Tuesday, 12 July 2011

This Week: Alun Hughes' St Kildan odyssey

Photo-Douglas Wilcox.

"I stumbled across the idea of kayaking to and climbing on St Kilda in 1983 whilst in Scotland, working from Loch Eil Centre, and overhearing two of their staff talking about a possible trip: "It's a big one, never been done by kayak before ... can't really miss it ... biggest cliffs in Britain."

A few months later, back in Wales after the rigours of teaching winter mountaineering skills on Ben Nevis, I wrote to the two lads to invite myself along. They were good climbers, I reasoned. They must be nice lads. They are bound to have me along. Not so!
Soon afterwards I found out about another two friends who were actually planning their own trip to St Kilda. I didn't want another refusal.
"Sue," I declared to my wife, "I'm going to St Kilda." "Oh yes...who with?'

Andy Halliday affectionately known as 'Shagger' to half his friends-I don't know why-said he'd come with me and by the time we were going two others had joined our team — Clive, a friend of Andy's and Nigel Foster. We discussed climbing objectives. I put in a double 9mm 50 metre rope, climbing shoes and Friends and Rocks. We considered faces of Conachair and Soay,both about 1000ft high. Too big for a small team of two, we decided, and so concentrated our attention on the smaller possibilities.

Andy and I talked of Stac Biorach. Would we be lucky enough to get there in the first place? '

This week-Welsh film maker Alun Hughes describes an epic paddling and climbing adventure amongst the dramatic islands of St Kilda.