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Smoo in December

Speleotron

Member
I'm up in Durness in late December and I'd like to have a look at Smoo Cave. I think there is a walkway part of the way and then you can go on a guided tour further in, but these tours stop running after October. Has anyone done Smoo without the guide? I read that the tours stops because it floods badly but it can't be flooding every day can it? Is it that bad or is it partly due to lack of tourists as well? If it's a bad idea solo then is there a guide in Durness I can bribe for a quick trip there?

 

mrodoc

Well-known member
You can solo Smoo but you will need wet suit as it's going to be cold!On the far side of the chamber into which the surface stream falls there is a length of stream passage ending in a sump. It will be rather obvious if the cave floods - you won't be able to go in!
 

Bob Mehew

Active member
I think of Smoo cave as just the main chamber where one could peer into the side passage on the right hand side out of which a stream issues.  This side passage is the basis of the boat trip from an elevated walk way, followed by a simple walkable stream passage.  (Or you can traverse along the side from before the issuing stream and climb over the rock bar.)  You can then swim / traverse up to the base of the waterfall and the sump.  You can also visit the top of the waterfall as it is on the other side of the road to the car park where the stream sinks.  I doubt if it will be dry enough to climb up the waterfall but possibly you might be able to abseil down it.  Also off the main chamber at the rear left is dig, a grovel which will probably be wet.  You can abseil down through the hole in the roof of the main chamber.  There is also a climb up the left hand wall but the black hole as seen from the ground goes no where.  (I am unsure about anchors at all locations since it was 40 plus years ago when I did it.  A 50m rope should be more than sufficient if you are prepared to rely upon the fence posts.)

Flooding is a problem of making way against the water flow rather than loss of air space, though I recall one visit when the air was thick with spray in the main chamber - a great sight.  The water will be cold and I also recall getting tangled with fence wire in the stream way. 

I have a feeling the boat is removed over winter to minimise damage to it so you would be on your own.  The main chamber is simple, does not really need caving gear and is worth getting out of the car for.  The stream way depends upon the stream flow and as mrodoc says obvious.  Going at low water would be better, high tide with a northly gale will isolate the cave entrance.

http://www.smoocavetours.com/other-caves-of-durness.html lists other caves in the area but weather and water level will govern accessibility.  I would only comment that it would be better if you have a competent buddy to instigate a call out from each location if needed.
 

Greybeard

Member
Does anyone remember the oil drum raft which was in the cave in the late 60's/70's? You had to climb out onto the rock bridge and slide the raft underneath to access the rear of the chamber.
 

Speleotron

Member
Thanks Bob. I'm not going to stick my neck out very far and will have a callout etc. In fact I can predict that I'll get there and everything will be freezing so I won't go beyond the walkway. Sounds like a nice cave.
 

mrodoc

Well-known member
As Bob says you would not go there in heavy rain in a northerly gale on a high spring tide. I think the place would then be a trifle damp - to say the least. By the way the chocolate place in the Balnakeil craft village is worth a visit - if it is open.
 

Bob Mehew

Active member
Greybeard said:
Does anyone remember the oil drum raft which was in the cave in the late 60's/70's? You had to climb out onto the rock bridge and slide the raft underneath to access the rear of the chamber.
The oil drum raft had disappeared by the mid 70s, or disintegrated.  Or perhaps it was part of the rubbish I encountered.

mrodoc said:
By the way the chocolate place in the Balnakeil craft village is worth a visit - if it is open.
Best hot chocolate I have ever tasted, so far. 

 

Hammy

Member
I had a brief foray into Smoo last week. I was quite content to limit my explorations to the walkway and felt no desire to go swimming up towards the thundering waterfall - there was some pretty heavy water around, and no boat to be seen.

The signage informs that the Smoo Cave Tour Guide is called Colin Coventry who has over 20 years experience of running trips into the cave. There are dire warnings of the flood potential.

I quite enjoyed the short 'tourist' trip and didn't even have to put my wellies on.

The Chocolate Shop was closed.
 

Speleotron

Member
I popped into the cave today and it's quite impressive. Water levels are very high and there was no sign of any opening accross the pool so I suppose it's all sumped. Not that it matters as it was obvious that trying to cross the pool would be a bad idea, the whole thing is a big swirling mess at the moment.
 
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