Rana Hole to Uamh An Claonaite by Steve Woods

Rana Hole to Uamh An Claonaite: Andy Cole, Steve Woods (Assynt Club Meet / June ‘16).

I’ve always wanted to visit the far north. As long as I can remember. Long before I started caving. Cameron McNeish’s Wilderness Walk presenting a landscape like no other in Suilven a mountain that signposts one of a kind breath-taking UNESCO scenery. But Assynt is more than that. For me it still feels like arriving somewhere far beyond the UK.

Andy had been suggesting the club visit the far north and then this and Assynt had finally happened. As caving hut’s go the Grampian Hut, our accommodation for the week, similarly had everything and then some. And then we had weather. A lottery week of deep blue skies and hot weather with the stuff normally reserved for the south calling heads for the NW Highlands instead

With Caddy, Paul, Phil and Chris entertaining themselves with top-side scenery parked up on the morning of our first full at Inchnadamph Andy and I began a reasonably warm walk in helped by Nigel carting some of our kit.

The Scar we were heading towards that had seemed so far away was now above us and we were soon skirting its edge and welcome cool shadow as we passed the Bones Caves turning sharply past it’s far end and up onto a hillside covered in heather. We had reached our destination. The impressive excavated shake hole that is the entrance to Rana Hole.

Kitting up we disappeared down the grated entrance escaping midges into an excavated sequence of pre-rigged and fixed ladders that soon took us a view looking back up through Rana Hole’s equally impressive entrance series.

Quickly through the connection to Uamh An Claonaite we entered a sequence of passages and a true gem of a cave. My expectations of Assynt caving switched from gnarly grovelling to a reality that presented stunning chambers filled with formations, great complex boulder filled halls, unusual walls painted with the ancient geology that covers the surface of the Geopark. Eventually reaching the stream passage itself my first memories of Scottish caving were already full to bursting.

Formations in first chamber in Uamh an Claonaite, just beyond Skye Way connection from Rana Hole (Photo – Andy Cole).
Photo – Andy Cole
The limestone in this chamber was distinctly yellow with white bands (Photo – Andy Cole).

Heading out always seems to be more than a trip in reverse; at a slower pace but over so much quicker. The entrance series in reverse was a joy, like a chilled out chat  in via-ferretta, a drawer of useful things reassembled in a sequence of memorable points of arrival; that view of the sky again and that pararoma that you breath in and can sometime wrap you in wonder. Arriving back at our point of departure if Carlsberg made post trip view they would be start with these watched over by Ben Moore Assynt.

If Carlsberg made cave entrance views (Photo – Steve Woods).

That welcome sunscreen shadow next to the bone caves offered a second chance for us both to sit for a stretch and chat about how lucky we often are to be here in moments like these when caving presents us with so much of what really we all have but forget so easily.

One of the Bone Cave Entrances in the Allt nan Uamh Valley (Photo – Andy Cole).

Pics by Andy Cole, Paul Smith, Steve Woods.