Sunday, 5 July 2015

A wander in Assynt

It's a long time since I updated my blog but after a fantastic week spent around the Ullapool area thought I would do a wee post . End of June 2015 Olga , Scott and I had a cottage booked for a week in Ullapool and on the Saturday headed north via Inverness and arrived late afternoon to a very nice house in the town within walking distance of every thing. We did the usual things settling ourselves in and planning a few things to do. Scott was going to run aver a few Munro's for a bit of UTMB training , Olga liked the idea of chilling and exploring the shops and myself a bit of walking and blowing the dust off my trout rod.

Sunday morning I put on shorts and trainers and headed off to scout out Loch Achill for may be a spot of fishing later. I don't know why I dressed like that as no way could I run up those hills and was soon just gasping for breath and a slow walk. I came back via the hill trail and had great views over the town and yes I had not taken my camera ,
Scott did his epic 33 miles over the  9 Munro's on the Tuesday so Wednesday was his rest day and his turn to throw me out of the car for my main outing. I was attempting to walk from a small place near Elphin near Cam loch which was my starting point to head out past Suilven and end up at the coast at Lochinver.

Starting point

Suilven  from cam loch

 Scott dropped me off near the finger post at the road side we said our goodbyes and I headed out towards Cam Loch which was just over a boggy path not far from the road.It was very warm and I was starting to feel a little bit nervous but the same time excited about my walk. I could see Suilven with it's distinct shape in the distance and set off over a faint track in places round the loch side heading towards Suilven. The path was a bit up and down and changed to boggy wet to rocky patches and I gave up trying to keep my feet dry.
I had thought about a bit of fishing on the Loch sometime on another day and spotted some areas which I could have a try. I came across a boat stranded on a small beach area and thought strange until I noticed the hole in it.
looking back down Cam loch with Cul Mor in the distance

I thought I would have been eaten alive by midges by now but had been very lucky so far and apart from a slight mishap when I fell and did a bum slide I was doing ok. Suilven did not seem to be getting any closer and the sun was rather warm on my back as I continued loch side. After another mile I would be heading away from the loch and crossing a stony ridge heading in the direction of Canisp where I planned my first good stop for a rest and food.

Suilven on the left and Canisp on the right I'm heading for the ridge in the distance.
The faint path on the ridge lead me away from the loch and among a jumble of smaller rocks which the path weaved it's way over and I was glad a few cairns had been placed to help the correct direction. I still had not seen anyone and felt privileged that I had this wilderness to myself and thought if I just take my time and not get too tired I would manage fine.
starting the ridge among the stones and faint path

Looking back to Cam loch from path cairn
It was time to find myself a nice big bolder to sit on and have a good break for a while and again the midges were not around apart from the odd one so no need for midge net etc. I had a good break for 30 minutes just sitting in the middle of nowhere just taking in the views and again thinking how lucky I was to still do this sort of thing.
ankle breaking  path and Suilven reappearing.

glimpse of  lochan fada my next stop.
I headed on towards Lochan Fada and the gap between Suilven and Canisp the track was easier to see and I walked on revelling in the views I was getting. I slowly made my way down to the out flow of the Lochan and just walked across it as my shoes were soaked anyway and it might clean them up a bit.
looking back up the Lochan  fada I had come over from the top right of photo

outflow from the lochan and wet feet time.


After splashing over the river I walked down the narrow gorge following the river and after a few minutes walking Suilven started to appear above the the Loch. Things started to change about that time and  I started to hear rumblings behind me and looked behind to see the black clouds rolling in. Time for the waterproof jacket to earn it's keep. I had just got a new north face one a couple of days before as my old waterproof was past it's best and reproofing had not helped. Anyway the load cracking and rumbling turned into a very heavy deluge which I'm sure had some hail mixed in. I had planned another rest break when I had reached Loch na Gainimh under the buttress of Suilven but under those conditions just plodded on taking only a couple of photographs between squalls.
storm clouds rolling in

thunder over Suilven
It was rather a wet walk for a while as I went past Suilven and still thought it one of the best looking hills I have seen. That is another thing I have seen photographs of this magic place but it is very emotive to have made the effort to walk and look for myself and it had been on my bucket list of things to do i had just left it a bit late that's all.
I walked along the loch and came across the estate track which although a bit rough in places made walking easier for my legs which were feeling it a bit by now. I still had to shake my head at the fact I had been out there for a few hours covered a few miles and still not seen a soul.
At the end of the loch the track improved and followed the river as it tumbled down over the rocks to the next lochan down. The sky was still dull and the rain had passed me by but it did mean I could not get a good view down the way I was heading. There was the plus side to this though I came across loads of little frogs and a small newt in a little pond when I stopped for a drink. Then within a few minutes one of the highlights of my day a junior adder/viper was crossing the track in front of me and had froze at my approach.
This was a great photo opportunity which I took.
magic
We both stopped and looked at each other and then the wee thing realised it was in no danger headed on its way.
video
That did make the wet feet gammy back and knees worth the effort of the walk and was the icing on the cake for me. I carried on down the track again donning my water proof as the heavens had opened again . I did not take any photo's for a bit and missed another rest stop.The track followed the river down stream and I walked by a couple of small lochans full of vegitation and managed to get a photo looking back to Suilven and to Canisp.
 The rain stopped again and I took off the waterproof and plodded on to the coast in the distance. I met a couple of people walking off the hill where they had got soaked in the storm so I worked out it had been around 5 hours 30 mins since I last saw anyone and that had been Scott when he dropped me off.

looking back at Canisp disappearing from view

Weedy loch  with Suilven in the back ground
 As I said I could not get a good view down to the coast  as the next photograph shows the Loch in the distance is the last one I pass before reaching Lochinver.

final few K to the coast

farewell to Suilven and Canisp

The track improved still more which helped me to keep a reasonable walk going as the old back had had it's fair share of jolting. I reached the final loch and went past the estate buildings and picked up the tarmac road  for the last leg down to Scott and his mum who had driven round to pick me up. I had only gone a short way down the lane when Scott appeared heading in my direction. They do have a slight concern when I do this sort of thing and are pleased when we meet up but even more so that I still do it. After a short walk into town and metting up with Olga the call was drive home get rid of the car and stagger down to the pub which we did. I had to add the final photo that Scott took after we met up at the end of the walk showing a wind blown weather beaten but happy man.
that's all folks


Sunday, 1 December 2013

A day in the Ochil's

Have not updated blog for a while and yesterdays trip to the Ochil 's with Scott was a nice reminder.
The forecast was good for the Saturday and Scott said he was doing a "run" over the Ochil's to Blackford and back did I fancy coming along . Not having done anything for ages thought it was time to get out there again for the first time passing the 73 year mile stone and "see" if I could do something.
We headed off early Saturday and ended up in Tillicoultry where Scott parked the car we said our goodbyes and Scott set off over the Ochils ( no way was I going with him )  we were going to meet up hopefully before it got dark.
I thought I would try to get up to Kings Seat via Dollar which would give me a nice warm up walk along the Devon way before trying the hills.
old track to Dollar

Sun hitting the Ochil's
After about a 3 mile stroll to Dollar and picking up some snacks set off up Dollar Glen making my way up to Castle Campbell and the hills beyond .
path through Dollar Glen

Castle Campbell
I climbed out of the glen on to the open countryside and got the first taste of a very cold wind and the changing light one minute it was dull then the next sun broke through. Climbing over the style I started to plod up Bank hill and even at this stage I wondered if I could drag this lump of a body all the way over the tops.
After many short rests I  reached the top of the first ridge and got another taste of the Ochil wind chill.I could see Kings Seat rising up in the distance and did think it could be a step too far as even now the legs were made of rubber.I had planned to walk over the tops back to Tillicoultry but that was looking like a none starter and played with the idea of just doing a little loop and back the way I came.
I had a snack break in the shelter of a gully and a young couple came by heading up Kings Seat so I let them get way ahead before heading off again.
castle Campbell with the West Lomond  in the distance

back to grey sky and a interim cairn
The couple soon left me behind and again I thought of just heading back down and went through the mind games of why not go back / why not go on. I was feeling the cold and my hands were getting a bit sore or to be more precise my thumbs for some reason were frozen. I carried on and eventually passed the cairn put up in memory of the Spitfire pilots who crashed near there.
Ochil's

approach to Kings Seat summit
The ground was frozen and all the boggy parts were nice and crunchy to walk over but I was still doing lots of rest breaks.I was feeling the cold even more now and was aware that me panting away the cold air was having an effect so the buff was pulled up over mouth and nose and it made a hell of a difference.  I did look like a bank robber but at least I was more comfortable and now I knew I was going to get to the top.
When I arrived at the cairn the young couple were sheltering from the wind so we said hello again and the lad offered to take a photo and here it is ( LOL)
Yes it's me and I was cold 

heading back down towards Tillicoultry
I did not stay long the young couple set off back to Dollar and I committed to making for Tillicoultry which due to the terrain meant walking in a loop to avoid the steep gullies .The sky was still grey but there was a glimmer of light as the sun attempted to break through. I was getting a little foot sore but had warmed up by now as I headed back down off the hills.
heading down off the hill

looking back now sun out




the hills smiling good bye 

I was tired and a bit foot sore by the time I got back down to Tillicoultry and was pleased I had defeated my demons and completed my circuit of 10 miles . I sat down wondering how Scott had got on with his 30+ mile run when two things happened. My phone went and the Mrs asking how things were  and had a message from Scott he had just arrived back as well so perfect timing all round.
Don't know when the next one will be but at least I could still do it though it never gets easier for me and chuffed at 73 can still get out there !

Thursday, 18 July 2013

A walk in the cairngorms

Just back from a wander through the Lairig an Laoigh a walk that I attempted to do before but got rained out of the mountains. With the weather we have had last couple of weeks and forecast to stay fine it was one of those now or never moments.I would have liked some company on this one but unfortunately Scott and Tony were not available so solo it would have to be.I dug out my large rucksack / tent / stove and the rest of my needs and packed it with what I thought I would require for a few days.The problem was weight I picked it up and just thought I can't carry this over rough high ground and my first doubts set in. However with lots of encouragement from the family I sorted my transport out for Tuesday morning.
A bit on the heavy side
Olga came to the station with me to take the car home and we said our goodbyes and I sat in gorgeous sunshine waiting for the train north.Still feeling a bit nervous I started my train journey and thought what the hell when passing through Blair Atholl and saw all the station wet and as continued north the sky just got darker and darker. Please no I thought not again as we past through the dismal visibility until arriving at Aviemore where I was starting out from.The sky was dark but still had the odd glimpse of sun as I walked past  Glenmore Lodge a few spots of rain now and again but not enough to bother me.I had a good path for the first few miles came to the fork in the track took a deep breath and struck out for Braemar with dark clouds above.
cross roads

Bynack More ( no sun )
I crossed the river Nethy and took the track up the Bynack More  Munro I new I was not going to the top but would via off at about 800 metre along the ridge before coming down into the next pass. To put it bluntly I struggled up the path and had to take many short breaks as the weight of the pack and my abilities were put to the test.To top it all just as I reached the ridge I found I was walking in wet cloud and then the rain god said hello so a quick stop to put full rain cove on rucksack to keep my sleeping bag dry. I forgot to mention the wind was getting very strong and head on and was trying to blow me over. It was gritted teeth time and at last I was at the point of heading down off the ridge.The path was a bit on the rough side now and just lead down into featureless high bog and I had read to be careful at this point as it was easy to wander off course and get yourself lost.I had the Garmin set up with the track programed in plus map and compass handy.




Bynack More ridge
Heading up the rather damp ridge with intermittent showers
Heading off the ridge into the waste land
The next few miles were hard going (for me) and I was glad it had not been too wet as most of the bog the track lead me through were nice and dry.I was hoping to reach the Avon refuge for my nights stop over but found I was getting slower and stumbling about on the wild paths.I had lost height coming off the ridge and now I had to regain it to cross over the watershed before my final mile plus to the refuge.The path was just broken rocks and loose stones and I just thought now is not the time to twist an ankle.I eventually came down to the small refuge hut and found two people there having a break.
I intended to camp there anyway as there was not enough room for more than two people but in an emergency it would shelter a a few more like sardines in a tin.It was good to have some company and a chat and the male member of the couple gave me a hand pitching my tent. ( I did mention the wind didn't I ). The refuge is at the junction of four glens and the wind which was strong was now been amplified. With the tent pitched and holding it's own I thought it would be nice if it was still standing in the morning.


Avon refuge in the distance my destination
home for the night
I know I said I was nervous about doing this sol walk  but somebody up there likes me. Chatting away to the couple charlie told me he was in the mountain rescue team and by profession worked in the Cardiac rehab scheme and his wife ( forgot her name) was involved with physiotherapy . I thought yes just the two people I need around if I have trouble.
I had a sleepless night I never sleep well in a tent ( but do rest my body ) and that night the wind changed and was hitting the poor tent broadside on and it was making hellish whip cracking sounds and I lay there waiting for it to blow away.
The next morning the tent was still there but so was the wind so I made a call early on that I would carry on my walk as I did intend staying in that area for a day but not in those conditions, theonly good thing weather wise was the sun was out and black clouds no more.
River Avon crossing point
Charlie helped me pack the tent up it did take two of us just to hold it down and we said our goodbyes they were heading west I was going south.I had a head wind to push against and the river crossing and again i was lucky as the water was the lowest it had been for ages so dry feet boulder hoping great.
I headed south through the Lairig an laoigh on another stoney loose sheep type track with the wind having a real go at me so very slow progress was made until I crossed over the Col and headed down into the next glen. I had a great view down Glen Derry from my height advantage and once I got out of the wind I was planning a proper break as I intended another nights camping near Derry lodge area.

heading up to Lairig an Laoigh

Glen Derry in the distance
I walked down into Glen Derry and met the first person of the day heading out to do some Munro bagging had a few words and continued down the glen filling my water bottle from clear fresh cold water off the hills.
My back had played the game a few little twinges but nothing to worry about my main problem was my feet they were starting to get a bit tender and hot. I found another very nice wild camping site so stopped to get the stove on and have something warm to eat.
Glen Derry

Derry Burn tea break and future camping place ?
After a rest I had a few thoughts on what to do next as it came home to me that the feet were starting to nag me now.I had about 6 miles to walk out from here to the Linn of Dee where i could stay the night and head out again in the morning to Braemar. They have put a summer service on from Braemar to Blairgowrie but only two buses a day one morning one early afternoon so I intended to get one of those as a means of getting home.
I reached Derry Lodge and rested up for about 30 minutes then made for the Linn of Dee. This bit was a good estate track made for easy walking but not when your feet are hot and hurty and I was now glad I had made the call to try to walk out as I did not fancy a long walk in the morning.
I arrived at the Linn of Dee and thought great that's it camp the night then 6 mile road walk in the morning to get the bus south. I then encountered a problem I never even thought of where to pitch the tent the estate wanted you at least half a k from any roads. I knew I was very tired and trying to make a sensible decision  was proving troublesome . After spending another 30 mins attempting to come to a conclusion on what to do I did the silly option. I had 6 miles road walk in the morning if my feet would let me or I just said shit they hurt just do it now and worry about staying somewhere later if you make it.Even if I did at a pace of one mile an hour the pubs will still be open for a pint of guinness and that thought blew all logic away so with hot feet I started out to braemar. After about two miles I thought what the hell am I up too ! all the hooray henry's speeding by no chance of a lift then a savior came in the guise of a solo tour operator in van with trailer full of mountain bikes.He was running about dropping off and picking up some dutch bikers and he had just collected them saw me the rest agreed stopped made room and off we went.That was the end of my walk not the end of the day all hotels full but found a hostel run by a very nice lady who gave me a 4 bunk room to myself just 100 yards from the Fife arms hotel and guinness at last.
I don't think I will be doing this heavy walking again or then I just might.

Monday, 4 February 2013

St Cuthberts Way


After a long break from doing support back up for Scott we ended up doing one of those last minute things as the weather forcast was looking good for that weekend. Scott got in touch friday to see if I was up for it and with permission from she who must be obeyed got the go ahead. The plan was to run (Scott only ) St Cuthberts way over the two days:-http://www.stcuthbertsway.fsnet.co.uk/ .
This time had I had no idea of distance and any support points so on a wing and a prayer set off for Scott's place Friday evening for a early start Saturday morning.So up early Saturday we set off for the starting point at Melrose abbey.
Melrose abbey
Today's destination was a B&B in Kirk Yetholm which as most people know is the finishing point of the Pennine Way.Support points were going to be difficult to sort out due to lack of time as I love to plan these things out and get the fun off playing support.Scott would be " running" away from access roads for me to get the car near so it was first thought of meeting north of Jedburgh . Scott thought about it and rightly said it would be best if I just went to Kirk Yetholm and had a wonder up the hills.We agreed I would find a location on the trail near the road to leave a drop bag as early in the run he would be going through places with "shops".After a coffee in Melrose Scott set off up the hill and I drove off to find a good place for a drop bag.
one of the many way points.

I sent a text to Scott telling where he would find his drop bag and set off for Kirk Yetholm via a place called Morebattle and from then on the fun started for me.It was a lovely clear , cold ,dry day but snow had played a visit through the night in this area and the small lanes were untreated so I crawled along until I ended up parked out side the border hotel.I had planned a "little jog" myself but as I had trouble just standing up in my trainers changed into walking boots and headed up the hill on St Cuthberts Way which at this point is the final part of the Pennine Way.
rather slippy for running or driving 
I headed up the hill out of the village heading for the Cheviot hills and after a mile and a bit headed off the road and up the trail.
Pennine way nice but very cold

I walked a few miles over the tops but after taking a few photo's with my gloves off found I had lost use of my fingers LoL. The visibilty was fantastic and it was a good place to be never mind how cold it was on the ridge.
on the ridge

looking north
I turned to head back off the ridge and really felt the cold as I was head on to a strong wind . On the way down I met a couple walking up and they were saying what a great day it was to be wondering about the hills to which I agreed.Arriving back to the car and dumping my pack in the boot I just could not resist the temptation of the smoking chimney and the thought of a beer.There is a new plaque on the wall at the entrance to the bar marking it as the start of the across Scotland route to Cape Wrath and I was told it was going to be officially unveiled next weekend so I expect Cameron McNeish will be there.
I was now waiting for Scott to show up and praying like mad he did not want picked up anywhere as I was on my second pint and driving was out.Scott arrived in due time got changed in the gents and we settled by the fire for a couple of drinks.I had booked a table for a proper meal for later so we just left the car and walked down to the B&B a short distance away.Returned later for more beer and food and some great banter with the locals.( I wont mention the rugby but being the borders a good mixed group were propping the bar up.)
and why not
and him

The forcast for the next day was several  degrees warmer so could be boggy if it was all melted so we turned in for the night.
Day Two
After a very full breakfast we had a quick plan of the day and we agreed to meet in Wooler for a coffee. went back up to the car before Scott headed off up the hill where I was the day before and I set off for Wooler.
saw this on the way
I ended up killing time in town then walked up the "way" to see if I could meet up with Scott who arrived soon after I got there so it was a quick dash back into Wooler for a coffee and scone as we wanted to get out to holy Island before the tide came in.Topped Scott's water bottles up and off he set I was going to find my way to St Cuthberts cave which he would be running past so we could have a refuel station and I would be having a break .Glad I had the smart phone as finding my way along the small lanes was not easy but eventually I found where to park and set out on my walk to the cave.It was very boggy in places and I wondered how Scott would be getting on in the mud as you could not run in it.
I found the caves easy and as it was sheltered from now a strong wind I setup shop and had a chill out waiting for Scott.
A sheltered St Cuthberts cave
Scott turned up and had a quick refuel as Lindisfarne was a must  by now, only problem we had was only small hamlets on the way so no shops for me to get more water.Scott headed off again and I walked my way back down the hill to get the car out of the muddy car park.We met up again at a place called Fenwick which had no shops but we still had a bit of water left . Scott arrived and changed into his shorts for a the last few mile "sprint"to the finish.I drove to the start of the causeway and was glad to see we had 2.5 Hours to get over and back before the tide cut us off.
a wee Scott heading off on the causeway
I drove ahead of Scott over to Holy Island and waited by a "coffee" shop for him to arrive.This he did in due time and after a coffee and a short walk round the village we set off back to the main land as I wanted day light to see where I was going.Here are a few photo's of Linsisfarne :-
theAbbey
looking back to the main land

harbour with Lindisfarne castle in the distance/
So ends another adventure along the trails of Britain just wonder what the next one will be ????