Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Paps of Jura

Distance: 18.5km; Ascent: 1430m; Solo
See route in new window

Although Lynsey had had two days out hillwalking when we were on the mainland, I had deliberately saved one of my days to tackle the Paps of Jura.  My original plan had been to take the car over to Jura for the day, but as the SYHA hostel was locked between 10am and 5pm this presented a slight logistical problem for Lynsey & Isabel.  After exploring all the possibilities, i.e. the Jura bus, we concluded that the only way that I could do a circuit of the Paps of Jura and still make the last ferry back to Islay that day was for us all to go over to Jura and Lynsey to drop me at the three arched bridge.  I would then walk back to Feolin Ferry, which would leave Lynsey & Isabel free to return to Islay when they desired.

It was quite windy at the three arched bridge when I set off walking at approx 9am.  It was dry and overcast but low cloud covered the tops of the hills.  I followed a rough, occasionally boggy, path across the hillside south of the Corran River.  Every so often a group of two of three fell runners would pass me heading in the other direction, and a new group passed me approx every 20-30 minutes until early afternoon; they were participants in a sailing and fell running competition that involved sailing from Oban to Mull, climbing Ben More, sailing to Jura, doing a round of the Paps, sailing to Arran and then climbing Goatfell.

As I got closer to the Paps, the head wind seemed to get stronger and I began to wonder whether I was actually going to be able to get to the top of any of the hills.  I decided that it was likely that the wind was being funnelled through the bealach south of Beinn an Oir and down Gleann an t-Siob; hence I pressed on in the hope that it would be less windy once I was out of the valley.  This proved to be correct as I ascended steeply north towards Beinn Shiantaidh.

There were good views of Loch an t-Siob as I ascended, but I soon ascended into the cloud accompanied by rain.  The ground became more rocky with a mixture of small outcrops and lots of quartzite scree.  At one point on the ascent, the cloud broke and I got good views across to Corra Bheinn and out to see, but these were soon replaced by the inside of a cloud again!  The cloud remained light as I reached the summit of Beinn Shiantaidh (Graham) at 11:40am and it briefly cleared to the south east for a few minutes on the top.

It was very windy on the summit, but I was informed by a couple of passing fell runners that this was the most windy of the three paps today, which was good news for the rest of the walk.  After having an early lunch in the summit wind shelter, I headed off down the windy west ridge.  As I approached the bealach, the cloud cleared briefly and I got a glimpse of the onward route.

I initially took a direct line up Beinn an Oir, following a faint path over a few small scrambly sections.  About half-way up, I detoured to the north over easier ground; this may have been the long grassy rake mentioned in the guidebook, but in the mist it wasn't entirely clear.  After ascending west for a distance, I came across a cairn that in the mist looked to possibly be the summit, however it turned out not to be high enough.  I continued south west past the remains of a couple of buildings before reaching the trig point on the summit of Beinn an Oir (Corbett) at 1:30pm.

It was less windy on the summit, but I still took shelter in the wind shelter whilst enjoying the remainder of my lunch.  I set off down the south ridge, passing a few more fell runners on the way.  About two thirds of the way down the ridge, the cloud cleared and I got good views across the lochans in the bealach to Beinn a'Chaolais.

In the bealach I met the last group of fell runners of the walk who said I would find the ascent of the final pap fun as there was a long scree slope from this direction.  However, I managed to pick a line up on more stable ground just to the left of the scree.  There were good views across to Islay and Colonsay as well as of Beinn an Oir and down Gleann an t-Siob.  However there was still cloud hanging over the top of the hill, but after ascending into the cloud, I soon reached the summit of Beinn a'Chaolais (Graham) at 3:15pm.

The summit appeared to be perched right on the edge of the plateau and I would imagine there would be good views from here if it wasn't cloudy.  I didn't hang around very long as soon after I arrived at the summit it started hailing.  I picked a route down the south west ridge until I descended out of the cloud; then I headed directly for the vehicle track near Lochan Gleann Astaile.

I reached the vehicle track at around 4:40pm, with only just over an hour until the ferry.  Hence I walked very quickly along the vehicle tracks, whilst admiring the views across the Sound of Islay.  As it was getting closer to the ferry time, I kept looking across to the sound to check if the ferry had left yet.  Eventually I reached the jetty at Feolin Ferry when the ferry was half-way across to Jura; I had made it just in time!  A few minutes later I was back on Islay where I met Lynsey.  It had been a very good, but tough, day's walk.

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