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Great Wilderness Trek

Joe Cornish talks us through his hikes in The Great Wilderness

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Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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During the making of Scotland's Mountains, Joe never had the chance to take a long hike with a few friends - he recently had the opportunity to get back up to Scotland with a bit more time and those same friends. I chatted with Joe about the experience and also how he coped with camera equipment (he only took small sensor cameras - three of them however, talk about belt and braces!).

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  • A fascinating insight into the holistic approach to exploring and photographing the landscape, it reminded me of my travels in the Lofoten Islands, with the challenges the landscape and weather brought to the experience. A small technical point that may be of interest is that on my G12 back up camera I have customised the “s” button to change aspect ratio’s quickly.

  • Flyby34

    A really nice educating story on travelling and making beautiful photographs. Highly inspiring and challenging for a small survival together with obtaining a amazing shot.

  • Absolutely fascinating. I’ve been in to the Fisherfield/Letterewe wilderness a few times; it’s an absolutely awe-inspiring place and I’m not surprised that it had the effect on Joe that it did. The conditions looked great, certainly more favourable than the recent unbroken blue skies we’ve had!
    (Incidentally, Joe – Beinn Dearg Mor isn’t a Munro, it’s not quite high enough. Not that it really matters; it’s certainly an absolutely magnificent peak – it looks especially impressive from An Teallach.)

    One or two other things to bear in mind for anyone planning a trip in there – the Shenaval bothy can get very busy, even mid-week. Some of the rivers (esp. the Abhainn Strath na Sealga) can be difficult to cross after spells of rain. And watch out for the ticks!

    Thanks to Joe and Tim for another inspirational video. :-)


    • Joe Cornish

      Thanks Doug,
      Really appreciate those thoughts, and clarifying the status of Beinn Dearg Mor. You are right about Shenaval, and that is why we camped a few hundred meters away from the bothy, rather than staying in there. It is still a great location for a campsite of course.
      River crossings are an inevitability on this trek, so wet feet are unavoidable. A small price to pay for a priceless experience.

      And if anyone is interested, I hope to traverse the Cuillin ridge (Skye) next week with good friends Paul Harris and Pete Leeming; both are experienced rock climbers which is just as well, because I am not. Paula from Linhof has sent me an Alpa TC on loan, onto which I can fit my Phase One medium format P45+ digital back. Quite possibly the most expensive point and shoot made, but at least I will have a high res camera that is small and light enough for this kind of enterprise. Many thanks Paula. We will take our time, two nights out on the ridge if necessary. We will only be able to do it if the weather plays ball, and that looks dubious at best right now. Wish me luck!

  • jennym

    Great to see you gaining so much enjoyment for just being out in the mountains, and some lovely images from what must have been a memorable trip. The Cuillen traverse will be totally awesome if you get the conditions to do it. Cal solo’d the ridge a couple of years ago and it sounded pretty challenging – he hitched a lift back with the mountain rescue who had been doing a ‘retrieval’ after a fall, so don’t do anything foolhardy! We had the best day of our holiday last year scrambling up and along part of the ridge, and scree running down. I have a memories of Ben aged 5 relaxing back eating his sandwich on a cairn on the top as if in an armchair, oblivious of a massive 2000 ft drop just feet away. I guess with the Alpa you will get away with two cameras rather than three! Good luck and enjoy! Look forward to seeing the images.

  • Joe Rainbow

    An awe inspiring journey through an area I would love to see first and foremost, and if possible, photograph. There is something especially appealing about that environment that has a strange pull on my senses. It was interesting to hear the comparative qualities of the smaller format cameras. I bought a G12 to use at the school where I work. Nice to know it can be used in a more serious context.
    Those lichens were just unbelievable. Worth going just for them I think.
    Good one.

  • Joe – Thanks for the details of the Great Wilderness trek and in particular the logistic considerations. A few years ago I treked on to the Maiden from Poolewe and established a base there from which to photograph. The feeling of being alone on the most remote of Scotland’s mountains was unique. Anyway you have spurred me on to the full trek at some point – probably when it is midge free.

    Interesting way of doing things – just going out there to enjoy the landscape without being on a specific photographic mission. Perhaps without the intensity or drive to get photographs I wonder if it becomes a different place. Perhaps more relaxing and I wonder if one is more sensitive to light and compositions without the need to photograph.

    Good luck on the Cuillin Ridge. To get up close with a camera there will be a revelation, I suspect.


  • Joe Cornish

    Thanks to all for the responses and comments.

    Just back from Skye, where, surprise surprise, the weather was distinctly windy and wet (British understatement at work here). Much needed rain if the fire damage on Rannoch and Kintail that we saw en route was anything to go by, but it utterly put paid to our plans for the Ridge traverse. Probably will have to wait another year now before a window opens up, but that is life in the mountains. Did still manage a bit of photography, not all hopeless, and you can’t really complain about being on Skye can you? In any conditions it still inspires awe.

  • Ah I find this such a good way to spend an evening. This has inspired me to go there myself. I now have all the OS maps! Thanks for this wonderful resource Tim and Joe!

  • Well, what a better way to spend a Saturday night. Great watch and a wonderful image ‘diary’ of the trek

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