Tuesday 22 July 2014

The Paps of Jura

Beinn a'Chaolais from Beinn an Oir

Searching through my images recently looking for ones of horseshoe walks for the current issue of The Great Outdoors I came across some I'd taken on a round of the Paps of Jura several years ago. This reminded me that I'd written about the walk for TGO at the time. Here's that short piece.
The three distinctive steep rocky peaks known as the Paps of Jura dominate the rugged landscape of the Isle of Jura and stand out from afar. I set out to climb them on a day of rapidly moving clouds, gusting winds and bursts of sunshine, a suitably wild day for wild hills on a wild island. The summits were hidden in the clouds as I followed the muddy path, marked by a signpost, that led from the old arched bridge over the Corran River to Loch an t-Siob. 

Beinn Shiantaidh and the Corran River
The forbidding slopes of the most easterly Pap, Beinn Shiantaidh, towered above the loch, now free of cloud. A rough path led up steep grass to the scree and boulder cone of the summit and a scrabble up loose ground to the cold windswept top. The mist had rolled in again and there was no view. I scrawled my name on a bit of the decaying visitor’s book contained in a plastic bottle inside a wooden box. Then I dropped down steep scree slopes towards the col with the next and highest Pap, Beinn an Oir, a Corbett. Not far above the col I reached a long unbroken crag blocking my descent and was glad to find a rough path down a gully at its north end. The gully provided some respite from the cold wind, which was welcome too. From the col I climbed the steep stony east face of Beinn an Oir on a meandering path. A distinctive feature on this face is a brown basalt dyke, which stands out against the pale quartzite scree. The path reaches the summit ridge north of the top close to two walled enclosures then follows an unusual cleared path between rough quartzite walls, apparently built by OS surveyors. On the little summit I munched on a few snacks, hoping for the mist to clear, but was soon driven on by the cold wind. The descent to the next col began on open scree slopes but lower down became a tortuous route on narrow ledges through small crags. 

Beinn an Oir and Beinn Shiantaidh
As I picked a way down the mist finally rose above the summits and I could see just how grand and mountainous these hills are, something I knew from the terrain under my feet but which had not been clearly visible before. Out over the Sound of Islay rose the Rhuvaal lighthouse on the NW tip of Islay, distant and white. More scree led to the third and final Pap, Beinn a’Chaolais, from where I could see the peaks of Arran rising beyond the Mull of Kintyre. To the north though all was still in cloud. Scree and grass led down to the last col from where it was a boggy walk down into Gleann an t-Siob and the path from Lochan an t-Sion back to the start.

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