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Preview: splendid isolation

splendid isolation

Updated: 2018-04-19T11:51:28.466+00:00


Mount Battock


The weather was forecast to be uniformly depressing last weekend, but there was the promise of a rain free window (at least in the earlier part of the day) around the Angus glens. We've done Mount Keen recently - and frequently - so we settled on a rare Corbett foray and headed north east, with a view to wandering up Mount Battock.Well now.First things first; the forecast was uncannily accurate. The ascent was accompanied by proper blue sky and sunshine, while the rain was coming doon like stair rods on the way back to the car. All as predicted. Everyone who ventures outdoors in Scotland knows that all four seasons can make their presence felt in a matter of hours, so it wasn't the weather that made the walk memorable. Nor was it the fact that we (well, Andy!) got a decent wildlife spotting tally. What'll stick in the mind is the feeling that although we didn't meet another soul all day, we were walking through a commercial enterprise rather than open countryside. The grouse "season" is about to start of course, so maybe there's a certain atmosphere to places like this in August, but (at risk of sounding deranged) there was a somewhat gloomy aura enveloping proceedings. Should a hillwalk in jolly summer sunshine increase yer tension levels? There's certainly something non-reassuring about plodding along newly bulldozed tracks, watching earth moving machinery on the skyline and counting the number of spent shotgun cartridges littering the place.It wasn't very welcoming, is what I'm saying. Even if the roads were better maintained than the ones we use every day in Lanarkshire. They haven't been installed in Glen Esk for the benefit of pedestrians, that's for sure. As an aside, how much protection do grouse shooters need? Those stone-built butts are formidable structures. I suspect that even if three or four really angry game birds ganged up together, a chap armed with a shotgun would be safe enough cowering in his wee emplacement.In all events, the dogs enjoyed themselves. A lot. Make of that what you will, and then have a look at the petition. ;)As Andy said afterwards, we had some interesting views's not a hill you'd rush back to. We still have photos, though!Bonnie purple heatherBonnie purple heather, with added yellow diggerThere's roads everywhere!Oh, and traps. They're everywhere too.Gun emplacementsHigher quality than the summit shelter, and no mistake. ;)It's an odd...patchwork, eh?It was almost a relief to get back onto something approaching a hill path.Interesting fact - those fences used to be electrified. No, me neither.Happily, now they're powered down, and the gate's just padlocked shut. Progress.Still - barriers or not, we bravely made it to the summit. Plus, if you're interested, there's just enough play in that gate that you can lift it up at the other end and let a labrador-sized dug squeeze underneath.In fairness, it was nice at the top. We saw sun-drenched Aberdeenshire, which isn't a phrase you hear every day. I still think there was a bit of tension in the air though. Unless it was my imagination, even the dugs looked wary of the descent. ;)[...]

A' Ghlas-bheinn


I spent a good hour or so last night, preparing a top quality post with hilarious references to Gilbert & Sullivan songs intended to give a flavour of just how wet this hillwalk was last Saturday, and explaining at great length why I hadn't followed through the original plan to go camping. Amongst other highlights, there were clever references to incipient alcoholism amongst middle aged outdoorsy types and heartfelt observations on the unreliability of weather forecasting and the fallout therefrom.Regrettably, when fine tuning the oeuvre for publication, I pressed the wrong ****ing button and lost it all, so youse are getting some photographs instead.This hill is adjacent to Beinn Fhada. I mentioned that one a few days back.In passing, even if I hadn't grassed myself up last time around, and wanted to pretend that I'd done both hills on the same day, Molly's intervening haircut would have rather given the game away. The point being, our story commences from the junction where, on the Fhada walk, you hang a right, away from the main path... For A' Ghlas-bheinn, the route lies straight ahead, and it's an impressive path that cuts across the hillside, proceeding into a steep sided gorge which eventually leads up to the Bealach na Sgairne.The fact you can see the notch on the skyline that marks the bealach itself does pull you on a wee bit. Molly still decided to pause and sniff the air just below the cairn that marks the high point though......but you soon get there anyway.It's a bit more substantial than the "sidepath" cairn so it's safe to assume that dog-guide or not you won't wander past the thing and fail to see the start of the hill path on the left that begins to take you upwards. Quite steeply. It skirts some impressively craggy stuff and gives reasonably (if wet and slightly eroded) going, escalating you until the ridge/undulating plateau/endless collection of false summits hoves into view.As far as I can see, without exception, every report you read about this hill contains lamentations about this false summit scenario. It's hard to disagree; and at least I was favoured with breaks in the weather meaning that I had a vague idea of the lie of the land. I suspect it could be a pretty frustrating day if you had impenetrable clag accompanying your stumbling progress over endless bouldery anti-climaxes. As it were.On the plus side however, as a gesture of good faith to the vexed hillwalker, the local authority has apparently seen fit to instal one of those fancy infinity pools halfway along the ridge. It certainly serves to break the damp monotony.Molly approved...And actually, once you're past that point the views begin to open up properly and there's only about five or six false summits left. Result!The fact is that you have a properly enjoyable walk from this point on, inclement conditions or not. And as it happened, the constant earlier drizzle, which had admittedly latterly given way to a proper downpour, eased off. I could see where I was in relation to the assumed summit, and it was largely fitting in with my hoped-for timescale. As a huge bonus, there wasn't another soul anywhere on the hill, so I didn't need to pretend to be remotely sociable. I could eat my pieces, take photies of the Big Dug, and enjoy the...isolation. And actually - on mature reflection - I won't ruin the mood by detailing the torrentially hammering relentless deluge that characterised the walk back down. ;)[...]

A game of two halves


Last November saw me and Andy head for Victoria Bridge with a view to engaging with a portion of the Black Mount. As far as I know the term/description also encompasses Meall a' Bhuiridh and Creise, which had definitely been a 2014 hillwalking highlight, so it seemed worthwhile to familiarise ourselves with the other end of the collection.I'd been up Stob Ghabhar and Stob a' Choire Odhair before, as it happens, back in November 2006, and the trip sticks in my memory for two main reasons.Firstly, the weather was utterly appalling. Torrential rain, and formidable winds. Not quite "knock you on yer erse" speed winds, but the genuine bitingly cold, unpleasantly rain-driving affair that makes walking up Scottish Munros less a hobby than an odd compulsion.The other thing that was occupying my mind was the wee stretch between the two summits that's called the Aonach Eagach. Now, obviously it's not that Aonach Eagach, but even although all the guidebooks stress that it's really nothing to worry about, one or two of them used the dread terms "narrow" and "exposed". That's enough to get me fixating from the outset, and given that you don't reach the section concerned until you're about two &  half hours from the car it occurred to me it would be a fairly miserable trek back if I felt the need to turn tail. Oddly enough, the rubbish weather actually ended up kind of confirming my resolve when I reached the first summit - it was so bleak and wet that you could hardly see any steep drops even if they were right next to you, and the impressive wind speed was making you hang onto every available bit of rock anyway, so I figured I'd be as well doing it when I was used to moving slowly and carefully.In truth, it's fine, even for someone with my degree of reluctance to engage with things it's technically possible to fall off. Wide enough, no sheer edges and it's a very short stretch anyway.To return to the point of the post, what happened in November 2014 was that we decided at the summit of Stob a' Chore Odhair that we'd had quite enough walking for one day so just wandered down from the bealach between the two hills, affirming our intention to return some other day to complete what had been a rather enjoyable walk up good paths in good weather.The flaw in the plan ultimately proved to be that we waited until the whole area was utterly saturated, following the traditional Scottish July downpours, and had a bit of a hideous bogtrot on the descent from Stob Ghabhar last Saturday.  The reason why we didn't do both hills this time around was an odd combination of lack of awareness of the surroundings; Jorja taking a while to decide to jump across a fast flowing burn resulting in the separation of the two-legged members of the party; me having to rake about in the rucksack to double check the map before shouting on Andy that we'd missed a path; and his new found hill speed meaning he was too far ahead to hear me. Or his tactical deafness meaning that he elected not to hear me, thus avoiding a repeat ascent of Odhair. ;)Whatever the reasons, the journey up was significantly drier than the return. I admit we kind of went off piste on the descent, but it was something of a strength and morale-sapping hour or so altogether. You certainly get the full gamut of Munro underfoot conditions on Stob Ghabhar - landrover tracks, dampish paths, good hill tracks, steep bouldery sections, loose scree interludes and knee deep sludge-like purgatory.So, basically, it's all better than being in the hoose.The photos here are a selection from both days out. If you ignore the slight change in the weather and ground conditions, they'll give you a wee idea of what the whole walk involves. We'd no dugs with us the first time, so even the casual and disinterested observer will eventually notice once the second lot of pictures has kicked in.The Abhainn Shira, and the view beyondClashgour Hut. Hang a right just after this.The path up was slightly - I emphasise slightly -  less boggy the first time[...]

Beinn Fhada, or Ben Attow


Or, that big hill right at the furthest away end of Glen Shiel.As I said to Andy earlier today, if I hadn't had Molly in the car, I'd have been sorely tempted to turn around about 15 minutes before I arrived at the start point of the walk in Morvich, and head home. The last section of the drive was purgatory - even allowing for the fact that I was taking a sneaky Thursday off work, thanks to a half decent weather forecast.It had started perfectly well. Left the house about 6:30am, and made reasonable progress as far as Spean Bridge. I'd elected - as usual these days - to head up the A9 and cut across from Dalwhinnie, rather than the Crianlarich/Fort William option. That last bit from Ballachullish onwards kind of grinds my gears and it's undeniably worse during the height of summer. I know I'm basically a tourist in that neck of the woods myself, but pottering along in a huge line of caravans isn't the best way to enjoy the majesties of Glencoe and the ensuing stretches of road.Spean Bridge was actually more entertaining than normal. I established that in addition to the public toilets it boasts, one can purchase a very acceptable pair of bacon rolls for a total cost of £4, which isn't too shabby for hungry lowlanders and their hungry dogs after three hours in the car. It also gave Molly the opportunity to go through her repertoire of taking bows and barking on command to a coachload of American sightseers who had been simultaneously offloaded to sample the delights of the woollen mill.Refreshed and replete, I set off with (for me) uncommon enthusiasm. Shortly after Invergarry the penny dropped that the A87 on a weekday mid-morning is effectively rush hour for articulated lorries heading Skyewards.Gosh, it was slow.It's amazing how fatigue can kick in quickly at moments like that. It felt like I'd been awake for ages, and driving for ages, and the prospect of a six hour walk was, well, emptying me of glee, if that's a phrase. Perhaps ironically, I was saved from the ignominy of turning tail by my renowned over-cautious approach to overtaking. By the time I'd satisfied myself it was safe to actually pit the foot down and go for it, everybody else that had taken the plunge earlier was so far ahead that I regained a fair bit of lost time. Or at least that's what I'm telling myself. Whatever the reality, an element of mojo was regained, and thanks to the crystal clear Walkhighlands directions, I even found the car park at the first attempt.The adjacent caravan park at Morvich looks rather enticing. Well placed and well kept. One to keep in mind as a Glen Shiel walking base for the future, because I camp so often these days, obviously.As for the walk itself, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The path across the moorland, up the glen and towards the bealach just gets better as it goes on, and any hillwalk with two separate hanging corries is fine by me. It's also a route that tends to take a while to reveal anything in the way of views proper - and those are undeniably worth waiting for. The path gets faint and the terrain gets boggy just below the summit; and it's not the ideal dog hill as there are random groups of sheep and feral goats high up, but Molly hasn't been up a Munro for a while so she was too busy "conserving her stamina" to be interested in the wildlife.I was up at the summit in a shade over three hours, and back at the car just under two & a half hours after that. I'm not saying I was looking forward to the drive home, but I made slightly better time than on the outward leg and was back in Bellshill just after 9pm. I'll settle for that as spending a summer's day wisely. Depending on one's personal definition of wisdom.As to the way up, I doubt you could do better than follow the Walkhighlands route suggestion.It wasn't a great day for photographs as it turned out, but predictably I'm including a few regardless.She was on the lead at all relevant moments, obviously.Molly crossing the Allt a Choire ChaoilVery carefully......and, relax.T[...]

Third time's a charm


Forgive the unorthodox slang title, but I'm working my way through the final season DVD of Sons of Anarchy, and I feel all...transatlantic.Yesterday saw me and Andy manage, after two false starts, to get to the top of Sgurr a' Mhaoraich, above Loch Quoich. On our first visit, at the end of 2013, we failed to make any inroads on the hill at all, with the singularly bogging weather causing us to elect instead to embark on a "fact finding" low level wander to Barisdale. The full story can be found here.We returned a couple of months back, and actually gained a wee bit of height. Result! The summit proved beyond us though, entirely due to the fact that there was a large, deep, slippery and unstable-feeling snow slope just before the final ascent. We both had the Kahtoola spiky quasi-crampons with us, but - well - it just wasn't the right, um, vibe. The section was an odd combination of long, steep run out and protruding pointy boulders, so votes were cast and unanimously we retreated to the car, from a position (as yesterday proved) about 15 minutes from the cairn.Before I do anything else, as a matter of mild interest, compare and contrast the vista at the end of April with the late June conditions...Indeed, in this next photo, if you're bored enough with everything else on the internet to look closely, the path through the snow - and a potentially telltale debris trail - are both visible.We turned round (cautiously) at the big rock to the right of the debris. Given that the path to the summit, as we established yesterday, would have been entirely buried under the section of the topmost snowfield that's lying in shadow in the last picture, I'm satisfied that the Munro walkers Spideysense was fully operational in April.I found the walk itself rather more enjoyable than the route descriptions would have you believe. The stalker's paths get you onwards and upwards rather smoothly, and there's a nice combination of undulating grassy stuff, craggy sections with impressive drops, and near scrambly bits near the summit. Once you're there, it's also a tremendous viewpoint, although as ever, my photies don't really do it any justice. It's also a right good dug hill. Admittedly I was slightly concerned about the numbers of deer that we'd seen on our previous sojourns to this neck of the woods - Jorja finds the smell of hoofbound venison irresistible - but in the event we saw none of the big chaps at all on this trip.We were a shade over four hours for the walk. That's not bad going, albeit we just went up and down the same way, rather than turning it into a round trip as per some of the route descriptions, but not still not too shabby. The pace was largely set by Mr Fitzpatrick, whose recent cycling epiphany and consequent fitness upgrade seems to have removed the need for either of us to stop for any kind of breather on the way up. Thanks for that, like. ;)Useful  information? Well, it's definitely a hill that's easier when you can see the path. That last section is a bit clambery anyway, and if it was snowbound and/or icy you could find yourself embroiled in a full on winter fankle if you weren't sure precisely which bit you were aiming for. I also have to admit that the half hour section on single track road to get to the starting point of the walk is a bit of a bind, and something I'd far rather be doing in the daylight. Finally, and most importantly, if like us when travelling north west,  you tend to head up the A9 from Lanarkshire then cut across via the Laggan road to Spean Bridge, thus avoiding the Fort William traffic bottleneck, the good news is that the former hotel at Dalwhinnie has partially reopened, transforming itself into a perfectly acceptable wee cafe, serving bacon rolls, coffee and other tasty comestibles. Given that Dalwhinnie is generally bang on two hours away from Airdrie, it's a good stopping off point. And they've recently shut the public toilets in the village too, so buying a roll and s[...]

Near coincidence.


I've maybe mentioned before on the blog that the primary reason that I continue to pay £10 each year to Munromagic is that it kind of makes me record hillwalk details soon after the event. I'm a man who likes to get his money's worth. Actually, given that I can't quite fathom what other advantages it gives you when compared to every other free Scottish Munro-related website, that is now the only reason.Indeed, at risk of labouring the point - and now I think about it -  I've just realised that despite the subscription, nobody at Munromagic HQ is even bothering to publish the dug photos that I faithfully send in whenever one of the mutts bags a new yin. So, from starting a post about how yon tenner is a useful investment, I've just argued myself into emailing them to ask if anyone is checking their inbox these days.Back in a minute.;)That was a bit of a digression, eh? All I intended to say when I set out was that me, Andy and Maura were up Cruach Ardrain yesterday, and according to my Munromagic records, my last visit to the summit was on the 30th April 2005. So that was very nearly a coincidence.Now I think about it even more, this is an entry that's probably best cut short, and rapidly directed towards photographs. ;)(For any concerned Jorja watchers, she's had a wee recurrence of a neck pain problem, so it'll be a week or so before she's hill fit. Hopefully the presence of Maura, one of Andy's collection, will soothe the fevered brow of anyone missing a fix of Wee Black Dug.)If you follow Ralph Storer's route, you miss a lot of bog!The forestry road ends at a newish quarry. Stride over the stones and you're fine."You have now reached the open hill." :)If you went over that stile, you'd follow the "old path" down to the A82. We started from the A85. See Storer!Looking over to An Caisteal/Beinn a' Chroin. Ish.Distant view of the new bypassGrey Height - rocky.Looking back over Grey HeightCruach Ardrain. Looks a bit steep from here......and here.It wasn't deceptive. A calf burner. ;)Still cold higher up!A brightly coloured fellow walker provides a focal point between Ben More and Stob Binnein. ;)We left Airdrie just after 8:30, and we were home the back of 6, thus allowing for Saturday evening beery relaxation. Given that I had spent the Friday night reliving my youth watching UFO at the O2 in Glasgow, I consider the weekend comprehensively seized. Good times! allowfullscreen="" class="YOUTUBE-iframe-video" data-thumbnail-src="" frameborder="0" height="266" src="" width="320">[...]



Last Monday was the third time I've been to Invervar for a walk on the hills that lie on the Chesthill Estate. Both previous visits were eight years ago. On the first adventure, I met a couple of other solo walkers just below the summit of Carn Gorm, and the weather conditions - proper vicious whiteout stuff - led us to consult and reach a common decision that it was foolhardy to go any further, and we all turned tail and repaired to the car park as a group. By that time the sun was splitting the trees and the howling wind had completely disappeared, so it was a slightly sheepish bunch that jumped into their respective cars and drove off.A few weeks later I went back, in unremarkable "showery with tolerably sunny spells" kind of stuff and managed the round of four Munros - four in one go for the first time ever - so I was rather pleased with myself.Sadly, and thankfully unusually, it was also a wee bit of a relief to get the hills out the way. The estate has (apologies - this link seems to go straight to a download from the Mountaineering Council, and I don't know how to make it optional!) a reputation, gained over a long number of years, for being decidedly hillwalker-resistant, and you can't help - well certainly I couldn't help - letting the tales of access-related woe unsettle you a bit when you're leaving your car for seven hours or more in the middle of someone's land that really doesn't want you to be there.Plus, I didn't want some unhinged gamekeeper to shoot me.In all events, although there were some distinctly unwelcoming (and rather misleading) signs around the start of the walk, I neither got confronted nor assassinated, so that was all well and good. Fast forward to the present day, and the thought occurred that warm welcome or not, (a) the round of four would get the Wee Black Dug closer to the imminent 100 Munro landmark without a long distance expedition being necessary; (b) the forecast for the South eastern hills was distinctly better than for anywhere else, and (c) Andy hadn't done them either. ;)It was a good Easter Monday day out. And I feel it always adds to a jaunt up a hill if there's an element of irony involved. That link to the MCoS survey is only one of many stories on the internet about access issues. Here's another one. My favourite quote from that article is the Chesthill Estate website saying: "The estate is subject to ever increasing access which is affecting our wildlife operations and business. We would ask you to cooperate to mitigate these adverse environmental impacts."Yeah. Here's what the start of the walk looks like now...Those pesky environmentally-unfriendly walking boots, eh?Regardless, and in the interests of balance, we had a jolly good walk. The signs at the start do tend to prod you in the direction of an anti-clockwise round - a prodding we were content enough to go along with, because there were huge yellow diggers rolling up and down the Big New Road - but other than causing our otherwise finely-honed navigational skills to malfunction slightly when (having brought the route description for the clockwise trip) we thought we were at the top of number three a full hill too early, matters largely went according to plan. Our recent good fortune with the weather remains intact.A couple of other points that we established. Firstly, if you're having that conversation in the car park about whether you should actually take the ice axe that you bothered putting into the car up the hill with you, because it really doesn't look like there's much snow left up there...just do it. Secondly, keep a proper ongoing tally of your dog's Munros, and then you'll realise that she's actually reached the ton on Meall Garbh, and you've omitted to bring champagne or party poppers or anything! ;)A few pictures..."Gaining height rapidly" on Creag MhorSummit ahoyJorja decides to let Andy go first, in case it's deepBen Lawers across the roa[...]



There's a variety of aspects about hillwalking that I enjoy, some perhaps less obvious than others.As a f'rinstance, I'm not one for leaving the packing to the last minute, thus scurrying around feverishly on a Saturday morning, hunting gloves estranged from their partners. I like the leisurely Friday evening approach - check the weather forecast; work out the layering system combinations to suit; print off a map of the specific area in question; trim it as far as safe navigation considerations allow; laminate it - aye, you read that right, I have a laminating machine - and pretty much get the entire rucksack sorted and ready to roll, with the exception of the sandwiches. They need to be freshly made first thing. Also, it's not a time consuming part of the operation, because even I can rustle up two brown rolls with salmon spread in less time than it takes to say "unadventurous".I like the earlier-than-usual-rise beforehand. I'm generally up every morning at the back of six to take the dugs for their daily constitutional, but despite the organised approach described above, it still takes me about an hour & a half to get up and out the door. That's partly an age thing of course. Still, when the alarm goes off anytime before 5am, it's a sign that (a) it's a weekend and (b) it's one that hasn't been totally sacrificed in the pursuit of alcohol consumption. Which is encouraging. At that time in the morning there's even some gratification in loading up the car as quietly as possible (save for the baying of excited dogs in the background) to avoid rousing the sleeping neighbours - who are missing a valuable part of the day off work.So. Advance rucksack packing - sad. Pleasure from silent car loading - sadder. Any advance on that? Well, yes. I realised last Saturday how much I enjoy Blairgowrie Tesco bright and early in the morning when you're en route to somewhere that isn't your work. Top up the isotonic juice supply, get a family pack of crisps for the last stage of the outward journey, and buy the dog some sort of chewy treat for behaving in the back of the car. It's all part of the experience, and these days if I want to savour a brief visit to a supermarket, then that's whit I'll do.On a slightly more predictable note, I also very much enjoy high level stravaigs over sinuous rocky plateaux with fantastic views of the Cairngorms, all the while bathing in Scottish March sunshine. The route we took up An Socach had that in spades, as well as a long, flattish walk-in, a gentle ascent over interesting terrain (even including some entertaining snow slopes) sufficient wildlife to keep the Wee Black Dug on her toes, and a glorious feeling of remoteness up top.We've had a number of good days out in the hills around Glenshee. This was right up there. The whole experience, like the landscape, just...flowed. The Baddock Burn flows as well. Bloody cauld though, , apparently![...]

Both ends...


Jorja on Meall Dearg, at one end of the Aonach Eagach...Jorja on Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, at the other end of same...Even if the weather conditions weren't a bit of a giveaway, I'm not going to pretend that they were taken on the same day.Anyway, here's the route description for climbing the latter yin, paraphrased a wee bit from the appropriate volume of Ralph Storer's guidebooks, punctuated with many photies from last Saturday....Sgorr nam FiannaidhBegin at the end of the forestry plantation on the minor road south east of Glencoe village. The nearest parking may be 400m back towards village, near an electricity generating station. Take the Land Rover track that heads up hillside beside the private drive to Laraichean.Looking back towards the villageLooking towards the glenAt a left hand bend a few hundred metres up, branch right across a stream (there is a footbridge) on rougher path that traverses hillside. On the far side of the next sizeable stream, an eroded path leaves the traverse path to climb the hillside parallel to the stream.Less a path, more a burn at this point. This path is quite steep in places, but eventually improves. At around 300m it makes a long rising traverse to the right, then turns back left and forks. The left branch goes to the Pap of Glencoe.The Pap of Glencoe, behind herLooking back towards the "Ballachullish Horsehoe" Spot the camouflaged WeimaranerThe right branch continues up Sgorr nam Fiannaidh, and is initially a rocky ribbon through the heather, but improves as it rises across the western flanks of hill, well below the crest of the north west ridge. Unfortunately it peters out onto stony heath at around 800m, with only traces above this point.We'd left the ice axes in the car, because there was no snow visible from there. ;)From hereon there is no path, but on a good line of ascent you’ll find plenty of grass that enables you to avoid most of the quartzite rubble that litters the upper NW slopes. Ben Nevis trying to shake off the cloudsLess camouflaged this time!Looking down to Loch levenThe hard work ends at a subsidiary top beyond which a stroll across beautiful swathes of grass lead you to the Munro summit.BideanArty BideanAnd really, once you're up there - and regardless of the less than balmy temperatures - it's a place to linger.Ben Nevis. Clear and free this time.It's quite a ridge......and the dugs were unenthusiastic.Yon Horseshoe againLooking back towards the "subsidiary top". And again that Horseshoe.After all that it's a simple matter of retracing your steps - well, as far as possible when there's no path and you came up a bit of a long road for a shortcut - and again bemoaning the decision to leave the axes in the car. Not so much because they were needed for safety reasons, but as Andy pointed out there were some nice snowy runs that could have been used for self-arrest practice/glissading/bumsliding.A cracking day out. I'm not sure I've ever experienced such a variety of underfoot conditions. The path was literally ankle deep in flowing snow meltwater for stretches on the way up; we had sections of seriously boggy clingy stuff; there was a sustained period of potentially ankle-breaking slippery scree and bigger jaggy boulders and to round things off the Kahtoola microspikes were briefly pressed into service on the short but steep slopes just before the summit plateau.Winter's not over quite yet on the hills![...]

Happy New Year


Let's see where we all are in another 365, eh?

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Beinn a'Chrulaiste


It wasn't until I diligently trawled through my comprehensive state of the art hillwalk record-keeping system (the search feature on this blog) that I realised it was as long as 18 months ago that me & Andy had been up this hill.That trip was more memorable for the laid back deer at the Kingshouse carpark than for the scenery, as it turned out rather wet, wild, and gloomily view-free. A day like that does tend to plant the idea that a return visit, when conditions would be more favourable, might just be worthwhile - you couldn't see much, but you could sense that Chrulaiste sits rather slap bang in the middle of some rather good vistas.And so it proved.In truth, the forecast was about as confident as these things ever get. For the inland hills at least, we were pretty much promised no rain, negligible wind and top quality visibility. Although it's a recurring lament on here, the fact it was a wee while since we'd been up a proper hill led us to look at stuff that wasn't full-on Munro yomping, so a rematch in more benign conditions was settled upon. And - unanimously - it was agreed that it turned out to have been the right move. It also marked Jorja's return to...well, hillwalking proper I suppose, so it was basically all good. There's also no shame in parking the car next to a handily hill-placed pub, so one can wind down in an appropriate fashion after a decent dauner. (That was another stroke of good luck - the place had been shut for the previous three weeks, as it transpired. I'd have missed those crisps.)It was also quite a traditional winter walking experience for me, in that once again, although I remembered to put my ice axe in the car when leaving the house, I forgot to attach it to the rucksack when leaving the car. And I left the dog's lead lying on a rock when I took my jacket off half an hour after the start. Many thanks to the kind couple who (a) picked it up and (b) were good enough to shout and attract our attention before it was too late. Jorja wouldn't have resisted thon deer if she'd been unrestrained on our return to the car!Most of the online route guides seem to have you starting from Altnafeadh and returning via the Kingshouse, but we commenced operations at the pub, and did a kind of anticlockwise circuit. I think there's a lot to be said for that - the views just keep getting better all the way. You can take the occasional backward glance at the Big Buachaille, and Creise etc to begin with; as you gain a bit of height Rannoch Moor opens up; when you reach the bealach before the last pull to the summit there's a whole "Blackwater reservoir and associated Mamores" vibe going on, and get a no' bad view of that kind of famous yin, mentioned earlier.A right good day.Oh, and I didn't need my ice axe, so no harm done. It was quite a close-run thing though, so on the plus side, the frisson of panic experienced on the descent means I'm definitely no' going to forget it again this season. ;)It's definitely quicker on the way down.Steeper, and quicker. As I said, I'll take the axe next time around. ;)[...]

Christmas Eve decorations


If it was going to be up for more than a few days, I'd footer about more with the header. As it were.

In the meantime, for any poor misguided souls who don't already hang on my every Facebook post, here are this year's Yuletide musical favourites.


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So, the WBD coped with Meikle Bin two weeks back; the longish on-lead road walks continue apace, and the question last Saturday was how to try and move things forward.The answer - as it often is with me after a hill layoff - was Ben Vrackie. It's not that far away, it's a proper hill, and it is eminently doable in the short daylight hours this time of year.It catches a lot of snow too. And while I've done it in winter conditions before, I hadn't experienced it quite so consistently deep and soft straight from the car park. Every year, I forget how much more tiring that makes walking up a hill. What I could claim, I suppose, is that I was ever so slightly concerned about how the extra effort of wading through dog-oxter deep white stuff was liable to affect Jorja's return to fitness campaign; and that as a result, I decided to turn back about 15 minutes before the summit.On the other hand, a blog is nothing if it's not an outlet for honesty, so I'll admit I was Donald Ducked, and when the weather closed in I'd had enough of slipping and sliding up a rather steep wee bit of mountain.  Accordingly, no hilltop photies, but plenty of my faithful (unless there's a better food-related offer elsewhere) companion back to doing what is largely her...reason for being. ;)...and the weather closed in. I did go a bit further, honest.Incidentally, on a practical note, there's forestry stuff occurring at the minute, so you actually wander through the farm grounds - it is pretty well flagged up - and regain the original path a wee bit before the cool fingerpost pictured earlier.It was a proper workout, summit or not. A good jaunt. :)[...]

Saturday night and Sunday morning; and then later on Sunday morning.


We had persuaded ourselves - on the basis of no evidence whatsoever, in truth - that the Sheffield gig was going to be very much along the lines of the King Tut's epic a few months earlier, and that the band wouldn't be on stage until very, very late.Having said that, we decided after another few refreshments in the Rutland Arms to head out into the town and locate the venue ridiculously early, so we could size it up, find another pub nearby, and then return at our leisure a couple of hours later to arrive effortlessly on time for the main event. That approach sort of worked, in that the band were taking the stage just as we turned up for the "ridiculously early" part of the plan.Which undeserved stroke of luck rather saved the whole weekend.Still - I'm sure everybody else there just assumed we'd timed it exactly right. We both exude that kind of natural cool. Not that there were actually that many other folk there, it has to be said. Best estimate of the audience size was about eighty. It matters not a jot however, because it was still the second best gig I've been at this year.(Disclaimer: not Sheffield gig footage. There are a few more punters in this video.) allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />This, however, was ours! ;)The other thing is, when one has made a bit of an effort to go and see a band, it's nice when they hang around to have a chat with their adoring public. They've got form for that too - it was the same at King Tut's. Tonight it was the drummer, Cool Steve Kiely that drew the short straw......poor soul.In all fairness though, I think Chris the merch guy was even more surprised to be asked to join in, but his wares were just so good, it was an opportunity not to be missed...And that was rather that. Thankfully, we found (a) a kebab shop......and (b) the way back to the no drunken Scotsmen were harmed in the making of this blogpost. Oh, and the "later on Sunday morning" reference in the title? A leisurely pre-train tourist wander around Sheffield. Nice and relaxed. So, obviously, nice relaxed background music is called for. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />Toon Hall:Cathedral:Polis Box:The lads at the Polis Box:The Winter Garden:And...sundries, on the way back to the - as you'll recall - fountainy station:I mentioned the lack of carriage capacity on the return train trip earlier, and I won't lie - the six hours packed in like the proverbial commuting sardines wasn't a barrel of laughs. Plus, it was so busy that I didn't even feel able to break into the carry-oot, as regular toilet trips would have provoked justified outrage as one pushed past the folk cramming the aisles. In fact, the only saving grace about the whole thing was capturing this technically difficult photograph of The Angel of the North as we sped past Gateshead...Memories to treasure.:D[...]

Train and Truck


Last winter - from December onwards at least - was a complete washout as far as hillwalking went, and consequently postings on here were sporadic. Compared to how infrequently I trouble Blogger these days mind you, the place was positively buzzing. I kind of blame my full on embracing of Facebook. It's an awful lot easier to click a "like" button and approve of something someone else has said on the internet than it is to think up stuff of your own.Given last weekend's somewhat damp adventure, and the doom laden weather forecast we're getting this week - weather bomb, anyone? - it occurred to me that things are likely to get progressively worse without the Munro-bagging (as it were) impetus for recording things online, so before we grind to a terminal halt I decided to stick up a post about a different away from home jaunt.Gird your loins then for some photies of...Sheffield.The story is, me and Gordon, having been more than a little impressed by the musical stylings of the great bunch of Canadian lads known as Monster Truck when they played King Tut's earlier in the year were on the lookout for a repeat experience. Initially there was some excitement when we established they were to be playing the Enormodome in Dublin as a support band for Slash. Further analysis revealed that although it was doable (as a kind of joint birthday treat/indulgence/frolic) it was a Tuesday night show which was rather going to involve about three days off work. Two to travel, one to recover. At least one to recover, in my case - I know what Dublin can do to a chap. Then they announced some lower key - much, much lower key - headline gigs, including a night at The Corporation in Sheffield. On a Saturday. Well now. A mere £12 for a ticket for the show. A jolly reasonable rate for a twin room in Jury's in the City Centre. And a fleeting six hours away on the train."Train? What kind of train?", I hear the more astute of youse ask. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />Indeed.The journey was over in the blink of an eye.Glasgow CentralNot Glasgow Central. Not twenty to eleven any more, either.Well, not really. But at least all the carriages were open on the way down, in stark contrast to the return journey. I spent some time wondering quite how angry I would get if I'd spent £500 for a first class ticket between Sheffield and Glasgow, only to find myself standing the whole way in the aisle of the second class section. Ach, still, they were probably rich, and needed some character building.I digress. The first thing that strikes you when you alight at Sheffield is - fountainy stuff. They do like a nice water feature in Britain's fourth biggest city.The highly excellent news was that we still had about four hours to kill before the show, so the choice was to either (a) find the hotel, unpack, get showered, organised and have a leisurely meal to prepare ourselves for the evening's probable alcohol consumption; or (b) go to the pub.And let me tell you, we made the right choice. The Rutland Arms is a cracking pub. The moment you wander into a bar in a strange city, find a proper jukebox and discover it's got a song on it by the completely obscure band that you're going to see that very night, you know you're onto a winner. There's even urban art on the wall next to it, for ease of recognition when you're a bit tipsy later on......which state we did kind of achieve.More later. Did I mention the great jukebox? allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='htt[...]

So, what it is, is...


Over recent months I had clocked that the Wee Black Dug was not quite as indefatigable when it came to Munro bagging as she used to be. After a good 6 hour walk, when she jumped out of the car at the end of the trip home, there was definite evidence of...slight hirpling. The day after her most recent summit success - Creise et al - she sort of went proper lame for half an hour.A trip to the vet ensued. In fairness, it's an unusual week in our household that doesn't involve a trip to the vet, but mentioning it is integral to the story. ;)Thorough examination over, Ken the Vet opined that it was probably earlyish arthritis in her "elbow" joints. She'd need X rays to be sure, and to see how advanced it was, but that was the most likely thing. Fit dog she was, but it was possible her boundless enthusiasm for running, leaping, frisbee-catching, rabbit-chasing and general hundred mile an hour life-embracing was taking its toll on her joints."And another thing." he added. "She's been a steady 25kg in weight since she was a youth. She's now 27kg. Regardless of what the X rays show, you need to get some of that off her."You could almost see the panic in the dug's eyes when she heard that. I mean, she likes hillwalking, but she ****ing loves her food.Further tests, as they say, confirmed the original diagnosis. And, with elegant inevitability, the commencement of The Diet. Just to add to the sum total of misery, poor Molly was collateral damage, because if Jorja was to be on half portions it was only fair, sensible, right and just that her less active big sister should have to join in the fun.As to the thorny question of exercise - generally a recommended part of a weight-loss attempt - the WBD had to be largely rested, so it was a case of 5 minutes on the lead twice a day for the first wee while, then onto 10, then...well you get the gist. "Treat the recovery like you would if it was yourself" Ken had told me. If she shows signs of starting to limp again, you'll need to rein it back in".Upshot is, since September, the dug has stoically accepted her rations and is now about 24kg. (Terrifyingly, her target, ideally, is 22.) We're up to about 3 miles a day now on the leadwalking campaign, with no ill effects thus far, and on that basis, accordingly, we reach the point of this increasingly rare blogpost, which is the Wee Black Dug's return to a hill!Now, I'll give you that it was by no means a Munro, and it's one she's done plenty of times before, but given where we were - and what we weighed, and how we limped - a few weeks ago, I'm a happy camper. I'm also a very drookit camper, because it was truly horrible up there the day, but it was a means to an end. allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' class='b-hbp-video b-uploaded' FRAMEBORDER='0' />Just to end on a bit of perspective, the Meikle Bin round trip is a tad over 6 miles. Here's the heroine of the story a wee while back, at the furthest-from-the-car-point of a 26-miler.Dugs, eh?:)[...]



We lost the wee cat today. She had held on to her quality of life remarkably well, given the diagnosis nearly three years ago, but it all got a bit too much for her this morning.

Pets. Sigh.



It's a good word, that. Here's a learned exposition on it.It's a word that was pressed into frequent service last Saturday when me and Andy set off early(ish) doors to have a go at Carn Bhac. We were swithering about keeping going when we reached Perth in the pouring rain. We were swithering still when we paused at the Blairgowrie Tesco for supplies - in the pouring rain. Gazing at the packed Glenshee skicentre car park as we drove past caused a resurgence of said swither, as it rather appeared that every hillwalker in the environs of the Cairngorms had elected to abandon their planned route and nip in for coffee and bacon rolls instead.The astute reader will probably have guessed that we were still in mid-swither when we alighted at Inverey. But, whatever, the dugs needed a walk, so we set off up the track to Glen Ey.The Walkhighlands route takes you up the full length of the Glen, as far as Altanour Lodge. Ralph Storer's option departs Glen Ey at the ruins of Auchelie, and up and over Carn Creagach. In a bold move, we combined the two, and made an increasingly enjoyable round trip out of it. In truth, the main reason for any degree of enjoyment was the fact that the weather improved steadily all morning, with something called "the sun" making an appearance as we got to the top of Creagach.It's not a terribly oft-frequented hill I don't think - especially as a stand alone target. We saw a couple of mountain bikes near the lodge, but no actual folk walking. We did see a higher concentration of grouse (dead and alive, as it happens) than I can recall coming across anywhere before, but other than that, hunners and hunners of sheep and some folk in Landy's on the main track we were on our own all day.Oh aye - and the entire jaunt took place with the primeval echoing wonder of a full on mid-rut stag-roar soundtrack. Spine tingling stuff.Anyway - photies:We'd been walking for about an hour before I risked taking the camera oot! Woof.Nearly at the LodgeAltanour LodgeLooking from Carn Creagach over to Carn BhacA bealach, recently.Last gentle pull to Carn BhacFrom that point it was a return to the bealach, then a bit of another peaty hummock trot until we reached the track that runs all the way down to Auchelie. A more inviting wee spot on the way out than it had looked on the way in.The way home, looking from AuchelieA fine example of the drystane dykers art!It turned out a right good walk. Albeit one that I maintain justified a good pre-commencement swither. It has to be admitted though that the dogs (three, count 'em!) were glad of their walk, but partly because it was quite a long day, and partly because it's been a while since the freshly-clipped Molly has been up any sort of a hill, the big yin paid for her exertions the next day.;)  [...]

Sometimes you eat the bear


At 6:15am last Saturday, gazing out the back door to heavens that had not only just opened, but seemed to be doing their best to deposit their entire fluid content onto darkest Lanarkshire, the plan to head towards Glencoe and sample the delights of the Munros behind the ski centre was...diminishing in appeal.If I had been on driving duty, I could easily have been tempted to forego my Weetabix, and settle instead for a morning chez moi and a leisurely-prepared full-on cooked breakfast. Happily however, Andy was responsible for transport arrangements and he's made of more robust stuff than me. Accordingly, a few local diversions and consequent delay notwithstanding, two men and one wee black dug arrived at the Glencoe Mountain Resort carpark, ready to roll up the hill just after 10. The skies had stayed resolutely wet and overcast for maybe an hour after we set out, but - as is sometimes the way of these things - during the latter part of the journey the weather gods elected to stick to the forecast after all, and the end result was one of the more memorable hills-with-unexpectedly-fine-views-days that the pair of us have had for some time.I've been up Meall a' Bhuiridh twice before, with visibility rather limited, to say the least. On the maiden visit we never even tried to continue onwards to Creise; on the return (partly necessary because we realised we hadn't walked the last 10 yards to the actual summit of Bhuiridh the first time!) I can remember precisely nothing about the second Munro, or how I got there. I can remember the view from it, which was nowt.It's maybe a combination of that, and the fact that these hills don't get a lot of love in the guidebooks - probably because the most straightforward route takes you straight up through the ski tow and chairlift clutter - which means that the extent of the vista from higher up genuinely reduced me to muttering "remarkable...remarkable" for a fair wee while during our summit pauses.It was one of those days that photos can't really do justice, but that doesn't mean I'm not sticking a few up anyway.Note to dog owners - it's a good hill from an absence of livestock point of view, but it's relentlessly stony and boulder-strewn pretty much throughout, and Jorja was certainly feeling the effects in her joints by the time we got back to the car. In other terrain related news, the ridge that forms the link between the two Munros looks a lot steeper/awkward than it actually is, and with the mildest of coaxing on a couple of big downward steps on the way back, the dug didn't have the slightest issue with it. You can't really miss the path, one way or anotherBut lest there was any doubt.Ah - cliffhanger!Nose of Creise in foreground, big Bookle behindNose of dug in foreground, etcSummit of Meall a' BhuiridhThe onward route to CreiseLooking back the wayAnd looking back the way again, after the ever so slightly scrambly bit onto the Creise plateauCreiseAnd once you're up there, it kind of seems you can see every hill in Scotland.Even the full size OS map doesn't cover 'em all!Heading back requires that you retrace your steps up and over Meall a' Bhuiridh, but it's no great hardship, reascent or not.Once we were up and over that again though, the views kept on giving. A nice wee burst of sunlight striking the Big Buachaille......and then Ben Nevis finally clearing it's head from the clouds in the distance...We had left Bellshill at 7:45am, and I was back in the house - and had a beer opened - by 7pm. Factor in those views, and that's a good day oot on the hills.[...]



It's been at least five years since me & Andy started mentioning Gairich in dispatches, as one of those hills that'd be good for a longish drive/shortish walk option, perhaps for the dog days of summer. Part of the reason it took us so long to actually get round to taking said option was a fondly held belief that we'd take the canoe (a) out my garage, (b) to Knoydart and (c) into some watter.Fondly held, yes - ever going to happen, no.And the Yes/No conundrum leads us timeously - if inelegantly - to a very brief trip report...The walk begins at the Loch Quoich dam; there is parking just west of the dam on the left side of the road. Begin the walk by crossing the top of the dam. There is a good view of the day's objective, Gairich, across the waters of the loch, its craggy northeast face looking impressive. (Not at this point there wisny. Ed.)Once across the dam, follow the rough and very boggy path which keeps close to the shore of the reservoir at first. After about a kilometre the path begins to climb away from the water, and passes the southern end of Lochan an-Fhigheadair. The going improves as the path crosses a low bealach on the moor before descending towards the forestry below the Bealach na Faire, where it joins another old path. Don't go through the gate into the trees, but turn right on a rough path which climbs uphill beside the forest fence; this soon joins the stalkers path up from Glen Kingie.The path, now thankfully dry and easy to walk, ascends Druim na Gaid Salaich in a series of zigzags. It peters out to just a faint peaty trail once the ridge flattens out into an extensive plateau of Bac nam Foid. Continue towards Gairich to the west; the path becomes clearer once more at the foot of the steeper slopes.The stalkers path keeps well to the left of the ridge at first before zig-zagging sharply to the right to ascend to the foot of the steep nose. The original stalkers path cuts left again from here as shown on the OS maps, however a new path worn by Munro-baggers continues up the ridge and is the clearer of the two routes these days. The east ridge of Gairich is very steep higher up... ...and there is one section of very simple scrambling up knobbly rock...(Camera was not to hand at that point! Ed.) ...the summit is reached not too far beyond. Overall, depending on the result of tomorrow's referendum, I'm thinking about heading back up there for a party this weekend. It had a cracking clientele. ;)(The large cairn is at 919 metres on a small plateau, making Gairich one of the smallest of the Munros. The isolated position makes it a superb viewpoint however, particularly for the vast waters of Loch Quoich and into Knoydart and the Glendessary mountains to the west. The return is by the same route.)And on the return, even the stretch across the dam feels like a long way!We even had time for a pricy pint at Invergarry, and had it not been for a closure of the A9, leading us to try and get home via Edinburgh, resulting in our getting tangled up in the Forth Road Bridge's bloody birthday party, we'd have been home at a reasonable hour!Maybe there's something to be said for canoes as a form of transport...  [...]

Happy Eighteenth, Jorja!


That's nothing to do with her age, but in something of an odd coincidence it was last Tuesday, after me and the WBD returned from Braeriach - her last outstanding Cairngorm Munro - that for the first time ever I kind of noticed she was utterly exhausted after a hillwalk.She's been tired before, admittedly, but never has she seemed reluctant to get out of bed for a biscuit. She's very like me in that regard.Further deliberations have tended to suggest that it was maybe the nature of the terrain - dry ground, mostly unforgiving hard paths, somewhat exacerbated by the Chalamain Bloody Gap - rather than the lessening of her stamina that had combined to cause her ills, because no more than four days later she was haring up Gairich like a puppy. (More of which anon).In another odd coincidence, Gairich got a mention in the post about my first visit to Braeriach. So it's nice to report that it's only taken us about five and a half years to get up that yin too.There's not a lot to add to the first report. I started from the same spot, took the same route up, got similar good weather and took hundreds of photies, the vast majority of which will never see the light of day. I will observe that the Chalamain Gap (no doubt partly due to relatively recent tragedy occurring therein) remains a place that one would not want to linger. There looks to be, to this inexpert eye, rather more in the way of unstable slope-poised boulders than before, and there's an unsettling feel about the whole affair.Jorja managed without too much bother on the way to the hill, but on the walk out I decided to head up and over Creag a' Chalamain. There's an obvious path that takes you to its summit, but there's also a developing side/contouring path that I stumbled across, having left the main drag after a 100 metres or so. It's eminently spottable on the outward journey, and although it'd steepish from that direction for the first wee bit, I still tend to think it'd be worth it for canine-accompanied folk.For those that are interested, Ronald Turnbull's "Walking in the Cairngorms" route description (slightly abbreviated here on account of my rubbish typing ability) is all you need. If you've got a map and compass, like.Start from the Sugar Bowl car park, and drop South to a long footbridge. It is signed for the Chalamain Gap.  The path climbs the bank above the river and turns upstream, wide and clear.  Soon it bends right (west) above the valley of a smaller side stream and then drops to cross this. The path continues southwest to enter the Chalamain Gap.This continues for 300m. At its top, continue ahead on a clear path southwest. This slants down around the end of Lurcher’s crag, then drops with engineered steps to the Allt Druidh. Turn Left, upstream with the river to your right, for 200m......when the path crosses a natural boulder bridge......and slants up the opposite bank. At the first bend a smaller path ahead would proceed through the Lairig Ghru, but keep to the main path zigzagging uphill, with stone steps here and there.At 750m altitude the path bends left, up the steeper ridge of Sron na Lairige. Resurfacing soon ends but the way is clear as there are large crags dropping on the left all the way up. As ridge broadens, the now unclear path drops very slightly, then contours round the left (Lairig Ghru) flank of Sron na Lairige. In mist its simpler to head south to the cairn on the 1180m north top, then across the slight dip to the main summit of SnL; then drop slightly east of[...]

Gairich. Or, not Gairich.


One of the advantages of "The Facebook" is that as long as you post a link to something that somebody somewhere might find faintly interesting (and even that's optional) you don't actually need to think of anything to write to accompany it. A well-placed emoticon - hark at me and my easy familiarity with internet jargon - can suffice all on its lonesome.That state of affairs may not be unconnected with the dearth of activity on here in recent months. With a blog, you feel obliged to write something even when, as is demonstrably the position on this yin, it's rarely up to much.Regardless, I pay my internet bill like everybody else, so the blog stays until either (a) I give up all hope of walking up another hill and thus finding an excuse to commit my thoughts to cyberspace, or (b) the Better Together folk come good on their claim that post Independence (which IS going to happen, btw) Scotland won't be able to afford broadband. Or shoes.So - Gairich.Initially, it was all going according to plan last Saturday. An early start, a reasonably clear drive as far as Glencoe, a perfectly acceptable, if showery, prevailing weather system and a gradual release from the crippling hangover that had assailed one member of the two strong party (well, two folk and one dug) at the outset of the trip. The sufferer shall remain nameless. At his request.Two things happened at that point. We glimpsed a slightly forlorn-looking hitchhiker at the end of Glencoe village, holding up a cardboard "Fort William" sign, and standing next to a rucksack that was about the size of a pillar box. Also, the traffic - as invariably seems to be the case - decided that the stretch from the Ballachullish Bridge onwards was the ideal place to congregate and reduce the journey to a frustrating crawl. Tempers were fraying, temperatures were rising and time was elapsing.In all honesty, had it not been for the fact that the aforementioned hitchhiker proved (after she'd struggled up the road to where we'd screeched to a halt) to be a thoroughly delightful young French lady called Coline, who was holidaying in Scotland, and who - to the best of my recollection - was a composite of all the most appealing physical features of Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Portman, the trip would have turned into something of a trial. Instead, it was all rather smashing. ;)You can guess what happened next. Although Coline was going to Fort William first, that was because she was ultimately looking to get to Dornie that day. For to see the Castle. Now, obviously, although the target of Gairich meant that me and Andy were starting out on the right road, our turnoff towards Loch Quoich was a long, long, long way before Dornie. About 50 miles, in fact.So we just took her there..."un cadeau d'Ecosse." Although even I wasn't enough of a sad loser to say that out loud to her. I don't think.Donc, we stopped into the nearest garage on the way back through Glen Shiel, bought a map, and had a jolly good wander up A' Chralaig instead.There are photies...That's yer South Glen Shiel ridge, that.Can you spot the Cluanie Inn? ;)The onward route, after the first steep bit.Summit feverNo' a bad wee spot, altogetherThe last leg.Formidable!!![...]

Return to Beinn na Lap


A Film by Danny Boyle.The easiest way to get the full flavour of how improved this second visit actually was, would be to review the report from trip number 1.There's not actually an awful lot to add - certainly not about the route itself - so at this stage all I'll do in that regard is repeat what I said last time, but with marginally different photos... Catch a train to Corrour Station. The remotest stop on the UK rail network, it isn't accessible by road.You don't say.She'd not been that keen on the train, but neither was she keen on it leaving her HERE.Begin the walk along the vehicle track across the moor to the east.Jump in the nearest boggy morass.When the track forks follow it round to the left. The tiny Loch Ossian Youth Hostel is visible on the near shore of the loch.At a second fork in the track turn left once more, passing an iron barrier. This track is signed as part of the Road to the Isles. Almost straight away the track swings left...Lot of serious construction work going on all over the place, the now....leave it here and follow a faint boggy path that heads directly for the west ridge of Beinn na Lap. After a gentle start it begins climbing straight up the moorland ahead, with good views looking back over Loch Ossian.Are you lookin' at me?It's for all the world like a wee gravestone.The slope eases into the broad ridge of Ceann Caol Beinn na Lap. Head up this towards the summit; there are some rocky undulations along the way.Some rocky undulations, the other day.Loch Ossian again.And again.Finally the true summit cairn is reached - the high level start minimised the effort involved in getting here and it can be hard to believe this is really a Munro.More delicate construction work this time.Next time - Molly finds a decent pub in Fort William!;)  [...]

Ben Klibreck


In long, balmy days of Junes past, me and Andy have generally tried to get one really big walk done, to try and use the daylight to the full. This year, a clever plan was devised to try and cross off the sole remaining Far Far North Munro - less a really big walk than a really big drive.To add a bit of spice, we decided to try and fit in the drive, the hill and the Colombia game which was due to kick off at 9pm.The forecast had been a factor in the whole plan, but it proved to have been somewhat optimistic - claggy, rainy and viewless at the summit. Still, if the forecast had been accurate, there'd have been no prospect whatsoever of driving for a total of almost ten hours simply to walk for about five.On the plus side, it was a new experience to arrive in Tain at 9am, just as the shops were opening. ;)In all honesty, it's not a hill that I would rush to repeat. It might well be that the Walkhighlands route would make for a more enjoyable day out, whereas we - largely owing to the self inflicted World Cup time pressure - started out taking the "traditional" shortest route that Cameron McNeish describes thus:Start from the A836 road through Strath Vagastie. There is a good parking spot at 545 303 and once across the river, rough moorland rises towards the western slopes of the hill. Head for Loch nan Uan and from its northern shore the grass & heather slopes steepen quite dramatically towards the lowest point of the ridge above. From the outflow of the loch it’s best to head South East and so avoid the craggy ground below Meall nan Con. Once the ridge is reached, a short ascent on good underfoot conditions lead to the summit boulderfield and the cairn. In the event, the grass and heather slopes steepened rather more than we liked the look of, so we kind of cut across country, bypassing the loch on the south side, and headed for what looked a rather less strenuous approach to gaining the ridge.Looking back to Ben LoyalThe underfoot combination of tussocks, bog, gloopy waterlogged grassy moss and generally adhesive heathery rubbish did not make for a terrifically enjoyable wander......but matters did improve once we got higher up, and found the bypass path on Creag an Lochain.Looking back along the ridge/plateau/nice flat bitAt that point the weather was about as good as it got all day, so there was a perfectly acceptable flattish dander for a wee while, before the final slog up the impressive rocky summit cone of Meall nan Con.It was proper clagged in by then, inevitably, and remarkably cold to boot. I'm not sure there wasn't a wee touch of frostiness setting in on the WBD's eyebrows at one point.We were around three & a half hours for the ascent, and exactly two to get back to the car. We came down the traditional ascent route, and it is not something I would have liked to try in the other direction. Steep, boggy, steep, slippery, less than obvious, and steep.I think we've both kind of agreed that from now on, some of these hills are going to require a wholehearted commitment to overnight stays. I certainly couldn't have driven all the way back down the road on Saturday evening, so I'm glad Andy was in the mood for taking the wheel. Plus, he aye makes better time than I would, so we caught the start of the football after all. Bang![...]

Beinn a'Chlachair


It probably comes with the territory - I've been up the track from Laggan so many times now that there's better photos elsewhere on the blog. Still, given that the deciding factor for yesterday's return visit was that Jorja hadn't done the hill before, it would be remiss not to stick a few more up.:)Wee Greying Dug[...]