Friday, December 30, 2011

Christmas on the High Street

Well not quite Christmas but on 23 Dec John, Ann and Steve W ascended the Lake District's High Street from the head of the flooded valley of Haweswater. Not a bad day out, and very quiet on the fells.
Looking up Riggindale

High Street from Kidsty Pike

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Winter Wanderings at last!!

Last weekend was the AMC's last meet of the year (almost - still the new year trip to go!) to Mill Cottage. A whopping 18 of us were signed up, with the hardcore few camping out beside the hut.

A very sophistomicated evening of wine, beer and chocolate port by the roaring stove nicely settled everyone in for the night.

Saturday morning was much fairer than forecast (or so it seemed in the hut's hollow) so parties headed out down glen feshie and the more adventurous towards Corour Station....

In Glen Feshie, we parked up and headed up towards Sgur Gaoith, promising ourselves we'd turn around if the forecast highwinds and snow materialised.

Starting up towards Sgurr Gaoith

View from Meall a Bhuidhe
Fortunately they never did and we found ourselves on the summit

Summit of Sgurr Gaoith
as the cloud broke, and fantastic winter views opened up for us. We decided to head along the ridge to Carn Ban Mor, then were tempted by the just visible cairn of Mullach Clach na Bhlair and continued off south.

Naturally, the weather chose this point to close in and the final ascent was spent in cloud and snow, but mercifully low winds compared to the forecast.

Descending from Mullach Clach na Bhlair

All that was left was the "lovely" trudge back along the glen and road to the van. Luckily a kind couple picked up our driver and took him back along the glen to the van. All of about 300m from where they picked him up. Still, its the thought that counts and we were greatful for every meter knocked off the trudge!

Sunday's main activity was getting cars up the firstly snowy and soon polished and icey forestry track to the main road! a couple of hours and 6 cars later we felt justified in rewarding ourselves with bacon butties tea in Aviemore.

I'm sure that a write up of Beinn na Lap mission will appear shortly as well!


Monday, November 28, 2011

Lagangarbh Meet

Just before the next meet, here's a brief post about the Lagangarbh meet in November. I had been waiting for others to send me pictures of their days out but none have turned up.
Saturday was pretty much as forecast – cloudy and windy first thing, clearing through the day. Given it was a few weeks ago my memory is a bit vague but here is my attempt at a summary of activities (apologies to anyone I’ve missed): Derek and Calum did some hills around Bridge of Orchy, Graeme, Naomi and Andrew did the full traverse of both Buachailles (!), Richard and Robert went wandering around the Devil’s Staircase area. Meanwhile, Ann & John went to the Mamores to tackle Sgurr Eilde Mor and Binnean Beag. The walk-in from Kinlochleven was longer than the one we had planned due to the access via Mamore Lodge now being closed. Nice approach through the autumnal woods though. Most of the route was on good stalker’s paths which made for a relatively easy day. Binnean Beag was first, mainly to keep lower for longer to let the wind drop. It was still fairly fierce on the summit though. Then the return over Sgurr Eilde Mor was straightforward and aided by a path of sorts up the NW ridge. Got down just as it went dark and back to the hut in time to see the keen party beginning their descent of Buachaille Etive Mor.
Sunday’s activities are a mystery to me….
Loch Leven

Ascent of Binnean Beag

Upper Glen Nevis and The Ben

Binnean Beag

The Ben and Aonachs

South to Glencoe

NW Ridge of Sgurr Eilde Mor

Sgurr Eilde Mor in late afternoon light

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

November in Knoydart

Last Friday night saw Ann and John, spurred on by a long-awaited good weather forecast, take the long drive to the head of Loch Arkaig to walk in to A Chuil bothy in Glen Dessarry. When we got to the end of the road there were only two other cars, one of which had a sleeping occupant, so any worries about a crowded bothy disappeared. Packing in heavy is never pleasant, especially after a few weeks off, but fortified by surprisingly good fish suppers in Aviemore we made it in around an hour and only got rained on once. The bothy was in really good nick and had even been left clean and tidy with a fire laid. We had it to ourselves for just long enough to get stuck into a supper of cheese and oatcakes before two other folks appeared. After a quick chat we all turned in ready for big days out.

An early start saw us squelching through saturated bog to the foot of the S ridge of Sgurr nan Coireachan. The steep 750m ascent was hard going for our woosie legs, more use to long but easy-angled tramps on the eastern hills. As we got higher the views began to make up for the effort and we topped out pretty much alongside Naismith in time for an early elevenses (or perhaps second breakfast?). 
Sgurr na h Aide from the ascent

One thing you can rely on in Knoydart - lots of bryophytes
The wander W along the rollercoaster ridge from here was excellent. Although rough with lots of small ups and downs it was easier than I remember, no doubt due to the lack of deep snow. Talking of which, about half way along the shifting clouds thickened enough to snow heavily on us for about half an hour, which was a bit of an unpleasant surprise. As we got towards Garbh Chioch Bheag it cleared and from there to first lunch on Garbh Chioch Mhor gave some great views. The shifting clouds and low sun also gave us glories and Brocken spectres appearing to walk alongside us for much of the time.
Snow moving in...
and arriving

Garbh Chioch Mhor

Triple glory
Sgurr na Ciche
Then it was time for a steep descent and the ascent of Sgurr na Ciche. In the bealach we found three rucksacks, the first sign of anyone else all day. We met their owners near the summit. They were going the other way, having done the long walk in from the road that morning – keen beans. Through the cloud we heard lots of laughter – more folks, this time at the summit. They were staying in Sourlies bothy. As we topped out the clouds parted and we got some great views down Loch Nevis to accompany second lunch, but the cold had done for the camera battery so no pics of the view or the fog bow we got.

Back down in the bealach we met another 3 folks. It was getting busy around here. These guys had walked in and were planning on a high camp along the ridge to allow them to go all the way along to Sgurr Mor. Good effort.
The descent was fairly unpleasant. The saturated ground was very slippery and soon had us all over the place, looking like we had hit the whisky early. Eventually we squelched back to the bothy, somewhat muddier than when we left. Two guys had cycled in just for the night, and then another chap turned up having walked from Inverie. He had planned to stay in Sourlies but found it full (presumably with the group we met) and four tents outside. A cosy night was had thanks to the fire log we had carried in and I even managed to dry out my socks. Unfortunately the fact that it was bonfire night had passed us by, so not even a sparkler to celebrate with.
Sunday dawned damp and foggy but with the hint of sunny peaks above. Donning sodden boots we headed for the Corbett of Carn Mor, just SW of the bothy. A flouter through the bog got us above the fog and the temperature rose from zero to +6 in a few minutes.
Early morning fog

The ascent was straightforward with good views of Saturday’s hills. Unfortunately the cloud thickened but at least kept above the tops. The summit was a surprise. My glance at the map had suggested a fairly unremarkable boggy lump but it was quite steep and rocky. Topping out gave us a spectacular view down the long trench of Loch Morar, the deepest lake in the UK and of course home of the real Nessie.
Carn Mor

View down Loch Morar
Then it was a quick return to the bothy to pick up the gear and a very pleasant second lunch sat outside. Who would have thought it in Knoydart in November?

A Chuil bothy

Monday, October 17, 2011

Something a Little Different

On Sunday Ann and John, already jaded by too many weekends stuck on the East Coast hills, came up with something a little different. We took the long cycle from Linn of Dee up to Geldie Lodge to tackle the remote peak of An Sgarsoch. The cycle in was quite pleasant with only a slight headwind, although we did make the mistake of bothering to take the bikes across the Geldie Burn ford for very little gain. Once on foot we soon had a test of faith as a very heavy and prolonged shower hit. Luckily we stuck at it and had a bit of a slog through boggy heather to get onto the grassy northern slopes of the hill. This gave quite easy going to the summit.
Back down the Geldie Burn from the start of the ascent
On the way we spotted a group of 20+ ptarmigan, almost perfectly camouflaged on one of the rocky outcrops. Sheltering from the biting wind behind the cairn we had a tasty first lunch of Wensleydale and beetroot chutney rolls. Then we headed off eastwards to the deleted Munro Top and from there it was an easy descent of the NE ridge back to the bikes. The cycle out was uneventful (save for a stop for second lunch) but fast thanks to the now strong tail wind.
The summit of An Sgarsoch from the East top

The Cairgorms from the summit (Macdui over Ann's head)

Sunday Stravaig

On Sunday, cashing in our respective day passes for the weekend, Romain and I headed out for a cross country blast on the mountain bikes. Deciding upon a blast up over Mount Keen, down to Invermark and then back to Aboyne via Tarfside and the fungle road we set out bright and early.

A cracking ride through Glen Tannar's Pine forest took us to the foot of mount keen, where we decidedly failed to find the "keen-nes" (sorry....) to push up the steep track on two wheels and resorted to shanks pony to gain the plateau.

On Mount Keen Ascet, Tanar in the Background

Setting off once again on wheel, a quick traverse around the final summit cone and then a long, fun wheech down to the waters of mark (dodging the now complusory estate landrover coming in the other direction) and the queens well through possibly one of the most picturesque parts of the Cairngorms brought a cheery smile to our faces after the long slog up Mount Keen with the bikes!

The descent from Mount Keen

More of the descet

After cycling out along the glen we stopped at Tarfside for a bit of lunch, before heading for the second big climb of the day - back over the Fungle road to Biel. 600m of ascent later and luckily we were both too clapped out to bother with photos on the col, and so saved our blushes now! The descent down to Birse was a fantastic run on great track with only the occasional drainage ditch we had to stop to avoid.

Birse from the Fugle Road

Unfortunatley we could now see ascent no. 3 in the distance but were enjoying the views enough not to register it!

From Birse we headed up the last ascent on the fungle road, before starting the drop back down to Aboyne, via the great little stretch of red single track on the fungle road.

The single track section, suitably blurry!

A satisfying blast indeed on a great sunny day through some less frequented sections of the Cairngorms which are none the less stunning for it!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Saturday Ramblings

Saturday, the day after the night before, saw Ed and I heading out for a night bothying in the cairngorms with plans to nip up a hill the following morning. With tales of a new bothy near to Beinn a' Bhuird / Ben Avon we set off cycling in after dark from Keiloch carpark with all our gear, but no idea where this new bothy was.

A suprising short cycle in found us ditching the bikes in the Glean an t-Slugain, and heading onwards on foot to spend a "pleasant" hour searching various nooks, crannies and hollows for anything resembling a bothy. Unfortunately our doss sense let us down and we beat a retreat to the established alternative eventually settling in just as the rain started to become a little more insistent in getting through out cycling togs.

A fine feast of oatcakes and cheese, a warming brew and a couple of more warming drams finished the evening.

Dragging ourselves out of our too comfy sleeping bags the following morning, the worst of the wind and rain was over so a quick wheech up Benn Avon gave us a pleasant if breezy on top day out.

Ed and Ben Avon Tor

On the way up, we decided to renew our search for the elusive bothy from the night before and by good chance stumbled upon it first try this time! Unfortunately it hadn't been advanced from the last set of photos we'd seen and was still lacking a roof and anywhere comfortable / large enough to lie down. It was however an impressive effort by someone and the dry stane walls looked well done. Maybe once the heat of publicity from the NEMT (and pesky bloggers) dies down the builders will be back and get to complete their doss.

New bothy to-be?

Free wheeling back from our stashed bikes (after a brief panic trying to find them) was a satisfyingly muddy experience and bar dodging the odd family in 4x4 out for a Sunday drive easy enough.

Ed heading vanwards

Back at the van, my dropped map and map case had unfortunately failed to materialise, even more unfortunately the gear shop in Ballater was still open when I stopped off for the post hill 'Bru and they were happy to lighten my pockets by the cost of replacement (though at least did offer a respectable discount!).


Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cuillin Capers

For the week after the sailing meet Ann and John stayed on Skye in what was, even by Skye standards, awful weather. Luckily things cleared up a bit right at the end and gave us a chance to get reacquainted with the main Cuillin Ridge after too long away. We tackled the central section, starting from the youth hostel, and ascending Sgurr na Banachdich by the easy walking route of Coire an Eich. The rain that had started on the drive from Dunvegan stopped and things were starting to look more like the forecast.
The way up


By the time we topped out it was all getting very atmospheric with clouds billowing around the ridge and clear sky above. Then the scrambling started. Having not done anything serious for a few years we were a bit rusty but soon got back into it with the imposing but easy ascent of Sgurr Thormaid.
The view South from Sgurr na Banachdich
Ascent of Sgurr Thormaid
Then onto one of my favourite sections of the ridge – the S ridge of Sgurr a Ghreadaidh. It didn't disappoint with fantastic situations and some nice exposure. We were getting back into the swing by now and the short, tricky descent into An Dorus seemed straightforward.

South Ridge of Sgurr a Ghreadaidh

Loch Coruisk from Sgurr a Ghreadaidh
Then it was the final summit of the day, Sgurr a Mhadaidh. On the summit we were chatting to Graham from Skye Hi guides who told us the ridge down towards Sgurr Thuilm was not as bad as it looked, so we decided to give it a go. From the start it was surprisingly untrodden and a few shouted route suggestions from Graham kept us on track down what was in places a quite tricky but very good route. Despite our best intentions we couldn't be bothered with the walk up Sgurr Thuilm so dropped into the corrie and wandered out in the warm sunshine.
Sgurr Thuilm from Sgurr a Mhadaidh

The NW ridge of Sgurr a Mhadaidh


Thursday, September 29, 2011

22nd Sept - Not as steep as we'd hoped Glories of Dark Lochnagar

With Dave the prodigal moderators return from the land of the free via the land of the leiderhosen just to get a place on the Applecross meet, we decided a midweek wheech up lochnagar was in order. The forecast of gusting winds, showers, cloudy summits and freezing levels just above the top comfirmed it - just the scotland he'd been missing!

As we drove down Deeside to the Keiloch carpark, we cursed not taking our climbing gear as clear blue skies abound and the morning sun lit up the main buttresses of lochnagar. Setting off from Keiloch, we were (on this occasion) greatly cheered by the appearance of both the wind and rain forecast and the clouds swooping in around the summits. The plan for a scramble up An Stuic seemed a good one once again!

After the obligitory getting lost in the woods, and find an enormous and massively impressive spiders web strung out between two trees about 10' apart we eventually got above the treeline and broke away from the path - only to be recalled shortly later by an excitable figure waving. Stalking parties were up in the corrie apparently working their way back down to dinner, and we were asked to find another way up to the tops. We decided on agree (not least as we didn't fancy the thought of walking up into the firing line descending from the corrie!) and followed the path up onto the summit. Which turned out almost as hazzardous with the below resident resolutely guarding the way!

After a brief de-tour we went via various sections of downed aircraft to Carn an t-saigart mor, then beag (where we met a bedraggled looking if cheery Norwegian (we thought) lady doing the summits in the opposite direction to us) and hence on to lochnagar.

The clound generously opened up giving us great views of the corrie, and after reminiscing about the "fun" winter days we'd had there we headed over the summit and back down to the car via the princes stone and a good hack through the heather. The big adder we'd seen on the track up never too far from our rather paranoid minds!

Dave's re-aquaintence with the Scottish way was completed by a fish supper and single white pudding washed down with a couple of bottles.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Preikestolen, Norway

 At the end of July, John & Ann found themselves in Stavanger with a day to kill before the start of the third and final race of the Tall Ships' Races 2011. What better than an easy short dander up to the Pulpit Rock, one of the biggest tourist attractions in the Stavanger region? We were fortunate to be staying with Karl, who provided excellent hospitality and a handy drive to the start of the walk.

Lysefjord, with Pulpit Rock just in the cloud to the L

Being a Friday we were expecting it to be not too busy but how wrong we were. When we arrived mid-morning we were banished to the overflow car park and that was just the start of it. In common with many Norwegian mountain paths, the route is more of a marked way than anything constructed. That, combined with the number of people and limited overtaking opportunities, made it more of a slowly moving queue than a walk in the normal sense.

Busy Busy Busy

Dramatic scenery on the way

Pulpit Rock, and a lot of visitors

Interesting section of the path

Still, we persevered and progress to our goal was somewhat below Naismith pace. Although only about 4 km and 300 m ascent it took about 2.5 hours. Luckily the early morning cloud had lifted and we got some great views. Certainly worth its status, but loses some marks for being far too busy. Having opted not to take the BASE-jumping kit the route down took about as long as the ascent, but it was great to be out in the Norwegain mountains again after a five year break.