Knoydart expedition 1986
Leader:- Robert McDermott
Assistant Leaders: Steve Brown, Colette Armitage, Paul Jackson,
Members: Edi Albert, Mike Home, Rebecca Humphreys, Nigel Hall, Mark Norris,
Ian Robinson, Sally Sharpe, Graham Smith, Dave Spencer, Garry Taylor,
Robert Tuckett, Mike Taylor
LORRY : KNOYDART : TRAIN : LORRY : LEWIS : LORRY
Was I completely mad??? This was how I was going to spent seven weeks over July and August a great way to relax be-fore returning to college. Mind you, I was expecting the Knoydart Expo' to be very relaxed and ‘run itself’ .After an uneventful journey up by lorry, there I was, sat on top of the 'X' tons of equipment at 7:30 on a Monday morning in Mallaig waiting for the rest of the expo' members to arrive. If any of you remember the Jura '86 report, you will recall that I lost a member whilst still in Glasgow. This year was to be worse!!! Not only were two of them content with getting lost, they even tried to defect to the Harris expo' !!! A real boost to the leader's ego I can tell you. Still, we all arrived at the site, even, if we had been put ashore in the wrong bay.
So, there we were, one leader, three AL's, twelve members and no P4 boat. Well we still had a boat, and we still had an engine, it was just that the engine wasn't much use (was it Graham ?) Graham had been out in the P4 for all of ~30 seconds when he decided to pay an unscheduled visit to the other side of the bay, across the rocks that were in the way!!
Perhaps someone would be kind enough to explain to Graham that boats (and P4's in particular) usually work best on water. It is also nice to comment that, apart from two accidents on the last day of camp, this was the only real problem we had to deal with during the expo'.
Very quickly I saw that the Knoydart expo' was going to be ever so slightly different from the normal SHS expo', but then again, what would you expect having AL's like Paul and Steve. It was also going to be an expedition of SHS firsts. Has anyone tried water-skiing behind a P4 ??? Paul did……. not that he succeeded because his wooden plank hessian strapped skis did not seem to work very well!!! However he was persistent and two days later there he was, flying round Inverie bay on proper skis being towed by a 60 hp engine. He did, however, fall in one or two or twenty-seven times, which gave both the rest of the expo’ members and a lot of locals a great deal of amusement as we watched from the comfort of the 'Old Forge' hostelry in Inverie.
The expedition was also very lucky in having a spare Icelandic, and, having heard how Harris were using all their tents, we decided to do the same, so it was converted into a porch on the side of the marquee. We believe that his was the first expedition to have a porch on the marquee. It is also true that it served a very useful purpose acting as a windbreak and storage space for boots etc.
About a week into the expo' sexy Sal was complaining of feeling ever so slightly dirty and was not keen to use the cold water from the stream to rectify this matter, so what do Sal and Steve do but build a bath??? Using a large black box lined with a bivvy bag they were able to relax in the luxury of hot water. Not content with this, they then decided that some form of privacy was needed, (Steve is very shy) so, using a vango flysheet, the bathroom annex to the marquee was built, surely another 'first'. Not bad for an expedition. Most people even had the decency to use the bathroom - most people that is except Paul. He simply filled it with water and sat there in the middle of the marquee quite happily splashing away with his rubber duck and toy battleship (he brought them with him from his own bath at home). Admittedly, some nasty person, who shall remain nameless, did throw rather a lot of flour over him during of his bath time sessions.
Aside from that, quite a lot of serious walking was done on the expedition, together with climbing some very interesting slabs close to camp, and canoeing in the bay in front of camp and also as far as the river at Inverie. No sailing was done mainly due to the fact that the Topper was on Harris (being used to its full extent) . Two separate bivvies were undertaken up to the Munros, with both finishing in the village where the rest of us met them and spent an evening talking with the locals. On both occasions we were fortunate enough to be able to kip on the deck of the Daego Bog (sorry, Spanish John) landing craft, although Garry and Mike chose to pitch a tent well away from the rest of us. If anyone knows the reason why, please contact me!!!
There were also several searches undertaken, one deliberate, the rest in response to distress signals. The first was in response to a 'red' flare seen from camp, which turned out to have been an orange flare fired as a 'return to base' signal. The other search was for a fishing vessel which sank in the bay one night with the loss of one life (the body was never found although we did look for it). This was started by the appearance of a Sea-King helicopter at 7.00 one Saturday morning. It is unfortunate that, due to the lack of radios, we were only able to stand around helplessly and watch as we had no means of finding out exactly what was happening.
Hurricane Knoydart left us with a very anxious 24 hours in camp. A bivvy out to Seal Island (see report later) by fourteen members was arranged, leaving Becca and myself in camp. As the last lot left in the P4, the wind was picking up but nothing too serious. However, by 4.30 next morning, having spent six hours trying to keep two marquees, five Icelandic’s, and four vangos on the ground, I was heard to utter several times "If that wind wants it, it can ******ing well have it", (with variations no doubt. Eds), so utterly fed up were we both by then.
What made it a lot worse was the fact that the group on the island had found a very sheltered bivvy spot and had all slept soundly, only to return the next morning to two happy smiling faces back at camp, after all of about two hours sleep. Having made sure that everyone still had all their gear, I retired to bed, only to be woken up at about 2.00 in the afternoon with the news that the stream was rising. A 'quick' damming operation was carried out and we just prevented the store tent and one Icelandic from becoming part of the stream, although all three pits very quickly became flooded. Aside from this one period, the weather was very good (especially when you consider what hit Harris) and we were able to revel in the Hebridean sun (well, almost Hebridean anyway) such a change from 1985!!
I must also mention how easy it is to wind up each and every member in one go. I think I can be honest in saying that they all thought a night search and rescue was going to happen when all the time they were going to be blindfolded, handcuffed and handicapped across an area of moorland (well, bogland really) in freezing weather up to their necks, - and all because the AL's were sadists. The nightline was set up by Paul and was very successful, although some of the comments from the members after 10.00pm are definitely not printable !!!! The last part of any expedition is always the group of unsung heroes, those who make it all possible. They know who they are, a very big thank you to each and everyone of you for all the hard work (???) that you put in in making the expo1 a success. My thanks also go to the people of Knoydart who were very helpful in everything, ranging from actually using the estate to camp on, to sleeping on the landing craft, to actually being able to hire an engine to replace the broken one.
Thank you all.
Photos of the campsite and the marquee 'porch'. (Photos by Rob McDermott unless otherwise credited)
|Putting on a show! (It wasn't like this in my day! NS)
|A guide to kayaking!
Some of the Knoydart rituals! (I'm sure someone will write in and explain? NS)