Hills: Black Hill (Pentlands)
Classification: Sub 2000 Scottish Marilyn
When: Tuesday 5 February
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Distance: About 7 ½ miles
Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
Weather: Started cold and clear but clouded over
Post walk drink: Tempest pale ale
Post walk watering hole: The Hanging Bat craft beer bar
Tuesday 5th February 2019: the sky was blue, the birds were singing, and I was sat at Edinburgh bus station at the unearthly (for me) hour of 8am waiting for a bus to Flotterstone. 8am is not an hour that I often see when not at work unless I am planning a walk that for whatever reason requires an early start – or I have insomnia. This one was, I guess, a bit of both.
My regular readers will probably already be wondering where the mishaps are. Well I guess there were 2, although neither of them on the day of the actual walk. We were up in Edinburgh for a week mainly so Stuart could attend the rugby at Murrayfield and had rented a town house very close to the city centre; we had decided not to bring the car as my only real hill walking plans involved the Pentlands and were therefore easily doable by bus. The flipside to this is it required lugging a ridiculous amount of stuff across London on Friday 1st February and onto the train. Oh yes, the train! Mishap 1… Continue reading
Hills: Wideford Hill
When: Thursday 4 January
Weather: Very cold, quite windy and at times wet
Low points: all the stuff on the summit
High points: the sunrise
Why: the sunrise
After my desperate attempt to make sure I did a hill every month by doing a local Kent Marilyn as December’s hill, I didn’t get any more walking done in December. I had thought about a last minute dash to the Lakes a couple of times but the weather forecast was never quite good enough to make it worth it and also work got unexpectedly busy in the run up to Christmas with me being more or less flat out until breaking for the festive period. I was back in work between Christmas and New Year but on the 29th we started a long journey due North. We were off to Orkney, via a night in Edinburgh either side. This was not, predominantly, a walking trip and therefore I deliberately didn’t pack much in the way of gear, but figured a coastal walk of some sort might be in order. We also wanted to see the archaeological highlights, a lot of which we had seen before on a previous visit but were definitely worth repeating.
Of course those of you that read my blog on a regular or even sporadic basis will know that something usually goes wrong. This time it was the plane. It was delayed for about an hour then about 5 minutes after taking off from Edinburgh airport something fell off the inside of the aircraft cabin, nearly hitting someone on the head on the way down, and (unsurprisingly) the captain announced we were returning to Edinburgh to see if they could fix the plane. We were decanted from the plane while they did the necessary and got back on about half an hour later. I can’t say I was that enthused about getting back on the same plane in case something more serious fell off this time but with no real alternative we got back on and ended up landing in Kirkwall about 2 hours later than planned. Continue reading
Wainwrights done in year: 21
Wainwright total at end of year: 82
Munros done in year: 0 😦
Other new classified hills done: 5 (3 Marilyns, an Outlying Wainwright and a Graham)
Repeats: 1 (Arthur’s Seat, for the umpteenth time)
Trips to Scotland: 4 (including for rugby)
Trips to the Lake District: 9 (of varying length)
Hungover walks: 2 (plus a couple more when slightly fuzzy around the edges)
Beer festivals attended: 4 (2 in the Lakes, 2 in Kent)
Transport debacles: Too many
Trouser debacles: Same
Glasses of wine drunk: Don’t ask.
With 2018 fast approaching, I thought it was time to reflect on how 2017 had gone.
Compared to 2016, it was a pretty good year for hill walking: in 2016 I managed 13 new hills and one repeat and numerically this year was a lot better. I managed to add a total of 26 hills to my ‘bag’ of which the vast majority were Wainwrights; I also managed to climb a classified hill of some description every month this year for the first time, although it did require a bit of creativity in a couple of months by way of slightly artificial bagging runs to a couple of South Eastern England Marilyns. However, it was the first year since I took up hill walking that I did no Munros; this was largely a consequence of it having become increasingly more expensive to get to Scotland compared to the Lakes, with the sleeper train having priced itself out of the market under its new ownership (which will most likely only get worse once the new deluxe trains are introduced next year) and flight times having become increasingly inconvenient with Easyjet cutting the late night Friday flight to Glasgow off its summer schedule making weekend mad dashes north of the Border basically impossible. I hope to get back on the Munros at some point in the future, but will have to see what happens. Continue reading
When: Sunday 28 May
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: Strong sunshine with a bit of a breeze
Hangover factor: Surprisingly low
Bog factor: Zero on the approach track but pathless vertical bogfest on the hill itself.
Uses of the ar*e crampon: None, though certainly considered it on the really steep bits on the descent
Pre walk drink: Jarl Scottish ale (though not much of it)
Post walk drink: Same, followed by Pinot Grigio (too warm for Malbec)
Post walk watering hole: The Coach House, Killin (pre walk one as well)
Those of you that read my blog on a regular basis will know that I hate bog. In fact I hate it with a passion. The only decent sort of bog is when it has either dried out or frozen – in which cases it can make for a reasonably congenial walking surface. Although inevitably with the frozen sort I manage to find the bit that isn’t frozen with the result being one foot goes into freezing murky gunk.
The worst sort of bog is what I refer to as vertical bog. It is obviously not actually vertical but when trying to slog up a steep, soggy, squishy slope it certainly feels like it. Going uphill it seems to sap your strength massively; going downhill care has to be taken not to slip and end up with a wet and muddy rear end, although going downhill through bog doesn’t sap your energy in quite the same way as going up. There are certain hills which after doing them I refer to as ‘Bogatory’ which is that particular kind of hill walking purgatory where you think the bog is never going to end and wonder if you are ever going to reach the top, or (in descent) ever get out of it and end up being sucked down into some tar pit of doom, to be discovered millennia later by some archaeologist who will wonder what Scarpas are and why all hill walking gear for women seems to be pink. I also think that given I now do most of my walking in the Lake District rather than Scotland I have got a bit spoilt and forgotten what a proper Scottish bog is like. Well I certainly got a reminder on this walk! Continue reading
Hills: Scald Law (via Turnhouse Hill and Carnethy Hill).
Marilyns: Scald Law
When: 1 March 2017
Who: Me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: clear but windy on the tops. Snow threatened but in the end didn’t arrive.
Bog factor: overall pretty low
Navigational embarrassment factor: 1 (not mine)
Pre walk drink: Edinburgh Gin (the previous evening)
Post walk drink: various single malts
Those of you that read my blog will know that usually something goes wrong whenever I decide to do a walk. This can often be weather related – for instance the recent deluge in the Lake District not helped by realising that my waterproofs were not fit for purpose (replacements are on order as I type!). If the weather does not go wrong then something else generally will – for instance a transport debacle of some sort which has over the years included missed flights, missed trains, broken down trains, car breakdowns, driving into a ditch in Snowdonia (thankfully managing to get out) and most recently having an utterly hellish journey thanks to Storm Doris meaning my walk for the day was a quick 2 hour blast up Dodd rather than anything more ambitious (due to utter knackeredness). However simply by the law of averages there had to be a walk where nothing went wrong and this one seems to be it!
Stuart and I were staying in Edinburgh for a week in an apartment. The week was mostly about visiting friends and family and chilling out (as well as – in Stuart’s case – going to the rugby) however on a previous jaunt (in less than clement weather) the Pentlands had looked to have some good walking so I hatched a plan to grab a few hours walking and take in the highest point. The forecast for 1st March was pretty good, although windy. Having had a few glasses of wine the previous night (not to mention a couple of gins due to a rather good visit to the Edinburgh Gin Distillery- recommended) an early start was not really an option but the forecast looked decent all day. Continue reading
Hills: Ben Vrackie
Who: Just me and the mountaineering minion
When: end of August 2016
Weather: windy but clear with scattered showers
Bog factor: pretty much non-existent
Post walk watering hole: The Moulin Inn, then the Coach House Hotel in Killin
Post walk drink: Coke (as driving) then Shiraz
This was the walk that got forgotten about! The nights are drawing in, winter is coming (as characters on Game of Thrones would say) and I’m squarely in the middle of my usual ‘off season’ from walking; I had hoped that it might be possible to get another walk in this side of Christmas, but it isn’t going to happen. I did however realise that I’d never quite got round to writing up an account of this walk which was done towards the end of our holiday in Scotland.
Ben Vrackie was a hill I’d meant to do for ages but for whatever reason never quite got around to. For starters it isn’t a Munro and my Scottish walking has very much been focused on those. Secondly I never seemed to quite be in the right place at the right time with the right sort of weather. Thirdly it’s a very popular hill and the parking is pretty limited which always makes me nervous as I hate planning a walk and it then being scuppered by not being able to park, as I’m not an early riser – about the earliest start I can remember recently was 8.30 to do Scafell Pike which was itself a side effect of insomnia rather than actually being deliberate! Continue reading
Hills: Ben MacDui
Munros: ditto (a repeat ascent)
Who: Just me and the mountaineering minion
Weather: absolutely glorious!
When: late August – almost 6 years to the day since the previous ascent
Why: to see what the views were like having seen b*gger all last time.
Thankfully packed: sunscreen
Post walk drink: gin and tonic (!!!)
Post walk watering hole: Mackenzies Highland Inn
At the moment I’m on a bit of a hiatus from walking; not much in the way of planned trips, and a lot on both at work and socially. The mornings are getting colder, and it’s clear that winter is coming (as the Night’s Watch in Game of Thrones keep telling us). However, there have been some glorious days this year, and this was one of them; a worthwhile repeat of a hill that we’d done six years previously in poor weather and seen very little, though the clag did clear on the way down.
After our trip in Islay, we were heading to Aviemore for a few days staying in a cottage on the outskirts of the village. The forecast wasn’t too bad at all, but for whatever reason (which had nothing whatsoever to do with the whisky consumed over the course of the week in Islay!) we were both not feeling particularly good and therefore didn’t do a huge amount for the first few days apart from try and recharge batteries and visit the Highland Wildlife Park (always worth a visit, and there were a lot of cute baby animals this time too). However on the Wednesday of that week a glorious forecast meant that a walk was definitely worth trying for. Our initial idea had been to go for Braeriach but we completely failed to find a parking space at Whitewell and neither of us much fancied the route via the Chalamain Gap, not least because of the amount of drop and reascent on what promised to be a scorching hot day. In hindsight I think too scorching hot for a 15 mile walk with little chance to refill water bladders. Continue reading
Hills: Sgiath Chuil
When: Sunday 29th May 2016
Who: self, melancton
Weather: absolutely glorious!
Conditions underfoot: dry bog and tussocks (mostly)
Path factor: largely non-existent
Sadly absent: sunscreen
Sadly present: sunburn, the usual transport debacle
Post walk drink: shandy, chardonnay, Isle of Jura Superstition (no not in the same glass!)
After we finally hit the big 100 on Beinn Bhreac back in October, there hasn’t really been much Scottish walking from the English Regiment. This has been down to a variety of factors, including needing a bit of a break, work, and getting side tracked by Wainwrights. Plus, my back hasn’t been great recently; from time to time it does like to remind me that I have a (thankfully fixed) spinal injury which whilst it doesn’t preclude me getting out and about, isn’t ever going to be 100% better. We did manage a nice walk to Sandwood Bay over Christmas, which was also a nice reminder that there is more to walking in Scotland than just hills.
On looking at the weather forecast at Luton Airport on Friday 27th May I couldn’t quite believe what I was seeing. Settled high pressure in Scotland? With it being better to be in the West than the East? Unbelievable! The last time I can remember that sort of thing had been 8 years previously, when the late May bank holiday had seen us do our first Munro, 4 years to the day since the operation to stabilise my back (and insert metal screws into it, which created issues with me triggering security alarms at airports for several years. It doesn’t seem to any more, not really sure if I should be worried about that). I always like to try and get up a hill around the anniversary, as it reminds me how far I’ve come, and that I’ve a lot to be grateful for that I can climb hills at all. We were staying in the always excellent Coach House in Killin, and still have a fair few hills to do in that area despite having stayed there quite a lot over the years. Continue reading
The blog has recently been on something of a hiatus – for the simple reason I’ve not done any walking. This is partly intentional – i.e. after finishing off the 100 we needed a bit of a break – and partly due to circumstance – i.e. being extremely busy as well as a run of bad weather. Although we are heading to the North of Scotland for a week in the next few days, the weather forecast suggests that a last hurrah for the year is looking a bit unlikely.
From a numbers perspective we have done very few Munros this year, but hit a major milestone, doing our 100th Munro on Beinn Bhreac in October. Looking back at our Munro bagging career so far there have been definite highs and lows; some glorious days, and some days where it has been a case of grit teeth and get on with it, although there have been relatively few of those given we don’t like walking in poor weather. Continue reading
Hills: Beinn Bhreac
When: Monday 12 October 2015
Why? 100th Munro 😀
Who: cast of thousands. Well ok self, Stuart, Brian (Stuart’s dad) Liam (our mate and now Stuart’s brother-in-law) the Park family dog, and the mountaineering minion
Weather: Not as good as forecast: sunshine and ‘showers’ i.e. rain
Bog factor: pretty awful for the hill part of the walk
Path factor: great until the hill part
Mid walk drink: Singleton malt whisky
Post walk drink: Cairngorm Brewery Trade Winds, Shiraz and champagne (no not all in the same glass!)
I guess I had better explain the title of the report! In Norse mythology, Valhalla is the place that those killed in battle go after death for an afterlife of drinking, fighting and generally having fun (rather in contrast to the Blackadder view of heaven, which involves ‘singing, talking to God and watering pot plants’). However, the Valhalla Collection is also the name of a series of 4 limited edition whiskies released by the Highland Park Distillery all of which are named after Norse gods. We had bought a bottle of the first of these, ‘Thor’ a couple of years ago for the express purpose of saving it to celebrate our 100th Munro. It’s now selling for anything up to £750 a bottle, but we have hung onto it regardless, after all 100 Munros seems a good excuse to have some rather nice whisky!