Bering Sea. Accessible only on foot or by boat, the coastline in this area is wild and foreboding, regularly subject to fierce Atlantic storms with winds that may not have touched land since America or Greenland. 

Hidden amongst these imposing sandstone cliffs however is an oasis of golden beaches and secluded bays, the most famous of which is Sandwood Bay along with its much frequented bothy.

The allure of exploring this coastline has always captivated me so i guess a trip here was inevitable. It took until November to get time to visit, and with the year drawing rapidly to a close, ambitious plans were drawn up. High winds, snow showers and freezing temperatures definitely added to the experience of the place, with sea cliff zawns turned into maelstroms, bombarded by huge and thundering swells. Thankfully a distraction was provided one evening watching the firework display at Kinlochbervie, perhaps the most northerly display on the west coast. Standing in solidarity with the local people, with not another tourist about was a real privilege. The highlight was definitely the community firework display, when the first few rockets were perhaps aimed a bit low and proceeded to explode very close to some parked cars! 

As far as climbing highlights are concerned, whilst exploring the coast south of the famous stack of Am Buchaille, we found a smaller stack in a bay called Port Mor. We climbed the stack up its seaward edge, certain that something so obvious must have been ascended before. However after contacting the SMC it turns out it is quite possibly previously unclimbed. At 17m its small compared to many of the stacks along this coastline, but a sea stack it is none the less and perhaps a first ascent at that!

An amazing adventure. I can't wait to go back, but perhaps when its warmer.

Caelan seconding Crackin' Corner (VS 4c) down at Sheigra. This was about the only climb which wasn't being smashed by huge swells, even at low tide..

Caelan seconding Seaward Edge (S/HS), a possible FA up an un-climbed sea stack situated in Port Mor, 5 miles north of Sheigra

Abseiling from the stack, with the famed Am Buchaille in the background

Watching the swell smash into the cliffs at Second Geo, Sheigra

Caelan just before the steepening crux of Sideline (VS 4c) on the upper wall of Second Geo, Sheigra 
Looking towards a snow capped Foinaven and Arkle from Kinlochbervie

The same mountains a day or so later. Hopefully the snow is here to stay

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