Scorchio on Ben MacDui

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

Boiling hot on Sgiath Chuil!

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

Mountain rescue and numpties: thoughts off the record

Mountain rescue. A service that anyone who does serious hill walking hopes never to need – but one I think we are all very glad to know is there.

I was prompted to write this post by a newspaper article I’ve seen shared over Facebook. A climber got stuck on Blaven on Skye and had to be rescued. There seems no doubt about the fact he was woefully under equipped or prepared; Skye is probably the most challenging mountain terrain in Britain, and definitely not a place for the inexperienced and unwary. The terrain is rocky, and most of the routes involve a degree of scrambling, and even rock climbing. It’s not somewhere you want to muck about, and most people have to hire a guide to tackle at least some of the hills. The fact that the rock is gabbro (and therefore magnetic) also means the compass doesn’t work. Not that the bloke in the article seems to have had one, but if he had it probably wouldn’t have made much difference. The story – like another recent one of a girl who narrowly escaped hypothermia on Ben Nevis – had a happy ending; not all such stories do. But MRT give of their time, as volunteers, to provide a vital rescue service for those that go out into the hills – whether they are prepared or not.  Continue reading

Off walking? No, just off season..

It’s been a while since I posted on this blog, not least because it has now been a very long time since I have been anywhere near a hill (our 100th Munro on Beinn Bhreac in October, to be precise). This isn’t an unusual situation for us – whilst we have done some winter walking in the past, we tend to do very little as the equation of cost of getting somewhere with proper mountains, versus the likelihood of getting decent enough weather to actually go out and do something when we get there (given we aren’t fans of walking in bad weather), doesn’t really pan out. In the past, First Scotrail used to offer cheap deals in the winter months for frequent sleeper train users which made it worth taking a punt, but since the takeover by Serco these have vanished, with no indication they will ever reappear.  Continue reading

2016: let’s see what it brings

At this time of year, I’ve noticed that on most hill walking blogs and websites a ‘what are your plans for 2016?’ post or thread pops up. I’ve usually been a bit nervous about replying to these because in my experience setting big targets for yourself can be a bit of a self defeating exercise – not least because like any target you never seem to quite achieve it. A bit like new years resolutions which 90% of the time seem to get binned about a week in to January (for instance when turning up at the gym and being totally unable to park due to everyone else having had the same idea). Plus there is always the risk that getting a target out there in public leads to embarrassment (and possible taking of the p***) when you get to the end of the year and realised you got nowhere near it.

Continue reading

The first 100 – a retrospective

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

Hillier than Thou?

I think we’ve just about recovered from our 100th Munro, and the various celebrations that followed – but at the moment there’s no plans for more walking for a while, at least not on the hills. Time in that case for some more thoughts about the politics of walking. Is there a right or a wrong way of walking? Or is there just a right or a wrong way for you?

I’ve been hill walking for a few years now, since I took it up four years following my back surgery. At first, when you discover the fabulous rewards – such as the stunning views on a crisp winter’s day, or the colours of a long summer evening – it all just seems like so much fun. The odd bad day when you don’t enjoy it for whatever reason, or don’t get to the top of the hill, doesn’t really seem to matter. And then you discover the Hillier than Thou brigade. Continue reading

Our 100th Munro, and the road to Valhalla!

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!

Continue reading

Carn a’Mhaim – 99 not out!

Hills: Carn a’Mhaim
Munros: ditto
Who: me and Stuart (no minions this time)
When: Sunday 2 August 2015
Distance: 14 miles
Time: 7 hours
Weather: started out lovely then a bit iffy. Definitely not as forecast.
Also present: The usual billions of Cairngorm midges: a less than pleasant stream crossing
Bog factor: low
Post walk drink: Shiraz (me) Stella Artois (Stuart)

It was 2 August 2015. We had come up to Scotland for a friend’s wedding on the 31st July, and had seen that the weather forecast for the weekend looked reasonable if you happened to be over in the East – indeed as far East as possible. Having done all the hills in the Angus/ Lochnagar area and most of those around Glenshee already, a plan was hatched to make a smash and grab raid into the Cairngorms.

Wait, hang on a minute – where are the usual tales of transportation foul-ups, gear left in London, gear lost, mechanical breakdowns and too many glasses of wine that tend to characterise one of our trips North? Well, for the most part they were absent – things actually went more or less to plan! Yes, there were some beers/ glasses of wine ingested over the weekend, but that was the day before and the day of the wedding (pretty reasonable, really). And inevitably there was something forgotten as I had left our summer weight gloves in London, necessitating a quick stop in Tiso in Perth to pick up replacements. As it happened we may have been just as well taking the winter pairs as for August it was Baltic – summer my a**e as Jim Royle might have said! Continue reading

When should you turn back?

I’m on a bit of a hiatus from walking at the moment – in case anyone was wondering at the lack of new blog posts. It’s a combination of things, but mainly that we haven’t had any planned trips recently, and have been doing other stuff. However, I thought now was the time for another random musings type post, so have poured myself a glass of Malbec and turned my thoughts to a thorny question… when should one turn back?

I wrote in my last blog post about the joys of so called ‘boring’ hills and challenging the received wisdom among some sections of the hill walking community that you should leave these for a bad day. We don’t, and have had some cracking days out on so called boring hills. I was thinking about other issues where received wisdom isn’t always right and one of these is when should you turn back? Some sections of the walking community sometimes seem to press on regardless, or turn only when it starts to get dangerous (which in that situation is- obviously – the right thing to do). But should you turn back when it is simply uncomfortable, or not fun any more? Or press on regardless and hope for the best? Continue reading