Thursday, June 27, 2013

Hebridean Heaven

A large part of my brain seems to be taken up by a bank of potential climbing trips which realistically would take many lifetimes to achieve. I sometimes get really stressed out trying to prioritise, categorise and sub categorise them within the "idea bank", so that i can try and see how they'll fall in to place!

For some time, the top of the list in category "UK", has been the south Barra islands of Pabbay and Mingulay. These two uninhabited chunks of Lewisian Gneiss have to be up there with Lundy, Orkney and Pembroke for the title of ultimate UK sea cliff destination, (not to mention St.Bees...) with the added interest of the "Robinson Crusoe" factor. After a winter of work i was psyched out of my mind to see the trip coming together nicely, and i don't think any of us could believe our luck as we boarded the ferry in Oban in sweltering heat, with a forecast that predicted the same for the next 7 days.

Pabbay and Mingulay are pretty much the most southerly 2 islands in the Outer Hebridean chain.

Land fades away as the ferry takes us to Barra.

Donald and his boat "The Boy James"
 Donald - the man in the know when it comes to getting to Pabbay - had his boat at the ready as soon as the ferry landed on Barra, and before we knew it we were off in to the choppy seas in search of our island.


Are you sure this thing floats Donald?

Leaving The Boy James.

Dougie cruising, with Newfoundland just over the Horizon...

Myself on a brilliant E5 called "The Raven". Photo- Ry Mchenry.

It was extremely damp and felt full on for the first morning! Photo Ry Mchenry.

Home on Pabbay

Dinner is caught.

Mike and Ry in disbelief of how good the pink walls are. Mingulay in the distance.

Stu, (in blue, top right), on "Prophecy of Drowning".

Pabbay was amazing. The highlight for myself was sitting on a ledge above the crux pitch of "Profundum Lacu", at about 10p.m, still hot enough to be in shorts with no t-shirt, having done one of the best rock pitches in the UK, with a basking shark circling below, and knowing we'll be doing the same again tomorow!
      After 4 incredible days on Pabbay, Donald picked us up and took us to Mingulay, where we were to spend another 4 days.

The transfer to Mingulay arrives.

Pedro crushing a fun E4.Photo- Ry Mchenry.

The cliffs of Pabbay from Mingulay.

Our beach on Mingulay. Photo- Ry Mchenry.

 The ruined houses in the above photo are relics of past communities on Mingulay. Mingulay was inhabited as recently as 1912, and has evidence of permanent inhabitants for as long as 2000 years beforehand. When walking around the island it becomes strikingly apparent what a precarious existence it must have been, with dozens of families reliant on a handful of sheep, fishing in extremely dangerous seas and scaling cliffs to steal bird's eggs. This was proved on neighbouring Pabbay when all the men on the island died together in a fishing accident and the women and children were left with no choice but to move to Barra.

Me, Pedro and Sam on "Rory Rum The Story Man", Dun Mingulay. Photo-Ry Mchenry.

Pedro following on "Ray of Light"

Dave and Stu beneath us on an E3.

Loading the boat to head home.

You know its been good when you're sad to leave! Photo- Ry Mchenry

We were all genuinely sad to be leaving such a cool place, but to make us feel better, after 8 days of wall to wall sunshine, it started raining the second we got on the ferry back to Oban!