Tuesday, 23 July 2019

New Toy!

Since I got back from my backpacking trip in the Cairngorms I've gotten into cycling. At first as exercise for my knee but now I'm really enjoying it. My old bike is one I'd got cheap when Raleigh closed their factory in Nottingham, I think I paid about £100 for it. It's painted to look like a Team Raleigh Banana Bike, but it's not at all high spec even for the 1980's when I brought it. The other night I went out and buckled the front wheel, several other things have gone on it as well. I've been reading about this Ladies adventures in the Finnish Forest. https://livingthislifeoutloudblog.wordpress.com/  Really inspiring stuff. She uses a bike made in Sheffield by a company called Orbit. I've just got one in "Hot Red" looks good.  

It came yesterday in a big box, I put it together and went for a short ride. It feels very smooth and surprisingly comfortable after my old bone shaker. I still need to adjust a few things, the front brake rubs for a start. 
I've done backpacking and kayak camping as well as just camping for most of my life, so cycle camping is just another angle.  

Sunday, 19 May 2019

A Cairngorm walk.

I'd started planning this trip a while ago, then things happened. The firm I've been working for, for the last eight or nine years, went bust. I wasn't employed directly by them, I worked for an agency, so theoretically the agency should have moved me to another firm. Only they didn't have any other clients. All of a sudden I was getting the odd shift here and there, maybe one a week maybe none. Then I had a fall skiing at Cairngorm mountain, I broke a bone in my ankle and my knee partially dislocated before popping back in, as it did this the ligaments holding my knee cap in place were sprained and twisted. It hurt like hell but A&E said there wasn't much they could do, a plaster cast wouldn't help as the brake was inside the joint. They said it should heal in four to six weeks on it's own. As I wasn't getting any work there wasn't much need to take time off, so I sat around trying to rest my leg getting more and more bored. After three weeks I started doing some short walks around the local area. Then some longer walks to nearby villages and finally I went up Ben Lawers with a rucksack packed for a weekend out. The leg seemed OK. I rang the agency and told them I was going away for a week. I went online and booked two bus journeys one to Aviemore and one back from Fort William, both on my bus pass so they cost me nothing. I packed nine days food and my kit, then went out for a walk. I hadn't gone far when the phone rang, it was John Marshall's a firm I'd done a little work for in the past and had sent a CV to purely on spec. “We're looking for drivers can you come in and see us.” Yes of course I could. I went in next day and they offered me a job. I said I had to work a weeks notice just so I could still get my walk in.    
 I got the 08.10 bus into Stirling where I had to wait half an hour for the City-link to Perth, here I waited another twenty minutes for the bus to Inverness which stopped at Aviemore. At 13.15 I arrived outside the train station in Aviemore. My route took me along the “Old logger's way” to Glenmore village. On the journey up it had been showery and very overcast but as I walked along the sun came out and it got quite warm. I popped into the Red Squirrel Cafe for a last pot of tea and a cake before wandering into the forest above the village. It took me a while to find the right track, and the faint footpath I wanted. Then a while longer to find somewhere to camp. I eventually settled on a stand of old Caledonian Pines, still a plantation but at least the right type of tree. I'd taken some different types of dried food along so I could check them out, I pulled out a “Firepot” Dall and Rice with Spinach. Sounded good but turned out to be rice and wood chips in a water curry sauce. The three bits of green tissue paper one inch by a quarter inch were apparently the spinach. I didn't eat much of it. I turned in listening to bird song. I woke to the sound of bird song and a woodpecker drilling. 
After a very cold night I was slow getting going and didn't leave till after eight. The path which followed the Allt na Ciste was overgrown and obviously little used these days, clearly most people just drive up to the ski centre car park. It was steep as well, climbing a thousand meters in under six kilometers. I broke out of the trees just below the old Coire na Ciste car park, the chairlift bottom station now covered in graffiti abandoned and forlorn. As I climbed higher it started to rain and the clagg descended, I plod on seeing little. Odd landmarks come and go keeping me on track. Coire Laogh Mor to me left, a nice off piste ski run when there's some snow, Coire na Ciste to my right. I crest the ridge by Cnap Coire na Spreidhe and the top of Ciste Mhearad another off piste run that will take you down to Loch Avon. Then the top of a ski tow looms out of the mist, the plateau poma, I find the start of the rather over-engineered path just beyond it that takes me to the summit of Cairngorm. It's 13.00 already, I stop for a biscuit by the summit cairn. There's another walker there, he's moaning about the weather, how far he's walked, the roughness of the ground and half a dozen other things. I smile but thing to myself. “Well you're a cheerful fellow, aren't you”. I set the compass due west and set off down the steep scree slope. Oow the ankle doesn't like that, not one bit. I limp on down as best I could. Then I come to a big snow patch and kick steeps down it but it turns hard so I get onto the side and continue on down. Then I realize the aspect has subtly changed and I've gone down too far, I climb back and soon find the giant cairn that marks the top of the Fiacaill ridge. 
Now I'm on a Cairned Path and can relax a little. I meet a woman and a child then a dog, on it's own, it runs off. Further along I meet a couple who ask if the dog was mine. I tell them, no. I climb up to the summit of Stob Coire an t-Sneachda and down the other side. At the col at the head of Coire Domhirn just before the path starts to climb up to Cairn Lochan, and a couple of kilometres from where I'd last seen the dog. I find the owners, “Oh don't worry about her” they say “she's always running off”. The path up Cairn Lochan would take me further around the rim of the “Northern Coirres” another path heads off south to the Lochan Buidhe, I take this. It soon disappears under a snow patch and I can't see the other side in the mist. I take a compass bearing and plod on. Then I meet two girls, Irish, mid-teens. Their wearing what to anyone who grew up in the sixties are school plimsolls, only these are coloured, leggings and none waterproof coats which are soaked. They both looked frozen. “Er, excuse me, is this the path back to the car park?” they ask. I groaned inwardly, what should I do now? I think I should see them off the mountain safely. But that would seriously screw up my plans, I was later enough as it was. I gave them directions back to the cairned path. “Are you sure you'll be OK” I asked feeling guilty. “Oh yes” they say. 
At the Lochan Buidhe I pick up the main path to Ben Macdui, more of a motorway than a path. There 's hundreds of oversized cairns marking the way, even in this mist I can always see several at any one time. The wind had been getting stronger all day and was now enough to make standing still difficult, it was also getting really cold. I had my thin fleece gloves and beany hat on but was beginning to wish I'd brought my mitts and warm hat with me. There was not much I could do about it except push on. Eventually the slope flattened out and stone shelters began to appear, then finally the summit trig point. It was 16.00 how had it got so late? Why was I going so slow? No time to ponder these questions, I needed to get on. I tried to take a compass bearing but my hands were too cold, I couldn't grip the bezel. So, I'm on top of a mountain in a howling gale shaking my hands, flapping my arms and dancing a little gig just to warm up my hands enough to work my compass. Oh great, good job there's no one around to see. 
Eventually after much faffing about I get a bearing set for Sron Riach a couple of kilometers away and head off. First I drop down then cross a boulder field before climbing a bit, then I approach the top of a huge Craig off to my left, all going according to the script. To my right the ground slopes away less steeply and my way becomes a narrow ridge as expected. I drop down a bit more to a col and then a window in the clouds opens up before me. Then I have a major “Where the hell am I!!” moment. I can see two huge steep sided mountains their sides all glacier polished slabs, water pouring off in torrents. It looked like the Gates of Mordor, certainly nowhere I recognized. I sat on the ground mortified, I kept staring at the map but I was baffled. Eventually, I got out my phone, switched it on, turned Viewranger on only for it to confirm I was where I should be, on Sron Riach. But what was I looking at? Where were the gates of Mordor? Then it clicked, they were much further away than I thought, way off over the other side of the Lairig Ghru. They were The Devils Point and Beinn Bhrotain over ten kilometers away. 
 After I'd picked myself up, I headed off down the long ridge of Sron Riach in the direction of the Luibeg Burn. By now the ankle was really complaining and the knee wasn't much better. I had a memory of camping at the foot of this ridge with an old girlfriend about twenty years ago. How the memory plays tricks on you. The whole area is now overgrown with waist high Heather, I could see nowhere to put a tent and even if I could have the ground was far too boggy. I pushed on, I looked at several places all to no avail. I was half way between Luibeg Bridge and Derry Lodge where the Burn takes a bend before I found somewhere for the night. Where there were a couple of blown down trees by the side of the burn there was a small patch of short flat grass. By the time I had the tent up and fetched water it was 20.00, I decided to stick with the tried and tested Bewell meal this time. 
It was a very very cold night, I wished I brought my warmer sleeping bag and more clothes. The ankle and knee hurting all night didn't help. I felt very groggy next morning and was even slower to get going than the day before, something unheard of for me. As I retraced my steeps back to the Luibeg bridge I was past my a young couple on mountain bikes, then they'd stop for a rest and I'd pass them. This happened a few times, when I reached the bridge they were just behind me. I thought they'd soon catch me up but they didn't catch me till I was almost at Corrour. So much for mountain bikes being quicker. After the bridge as I approached the start of the Lairig Ghru I could for the first time look directly into Glen Geusachan which lies between Beinn Bhrotain and the Devils Point. My plan was to cross the River Dee here and explore this Glen as I'd not been into it before. But, I could now see that it contained some very rough terrain and there wasn't any hint of a path. Time for a rethink. 

The plan had been to camp near Loch nan Stuirteag which is behind (west of) The Devils Point but I could also get there by going the other way around the mountain. If I went up the Lairig Ghru to Corrour I could use the bridge so avoiding the river crossing and there's a path up that side. So that's what I did. Glen Geusachan will just have to wait. I poked my head around the door at Corrour but unusually there was no one there. By now the wind had died and the sun put in a brief appearance so I sat outside and enjoyed my biscuit. I even went so far as to take off my windproof top, it didn't stay off long. The climb up into Coire Odher is steep, 600m in one kilometer. It starts steep, levels out for a while as you enter the coire then the headwall is very steep. Right at the top was a patch of snow not very wide but enough to spice things up a bit. Eventually, breathless and tired, I arrived at the ridge above with The Devil's Point on one side and Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir and Cairn Toul on the other. Now I should have gone over Stob Coire an t-Saighdeir, which is really just a shoulder of Cairn Toul, but I was lazy and decided to contour around instead, big mistake. It would have been far easier to have gone over as contouring was far further and the going was rough on a constant side slope. Once I could see the loch I could see that all the ground around it was waterlogged and not good for camping. Fortunately, I knew of a place nearby. Draining the south west side of Cairn Toul is a stream, the Allt clais an t-Sabhail along it's length are a few nice places for a tent or two.

At around 1000m it was a cold spot, I quickly rapped up in all my spare cloths and retreated into the tent. So, what to do next? I just wasn't romping along at my normal pace, I'd only covered half the distance I'd planned and the pain from my ankle was really spoiling the fun. It wasn't that I wasn't enjoying being there, just that the pain was getting tiring. The next section getting to Drumochter was going to be tough, with lots of untracked heather moor to cover. At my present pace it was becoming clear that I wouldn't get to Fort William in seven days. If I carried on I could get stuck between bus routes with no easy way of getting home. On the other hand if I went over Braeriach and down into the Lairig Ghru. I could be back in Aviemore by tomorrow evening but that would cut my holiday very short. I wasn't that ready to throw in the towel just yet. I played around with various options in my head, going this way and that but all routes had snags. The stream I was camped beside, and Loch nan Stuireag, both drained down Glen Geusachan and into the Dee. But, just one kilometer west of the Loch another stream drains away to the south west down a short gorge. As it emerges from the gorge it turns south and becomes the River Eidart. This really is a beautiful glen and something of a hidden gem. I could follow the Eidart to it's confluence with the Feshie and then follow that to Achlean farm. Trouble was, how to avoid the long road walk from there to Feshiebridge and the forest tracks to Aviemore. 

Frost on the inside of the tent didn't encourage an early start but, once up, the morning sunshine soon dried the tent. It was turning out to be a beautiful warm and sunny day and it seemed a pity to be heading home. I took a roundabout route sticking to old moraines and rocky ground to stay dry. Just before Tom Dubh I had to cross a section of peat bogs to get to the start of the gorge. A sharp alarm call and movement in the grass caught my attention. A pair of small waders were defiantly defending their nest site. I backed off, changed to my telephoto lens and took a few shots of the birds before finding another way around them. I didn't know what they were but later found out they were Dunlin. The scramble down into and along the gorge wasn't kind on the ankle but it's such a dramatic place I really didn't mind the pain. After the gorge I sat in the sun and enjoyed a prolonged lunch stop to recover. The river with it's numerous falls and pools should be ideal territory for Northern Dippers but so far I hadn't seen any. I kept to the riverside looking for them until after only about three kilometers I came to wide grassy area and just thought to myself. “I'm stopping here, it's just so nice”. It was only mid-afternoon but I wasn't bothered. I found a nice rock to sit on and put the tent up right beside it. I sat on my rock drinking tea, reading and chillin for a few hours until a cool wind drove me into the tent. I continued reading “High and Low-how I hiked away from depression.” by Keith Foskett. Not the lightest of reads. At one point I had to go out of the tent to pee. I looked around and right above me was a Golden Eagle riding the thermals. Too high to photograph unfortunately. 
The down side of camping on the west side of a deep valley is you loose the sun early. The upside is you get the sun early next morning. It had been yet another very cold night so the warmth of the early morning sun was especially welcome. I was breakfasted and pack by seven. I stuck to the river still looking for Dippers. I'd gone about a couple of kilometers when I finally saw what I'd been looking for. A brief blur of movement, a splash, and it was gone. I spent nearly an hour trying to get a photo, but no luck. I'd just put away the telephoto when the Golden Eagle returned flying right overhead at about fifty feet. “C'est la vie.” 

Someone from the estate had been up Glen Feshie as far as Eidart Bridge in an ATV recently, the tracks had churned up the ground and left quite a mess. This didn't make for easy walking and it wasn't until I hit the gravel road that things improved. By this time I was having to stop and rest my ankle ever half hour or so. I stopped at Ruigh Aiteachain Bothy just for a nosy around as it's been done up recently. It's now really posh, far too posh for walker. I'd not seen anyone for a couple of day by this time but two minutes after I'd entered the bothy I hear voices outside. A couple had just walked in from Achlean to spend the afternoon painting. They tell me about the bothy and it's association with Sir Edwin Landseer and his painting “The Monarch of the Glen.” Not far from the bothy is a chimney standing on it's own with no building attached to it anymore. This is all that remains of Sir Edwin's private bothy which was a wooden building. He stayed at his bothy when he painted the Monarch. As it was only mid-afternoon I pushed on to Achlean and started the long slog down the road. I'd sort of decided that I'd walk as far as Balachroick. The old bunkhouse is only let out to group bookings these days but I knew just beyond it there are places to camp in the wood. I'd just reached the bunkhouse when a car pulled up beside me. It was the couple from the bothy, they gave me a lift to Aviemore. I stayed at the SYHA that night and got the bus home the next day. 

Sunday, 24 March 2019

Not posted for ages, not had much to say, not been doing much since August; how has so much time gone by?
 New Year, I stayed at Mar Lodge it was very cold but not much snow. It was also very windy so we stayed low but enjoyed some nice long walks. 

 In January I went to the Cairngorms with the ski club, there was still not much snow. We did manage to find something but a lot of skis were damaged that day.  

 In February, I went on another ski club meet at the Raeburn Hut near Dalwhinnie. What snow there had been had gone. We went for a walk in the rain, I didn't take any photo's that weekend. I have been out trying to improve my wildlife photography. Here's some birds.  

Last week I went back to Cairngorm as there had been quite a good snow fall. Unfortunately, I managed to ski off a 4ft drop. I've broken a bone in my ankle and torn my ACL. This could put me out of action for a couple of months. Just before that the firm I was working for went bust. So now I'm looking for work with a limp. I'm not sure what to do now, I may look into early retirement. Everything seems very unsure at the moment with the country tearing itself apart and no one having any idea of what going to happen.   

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Braeriach with the Atompack Prospector Pack.

My new pack finally arrived from Atompacks, it's really nice but ten weeks is a long time to wait. Once it came it seem a shame not to try it out, so on Friday evening I drove up to Aviemore in the pouring rain. Luckily, it stopped before I got there. I parked at Whitewell and headed up Glen Einich, I walked for an hour or so until I came to the edge of the Rothiemurchus forest. Here I camped in what was the worst midgie site I've used for ages. I resorted to a Tiger coil which never fails to clear them out of the tent. It rain all night but had stopped by the time I got up in the morning. 
 The midgie site.
 The new Atompack Prospector. with water one side and tent the other. The tent could have gone inside but it was wet. 
 Glen Einich.
 Loch Einich.
 There's a good path from Glen Einich up into Coire Dhondail and up on to the plateau. A short walk up hill took me to the edge of the massive An Garbh Choire. It has been speculated that the last glacier in Britain was in this coire. I'm not so sure, some of the science this claim is based on is decidedly dodgy. It's mainly radio-carbon dating of the lichens on the scree in the coire floor. Still it is a spectacular place. 
 Carn Toul and Sgor an Lochain Uaine (Angel Peak) from near the Falls of Dee. 
 My campsite near the Falls of Dee.

Back in the Rothiemurchus forest. 

I camped by where the Falls of Dee start, I've used this site before and really like it. I thought "I'll just have a brew and then I'll go up to the summit of Braeriach and take some photo's. By the time I'd finished my tea the mist had descended and I couldn't see more than a few feet. 
By morning it was no better and it was raining hard. I had to use my compass to find the way down. I dropped down into the Lairig Ghru and follow the path back into the Rothiemurchus forest and back to the car. 
The rucksack was very comfortable and dry inside, has some nice pockets and should be a good size for shorter trips up to about four or five day I think. 

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Wild life photograph.

I love seeing wildlife whilst I'm out walking but I've never been that good at capturing it on camera. Not that I have a decent quality DSLR camera and lenses I'm keen to have another go at getting some better pictures. These are some of my first try, their from Morton Lochs which is near Tentsmuir in Fife.    

What do you think?