Thursday, 14 October 2010

Lang Ayre; desire, attachment, suffering

Before I even set foot in Shetland I knew of a place called Lang Ayre. Pretty inaccessible, but with amazing red beaches, cliffs, stacks and arches.

My few trips down Ronas Voe with a view to getting there have always stopped short due to the atlantic ocean that hits that coast and a walk in seemed unlikely with my physical condition.

Any how I'd set myself a goal of getting there this holidays, partly due to the fact that I'd been told you could get down the cliffs at the south west end. Initally I wanted to walk in and camp, but it hasn't happened and this being one of my last 'free' days of my holidays I decided to walk across just to scope it out for a future trip.

The weather was pretty foul; windy and hill fog with rain. Being October it was also pretty nippy up there. As if to prove a fact I saw a couple of mountain hares already in their winter coats!

The start pretty much set the scene for the rest of  the walk.

With mainly scenes like this

Infact from the very start I had to use my trusty 22 year old suunto compass and walk bearings from rock to rock and hump to hollow.

I think people really under estimate how disorientating the fog can be. Especially on a boulder strewn hillside like Ronas Hill. GPS would be nice but the ability to use a compass is invaluable. Even so, I found myself doubting myself, had I got the reading right, was I really going in the right direction. All sorts of uncertainties crop up in your head, but you've got to work out your path and stick to it, let the voices drift away. I don't know if it would be less or more confusing with another person. My first confirmation wasn't far from the car really, a cairn, followed by another one, but until I hit them I really wasn't certain I would. Eventually I made it to the first top.

Mid Field Cairn

From Mid Field I took a bearing that would have me traversing the northern slopes of Ronas Hill, crossing the Burn of Black Butten (an obvious feature) on my way to Lang Ayre. It's actually really hard to traverse on a bearing in fog, over boulder field and with no altimeter. With me the tendency is always to start angling down hill. I guess it's a natural effect of gravity so I end up trying to go up a bit to compensate.

It's rather odd going from little feature to feature. All temporary stops along the way, often given temporary names that change as I get closer. Shark fin rock becomes several 'random' rocks on approach, dark lump becomes peaty hollow. It hard work but fun.

Any how I eventually ended up at Lang Ayre. I'd hoped that once I was down off the hill it would clear and I could explore, but the photo's sort of say it all. I was high up, the cliffs were steep, the wind was howling and the fog was so bad that much of the time I couldn't even see the beach. It was not the day to go exploring cliffs for a route down, but it was very very impressive. You'll need to click on these to zoom in to see any detail I'm afraid.

Lang Ayre

Turls Head

The Stab

Just visible The Stab and distant The Cleiver and The Hog

The route down was supposed to be further south west near Ketligill Head but it was pointless going along the cliffs to look, it was just far too dangerous, so I took a bearing and set off up to the top of Ronas Hill.

The trig point at the top of Ronas has a little visitor book so I left my mark

Nearby is a chambered cairn. By this point I was pretty wacked though and couldn't be bothered crawling in. Just a quick drink and snack, get another bearing and hopefully be at the car soon.

Just as I left Mid Field on the way down the fog temporarily cleared enough for me to see the masts at Collafirth Hill and the car, typical. Atleast I could now just relax and get there.
 The mast are to the left, honest

Arriving at the car after 4 hours was a relief. I'd enjoyed the venture but my legs were aching, my feet sore and the damp was getting through. My head was pretty tired too; it's quite stressful walking alone on bearings in the fog. I'd even taken my marine handheld vhf  thinking if I got in to trouble it'd be more use than a mobile, as it happens my mobile was on and I got several texts! It soon went off.

So Lang Ayre is still there to taunt me and for Auld Rasmie I still can't say about any settlements there, but I did walk over some features not on the map that definitely resembled old track ways. It'll be next year before I get another go at her I reckon. I have a knee operation due around New Year that'll take a bit to get over and even for my adventurous spirit I think camping there will have to wait until there's more light and less wind!

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