Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland. Show all posts

25 July 2015

Ben More, more and more........the slog of all slogs!

Has it really been so long since I updated my blog, June 7th since our last venture out on the hills, goodness me that's not right, surely!  In between then and now has been Silverstone weekend and bad weather stops play but hopefully now that we're in the midst of Summer we can rectify any further time delays between walks.  Yes I said the S word, summer.  Hot and sunny weather, long light days, t shirts and shorts.......oh how I long for those days, perhaps August will bring our summer!

So back to the walk.  We had planned a weekend in Scotland, visiting family and bagging a Munro or 2 along the way.  Ben More and Stob Binnein were our targets so early on Saturday we ventured north from the B & B of Mum and Dad to Crianlarich and the foot of our first target of the day.  Armed with our staple Scottish hillwalking fodder - Tablet and Tunnochs Caramel Wafers the day was sure to be epic, right?

I'd read a walk report the previous evening in the car and it did mention the steepness and the bogginess but oh my goodness what true slog it turned out to be.  Literally straight up from the roadside with no room for a breather on a nice wee plateau anywhere.  It was tough going and I struggled quite a bit.  Mentally I was all over the place and announced on several occasions I was heading back down to the car which doesn't happen often but somehow I kept putting one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward.

There were a few other peeps on the mountain side that day and it seemed to be a popular route.  The weather on the way up was not as forecast and was quite pleasant by all accounts.  Big billowing fluffy white clouds, patches of blue sky but about 3/4 of the way up we could see some dark clouds looming and streaks of rain falling on nearby hills.  Sure enough the rain made its way over to us so it was cameras away and waterproofs on but these were only showers so it wasn't too bad.
The summit finally (after what seemed like a lifetime) came into view.  First was the large cairn which by all accounts is the true summit and then the trig point and standing proudly behind was Stob Binnein.  All of the reports I'd read said this was the prettier of the 2 summits and from where I was standing it certainly seemed that way.  We stopped on the summit of Ben More for a bite to eat before tackling the down, the very steep and rocky down and now with the added rain, the very steep, rocky and wet down.  The views around however made this bearable and again my breath was taken away by the sheer majesty of the peaks around us.
Getting down off Ben More and onto the plateau area was a little bit trickier than I had hoped, there was a bad step area that needed a longer leg than mine but thankfully there was a bypass route which circumvented it easily.  I hate not being able to do stuff but I cant magically extend my legs by 5" so just had to deal with it.
The rest of the way down was zig zaggy and steep and I just took my time.  At this point I'd decided that I wasn't going to venture up Stob Binnein and that Ben More was more than enough for me that day.  Chris decided to head on up and I would wait for him at the flat area between the 2 mountains.

Whilst waiting I tucked into another caramel wafer, more tablet and some cheese and was quite happy sitting on a nice big rock with my boots off with my binoculars watching Chris's progress up the steep path in front.  That was until the hailstones started and the sleet.  Welcome to Scotland !!!

30 mins up and 20 mins down was all that it took Chris which was quite brilliant.  We then headed off the path downwards and it was a slog.  There wasn't much of a path in some areas and you just had to pick your way through the boggy bits and hope that your next step wasn't going to land you in a deep hole up to your knee or worse in bog.  Challenging to say the least and with the recent hail and sleet it was just a wee bit slippy.

I kept looking at the path below and thinking, soon, very soon you'll be there and sure enough after an hour or so plodding sideyways down we were on the path that would take us back through the valley to the stick of the lollipop and down back to the car.

The sun came out for this last part of the walk and made it really pleasant indeed.  As with all walks you do get an immense sense of satisfaction at the end and all the unpleasant thoughts you had earlier in the day just disappear and you remember what you've achieved and why you do what you do.

So that's another Munro ticked off my list taking my tally to 11 I think.  I'll never do them all and I'm not sad about missing Stob Binnein but looking forward to a nicer one next time we head north of the border as Ben More was a bad ass beastie !

04 May 2015

The Grey Mare's Tail and White Coomb

Bank Holiday Monday was billed as the best weather day of the 3 so we planned our walking for that day on route back home from Scotland taking in some Border hills.  After a lovely breakfast in Moffat we headed a little south to the National Trust Car Park that was the start of the path up the side of the hill.
The Grey Mare's Tail came into view almost immediately and the steep path upwards wound round so that very quickly the waterfall was facing us and with each step upwards more of it came into view.  The light wasnt great but every now and then the sun peeked through from the clouds and threw some beautiful light on the surrounding hills.
The path up the side of the waterfall was steep but well maintained with good steps and the waterfall itself was magnificent.  Above the main drop of water was several other smaller falls but just as impressive and we were lucky that the water was high and forceful which made a spectacular sight.
Up to the left as we walked up were some wild goats that we had read about and near the crags at the top of the falls we read there were Peregrine Falcons and caught sight of one leaving the nest area and swooping over the hills and away in an instant.  I didnt manage to get a picture sadly but got plenty of the little waterfalls at the top that fed the main drop.

The steep path soon leveled out and formed a meandering path adjacent to the river that fed the falls from the Loch up ahead.  There were loads of little birds flying in and out of the heather all around and we discovered they were Meadow Pippets but yet again they were too quick for me to get coordinated with my camera and capture these cute little birds, noisy too.

The path soon came out at the Loch and we could see our first hill straight ahead, Lochcraig Head and the path going straight up the side.  The only good thing about a steep path is that its generally quick, as in you get to the top quicker than if it weaves its way round and round and this one was certainly steep.   Another surprise of the day was the mucky bog that met us as we left the lochside which we waded through until we reached the base of the hill.  Horrid stuff but we managed to navigate it quite well and didnt have a major bog incident!



The steep path swung to the left near the top and took us right up to the cairn at the top which gave us a very good view of White Coomb which was our next target.  It had snow on it and the air was a bit on the chilly side now especially when in the wind.  Hats and gloves on we ventured forward towards the big dip.  What generally happens after a big dip..........yep you guessed it, a big steep climb back up the other side and thats exactly what we got.  Today's walk was certainly a leg stretcher.

The top of White Coomb was nice with another small cairn.  We stopped for a moment to consume the rest of our food and then it was down again towards the Loch and back down the path we'd taken upwards earlier in the day.

The sun was out and the walk downwards was steep but not too bad.  A bit rocky in places and damp as we had to cross the river as we'd come down on the other side.  Had it not been in full flow there would have been a good number of stepping stones to get us across but Chris found a good spot that was hardly ankle deep and the stones were surprisingly not slippy at all.  

Before long the afternoon sun was waning and we were back at the car park with thoughts of some nice dinner before heading back down the M6.  Unfortunately Moffat let us down on the dinner front but we had our lovely cheese to look forward to when we got home.  Great end to a great bank holiday weekend and the Grey Mare's Tale lived up to its expectations. 

29 December 2014

Tales from the Tarmachan Ridge


Up and out of the hotel before breakfast and before any light was shed upon the day we headed for the Ben Lawers car park where the path to the Tarmachan Ridge started.

The light was just beginning to creep in from the surrounding hilliside as we got out of the car and changed into our boots.  For the first time this year I had my winter mountain boots on as the woman in the outdoor shop in Killin said that part of the route we'd need our crampons and ice axe so out came the good old faithful Mammut monolith GTX's.  After missing breakfast we had an empire biscuit to initially sustain us and then it was on with gloves and hats and we were ready for the off.

It wasnt long before the sun was streaming over the hills and the sky was bluer than blue.  This was turning out to be a spectacular day and if the weather held we were in for a superb walk.  Ben Lawers behind us was basking in the morning sunlight and looking spectacular.

The conditions were excellent.  Some tretcherous icey patches but mostly nice deepish snow that was hard going but a pleasure to walk in.  The path was straightforward and took us gently upwards.  We saw 2 other groups of people all heading in the same direction and enjoying this fine walking day.

At the first plateau the path took us up and over a false summit and there before us was a clear path almost vertical up through the snow gully.  Ice axes would definately be required (just incase of a slip) and we could see the other 2 groups of people ahead of us making their way up the steep gully, they looked like little ants.


It was a great route up, energy sapping but the bright sunshine and clear day made up for it.  We took our time and before long we had reached the summit where a group of lads were sitting having their lunch.  After being sheltered from the wind going up through the gully it suddenly hit us full force (not enough to blow us off our feet but enough to make your face tingle) at the summit cairn so hats and gloves were back on for the obligatory pics.

 We didnt stick around long on the summit as we had the rest of the ridge to walk and conditions whilst fine in the air on the ground were a bit slippy and always harder work in the snow so as we are always concious of the time, off we went along the path that would take us to the next summit, the one with the pointy bit and the ridge...oooooh!

On our way there the 360 degree views were immense.  We could see right over to Ben Nevis and the CMD route was clearly visible.  In another direction Ben More was prominent and everywhere you looked was mounds and mounds of white peaks.

The next peak, whilst not anything tickable, was a wee pointy affair with the delight of a short ridge walk on the other side.  I love a good ridge walk, being up on an airy arrete is incredibly exciting however I was  hoping that today's ridge wasnt going to be too icy.  I wasnt dissapointed.  It was snowy and the path was wide enough to divert any dodgy icy bits.  All in all the ridgy bit was too short and over before you knew it.


The trickiest bit of the ridge was the downward scramble at the end which luckily we didnt have to attempt as there was a downward bypass route to the right.  Looking back up at the scrambly bit it was just downward sheets of rock and ice and not something that I would like to have attempted either upwards or downwards.....perhaps in the summer though!

So on to the next and last peak of the day.  Again it wasnt anything tickable but still an integral part of the ridge so off we went.  The snow was quite deep here in some parts and the upward climb onto the summit area was a complete delight.  Ice axes  still in hand aided us through the deep white stuff and as our heads peeked above the rock onto the summit area the wind just took your breath away.  Wonderful day!

Now early afternoon we knew the light would start to leave us at 3pm so we decided to make our way down so a sharp left hand turn at the plateau area took us down through a gully (which was normally a little stream but iced up today)  to the area where the quarry is.  From there we would make our way to the road that would take us back round to where the car was.   The route down was straight forward and fun walking in the snow and dodging the ice.
 The day was one of the best days out we've had in a long time.  Another munro ticked off my list and near perfect conditions.  The last of the light was just leaving us as we reached the car park, cheeks rosy from the earlier sun, legs burning from the trudging in the snow and hearts happy at another wonderful days in the mountains.

26 December 2014

Boxing Day Ben - Ledi

Boxing Day was bright and clear and to counteract the excesses of Christmas day prosecco we headed for Callender just before first light to get Chris his first Corbett.  Ben Ledi, from what I can remember, is a lovely little Corbett with spectacular views (if you are lucky)

We hoped we'd be lucky today but as the mist and fog lay settled on Loch Lubnig obscuring our view of any hill we were doubtful.  Nevertheless we parked the car at the foot of the path and set off.  The first thing that was different now to the first time I wandered up Ledi was the trees.  The start of the walk was through a thick forested area then out onto an open path but all these initial trees were gone, sadly.  The path was open from the start and almost immmediately as we started to climb up the path the views started to open giving us a glimpse of the hill ahead.
It was an eerie atmosphere with mist swirling in and out both ahead and behind.
 The path however was good and it was a lovely cold crisp winters morning.  The frost was thick on the ground and where there should have been watery boggy bits there was hard ground so that was a plus.

Onwards and upwards the views just continued to pour out from each side.  Behind, to the left and to the right.  The cloud was still sitting thick and fast on the Loch but as the sun tried to peek out we could see over to where Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin was and the light was just starting to touch them.

The sun was trying so hard to come out and when it finally did poke its head through the clouds it gave a golden hue to everything.  Shadows created and light danced upon the snowy ground.  I didnt have my sunglasses with me but for the first time today I needed them.
The conditions were great and after the notorious 3 false summits we could finally see the memorial cross that indicated the top was in sight.  It had been a great walk up and we met a few nice folks along the way.

After stopping at the top for only a few mins as the cloud had come in again and offered us nothing in the way of views I was reminded of a sunny day a few years back where, in t shirts, the summit offered views as far as the eye could see.  Not today though, the cloud was firmly settled over us and visibility was to the edge of the top and no more.

We ventured off northwards and followed the path that would take us round towards Benvane but not that far.  We'd make a right turn and follow a path downwards.  I'd never been this way before so it was a nice change from going back the way we'd come up.  The path itself was fairly straightforward and guided us round the flanks of Ben Ledi downwards through the valley behind.
Cloud was still settled in every nook and crannie and the ground still firm and icy.  The sun that tried to break through earlier in the day didn't quite make it and as the afternoon wore on there was no chance of any more sunshine.

The path down was uneventful and took us through the forest and quickly back to the road from the holiday cottages that ran parallel to the main road.   The whole walk took just over 5 hrs and it was lovely to see the Ben with its sprinkling of snow but soon we were back at the car and on our way back to mum and dads after a grand Boxing Day on a hill.






23 August 2014

Soggy socks on the Ring of Steall !



A bank holiday in August in Scotland sounded like the perfect idea and it was.  Regardless of the iffy weather predictions and the threat of sleet and worse we headed north and after a day of basking in the wonder that is Glencoe and dining out at our favourite watering hole – The Clachaig Inn we woke early on Saturday morning for a big day out in the hills.

The Ring of Steall was our target and we knew it was going to be a toughie but first we had to contend with the metal rope bridge but what a reward behind it with the Steall Falls falling from what looked like the sky to the ground.

Metal bridge dealt with (achy arms after for me) and then we had to contend with crossing the river.  Much hilarity ensued and after a wet foot, split walking boot, hat that floated away down the river and a tree that had to be climbed we were over the other side and wading through the marshy bog to the path that would start our climb up to the first summit.

It was tough, shale and loose rocks on most of the path with steepness that spun my head.  It was cold but not freezing and the sun was in and out of the clouds.  I was a little uncomfortable as I’d bruised my leg earlier and having had a dip in the river was now walking with wet feet.  Not the best conditions but onwards and upwards.
 We stopped at a little plateau where I changed into some dry socks and we had a quick snack.  It was then we could see the full splendor of the Ring in front of us including the tasty devils ridge.
However there was still a long way to go and we were only 1/3 of the way up the first summit.
Trudging upwards trying not to complain about the steepness we finally (albeit a good while after we’d intended) made it to the summit of the first munro  An Gearanach.  The top was a cairn but nothing significant.  What was significant was the views all around – spectacular.  Ben Nevis behind us still had its hat on but hopefully later we’d get to see it in all is glory. 

We didn’t stick around long but skipped down off the summit ready to tackle the next incline which indeed was a delight.  A rocky little ridge line between the 2 first munros with some hairy narrow bits which took a little bit of navigation but to be honest this is my favourite type of walking and I love the logistical aspect of working out where to go up and over the rocks with not very much below on either side. 
At the other side we were met with the next target smack bang in front of us with a zig zag path to the summit.  Nothing else for it but a head down and march on tactic and to make things easier I got my poles out.  What didn’t make it easier was the sudden hail shower which battered us from the right and coupled with the sudden wind made the conditions suddenly interesting.  Waterproofs on, cameras away and we ventured upwards to the summit of Stob Core a Chairn.  At the top the weather was closing in a little and we were starting to get conscious of the time. 

The rest of the route was ahead of us and we still had 2 biggies and the devils ridge but only about 6 hrs left to play with.  Now 6 hrs on a normal walk would be sufficient but this was no normal walk and towards the base of Stob Core a Chairn we decided to abandon the ring and head back.  Extremely disappointing but safer and definitely the right decision.

Back over Stob Core a Chairn we went and then at the base decided on a path to the right which would take us round the other 2 peaks rather than back over.  

It was a long plod round the side of the hills but the reward was that the Big Ben almost lost his hat so we could see the summit.  The views throughout the day had been amazing and the weather for the best part had been kind.

It wasn’t looking too clever at this point and by the time we had retraced our steps to the point we met with the path we’d come up on it was getting very overcast indeed.

On the downward path I realised that we’d have to do the metal rope bridge again but with wobbly legs and wet feet I wasn’t sure I had it in me so we decided to look for a place to cross the river before we even got to the bridge.  This would mean we’d miss out the boggy bit too.

Once we’d reached the river finding a place to cross was proving more difficult and it was at that point the rain started.  Heavy rain, you know, the kind that wets you.  Well my feet were already wet from the mornings escapade so I ended up just wading through the river.  Sod it, I wasn’t going to get any wetter really.

One last look at the falls and we were back along the path towards the car.  It was 7pm by this time and there were loads of people on the path heading for the falls.  After dinner walk?  Who knows.
The Ring of Steall had beaten us today but we’d be ready for it another time.  Its certainly not one for the faint hearted but with a little more preparation and a little less flaffing about at the river early doors and we might have stood a chance.

Next time …… afterall those gorgeous hills aren’t going anywhere.

23 April 2014

Ben More (Isle of Mull) the long route with the tasty ridge !

It was billed as probably the most difficult walk I'd ever done and it didn't disappoint on that score.  Before we even got near the flanks of Ben More we'd done a days walk and been up and down 2 peaks but never the less it was a hill that tested and challenged as only those beautiful mountains can........

Up early we left Tobermory and headed down to Grulin where we'd start the walk up to Ben More.  We could see the summit, as we could for most of the day, but knew that we wouldn't be anywhere near its top until later in the afternoon.
 Car parked and bags packed we headed up the path from Dhisaig that would take in Ben More via A'Chioch and Beinn Fhada.

The first part of the walk took us through some boggy ground as we rose higher and higher up the side of the first peak (nothing tickable just a vehicle for getting you closer to the ridge of Ben More)
There were more false summits on this hill than I've ever known and it was a hard and steep slog up but the views made up for all that.  Clear blue skies, a bit of haze but full sun.  Perfect.

It was almost lunchtime when we reached what seemed to be the top so we stopped for a snack break.

The next section would take us up the Graham of Beinn Fhada before heading right towards the steep and rocky slope that we would have to get up and over before we even got to the tasty ridgy bit.  By this point I really didnt think I had the fitness in me to get up and over this beastie and it was messing with my head.  Of course I could do it, only the previous weekend I'd been up and over Tryfan and the Glyders in Wales and they were just as steep in parts.  I'll put it down to having an off day but kept putting one foot in front of the other and made steady progress.
We did infact make quite good progress.  There was a fear that this long walk would take longer and we'd be out as the sun went down but we were motoring on and up and over the last peak before Ben More we were presented with a glorious sight.  A rocky precipitous ridge that looked brilliant.  Scrambly bits and ledgy bits and it all seemed incredibly tempting.  There were several bypass routes below the top ridge and we opted for one of those as after feeling a bit dizzy earlier (probably from the sun) I didnt want to risk it.  I'll be back though.

Like all good ridges it was over all too quick and the final "very" steep bit was the last bit of ascent for the day.  This was airy, rocky and very exposed and a delight to climb through.
This route took us right to the summit and some suprised faces from people (with handbags !!!) who'd come up the "tourist" route and wondered where on earth we'd appeared from.
The summit was flat and rocky and we enjoyed a cadbury's cream egg at the top as it was Easter Sunday. A nice man from Staffordshire took our picture and we made our way over the plateau to the route down.
 After an hour or so of boring shale zig zags we followed a stream as it flowed down the side of the hill remarking at its little pretty waterfalls and having a bit of a splash in the water as the afternoon sun bore down.

It was a right turn then, off the path to take us round the base of the mountain taking us back closer to where the car was parked.  It was a slow and laborious tramp through bog and grass but before long we'd reached the road and was on the final march back to the car.

Faces sunburned and extra water taken on board we had had a great day.  As usual it was full of challenges, scardy bits, funny bits, good bits, bad bits but most of all another munro was conquered!