Saturday, 26 December 2015

The Lancet Edge.

I did this walk back at the beginning of November, then downloaded the photo's for them to disappear into the ether. Yesterday whilst looking for something else I found them.

To start with I was late starting out so I'd lost a few hours day light by the time I arrived at Dalwhinnie. From Dalwhinnie to the start of my walk at Loch Pattack is seven miles down an estate road, you can't take your car along this road but they don't seem to mind bikes. So I swapped car for bike and rode off to Loch Pattack. At the Loch I was meet by these three locals who seemed intent on eating just about anything, me, my rucksack, my cycle helmet, my bike anything. I only escaped them once I'd crossed the rickety swing bridge, here I parked the bike an set of on foot at last as it was now mid-day. 

My route took the footpath heading up to the Bealach Dubh, the pass between Ben Alder and Aonach Beag/Geal Charn. Past the old Culra Bothy, now sadly locked and off limits due to the building being lined with Asbestos. A note on the estate gate back at the start of the road said that plans are afoot to replace the building with another brand new one. Behind the bothy my objective for the day Sgor Lutharn is clearly visible the pointy peak on the skyline.  

After the bothy the path follows a stream the Allt a Chaoil-reidhe for about two miles before heading up grassy slopes to gain the crest of the Lancet Edge ridge.

The scrambling over the rocks and the airy position was really fun but time was getting on and the shadows were growing long, I needed to get a wiggle on. I had planned to do Geal Charn as well but I decided to skip that one as I could skirt around under some crags on the side of Geal Charn and cut a corner. I still had Carn Dearg to do and the light finally faded as I climbed to it's summit. Up to the top there had been a good path to follow but beyond it the path became feint and wandered around all over the place so I soon lost it in the dark. The decent down to Loch Pattack was very trying and I was very glad to finally find my bike again, all I had to do now was the seven mile cycle back to the car.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Some Sea Kayaking Photo's

I've not posted about sea kayaking for some time so here are some photo's from what past as summer this year.
Ray in Loch Long.
Mike off Millport, Great Cumbrea in the Firth of Clyde.
Don't remember this chaps name a friend of Peter.
Lunch stop on Little Cumbrae.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Ben macdui.

I went for a short walk in the Cairngorm National Park at the weekend, this time just for the day so no tent to carry. I started out from the ski centre carpark and headed up into Coire an t'Sneachda.  
 I climbed up this scree slope up to the col and had fun on the scrambley ridge of Fiacaill Buttress.

After that it was across this wide open plateau, easy this time but I've had fun here in the past trying to ski across in white out conditions. At the time I was using map and compass but after that I went out and brought a GPS which would have made it far easier and quicker.

Legend has it that these shelters on the top of Ben Macdui were originally built by Commando soldiers during the second world war. They'd have to yomp across Scotland from their base at Sheil Bridge and set up all round defenses here on the top of the mountains. Just as we did in the Falklands. The slopes where the ski centre is now was where some of them learnt to ski before being sent to Norway to fight,No tows back then. 
Looking across to Braeriach and Cairn Toul, the huge scoop of Garbh Choire Mor could have been where the last glacier in Scotland once lay. When it finally melted is hotly disputed with estimates ranging from around 9000 years ago to as little as a few hundred. 
The good weather of late is finally breaking, here are the first signs of cloud building but some sunlight managing to peep through.

Coire an Lochan, with the Fiacaill Buttress on the left and the great slab in the center, not a good place to be in winter.

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Impressions of the Tarptent Notch.

I've been out in my new tent a couple of time now and am beginning to get used to it. The first time I went up to the Fords of Avon near to Cairngorm where I intended to spend the night. Unfortunately it was so windy I was having difficulty stand up never mind pitching a tent. So I ended up retreating to Bynack Stables or where it once stood. I managed to find some shelter amongst some moraine heaps.  
To pitch it, peg out the ends, open up the little triangles. Set your walking poles to the right height and slide them through the air vents and put the point into the ring in the fly sheet. Peg out the door and do the other side, it really is that quick and easy. To keep the ground sheet taught there's two small straps which go around the handles of your walking poles.
The ground sheet is about 2ft 6ins wide at the hips and tapers towards the head and foot ends so there's not a lot of room inside. Between the inner and outer at the hips is about 2ft either side which is more than enough stowage space for a rucksack and boots on one side and cooking on the other. The inner door zip is L-shaped and opens half of one side and on the other side is another L-shaped zip but at the other end. It's not possible to open up all of one side which I found awkward when trying to retrieve things from down by your feet. The ground sheet is made of silicon nylon which has quite a shiny finish, my mat is a short Thermarest Neo air which also has quite a shiny finish. The two together don't make for the most restful nights sleep. I'll have to think of a way to improve this.
For the next try I climbed Braeriach from the end of the Glen Feshie road and camped by the out flow of Loch nan Cnapan on the way back. This time the weather was much milder but it must have rain in the night as the fly was wet when I woke. Inside I was happily dry.
 The standard inner is all mesh, I brought the half mesh half solid version  as I thought it would be a bit warmer in the windy Scottish hills, I'm not sure it is though.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

A walk in the Rain part 4.

I left them in bed next morning and took the path up the hill behind Carnmore. I was quickly at the high point and then it was steeply down. I followed the Abhainn Muice downstream this flowed into the Abhainn Sheallag just before this river flows into Loch Sheallag.

 Shenavail my destination for the night lay just the other side of these two rivers. By now I was very wary of river crossings but I shouldn't have worried. The first I crossed by a shingle bank that went right across the river, never more than ankle deep. The bog between the two rivers was covered with a small yellow and red flower, it had three petals yellow near the steam and red at the tip. I'm not sure what it is but it was very pretty.
The second river was not much deeper than the first, so I got to the bothy almost dry-footed. There was no one else at the bothy just me and the mice, and there were lots of mice. I hid my porridge from them so they chewed the rubber mouth piece of my drinking tube instead, how nice!
It rained heavily again in the night and I was very undecided about An Teallach but by morning the sun was out so it was on. The path went from the bothy up back onto the sandstone, back onto the bog. It soon met the path coming up from Corriehaillie and doubles back on itself. The bog slowly gives way to scree but it was high up on Sail Liath before it finally left the bog behind. On the second peak - Stob Cadha Gobhlach - I met a lad coming the other way he warned me of going straight up the pinnacles from this side. Apparently he'd got stuck half way down a graded climb. When I got there I could see what he meant, it looked like a typical gritstone diff. The rock was wet, I was alone and had a big heavy pack on (ok the pack was much lighter than when I started but it was still heavy). There was another path that contoured around under the pinnacles, I took it. Where it re-joined the ridge I dropped the pack and scrambled back along the pinnacles, they were much easier from this side. By the time I got back to my pack the mist had closed in and by the time I reached the top of Sgurr Fiona it was raining. I pushed on to Bidein a Ghlas Thuill, here I realized I didn't know where the decent path was, there was a ridge going north and another going east, I went east. I was a long way down, all the way to Glas Mheall Liath before I decided I was off route and. turned around. Back at Bidein a Ghlas Thuill I took the north ridge and a scree filled gully lead down onto the floor of Coire a Ghlas Thuill where I pitched up for my last wild camp of this trip.

Friday my last day, I needed to be in Ullapool for the bus the following morning. I followed the stream down to the Dundonnell road. A side road lead off the other side, a big sign at the turn warned that the Altnaharrie ferry no longer ran – such a pity. Instead I took a path up through a wooded glad up onto the moor above and onto Croftown on the main A835 Ullapool road. Seven miles along the side of Loch Broom but seven miles of road walking. After a mile it started to rain, jacket on. A mile further it got heavy, over trousers on. Another mile and a car stopped, he took me to Ullapool.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

A walk in the Rain part 3

I'm away early, walking along the single track road to Diabaig, I feel almost naked without full waterproofs on. Three miles down the road and the path to Coire Mhic Nobuil is signposted. The first half mile is wooded and it's midge city, the only bad place on the whole trip. As long as you keep moving your alright but you've got to keep moving. Once out of the wood there's a breeze they're gone. The path is a good one, well made and easy to follow. I follow it for three and a half miles to Loch Grobaig. Then it's cross country on compass bearings, through the gap between Beinn Dearg and Sail Mhor. Loch Grobaig to Lochan Carn na Feola, to Gorm Loch na Beinne, to the bothy at Poca Buidhe. A sign on the door saying “This bothy is no longer open to the General Public”. “What's that about” I wonder? The heavens open I have my cag on but not my over trousers. I'm soaked in minutes, too late to stop now. I'm back on a path, along the shore of Loch na h-Oidhche, across a great open expanse of moraine covered treeless moor. It seems that after their Lordships had chucked the peasants off, after their experiment with sheep farming had failed they had any remaining trees chopped down to give them a clearer shot at the poor deer or grouse. All along this stretch I could see no where to put up a tent, so I kept on going. In the end I found a half decent pitch by Am Feur Loch almost at the road. I was quite pleased as I'd covered fifteen miles that day. All that messing about in the bog south of Glen Carron had put me a bit behind. So, if I was to get An Teallach done and get to Ullapool by Friday night (I was booked on the coach Saturday morning) I needed to get a wiggle on.
I met one cyclist on the road next morning as I walked down to Slattadale forest, there I followed the path down by the shore of Loch Maree and into Poolewe. I raided the village shop, ham and salad sandwiches, scotch eggs, cake, an orange and a can of coke, I sat on the beach and eat it all. From the village a nice well made path took me around Loch Kernsary, then through a plantation and out onto the open moors on the north-east side of Loch Maree. This is an area of complex geology, I was now off the sandstone and on the metamorphic rocks of the Moine group much better for camping on. I walked past lots of really good sites but I was set on reaching Carnmore that night so I pushed on. The path contours around Beinn Airigh Charr and under the very impressive crag of Mama's Peak before dropping down to the shores of Fionn Loch. All around were massive crags, you could loss Glencoe and the Llanberis pass twice over here. I was wandering around eyes out on storks, gob-smacked. I'd heard of this place but had no idea just how big it is. There's a causeway across Fionn Loch that saves walking all the way around, this leads to Carnmore.

There's a fancy fishing lodge and a little way beyond an old barn that climber and walkers can use. Compared to most bothies I'd stayed in this one is very basic, but I was here now and beggars can't be choosers. There was a woman in the barn, her partner and his mate were away climbing on the crag behind the barn. They'd set off at 11.00 to do a ten pitch climb, it was now 19.00 and they were still very low down on the crag and not moving anywhere very fast. She was beginning to fret. In hindsight I think maybe I wasn't that sympathetic, I'd just walked twenty miles I was tired and hungry. I took one look and said “yes, their going to be late” and went back into the barn to eat. They eventually got back sometime around midnight, I'd long since gone to bed.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

A walk in the Rain part 2.

In the morning it was raining as hard as ever, I went around to the east side of the Loch so as to avoid crossing the river lower down the valley. And then the bog trot began, I would be ankle deep in bog for quite some time. Four miles north I came to a quadi-bike track, after another two miles there was a fork in the track. The map showed the left track going to the top of a waterfall then some way further down the hillside re-starts zigzagging down. I wasn't too sure about the gap in the track. The right fork was longer but was shown as continuous, so I plumped for this one. At the bottom of the falls was Carnach, there was just a locked lodge house and no one in sight. Beyond was a good 4 x 4 track heading away north-east, a couple of miles further along another building Iron Lodge, again all locked up. At this point I walked off the Harvey's Knoydart and Kintail map, these are printed on polyethylene which is waterproof. My next map was an ordnance survey paper map, which isn't waterproof. Where was my plastic map case, not in my sack it was at home so not a lot of use. After Iron Lodge the track forked, left fork looked very steep sided with no where to camp, right fork lead to Loch Mhoicean so I headed there. Had I gone left I'd have come to a bothy but I hadn't got it marked on my map. It had rained all day, I pitched up in the rain and next day I packed in the rain.
Beyond the Loch the good track ends, there is still a track marked on the map but on the ground it's very faint. Somebody had driven a Quadi down it at some point in the not so distant past but following it wasn't easy. At some point I should have crossed over on to the east side of the stream (called the Allt Coire nan Each at this point). But I mist it and continued down the west side. About four miles further north the stream turns left (west) and becomes the Allt an Loin Fhiodha which flows into Loch Cruoshie. This was fast flowing and very deep, I followed it back up stream about a mile to where a ford was marked on the map. After looking at it and poking it with my walking poles I decided it was between waist and chest deep. It had been raining for three days so was in full spate, the water was moving with tremendous force, no way was I crossing there. Another mile up stream I found a place, there was a rock in the middle of the stream with a waterfall either side of it. Getting on to the rock was easy just a boulder hop, the other side was about four feet across and eighteen inches down onto a good wide ledge. I was aware of my heavy pack pulling me back but I took a deep breath and jumped. I was very glad to land safely on the other side. I quickly picked up the quadi track but this went north-east to Pait Lodge. I wanted to go north-west to Loch Calavie which was about two miles away. Two miles of bogs and ponds and Lochans and old glacial moraines and another river which was no doubt also in spate. This river the Allt Loch Calavie, flowed east into a line of small Lochs before flowing into Loch Monar at Pait Lodge which was about five miles away. The only bridge was at Pait Lodge, in this weather I had no other choice. There were some boats moored in the bay and a couple of quadis parked by the lodge but no other sign of life. Once over the bridge there was no sign of the track so I just followed the Loch shore until I found a place to camp. It was still raining and I was only six miles from where I'd camped the night before. 

Once again I packed in the rain, after a couple of miles I spotted the end of a 4x4 track. At last a solid surface to walk on. By the time I finally reached Loch Calavie it actually stopped raining. Waterproofs, hat and gloves off I was cruising along, past the Loch and on to Ben Dronaig Lodge where I turned north again, up by the spectacular gorge of the Black water to Loch an Laoigh. I left the track and headed up the Loch shore, just a mile away was another path that would take me to Achnashellach. Up ahead by the path I could see a roof, “could it be” I thought. But then “I bet it'll be locked”. As I walked up to the building I could see the round MBA sign, it was only 15.00 but I wasn't about to pass up on a dry roof for the night. Bearneas Bothy, just a single room but it was dry and it was great. I'd hung up my wet kit, had a brew, written my diary cooked and was just settling in for the night when I heard footsteps outside. Johann from Holland came in dripping wet as it was raining again. I'm always a little apprehensive when meeting strangers in bothies having had a few bad experiences. So I was quite re leaved that Johann turned out to be quite normal. He was doing a similar walk to me but in the opposite direction. It continued raining all night but stopped as we left next morning, he south across the bog while I went north up into the mist.

I was glad of the path as it would have been hard work micro-navigating across without it. The path went up over the flank of Sgurr na Feartaig to the top of some big crags before working it's way down some scree filled gullies. Once down that it was straight down the hillside and out of the mist. I went through a gate and into the back of a forestry plantation, it was getting warm and as I pealed off waterproofs the first midge decided to put in an appearance, the first I'd come across since Sheil bridge. Achnashellach station and the path to the next stage of my walk lay just a mile away down stream. But to get there I had to first cross the river and the bridge was as always on this trip in the other direction. Three miles along a forestry road over the bridge and four miles down the road. Up past the station, through some more forestry. In the forestry I didn't notice the difference but once out on the open hillside everything was different. The geology had changed and that changed everything. Everywhere you looked there was glacial moraine piled up in huge great heaps all covered by a thin layer of peat. The peat was so much thinner than on the schist and it was all waterlogged, so much so that there were pools everywhere. There was no where flat enough or dry enough to put a tent. I stopped near Loch Coire Lair, the way ahead looks just as bad as the ground I'd just come up. Then I met two lads out mountain biking they told me of a bothy nearby. It wasn't the way I'd planned to go but it was parallel to it, so what the heck. I followed the valley down through Scots pine to a bridge by a waterfall beyond it was a little wooden hut the Easan Dorcha Bothy AKA the tea house. There's room for about four people to sleep at the most, from the book it seems lots of the locals use it as a picnic site, and what a lovely spot.
Next day started off with waterproofs on but they soon came off as I wandered down by the River Coulin past Lochs Coulin and Clair and onto the road to Torridon. I got a lift after about a mile, he dropped me at the campsite. I pitch, throw my pack in and went in search of the village shop and some real food. It was a Sunday, they didn't open on Sundays, hay-ho. I shaved and showered that felt really good. I dozed in my tent, let my boots dry, let my feet dry. In the evening I got some chocolate and a waterproof map for the rest of my trip from the youth hostel. My OS 25 Glen Carron map is now just a sad mess.