Welcome aboard the good ship Zuza. Mammut Mountain School‘s sailing yacht makes the perfect movable adventure base for hiking the remote Hebridean islands of Scotland.
A Scottish trekking and sailing adventure with Mammut Mountain School
Mammut Mountain School is the perfect port of call for brushing up your hill skills, and their experienced guides offer tuition across some of the gnarliest and most exciting forms of outdoor exploring there are, including ice climbing, scrambling and fell running. But perhaps their most tempting offering is their new trekking and sailing adventure in collaboration with Venture Sail, which lets hikers sail their way to remote mountains on the Scottish Hebrides, learning the basics of sailing and navigation as they travel with expert guides and crew. This is outdoor learning in a truly wild environment, and back in May I got to set sail for the hills.
As I joined Zuza in Oban a storm was brewing, and we sailed over to the island of Mull under driving rods of rain. All was cosy inside the yacht, though, which has snug cabins, an airy living area and a teeny tiny galley where chef Sergio manages to rustle up incredible suppers. I went to sleep with rain pattering on the roof above me and a view out of the porthole next to my bunk of iron-grey ocean and distant mountain peaks.
The next morning, the storm had cleared and the sun was beaming down as we drank coffee out on deck, looking out at Creach Beinn on Mull and the day’s goal – its lofty 700 metre summit. As a herd of deer padded noiselessly across the hillside I realized how far we were far from civilization, roads, even walking trails. The magic of using a sailing boat like Zuza as a base is that you can drop anchor as you please in remote and otherwise inaccessible wild places and plan hikes in the wild from your portable adventure home.
No mountain high enough
On a Mammut Mountain School adventure you aren’t just exploring wild places – you’re also being lead by, and learning from, an expert mountain guide. We landed on a deserted beach, hoisted on our Mammut rucksacks and climbed out of the foothills, starting to quickly gain height – and incredible views across Mull. Then our guide, Dougie, stopped to pull out maps and compasses (and Tunnocks Caramel wafers) and put us through our map-reading paces. Navigation is something I’m always trying to improve on, but Dougie magically made contour lines and compass bearings seem easy as we worked out our location and our route to the summit.
We scrambled up to the ridge line and were rewarded with panoramic views of Mull’s dark peaks and far off, bobbing on the glassy surface of Loch Spelve, tiny Zuza. The wind whipped up was we hiked to the summit and then tramped back down to the loch, finally emerging from the hills into a fairytale woodland of moss-covered boulders and tiny lilac harebells. We didn’t see another human being all day on our eight mile hike.
Back on the boat, Sergio had done his magic in the tiny galley, turning out Scottish salmon and whisky cranachan for our gaggle of tired but happy hikers.
Setting sail the next morning, we were commandeered as a makeshift crew by Zuza’s skipper, Helen, and practiced hoisting sails and easing ropes as we steered the boat towards the island of Lismore. We went ashore for a gentler walk, Dougie regaling us a with crash course in the geology of the island. I found hoards of sea glass on the pebbly beaches as we strolled along the coast to a broch, an ancient drystone fort looking out to sea.
Our motley hiking crew only spent a few days living on Zuza and exploring Scotland’s magical lochs and islands, but as we sailed back into Oban I felt like I’d been an a grand adventure as well as gaining new skills both on sea and on land. Who knew that sailing and hiking were the perfect adventure duo?
Go trekking and sailing with Mammut Mountain Schools
A Trek and Sail adventure with Mammut Mountain Schools in partnership with Venture Sail costs from £552, including accommodation, meals, Mammut mountaineering equipment and guiding. Participants require a good level of fitness.