Fiarach and the bog of doom!

Hills: Fiarach
Grahams: one
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

A windy Pentlands wander

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

A bimble up a windy Ben Vrackie

Hills: Ben Vrackie
Corbetts: same
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

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

Where to walk and why?

Why do we decide to walk where we do?

It’s an interesting question. The UK has many areas of outstanding natural beauty but why choose one above another? What makes some walkers prefer Scotland whereas others like the Lake District, or the gentler pleasures to be found from coastal walks in the South of England?

For a lot of people I think it is down – at least in part – to geography. If you live in Manchester then going to the Peak District or the Yorkshire Dales – or even the Lakes – is likely to appeal more than going to the Brecon Beacons simply because of ease of access. Similarly someone who lives in Glasgow is an hour’s drive from the Arrochar Alps and therefore probably unlikely to head south of the border too often. Sometimes it’s down to what you grew up doing – my parents went to Pembrokeshire twice a year and the Yorkshire Dales twice a year, so my walking as a kid was coastal stuff on the Pembrokeshire Coast Path mixed with waterfall walks. But there wasn’t much in the way of hill walking, though we did do the odd small hill from time to time – I probably managed to go to Yorkshire upwards of 20 times before actually climbing any of the Three Peaks.
Continue reading