Loch Shiel 1981.

Age group 17yrs to 17yrs 11 months.

For some reason, the list of expedition participants wasn't published in the 1981 Annual Report

Fortunately I was contacted by Nina and Geoff, members of the expedition and below is a list of names as they remember them, several are lacking surnames.

Leader:- Steve Paynter

Assistant leaders:- Peter Schuller; Brian Barnes; Claire ??, (wildlife), Paul ??(talk about exposure)(AL?)

Nina Avery, Jim (Alan) Sheppard, Geoff King, Mike Young, Lee Cullinane, Nigel Williams (aka Wilf),

Robert Ball, Richard Pitts, Louise Wordsall, Chris Dalton, Fiona Firth, Alex Langdon

Darren Sage, Dean ??, , Martin ??, Johnny ??, Will ??, Keith ??, Adam ??, Gael (French) ??, Jenny ??,  

Jane ?? (orienteering), Sarah ??, Rebecca ??, Sheila??, Helen, ?? Whitley (surname)




Magnificence, splendour, grandeur, and rugged beauty are words which go well with the combination of lochs, mountains, and sky which make up the Loch Shiel area of the Scottish Highlands.

Glenaladale, a remote Glen opens out onto the long narrow waters of Loch Shiel some six miles down her north shore.  It is a short way from the mouth of this glen that our base camp was situated, and like Loch Shiel herself we too lay between the steep sides of mountain peaks often rising to just below three thousand feet.  A common view from the camp was vast banks of rolling breaking swirling clouds around those lofty summits and high mountain ridges.

Access to Glenaladale, although remote, was however relatively uncomplicated.  Alighting from the Mallaig train at Glenfinnan, a short walk brought us to the pier on the shores of Loch Shiel. Glenfinnan boasts a number of characteristic landmarks.  An impressive railway viaduct makes a wide pass around the head of the loch.  Down below it on the head plain of the loch itself lies Glenfinnan Monument, a tall tower surmounted by a Highlander and erected to mark the place where Bonnie Prince Charlie first raised his standard in 1745 to signify his arrival to challenge for the throne of England from the Hanoverians. However, Glenfinnan and her historic attachments with the past began to diminish above the wake of the 'Rose Isle' as she carried us - a motley crew of newly thrown together individuals - and our expedition, food and equipment down Loch Shiel between the gradually receding steep mountain towards Glenaladale.

After twelve hours of almost total inactivity on British Rail the task which awaited us at Glenaladale provided for a rather abrupt awakening.

Mug, mud and midges dogged the following four hours as we moved the food and equipment the three-quarters of a mile from the jetty to the site and established camp.  Balancing marquee poles while fighting off the first heavy midge offensive proved amusing. The camp site is excellent at Glenaladale lacking nothing, not even its own historic attachment.  The low walls onto which the marquee backed were the remains of a cottage destroyed in the highland clearances and widely believed to have been used as a refuge by Prince Charlie while on the run and as the possible meeting place of seven local clan leaders trying to assist the Prince in his escape.

Capsize drill.   Photo:- Nina Avery

Once a functional camp had been established expedition activities could begin in earnest.  Basic climbing and abseiling instruction was given as was canoeing techniques; the capsize drill was undertaken by nearly everyone, and deep sea rescue instruction for those wishing to do longer trips.  These included day trips to the Burial Isle of Glenfinnan as well as two one night canoe bivvies.  Walking day trips and bivvies were naturally frequent and covered a very wide area.

Swimming proved a surprisingly popular activity and a number of loch crossings were made.  After one of these attempts Lee began to show definite signs of exposure and Brian and the rest of the swimming party made use of an excellent talk on exposure, given by Paul, earlier in the expedition to deal with the situation quickly and effectively.

Claire undertook much of the project work; there were two main areas of study, the first a comparison between the plant and insect life found beneath natural deciduous woodland with that found in an artificial coniferous plantation; in the second the effect of altitude on certain plants and lichens was studied.  The other activities which took place on the expedition included a full scale search and rescue emergency practice, a wide game played out as a re-enactment of a hypothetical skirmish between Charlie’s men and the English red coats, and an excellent orienteering course laid out chiefly by Jane.

The Glenaladale Estate factor Bob Crockett became a great friend of the expedition and not only helped us with the bread, mail and equipment, but also kept us fully informed about the unexpected dangers we faced living in the Glen.  Our stay was fortunately incident free and we are all grateful to Bob for all the help and advice which he gave during our time in Glenaladale.

An end-of-the-world sketch gave rise to much hilarity and with the last night bar-b-que and camp fire sing-song, proved a fitting end to a thoroughly good expedition.

We had arrived largely unknown to each other and left with new friendships and shares experiences.

Hence it was with grateful farewell that we left the Glenaladale pier, on the Saturday morning of our departure.  The SHS Loch Shiel expedition 1981 had proved interesting, worthwhile and enjoyable and our many thanks go out to all those of you who made the expedition possible.

Steve Paynter

As mentioned above, I was contacted by Nina who supplied a lot of additional material for this expedition, she had also kept a diary of trip which she very kindly agreed to allow me to post on here.

To read her diary click here NINA AVERY DIARY

Left: 'Costa-del-Sol Bivvy' to Strontiar

Leader: Pete Schuller Members: Adam, Rocky, Sarah, Nina, Rebecca, Shiela, Jane, Geoff.

Photo:- Nina Avery

Some excellent photos below from Nina Avery and Geoff King, thanks to both for allowing me to use them. They have even managed to name most of the people.

Photo Nina Avery

1 Darren  

2 Chris Dalton  

3 Johnny

4 Gael

5 Rebecca

6 Jane

7 Wilf /Nigel Williams

8 Dean Wooding (AL)

9 Jim /Alan Sheppard

10 Jane (Ward?)  

11 Keith (Knott?)

12 Peter (Schuller?)(AL)

13 Louise Wordsall

14 Steve Paynter (Leader)  

15  Jane (AL)

16 Mike Young (AL Canoeing)

17 Geoff King  

18 Adam

19 Claire (AL, Wildlife)

20 Martin

21 Rob Ball

22 Lee Cullinane

23 Paul (Lake?)(AL)

24 Brian Barnes (AL)

25 Fiona firth

26 Alex Langdon

27 Richard Pitts

28 Sarah

29 Rocky

30 Sheila


Photo:- Geoff King

Back row left to right - Wilf [Nigel] Williams, Keith, Pete Schuller, Steve Paynter, Adam

Next row L to R- Darren Sage, Johnny, Gael, Chris Dalton, Nina Avery, and at the other end Brian Barnes, Martin, Rob Ball, Lee Cullinane.

Second row (L to R) Dean, Rebecca, Jim Sheppard, Claire, Jane, Paul, Fiona Firth, Alex Langden, Richard Pitts.

Front row, Jane, Jane, Louise Wordsall, Mike Young, Sarah, Rocky and Shiela.
Below are lots of photos from Nina - not in any particular order I'm afraid!

Left to right, martin (hidden) Jim ( aka Alan) Fiona, Alex, Ian

 Swann (visiting) Rebecca in front.

A lazy day in camp

Left to right, Alex, Martin, Fiona, Rebecca

After the loch swim

L to R,  Gael (french), Nigel, Brian, (AL)

Alex and Fiona, swimming back again!

Washing up

Darren, (blond hair?), Chris


Dean, Mike (in front) Steve, (Leader)

Martin, Lee, Fiona, Alex, Nigel

Lee, Brian, Nigel, building a BBQ out of river stone

Lee, Brian, building a BBQ out of river stone

This was a bivvy over to Strontian  - Adam? Pete (AL),Geoff King.

Also on bivvy, Shiela, Sarah, Adam, Rebecca, Rocky, Jane, Nina

The Strontian bivvy.

Rocky? Rebecca




After the loch swim

Gael (french), Nigel, Brian, (on sloping rocks)

Below are a set of 28 photos from Geoff King, thank you Geoff for these.

Click on the image to open it, use the browser 'BACK' button to return to the gallery.