Alpacka Ghost spotted at Loch Avon. Cairngorms

Posted on Posted in cairngorms, ghost, Loch avon
When the Ghost first appeared, I instantly wrote it off for anything that I would want to do! More fool bloody me is what I say to that.

The Alpacka ghost tips the scales at 730grams and will fit in your back pocket, pair this with Alpackas trekking pole paddle combo and you have a boat and paddle that comes in well under a kilo!

YOU NOW HAVE NO EXCUSE TO NOT HAVE A BOAT WITH YOU !

The Ghost kicked around the shop for a few weeks with lots of people giving it the ‘oooh!’ and ‘no way’ treatment. To be honest I was still sceptical about it’s use at this point.

Then I had the opportunity to go for a night out near the Shelter stone in the Heart of the Cairngorms, Now Loch Avon is truly a ‘mountain loch’, even though it sits at the bottom of a huge and well photographed Glacial U shaped valley it is at 725m above sea level,. But I shit you not when I say it has a stunning white(ish) sandy beach and the most beautiful turquoise blue water, It really feels like the costa del Cairngorm.

So going and spending a night next to this place was too good a chance to pass up,and the ghost got added to my gear.

This was when the penny dropped. Anyone that has been to this wonderful place knows that there is a blinking big mountain in the way, getting into the Loch Avon basin takes you well over the 1000m above sea level mark on steep and tiring terrain. Carrying any unnecessary weight is just a pain.

I was hoping for good weather on the walk in for the chance to paddle Lochan Buidhe which I believe is the highest body of named water in the UK at 1124m. But the good weather wasn’t available on that day, instead we had some refreshing 40mph gusts ! Now remember the ghost is only 730 grams so I reckon those gusts could have blown me and it away no bother.

To be honest I forgot the fact I was carrying boat most of the time, I did have a moment, when at well over a 1000m above sea level, I turned to my pals and said with a wild eyed stare ‘I’ve got a boat in my bag!’

Descending down into the Loch Avon basin was great, looking towards the sandy beaches at the west end I started to imagine paddling the Alpacka Ghost and how much easier it would be on my tired old legs. Unfortunately it was still blowing a hoolie, with impressive mini typhoons whipping across the loch.

We reckon it was blowing a good force 8 on the Beaufort Scale so paddling was off !

We spent the next while looking for a sheltered camp spot, then wrestled with the tents to make home for the night, at this point I feel I should mention that while the others struggled I just popped my Force ten carbon helium 100 up in a jiffy and then watched the others learn to fly their tents.

Night came and the expected lull didn’t ! If anything it just got worse. I spent some of the night awake as you do in a GALE – listening, waiting, expecting my tent to fall down around me…… but it didn’t, ace !

Morning came and so did a little less wind, so breakfast was chucked down my neck and I broke camp and set about ghost hunting.

When you first pick up and touch the ghost you think ‘fragile’ ‘thin’ ‘I’m not paddling that!’ especially if you are used to the amazing robustness of their classic range of boats
I shouted at myself to put this aside and trust Alpacka rafts skill, design and reputation and simply believe. I did, it worked, I didn’t sink in fact it was amazing ! I pushed off from shore with all my kit in the front of the Ghost using Alpacka’s trekking pole paddle,staying in the shallows at first, treating the paddle with care. I quickly realised that it felt just like a standard boat and the paddle is plenty strong enough to pull my 90kg plus 10kg of gear into the wind through the water.
I felt brave and paddled towards the shelf, where the crystal water turns black. I imagined some creature from the deep was about to swallow me whole.

Now I think I should also mention that I decided that I would NOT wear a buoyancy aid, which I’m sure would get some peoples backs up, but it was a measured decision using my 20 years experience in the outdoors with the last 13 being in outdoor learning, guiding young folks through the idea of ‘Risk benefits’. As far as I’m concerned the benefit of taking this risk was easily in my scope and paddling along the stunning Loch surrounded by the big old lumps of granite in a place where I reckon not many people have paddled was ACE. In my scope I thought -read on.

Remember Alpacka say do not paddle anything you can’t swim.

My pals were about to set off along the horribly undulating boulder strewn bog fest of the path towards Coire Raibeirt as I started my float down the loch with a moderate breeze to my back.

I was barely paddling as I was in awe of the size of the place compared to me in my 730g Alpacka Ghost floating along with a paddle made out of my trekking poles, but I kept an eye on what my pals were doing and to my glee I was leaving them behind as they struggled along the path. Now as part of my risk benefit thoughts, I had decided to hug the northern shore because if the wind got up again it would drive me out into the middle of the Loch. This I did not want. All was fine and dandy and the massive grin on my face was starting to hurt my jaw muscles, when I heard it!…………… a massive gust had just dropped in from the huge crags behind me. I quickly spun the boat around to look it in the eye, the water was being picked up and thrown along with gust, I  thought ‘bugger’.. before I knew it, it hit me! giving me a good soaking and spinning the ghost through 360 degrees, I was expecting a dumping in the Loch and the boat to blow away to the other side of the mountains, me loosing my kit and having a bit of an epic.
To my surprise the Ghost handled it without blinking, I got on the power and made an effort to head for shore, for a brief moment I was making no progress and I started to flap! I told myself to get a grip and focus on the task, I started to make progress and the shore came closer, I found a little shelter and weighed up my options. I was 100m short of my planned get out so decided that was close enough.

I quickly deflated the raft and broke down the paddles packing it all away in less than 10minutes (probably a little adrenaline fuelling the need for speed.) I was on my way moving quickly up the coire trying to catch a glimpse of my pals. I discovered that there had been a little maintenance to the track and I made good time to the top of the coire, miles ahead of the others,so I took the chance to lie down and reflect on the Ghost and my paddling experience on the mighty Loch Avon.

My thoughts:
The Ghost is a real boat and I can thoroughly say that it is stable in force 8 winds
It’s tiny pack size means that it can come along for that ‘just in case moment’
The trekking pole paddle is a strong and well thought out bit of dual purpose kit
Next time I would want to attach my gear into the boat as my gear floats and would stop the boat blowing away creating a bigger epic.
I would like to experiment with a wind paddle.
Finally this boat will now be in our hire fleet….AKA I’ll be able to use it more. I’d better order another few for stock.
Oh Of course get in touch if you want hire a Ghost or any other Alpacka rafts
Happy paddling Andy

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