West to East
The Great Glen canoe journey is an epic 100km paddle crossing Scotland from Fort William on the West to Inverness on the East. The journey includes the open waters of Loch Ness and Loch Lochy and the outstanding engineering feat of the Caledonian canal. Where opportunities exist we will sail as much as possible however there will be lots of paddling forward. Weather can greatly determine the outcome of this expedition however strength, determination and a strong sense of team work are essential to achieve a positive result. If weather conditions are such that we become too slow or it is dangerous to be on the open water, we will convert the journey into a hiking expedition utilising the Great Glen way.
Practice expedition (generic to all gold expeditions except the Spey descent)
Participants will be met at the Kingussie train station on day one. From here we will canoe down the river Spey to a wild camp at Loch Insch. Basic boat handling and safety skills will be taught along the way. On day two we will construct catamarans/sailing rigs and practice on Loch Insch. During the afternoon we will pack the canoes away and hike approx. 14 Km up Glen Feshie to wild campsites. On day three we climb east onto the Carn Ban Mor plateau taking part in mountain craft skills before descending into Glen Einich for the final wild camp. On day four we walk out North to Aviemore train station via the ancient Rothiemurchus forest.
We will meet the evening before at the amazing Neptune Staircase, Fort William. The next morning we will follow the Caledonian canal north to Gairlochy. We will portage the lock and continue along Loch Lochy to our first wild camp. Day 2 is a real mixture of water types and canoeing tactics. You may well be sailing on Loch Lochy and Loch Oich, bouncing down the easy water of the river Oich and portaging the many lock systems along the way. We aim to reach Fort Augustus and on to Loch Ness before making camp along the western shore. Day 3 is all about Loch Ness, weather, waves and wind. The aim is to get as far as Drumnadrochit camp, however if conditions are favourable we will continue further setting us up nicely for an easy day 4 down the river Ness and into Inverness. There are many options and crucial decisions to make over these last two days including taking to foot if weather and canoeing is being coming problematic.
Clothing and equipment
The best way to view your clothing system is to think of it as one which can cope with wind and rain either when you’re working hard paddling into the wind or sitting static sailing down the loch. Bring everything you would do for a mountain expedition plus old trainers or wellington boots for canoeing foot wear. Wet suit boots and sandals are not advised as they are too flimsy and dangerous on the portages.
For your part please do not bring items made of cotton as they will not dry out and you will not have space for 4 sets of warm dry clothing if its wet each day. In addition there may well be midges in the evenings so we need to be able to cover up exposed skin and put a midge net on.
We issue tents, stoves and all related canoe and safety equipment. Groups will have a number of waterproof barrels for carrying these plus your walking boots etc. As the journey may be completed in part on foot you will still need your rucksack. These will be carried in the canoes and will probably get wet from time to time. It is therefore vital that everything is dry bagged inside the ruck sack.
Any travel clothing or items you have had second thoughts about can easily be left in the Bigfoot van and collected at the end so it is useful to have a small grab bag in addition to your rucksack.
If you are inadequately kitted out we cannot allow you onto the water or to hike.
Travel, Food and camping
Check with the school however it is likely a mini bus will be hired to get across to Fort William the evening before.
A good train service runs to Fort William and returns from Inverness.
We may end up in the odd commercial camp site. Fees are on average £6 per person.
If we have been unable to get all the way into Inverness we may use the local bus.
Unlike other expeditions we will pass through a small town and other settlements along the way. Although we will be camping wild there are an amount of services available to us in the form of fresh water and toilets that we must use. However as it is easy to become stuck due to wind or tiredness we must always be in a position to be self supporting in food and shelter.