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Thread: Ossian Expedition - To the Back of Beyond and Back Again

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    Cool Ossian Expedition - To the Back of Beyond and Back Again

    Ossian Expedition

    To the Back of Beyond and Back Again


    This was a trip I'd been wanting to do for some time. Well, at least a couple of months, since I read about the River Ossian in the SCA Scottish White Water guidebook. It sounded like a nice Grade 1/2 paddle in a remote location, accessed by train. Only later did I notice an earlier chapter in the book which mentioned that the Ossian led on into the Abhain Ghuilbinn, a much more serious proposition at Grade 4/5+, and in an even more remote location. That gave me pause for thought, but then I reckoned with a packraft I could easily portage round round the hard bits, while paddling the easy sections. Not to mention getting it on and off the train with minimal fuss.

    It would be a two day trip though, and by the time I had gathered all my camping gear together I realised that with the boat on top it would be quite a load to carry (for an old codger like me anyway!). I needed a Sherpa. A quick phone call solved that problem, as James was surprisingly keen to come on an expedition and do some white water (I carefully didn't over emphasise the load carrying aspect at that point).

    I worked out a route involving two trains, three lochs, two rivers and an as yet indeterminate amount of hiking. The plan was hatched and the die was cast.

    Our route:




    DAY ONE

    So, on the appointed day (or in fact one day later due to a better weather forecast), we drove up to Bridge of Orchy, left our car in the station car park, and boarded the West Highland Railway train heading towards Mallaig.





    Two packrafts and a couple of days camping gear.





    The train was quite busy, with a lot of tourists, hillwalkers and assorted outdoor types, but we managed to get a couple of nice seats for our boats.




    We passed some wild, rugged, bleak terrain, then Rannoch Station, then more wild, rugged, bleak terrain and alighted at Corrour Station. This is the highest and most remote railway station in the UK, at 1,339 ft. It also featured in the film "Trainspotting".









    There's nothing much there. The station house had been converted into a restaurant, but this had closed down in June.





    The hillwalkers set off in various directions to bag their Munros and soon we were on our own.


    "Now what?"
    "We go for a walk"
    "What?"
    "A walk!"
    "Where?"
    "There!"
    "Are you serious?"



    We headed down the track to Loch Ossian, about a mile away.









    Approaching Loch Ossian.





    There is a hostel on the edge of the loch, and there we paused to eat our meal deal sandwiches for lunch, then inflate the boats and strap our bags onto the bows.











    Launching onto Loch Ossian.








    We paddled down the length of Loch Ossian, through a couple of rain showers and past the small islands, each covered by their tiny remnants of the Great Caledonian Forest.





    Into the wind, as ever!








    Repelling boarders.





    Dark prospects ahead.





    Brightening up.








    At the far end of the loch, we came across this turf roofed boathouse.





    And then this postmodern shooting lodge. Built in 2004 at a cost of £20 million.









    A short refuelling stop.





    Then out of the loch and into the River Ossian.














    After a short stretch, we came to the first deer fence across the river. It was quite easy to get under though.








    Then a footbridge.





    And then a more formidable log barrier.





    There was a gap at one end we could squeeze through.








    Shortly after, we reached our first white water. It was good fun going down these, probably Grade 2, stretches.


















    The flatter parts though were quite boney. Despite the recent rain. Probably only do-able in a packraft in those conditions, and then only just do-able.





    Some stretches we just had to get out and walk.





    And get in again, further down.




    By about halfway down the Ossian, I'd got fed up with getting stuck on rocks and scraping along, and got out to walk the remainder of the river. James persevered though and paddled on determinedly.












    Meanwhile, on the landward trek....





    Boulders left behind when the ice cap melted.





    While back on the river...







    After a while though, even James conceded and came ashore. He was soaked through from the various rapids, so we stopped at a ruined sheiling where he got changed into dry clothes.









    A very isolated farm. The only habitation for miles, reached by a long dirt track.





    We walked some way, then reached the end of the River Ossian and the shores of Loch Ghuilbinn.





    James, having changed, sensibly wanted to remain warm and dry, so he carried on walking while I paddled across the loch, in a reversal of roles.








    Beyond Loch Ghuilbinn, was the Abhainn (River) Ghuilbinn. I paddled down it for a few hundred yards before it too became to scrapey, then we both trekked onwards into the evening.






    Eventually, around 8.00, James agreed to stop and camp for the night. We found a small platform, slightly above the boggiest ground, and struck camp.





    Cooking our tea.





    Drying rack.





    Relaxing on the sofa.








    Nightfall.





    At about 9.30, the midges, who had been strangely absent all day, appeared suddenly in menacing clouds and chased us into the tent, where we remained until morning.



    DAY TWO

    After a good night's sleep, we arose at 7.00 and emerged from the safety of the tent into a waiting morass of midges. Finding this disagreeable, we hastily packed up and continued on our way. Fortunately, the creatures did not deign to follow us for some reason, and in fact we were clear of them the rest of the day.

    A cleared campsite - no impact camping.






    James heading off towards the river.





    I tried my luck at paddling again. It was ok for a bit, but I didn't get too far.











    Walking again, after a while I reached some rapids. This was where the real fun started.






    TO BE CONTINUED...

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    Cool Ossian Expedition - continued

    CONTINUED....


    I caught up with James at last, sitting on top of a waterfall.









    Approaching the first gorge.





    James put in again and headed down the gorge.





























    It looked good, so I went back to my boat and followed him down.





    We could hear roaring round the next bend, so decided to get out and take a look ahead. Wisely as it turned out - this was coming up:





    Going back in below the fall.








    I trekked round the next bit, and watched from above, as James went down some serious looking rapids.














    He seemed to enjoy that.






    Then on down.






    Now here I advised him to stop and come out, as I could see a steep drop ahead.








    But the river had other ideas, and over he went.














    It was great to watch, but no way was I going to paddle that! But James insisted and somehow talked me into giving it a go. However, when I went back to get my boat I found I had (somewhat fortuitously) lost my paddle. Now there's some sad things known to man, but ain't too much sadder than the loss of a paddle. So I had to retrace my steps along the gorge's edge, where luckily I found it in some long grass. Must have put it down while taking pics and forgot to pick it up again. I blame senility!


    Heading off in search of the lost paddle.





    Paddle retrieved, I entered the water with extreme trepidation (i.e. fear). I left my pack on the shore, to lighten the boat, improve visibility and avoid losing it all when I was swept helpless over the waterfall into an early bath.





    I managed the first step with minimum style, ending up backwards.





    But that's acceptable in a packraft, as you can spin around quickly on the spot and be ready for the next obstacle. Which was the biggie:











    Phew!











    Well that turned out to be great fun. Hair raising but great fun. These packrafts are great for this kind of thing.

    While he was photographing me, James's boat had somehow come adrift. Luckily it decided to wait for us a few yards downstream.





    Boat retrieved, we checked out the next stretch.





    There was a nice do-able run up, but it lead to these falls which looked too tricky on account of all the rocks on the lip.





    So we gave that a miss, and walked on, alongside a flatter section.





    Many rivers to cross.








    He's back in again.




















    Finally, it got too thin.





    Over a fence.





    Eventually, after a long trek and climbing over several deer fences, we reached a deeper part, as the Abhainn Ghuilbinn flowed in to Loch Laggan.





    Along here I saw some whitened driftwood on a beach. On closer inspection it turned out to be a deer's skull, which I of course claimed as a trophy. I thought it gave my boat a nice tribal, pagan look. So long as I kept the antlers pointing upwards!









    And so we paddled on, down the length of Loch Laggan. The end was almost in sight.











    Laggan Dam, at the end of the loch.





    And the end of our paddling.














    All that remained was to get into dry footwear and trek a mile or so down to Tulloch Station.











    We were early (there are only three trains a day) and the station was deserted, so we cooked a late lunch on the platform.





    The only other passengers waiting.





    Team photo.





    The train arrived and took us back past Corrour and Rannoch to Bridge of Orchy (I had to hide the skull under my pack, due to the smell). Where we got in the car and drove back to Edinburgh in time to play golf in the fading light (not my idea!)

    It had been an great expedition, hard work at times, but rewarding. In some beautiful wild remote country, where I've never been before. We didn't see a soul from Loch Ossian to Tulloch.

    Strangely, the original idea had been that we would paddle the easy bits of water, and walk around the hard bits, but we ended up doing the opposite a lot of the time. Big thanks to James for the company and for encouraging me to stretch myself and tackle things I would previously have run a mile from.

    Finally, a few quotes from the Scottish White Water guide book:


    "This is probably the only train accessed run in the country, To get to the river you will need to sweet talk the railway people into carrying boats."

    "If you haven't enjoyed this day out then stay in the city, truly one of the great adventure paddles in Scotland."

    We enjoyed it.

    Thanks for reading.


    Gordon

    Here comes the future and you can't run from it
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    As ever, completely new, vaguely bonkers and vastly entertaining.
    i salute the pair of you.
    MarkL
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    You've surpassed yourself this time! Amazing journey, definitely proving the worth of a Packraft.



    Still slightly surprised you're still alive...
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    A very enjoyable read! Do those inflatabubbles ever capsize? While reading about your adventures, I often found myself skipping ahead to the next photo, hoping that yours had!
    Juvanile delinkwit, vaguely faffing around with a pair of pliers. Du skal ikke tro at du er bedre end mig!

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    A great trip and of course as ever trip report :-)

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    Looks like great fun, enjoyed that a lot.
    I'll refrain from mentioning frogs and boxes this time
    Nin Wanakiwidee Tchiman

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    An enjoyable distraction from what I'm meant to be doing! Rather fancy a Packraft now..

    I'm guessing the river was narrow enough at the features you could have fished each other out with a paddle had it gone pear shaped?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crow View Post

    But the river had other ideas, and over he went.

    I'll admit to a sharp intake of breath when I saw that one. God job those things are very floaty!
    "I'm not getting in a boat which is DESIGNED to go upside down."

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    AnotHer Crow classic (probably a book in there somewhere Mr C) - loved it!
    Andy,
    (Cumbria)

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkL View Post
    As ever, completely new, vaguely bonkers and vastly entertaining.
    i salute the pair of you.
    Cheers, Mark. I'm bringing the lilos down your way, just in case.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mal Grey View Post
    You've surpassed yourself this time! Amazing journey, definitely proving the worth of a Packraft.



    Still slightly surprised you're still alive...
    Cheers, Mal. You'd have loved it. Yes it was a perfect outing for the packrafts.

    I am always slightly surprised I'm still alive.

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    Brilliant - almost tempted to buy one.
    A ship should not ride on a single anchor, nor life on a single hope - Epictetus

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    Impressive trip in a superb area.

    I think I'll stick with the more sedate way of enjoying Loch Ossian by staying at one of Corrour Estates self-catering cottages.... must book up again, out of midge season of course.

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    Brilliant!! Great blog of a great paddle. And some great photos as well.
    Thanks for sharing ...

    Biff
    'I can gather all the news I need on the weather report...'

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rockhopper View Post
    A very enjoyable read! Do those inflatabubbles ever capsize? While reading about your adventures, I often found myself skipping ahead to the next photo, hoping that yours had!
    They don't capsize very easily.

    But I have managed it once: http://www.songofthepaddle.co.uk/for...76-Odin-s-Hall

    It takes a lot of skill to capsize it though.

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    I reckon Packraft should be sponsoring you or, at least, giving you a nice new boat every so often. They should feel proud to have made such amazingly resilient and versatile boats. And you should feel proud to be putting them to such good use. Well done and thanks as always.
    Andrew (R.R.R.)

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    Rhône que nous. '

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    I Want a go!

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    Great trip guys!

    Could I make one suggestion though, for anyone tackling something relatively remote like that..... an injury so far from civilisation (and yes there are some lodges and farms and quite a network of dirt roads, but even so it will take quite a while to get help out onto the moor) can be very serious so it is best to take your safety a step higher than you would on trips near roads and towns, and/or reduce the risks you choose to take. In this case, wearing helmets on the WW sections would have been a good idea, even though packrafts are very difficult to capsize and you wouldn't normally bother.
    Of course it is more weight and bulk for the portaging and the rapids didn't feature in the original plan so I quite understand why you didn't have them.

    I hope that doesn't come across too nagging?

    How hard can it be?

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    I had the same thought, and bit my tongue. Well said.

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    brilliant stuff. A book read, then more research and the plan comes together.

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    An added bit of info. for anyone contemplating this route the "isolated farmhouse" below is in fact two of the self-catering houses on the Corrour Estate and may not be occupied so not a reliable point in case of emergency.
    Vodafone reception is a bit variable and unreliable in the area.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quercus View Post
    Impressive trip in a superb area.

    I think I'll stick with the more sedate way of enjoying Loch Ossian by staying at one of Corrour Estates self-catering cottages.... must book up again, out of midge season of course.
    Cheers.

    Did you stay in the shooting lodge?

    Looks expensive.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crow View Post
    Cheers.

    Did you stay in the shooting lodge?

    Looks expensive.
    I stayed in the "Cooks Flat" which is in part of the Lodge, in the low season it's around £300 for a week which is not too expensive though the decor was not to my taste. The staff at the estate are really nice and helpful.

    The 11 miles drive in from the Laggan road is great.

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    Superb... the madness is clearly genetic!

    Great adventure
    If I could only paddle like a doggie oughta paddle

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    Quote Originally Posted by Davy 90 View Post
    An enjoyable distraction from what I'm meant to be doing! Rather fancy a Packraft now..

    I'm guessing the river was narrow enough at the features you could have fished each other out with a paddle had it gone pear shaped?
    Thanks.

    Yes, a paddle or an antler would have done it.

    Although we seemed to have a habit of temporarily mislaying our paddles!

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    Breath taking trip ,Gordon and James . Enjoyed the blog immensely. The white water stuff was really pushing the boundaries . Scary stuff..What's next - the Onessi Gorge ? ?

    That £20 M shooting lodge looks like something out of a Bond movie . At that price ,what do they shoot ? ICBM's ?

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    WOW.....that was awesome

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    Excellent, you are an inspiration to us mere mortals. And great pics

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    That looks ace!

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    Another inspirational adventure. Great pictures. Thanks for posting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by River Rother Rover View Post
    I reckon Packraft should be sponsoring you or, at least, giving you a nice new boat every so often. They should feel proud to have made such amazingly resilient and versatile boats. And you should feel proud to be putting them to such good use. Well done and thanks as always.
    Cheers.

    If only!

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    Brilliant expedition. Quite a lot of portage, but easy with the light boats.

    I love this shot


    I would love a close up of the face as you coolly drop over the edge

    Nick

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    Quote Originally Posted by stinkwheel View Post
    I'll admit to a sharp intake of breath when I saw that one. God job those things are very floaty!
    They're perfect for this sort of thing. And they don't puncture easily either, which helps.

    People do far crazier things in them in Alaska, Colorado, Patagonia etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Patterdale Paddler View Post
    Brilliant - almost tempted to buy one.
    Buy one!

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    Quote Originally Posted by JimW View Post
    Great trip guys!

    Could I make one suggestion though, for anyone tackling something relatively remote like that..... an injury so far from civilisation (and yes there are some lodges and farms and quite a network of dirt roads, but even so it will take quite a while to get help out onto the moor) can be very serious so it is best to take your safety a step higher than you would on trips near roads and towns, and/or reduce the risks you choose to take. In this case, wearing helmets on the WW sections would have been a good idea, even though packrafts are very difficult to capsize and you wouldn't normally bother.
    Of course it is more weight and bulk for the portaging and the rapids didn't feature in the original plan so I quite understand why you didn't have them.

    I hope that doesn't come across too nagging?
    Not at all, Jim, it's a fair point. Helmets would have been good to have on that stuff.

    But we didn't take them, for some of the reasons stated above and others. And it was our choice in the end, based on our own assessment.

    Don't try this at home, the bloggers views are their own and not necessarily those of the corporation, no reponsibility is taken for anyone else going there in other craft etc etc.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Quercus View Post
    An added bit of info. for anyone contemplating this route the "isolated farmhouse" below is in fact two of the self-catering houses on the Corrour Estate and may not be occupied so not a reliable point in case of emergency.
    Vodafone reception is a bit variable and unreliable in the area.
    It's shown on the OS Map as "Strathossian House". Great name.

    And a splendidly remote setting.

    Though the drive to the nearest shops might be a bit of a pain, especially in winter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crow View Post
    It's shown on the OS Map as "Strathossian House". Great name.

    And a splendidly remote setting.

    Though the drive to the nearest shops might be a bit of a pain, especially in winter.
    Great fun if there is not much snow and you have plenty of time.

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    Nutty as a fruit cake as ever. Loved it, thanks for a brilliant read.
    How many sticking plasters do you take on these trips in case your lilo develops leak?
    Mike

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    Great trip! Just received my Yukon Yak so looking forward to some packrafting adventures.

    A couple of quick questions:-
    I was considerin the Pactach attachment thingy but it looks like I could make own with some cord and a couple of linelocs or is it more complicated?
    Is that a DIY spray-deck on James's yellow Alpacka?

    Will now be eagerly searching the forum for reports on your other trips!

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    Quote Originally Posted by amountainhigh View Post
    Great trip! Just received my Yukon Yak so looking forward to some packrafting adventures.

    A couple of quick questions:-
    I was considerin the Pactach attachment thingy but it looks like I could make own with some cord and a couple of linelocs or is it more complicated?
    Is that a DIY spray-deck on James's yellow Alpacka?

    Will now be eagerly searching the forum for reports on your other trips!
    Hi and thanks.

    You probably could make your own fairly easily. It's the cleats that make it work so well. I also like the fact that you can just leave them permanently attached to the boat (unlike the car roof straps which I used to use.)

    No, the spray deck on the yellow raft is a properly welded on factory job. I think it must be an early model of Packraft, made by Alpacka. It's slightly smaller and a different shape from the current models. I don't know much more about it, I'm afraid, as I inherited it from the late founder of the Packrafters Liberation Front.

    More of my packraft trips can be found here: Crow Trip Log

    Good luck with your Yukon. Look forward to seeing some of your blogs.

    Last edited by Crow; 7th-August-2015 at 11:14 PM.

    Here comes the future and you can't run from it
    If you've got a blacklist I want to be on it


    Crow Trip Log

  42. #42
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Weston super Mare
    Posts
    48

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    I did this trip in 1999, with 15 foot open canoes. However, the train stopped carrying the canoes, so had to paddle up Loch Treig, then portage up to to the station. What a trip


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    Cyaker

  43. #43
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    Location
    Weston super Mare
    Posts
    48

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    Your trip brought back lovely memories, Keith who came with me, died in 2000.


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    Cyaker

  44. #44
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Shrewsbury
    Posts
    36

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    Cracking write up , great pics, bonkers expedition but looks great fun. The boats look interesting.

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  45. #45
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Location
    Shrewsbury
    Posts
    36

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  46. #46

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    Great stuff! Really enjoyed reading that, looks like a good trip :-) recently joined the packraft owners club myself and looking forward to getting out in it soon
    Last edited by theoctagon; 19th-September-2015 at 02:32 PM.

  47. #47
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Southport, really in Lancashire, UK
    Posts
    2,042

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    Another Crow Epic! Brilliant trip.

    Not in my boat though!

    Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

    Doug
    When there's trouble on shore, there's peace on the wave,
    Afloat in the White Canoe.
    Alan Sullivan


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