Recently The island of Rum has been in the news it is another place sear to my heart, I have had the privileged to visit it on several occasions, three times on callous or rescues and another 4 to climb the famous ridge once in mid winter. I have also had a wee rock-climbing trip there are so many routes to do and so much scope for the climber, most un – climbed or reported. It is an Island of great beauty and wildness and the only way in is by boat or helicopter. I have had several great adventures over the years. Once we went in by out own “Daz Boat” a fast rib under Captain John Coull the RAF Kinloss Mountain Rescue teams own boat from Egol in Skye. We went in after a massive thunder and lightening storm which delayed us. On the way we used night vision goggles and saw Whales, dolphins and had an amazing trip. When we landed at night the locals thought we were special forces from a submarine as we had all the gear on survival suits, helmets and lots of technical kit. We kept this rumour going for a while and enjoyed the stories and the hospitality. We were over for the weekend and next day had a great day on the ridge and a special visit to the Castle which was still in use as a restaurant. There were several lassies working there and we made some good friends and had a fun time that we will never forget. I thought you may enjoy another tale I wrote of another visit to this magical place, Rum.
1998 – Kinloss Mountain Rescue visit to Rum, the Ridge ,the Post Office and the Locals Revisited
What do you do in Rum at eleven o clock on a Sunday night, you have been on the hill all day and you get the dreaded Callout. We were over with the team on Skye for the weekend and had a great day on the Cioch blasting up Coich Direct on the Sunday before the long drive back. You get a callout in Rum not far away, no meal just a helicopter at Glen brittle then a mad rush up the hill, near the summit of Askival where you start at sea-level! The mist was in so no lift up the hill. The ground is rough and you are carrying lots of kit, one of the girls in the team passes you and offers to take the 500 foot rope off you. Thanks Jenny no pride here, it is a painful rush to the Corrie where the accident happened. The casualty fell at midday, by the time we get there its six o clock, he fell over an outcrop and a few locals have done their best and got a stretcher to him. Its great to get a live casualty (unusual for our team at the time) – a quick sort out of his injuries, a lower down steep ground and a carry out through a massive boulder field as big as Stanage.
This is the aptly named Atlantic Corrie a wild place. We manage to get him down to a reasonable area for a helicopter pick -up and off he goes to hospital. Some of the team go with the casualty and the rest walk off, tired and hungry hoping the helicopter will come back for us. We walk back to Kinloch, the midges are eating us alive and all the top- men have gone on the helicopter which will not be back for at least 4 hours! The locals who have been tremendous on the Callout invite you down to the Post Office and to meet the famous “Midge” who runs the bar for a drink – nobody has any money! We borrow off the local’s two bottles of whisky and numerous cans; we don’t notice the midges or the flight back.
Rum is an Island on the West Coast, situated a few miles from Skye; its a magic place and difficult to visit as it is a Nature Reserve it is controlled fairly well and has a full-time Warden and seven of the Islanders work full-time as estate staff. Access is not restricted and after our Call out we had made excellent contacts with the Keepers, Nature Warden and locals who form the local unofficial Mountain Rescue Team. It was arranged in the Post Office that we would visit Rum again and hopefully manage to climb the ridge – this is a marvelous traverse, combined with a training day with the local team (a hearts and minds exercise). Managing to convince our team leader was no problem and it was fairly easy to organised as the ferry to Rum leaves from Mallaig.
The trip from Mallaig was really interesting, with our ferry stopping at Eigg, Rum and Canna. We already knew a few of the locals on the boat who were returning from the Mainland, also on the boat were various Keepers and Ghillies they were going to Rum for the Stalking, working for the Red Deer Commission for two weeks. Fortunately we knew one of the Keepers who was in the Kintail team and we managed to work out a compromise (loads of whisky) which meant we could still manage to do the Rum ridge. The ferry stopped at Eigg where passengers were off-loaded to another boat and taken ashore. Everything was done in typical West-coast laid back fashion, bright sunshine a real holiday atmosphere. From Eigg the ferry went straight to Rum where we were off-loaded into another boat in the bay and landed on Rum. A brief to all visitors was given by the Warden and off we went to the accommodation in the Castle! An eccentric rich English Industrialist Magnate, Mr Bullough built KinlochCastle in 1901 as a shooting lodge and it is now part-used as a hostel for visitors to the Island. The Castle is virtually intact with most of the furniture and fittings as they were in 1901. It’s some place and worth a visit to the Island just to see it.
We had come to climb and that was our main objective. That night over a few beers with the Keeper he said if we started at the ridge from Hallival it would be of great help as we would help their stalking. He also promised that if we were off the hill by 1600 hours we may get a lift in the boat back to Kinloch, saving a long walk off. To achieve this we would have to be away early at 0600. Part of the deal was to take one of the lassies, Kate from the Castle, who we had met on a previous trip. She works through the Summer in the Castle as she is a student, studying Russian at St Andrews University. Now, the Rum ridge is a fairly serious mountaineering day and as my memory was rather vague (I had done it previously in my youth) this would be a challenge to meet the boat in time How would Kate cope, at least I would have some good company at the rear of the party.
Kenny and Tim, my companions on the trip were all set for a great day; the weather was perfect, very hot. Kate laughed at our preparations and contents of our hill bags, and ensured us that she had everything she needed, what were we carrying she asked (you can’t carry experience). We took a wee bit of rope for the tricky bits on the ridge and left at 0600 hours on the dot, hoping to be on the ridge before the sun came out. The great thing about Rum is the remoteness, it only has one mile of tarred road and the hills start from sea-level. A great stalking path takes you on to our first hill where we disturbed a herd of wild goats which you could smell before you saw them, Kate was going well but it was the first hill, – we would see! The first main summit is Barkeval though only 592 metres is a rough hill passing the great Atlantic Corrie it was a little hazy but good views. On along the ridge to Hallival where the rock is weathered into a series of terraces which is easy to pick a route. We spent a fair bit of time here as this was where the Callout we had been involved in occurred. This area of steep ground is home to the largest colony of Manx Shearwaters, these number over one hundred thousand pairs. These birds burrow and nest on the steep slopes of Hallival and return each night after dark to avoid predators. Kate told us that she came up alone at night to watch this unique sight – what a lass, rather her than me! The casualty had fallen over a rocky outcrop near the summit, this area can be very slippy due to damp conditions, he was lucky and though he was in a fairly serious area , it all went fairly smoothly with his party doing all the right things, though it took a fair bit of time to get help.
Our next peak, Askival, looks fairly fearsome but most of the difficulties can be avoided on the left, the summit is the first of the Islands Corbetts and the views from here are magnificent. It was by now half past nine and we picked our way down to Beleach an Oir, the weather was still good and we could see in the distance the Keepers and the shooting Party. The Ghillies were working the beat up Glen Harris and The Atlantic Coire and we moved out of the way as quietly as we could, they had left even earlier than us and had a big day ahead of them. We were on time and the summit of Tralival loomed ahead. Another great scramble with the ridge narrow near the top. It is fairly well known that the descent to beleach an Fharain is fairly interesting again we had a good look around and the potential for mountaineering routes around here was considerable, most of a reasonable standard. I would definitely return with a tent and a good rock leader in the future. Kate was still going well and not slowing down at all, though I was feeling my forty four years. From the Beleach an enormous crag blocks the way but a good path leads around the right hand side to a scree. We were all feeling the pace as we managed the airy walk to Ainishvals summit cairn, we could hear the shots in the distance as the Staking party moved down Glen Diblidil. The last hill loomed ahead Sgurr nan Gillian and the end of our day, we could see the prospect of a swim in the river and even better a lift in the boat home. Our descent looked easy but there was a sting in the tail again impassable crags barred our way and we had to drop down to the south western side to miss them, none of this deterred our Kate who coped with everything including the steep descent to the Bothy at Dididil. Amazingly it was only two o clock and it looked like we would get our swim. On arriving at the bothy we met the Keeper and the famous Rum ponies , laden with stags. They were impressed at our progress, and reckoned that they would be a few hours yet as they had just shot their last stag and the young Ghillie was bringing it down about a thousand feet above. I immediately offered my two fit young men (Kenny and Tim) to assist. They soon had the Stag down on to the shore, the Keeper was impressed by their fitness and when I offered him a dram from my hip -flask, well that was the end to a perfect day. The Ponies and the main party had arrived by now and as the boat was not due till four -thirty we had time for our swim. This was magnificent we even found a deep pool with a waterfall with no midges where we all relaxed in the heat, what an end to the day.
The boat arrived on cue, full of the families of the Keepers and Ghillies, cold beer was available for all and we had a magnificent trip back to Kinloch. After the beasts were unloaded we were invited to the bar where we had a few beers and drams before dinner, what a “crack “we had and things were really starting to happen when one of the kids fell outside whilst playing. Kenny came into his own and it was diagnosed and treated as a broken arm. It was the Keepers son he was very brave, as there is no doctor on the Island, he lives on the neighbouring Canna, he was phoned and agreed with Kenny . The doctor organised a lifeboat from Mallaig to transport the wee fellow to Fort William Hospital for an x-ray and a plaster-cast.
We managed to get away for a great meal in the Hostel with Kate and then we were again invited back to the bar for more socializing, Kate declines to come – she must be tired. These guys had been up since five o clock and were still going for it, they all reminded us that we had come to the Island as a liaison Exercise and socializing is a big part of it. Eventually we got away after sampling the famous Whisky / Drambuie Rum specials in the wee small hours – they were still in full flow and were up a few hours later, for another twelve hour day!
Next day, our last, was a two hour session on basic rescue skills with the locals which went down well and then it was time for tea and scones at the village shop then on to the ferry. We said our goodbyes and had a great trip back to Mallaig. We only spent three days on the Island, never enough time, the scope for routes is incredible, the atmosphere amazing, the people incredible. Thanks to Kenny , Kate and Tim for the company, go – you will not be disappointed.
Footnote: Kate is out in China for a year teaching English, she sent a card saying she had just been visiting The Great Wall “it was not a patch on our day in Rum” Kate is now in New Zealand happily married and I am sure she will not forget her day on the Rum Ridge?
Great memories anyone for Rum!
Information on Rum; The Island of Rhum a guide for walkers and visitors. Hamish M Brown ISBN 1-85284-002-1 9 781852 840020. The Islands of Scotland Including Skye S.M.C. District Guide. ISBN 0-907521-23-1 9 780907 521235. Skye and the Hebrides Vol. 2 Rock and Ice Guides ISBN 0-907521-48-7 9 780907521488. Ferry’s at the time of writing the ferry from Malliag sails on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and is fairly cheap, you leave your car at Mallaig. The ferry takes between 2-3 hours depending on whether Canna or Eigg is visited first ,for further information contact CalMac on their website.