Saturday 6 October 2018



The popularity of our unique Mountain Leader Assessment on the Isle of Rum is growing. This is now the fifth assessment that we have run there and this time we had 10 keen, if a little nervous candidates.

Rum is an incredible place with a unique flora and fauna as well as history. It has a large Manx Shearwater colony high up on the Rum Cuillin Ridge which in turn has changed the ecology of the soils. It has Golden and Sea Eagles (which normally give us some sort of display when we are on the island) as well as the Skye Bog (Sphagnum) Moss.

It was owned by Lancashire Industrialists, the Bulloughs, who treated it as their play island with a zoo, tracks for racing cars, and a folly castle. It was then gifted to the Scottish Natural Heritage until bought out by the local community.


We met the group as ever at the Mission Café in Mallaig at 8 am for an early breakfast and to give people a chance to buy their ferry tickets (these cannot be bought online in advance). Sadly the larger ferry was in dock for repairs so we had the smaller, slower one meaning no buffet car or coffees.
   The ferry sails to Rum via Eigg which gives great views.

We arrived around 12.45 so to speed things up we loaded up the lorry for £1 each to save us having to carry several lots of heavy bags to the campsite and accommodation in Kinloch.(the capital of Rum).  Then there was a quick turnaround to unpack/ settle into accommodation, pitch tents and eat lunch before heading out onto the hill for a Mountain day and Night Navigation.

People decided who they wanted to be with for the week and then Charlie, Graham and I took a group each.

So it was a then a quick walk up the path into Coire Dubh finding various navigation features on the way. We headed up onto the ridge for Hallival which then gave us some steep ground and scrambling so candidates could show their spotting skills and route choice through steep ground. Because of the time, we realised that we were not going to manage to climb Askival as well so we also spent some time on the environment and you can see we found some juniper as well as quite a few other arctic alpines.  (Last time we also found Stone Bramble but I couldn't find any this time)

 The weather decided to close in once we were on the ridge with mirk and drizzle and what was to become quite a feature of the week; strong winds!

Fortunately the rain didn't stay too long so having summitted Hallival we descended the scrambles before it went too dark and had our tea to let the night arrive ready for the night navigation.

The area below Barkeval and Hallival is excellent for night navigation with lots of decent features to see. The Manx Shearwater also decided to come out of hiding for some of the groups although sadly not for my group. (We did however see a long eared grey mouse which are unique to Rum!)

Each candidate was given two legs each to navigate while the others also had to follow and relocate (i.e. work out where they were when they arrived at the feature)

After around 3 hours of wandering purposely around in the dark it was time to head back to camp. We were back in Kinloch by 00.30 (a much earlier night than when you do ML Assessments in June or May! An early night, relatively speaking!!

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