Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Coniston weekend

We had planned months ago to spend a weekend at Coniston in the lake district as Scott had entered the marathon trail race and I foolishly had entered the reported 14k trail run.
With Scott's hospitalisation earlier and the resulting leg problem running was not an option but as we had accommodation booked we thought what the hell go down for a few beers etc. We were both very pleased when Olga said she would come down with us and we would all take a family weekend.Saturday morning with the car loaded up we set off down to the lakes and what was a glorious day and took a steady drive down to the lake district.

Scott and I were staying in one b&b and his mum was in another as we could not get all together as the area was very busy that weekend.
After checking in to our b&b's we had a walk round a very pretty village and sampled a few local brewed ales.
Olga and I in a day glow top
The sun hotel where Olga was staying the second night had a great beer garden and fantastic views over the village

After a few beers the next day was planned and I thought :- I've paid my fee , I've got a number shall or shan't I. Beer is good for making silly descisions so I picked up my number and thought I would give it a go. The fact that I had somehow packed my running shoes club vest and shorts may have something todo with my final thoughts of the event.
I got up early Sunday morning to head off to the start area as I was trying to find Andrew one of "Waister" forum friends who was running the full event. I had no joy but did later find out that he had been doing the earlyer challenge event and had started before I got down to the start area.
I found out that the route had changed a bit and the 14k was now going to be nearer 16k and it started to sink in that trail runs can go up as well as down. Scott turned up to wish me well and took a couple of photo's on his phone so here is one of a person not knowing what he was letting himself in for
little does he know whats ahead
I did not see Olga before the start but Scott stayed to cheer me on my way. I thought that if I managed about 4 miles an hour over the hills I may be back before 1 o'clock so that gave every body (Scott & olga ) to do their own thing while I was enjoying myself.
The run started off and I planned to start at the back and go very slow to try to get the full distance in (before dropping out ). My planned walk / run went out of the window when the announcer said that the police had now closed the roads in the village so we could start and get through traffic free talk about pressure and that's before the off.We headed off down the field and then came back up the road to the village the atmosphere was fantastic and the support was brilliant and I just kept thinking go on you can walk later just get through the village. I was still about last even at this stage and when the marshal radio's in "that's the last runner" going past him you know it's you.I did not know but Olga had turned up in the village and saw me heading over the bridge and she took one of her famous "that's him in the distance photo's"
where has everyone gone ?
After the village we headed off up the lane and picked up the trail proper so I settled in to a slow run / walk and to be honest walking became the norm on all the "Ups" and managed to run on the flat and let gravity work going down.After a pleasant undulating trail through the woods we hit the first long drag up a very minor road after a few k. I was happy to see that i had actually caught a few people up and managed to pass one or two runners on the way up. The temperature was quite high and I did see a couple of people starting to walk back saying they were too hot.After the lane part we entered the trail proper again with quite a lot of loose rock, shale and tree roots to contend with as it went on up and up and up. I stopped at the one water station and had a chat with a few other tail enders before setting on upwards again.We went round Tarn Hows and although I was very tired by then could not fail to see how pretty the place is.
After the final climb I was going along by myself the fitter ones had left me behind and I had lost the ones that had been following me.It was about the 11k to 12k that a few alarm bells started going off and cramp spasms hit both legs so ended up doing a little shuffle step as stretching out stopped me dead. The views were fantastic over the lake but then trees blocked my view and by now I just wanted a drink. After a while I could hear the announcer at the finish but to me it felt like miles away. There was one final sting in the tail when you had to do a small loop round the field before heading to the finish line. That part I did enjoy as I was in a gap to myself and got shouted on all round the field support was fantastic and to give the announcer something to do he broad casted all my details so I had a mention in dispatches. Just under 16k in 2hours 15 mins and the oldest runner in that event and I could still walk !!
That was it I had done my very first trail run I had covered the longest distance in a race since 1986 and I had a big stupid grin on my face. After 10 mins I found Olga walking down to the finish and she though I had dropped out as I was to "early" she sent a text to Scott so we could all meet up for a pint (or two ). But what a great day / great event / great weather and the people where fantastic.
Olga and I that evening
We all met up and Scott got me a pint it was all good stuff so it's now back to shedding more weight and trying this running lark again. I 'll just finish off with a couple of Photo's taken above Coniston by Scott

lots of trails to walk

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Carn Dearg walk

Scott fancied doing a Munro run from Dalwhinnie to Rannock station and I was going to take the opportunity of doing "another" Munro for myself. The plan was for me to drop him off at Pitlochry for him to get the train up to Dalwhinnie while I drove the car round to Rannoch station way park up and do a walk myself.
The weather forecast was not to great but we agreed to give it a go.After dropping Scott off I drove out to Rannoch moor way to park the car at Loch Eigheach and the start of the "road to the Isles " path. I was going to follow this path for about three miles before striking out for the ridge I planned to walk up to Carn Dearg
road to the isles track
The path was a good one and climbed its way slowly making it a nice easy start to the walk for the next two miles. I did not like the look of the clouds sweeping in on a very strong wind so I put my over trousers on just to be on the safe side as the last thing I wanted was to get soaked in the first hour.I made may  to the only foot bridge after hopping over a few smaller burns on the way with all the rain we'd had even the small burns were full.
good foot bridge
From the bridge you could see the start of the ridge I was heading for but once again noted the low cloud and short showers I had walked through.After another mile walking the path was starting to break up but still easy walking.I was looking for the junction of another path shown on the OS map to choose my route up to the ridge. Much to my disappointment the path shown on the map did not exist  OS had it wrong so I made the call to carry walking on the track as it was still gaining height and would make my own way up the ridge.
bog / heather and rocks
I spent some time looking for a way to get to the ridge as the terrain was going to be tough walking country plus I would be climbing a few hundred feet over this type of ground .
climbing up to the ridge
After taking quite a while for me to pick my way up the hill I did come a faint track which other walkers have used so I gratefully headed up on that one.The wind was picking up and the temperature falling the higher I got until at last the start of the ridge was reached . I knew I had at least 3k to make my way over the ridge to the summit cairn of Carn Dearg and the wind was now head on the only good thing about it was it did blow some of the cloud away and I had glimpses of the fantastic views.
walking on  the ridge
After climbing over three  of tops at 700mtr/820mtr and 860 mtr I was getting the rubber legs feeling and my friend the weather was throwing all it could at me. The rain had turned into little balls of ice and at one point I had to turn my back and shelter as it peppering my face and it Hurt !After climbing over the last top I could just make out the summit cairn in the distance for one final pull. It was about this time that my hip started to play up but there was no way I was not going to get to the top now.I could just make out two other walkers at the cairn at this time so I included them in the next photograph and as you see the weather could have been kinder

summit cairn

In fact the weather god thought he may as well give us the works so we went from freezing rain to sleet the just for fun some snow.It was very exposed on that part of the ridge but I found a rough windbreak and managed to sit out of the main force of the wind.

It was at this time I heard from Scott who was heading over my direction , we had walkytalkies that we have used on other occasions so we were able to let each other know how we are getting on and where we could meet up.I explained that I was just going to head off back down the ridge as I could feel myself starting to chill down and my hands (with wet gloves ) were going numb.He was going to be about one hour behind me so I knew he would catch me up while I was still on the ridge. It was about this time I realised I had a tough walk ahead of me as my hip was giving me problems and I could not bend my leg up very far without yelping (what a wimp ) and had about 5 to 6 miles back to the car.
overlooking Rannoch moor
back along the ridge
True to form Scott caught me up just before we had to head down off the ridge and I was not looking forward to stumbling down the boggy heather etc.We slowly made our way down and eventually picked up another track (not shown on the OS map). I was quite certain that this boggy track would meet up with original track I had walked up and having no obstacles on it I was managing to walk keeping my leg straight .
Scott was chilling down (he was in running gear ) and I was pleased when he saw I was on the track ok he could head off to the car to get a change of clothes.At this point I still had about 2 miles to go which took me ages and I was relieved when Scott came round the corner to meet me and we headed back to the car. I had fun trying to get my left boot off as I could not bend my leg and it was a struggle to get the over trousers off. Scott did the driving as we headed back over to the caravan and the main target was the real ale pub which we both liked.
On reflection I did enjoy the challenge of the walk yes the weather could have been better and I could have done without injuring myself but it's still good to know I can still manage being out of my comfort zone and get out there to do things.

Monday, 2 May 2011

West coast wanderings with Scott

With the extra Friday off for the "wedding" which to be honest I was not interested in, Scott and I thought we would throw the tents in the car and head up north and over the west coast of Scotland. We met up after Scott had finished work he drove over to Leslie to pick me up before heading north to Inverness.We knew it would be late in the evening getting up there so had booked a room for the first night which also so happened to be a pub which we took full advantage of that night.
After breakfast we set for Gairloch which we had agreed on as the camp site looked ok and had a pub close to it.We were in no rush and took a steady drive over to the west coast enjoying the views and the fine weather.

Silioch and Loch Maree
Loch Bad an Sgalaig

Over the sea to Skye

We lost no time in pitching the tents and planning the next part of the day a walk was picked out starting from the loch we had stopped at not far from where we were camping ( Picture above )

Grabbing some rolls crisps and snacks we headed off in the car to the start of the planned walk. A few cars were parked up and we just managed to squeeze into a space , it looked like a few people were taking advantage of the weather to some walking of their own.
Heading off up a very good estate track we did a nice steady walk out towards the hills ahead enjoying the sun and the views which changed at every turn on the path.

path to the wilds
After a few a couple of miles of steady walking on the good track we gained some height and even more views. It was a strangle landscape and very brown and dry and lots of evidence of the last ice age with odd rocks perched all over the place.
Large boulders left by the ice

Scott and I split up at this point he was going to try his "injury" out and have a run up the Corbet " Bienn an eoin" at one side of the glen while I walked along to the Loch that ran along the glen floor.

Scott photo from ridge

Wild walking country
Eventually Scott made his way off the hill with a smile on his face as he could still manage to run up hills.Meeting  up at the boulder field we turned to head the few miles back down to the car after a very pleasant walk in the hills still commenting on how brown it all looked in fact Lanzarote was mentioned it was that type of landscape. Making our way back to the camp site and dropping our bags off we were into the pub for the evening for beer and food to round off a very good first day.

View from the camp site

Saturday our plan was to have a slow drive down the west coast and do lots of stops and snacks driving relays of 15 miles each. After some oats and coffee packed up the tents and we left the camp site and headed off down the coast.
We headed back down Loch maree and turned off on the Torridon road driving past Liathach which looked majestic with the sun lighting up it's slopes.
Loch carron was our next stopping off place but we could not resist the views to be had over looking Upper Loch torridon so we had a couple of stops and took the chance of some more photo's.
Over looking upper loch Torridon

A chilled out Scott

This was turning out to be a fantastic day, the weather fine , the roads quiet, relay driving so we took turns rubber necking at the great views. Loch carron Spar shop was our next call in point and we drove over to fill up with more snack foods for a picnic by the loch. The family had stayed there last year in a holiday cottage and it was nice to be back in the area again remembering the times we'd had.After a coffee break near Attadale Scott wanted to visit Plockton as he had heard how much we had liked our stay there a few years ago.Arriving in Plockton as expected on such a nice day tourists were out in force but then again I suppose that's what we were anyway.

Plockton sea front

Views down to the Loch

view over Plockton

After a nice break and walk round we continued our travels heading over to Shiel Bridge and took the opportunity to check out the campsite there for future use. Sun still nice and warm so we were both tempted to have ice creams at the shop which went down very well. Traffic had built up more now but our relay policy was working well all the way to Fort William which as usual was very busy and took a while to get through. Food was on the mind so we were looking for a spot to get the stove on heat up some soup and tuck in with loads of bread. We chose to stop at the picnic area on the banks of Loch Linnhe another one of those spots we had used before the views were  great but the traffic noise would take some getting use to. Leaving our rest stop we then bit the bullet and drove through Glen Coe among the caravans and biker groups to arrive at the Ben more lodge where we had a room booked. Another night of cold beer and food talking about next days activity.
Sunday was going to be a run / walk day for Scott and myself but no running for me.Scott fancied going up Beinn Challum as it was a Munro he had not got round to doing yet and as for me I did not know how I would get on as the last Munro I did was a good few years ago. The plan was to walk together for the first bit before Scott would set of running and I would plod on behind. He would be running back to meet up with me and I would make the call to carry on up or just head back to the car. It was another glorious day though a bit on the windy side which did feel a bit chilly on the exposed hills.

who's this poser ????

Beinn Challum in the distance

After walking for just short of a mile Scott and I parted company as he set of on his run and I walked on behind. I still did not know what I was going to do but managed to maintain a slow progress up the first ridge. The higher I got the more the horizan opened out and you could see for miles with all the hills spread out with speckles of snow scattered over them.At around 2000 ft I was starting to get the rubber legs feeling and played the mind game about going on or turning back. Scott appeared bounding down the hill still enjoying himself and I said I would try going on some more. Scott was going to chill down fast after running then slowly going along with me so my flease and gloves were put to good use by him.
slow plod up but great views
part way up still not the top

Legs were now complaining and I was starting to chill down so another layer of clothing was added before going on.

Scott with dad's coat
Distant Munro's
I was very slow getting up to the first top and Scott had run down to find some water but soon caught me back up.From the first or South top as it's called the true summit is to the North but you have to do a dog leg west before getting on to the ridge to the last dip then steep climb to the large summit cairn.
Hands out of pockets for little ridge walk
Looking back from final climb to the top

Summit Cairn

We met up with some other walkers at the summit and had a quick chat before heading off the ridge to get some shelter from the wind. We found a dip to shelter in from the wind and sat having a good look round picking out other hills we could see in the distance. I was very pleased as it has been a few years since I had managed to walk to the top of a Munro and who knows it may not be the last one yet.
Our day ended with a nice steady walk down off the hill passing the time of day with other walkers who were heading up and meeting up with the other group who were still taking their time going down.It was back to the car and a drive back home to Leslie  for a nice hot bath and to reflect on a brilliant few sunny days in the west highlands of Scotland. Yes we will have to do this all again. J



Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Jocks Road

To give myself a challenge and get out walking again I thought I would give Jocks road a go this Easter weekend. It does look like my attempts to get back to running have come to and end so have reverted back to wondering the hills of Scotland.
Scott had offered to drop me off some where as he is on the injured bench and our Upland way saga is on hold. It was Scott who mentioned Jocks road and it is a walk I had thought of doing in the past but never got round to it so that was to be the target this time.The weather which had been great for the last few days was looking a bit dodgy for the Saturday but then if I was going to get out there now was the time.
We had gone to the caravan in Blairgowrie on the Friday so we could get an early start in the morning as I had no idea how long it would take me to do the 15 miles to Braemar in fact I did not know if I would manage the whole way!. I had thoughts would I be capable of doing the whole walk ? would I run out of daylight, would my legs hold out ?
We got up to Saturdays weather damp and misty when we headed off hoping it would improve as the day went on. Scott dropped me off at Glen Doll and wished me luck and drove off so with a little apprehension I set off to the start of my walk.
start of track
 The first couple of miles are along a well established path up through the forest which form part of a circular walk in Glen Doll. It was a nice introduction to my "adventure" and I headed off up the track glancing up at the low clouds. I had only been walking about 45 minutes when the rain started to get heavy and so I took off my fleece and put my water proof on as it was not cold at all in the shelter of the trees.After about one hour plus I came out of the trees and into the open which meant I could at least see some of the way I was heading. Took the chance to have a short break and a took a couple of photographs looking up the glen into the distant hills which i could not make out for the mist.
looking up the valley
It was at this point that I met a couple of walkers heading the same way who after exchanging greetings and commenting about the poor visibility ahead left me behind as they set off at twice my speed.I did a slow steady climb up the track for the next hour feeling a little sad about the lack of views available but took a couple more photographs looking back down the way I had came as ahead was just mist.
the way ahead
looking back down the Glen
I was heading for the top of the Glen and the start of the plateau and had targeted the shelter as my next rest stop and  get more to eat.The old legs had complained a bit as the steepness increased but finally I came across the shelter and had a break.
shelter entrance
 The shelter is very misleading it is built like a dry stone wall with a tin roof covered in soil heather etc but the walls are thick and although the roof is low it goes back at least 20 feet so a few people could squeeze in if required. There is a plaque near here commemorating the five walkers that lost there lives walking Jocks road when the weather turned against them and sadly they perished.
After a good rest and food I was about to set off again when the walkers I had met before came by heading back . They said they were not doing the full walk just came up the glen but were disappointed that the weather had not cleared up. (they said it was forecast to clear but obviously it was not going to ). They set off back down and I was left to myself on the hill.I was still feeling good and I knew that the main climb was over but had a few miles walking on the plateau . I do admit that when I looked round and could only see about 30 yards before the mist closed in I realised what a challenge I had set myself. I was very glad I had come prepared had map / compass and best of all my Garmin which I had set a few way points set to help me out. This was going to prove invaluable as I bit the bullet and headed off into the mist as after a few hundred yards the faint track disappeared into bog and heather.
No views but enjoying myself
I spent the next few hours dodging bog and peat hags rocks in heather and undulating terrain. I was so happy to have my GPS as to be honest i would have been completely lost without it. I was heading for the highest point which i had hoped to get some good photo's of the cairgorms but stood no chance. So had to settle for a few misty shots on my way .
The invisible man
heading to the highest point on the route

coming out of the mist

the way down no track
I waited for a while and had a snack while waiting for a clearer view and some sign of a track down the very rough moraine. The burn I needed to be on the right hand side of just showing up out of the mist. If I got it wrong it would be very wet feet time.
I can't say I walked down to the glen floor more like slid / stumbled and tripped my way for over a mile. On the way managed to see more of the wild life smooth back lizards and frogs both dark and light in colour. The best sight I had was when I scared up a mountain hare it still had most of it's white coat while the rest of it was turning to the summer brown .It was far to fast for me to try and get a picture but it did take my mind of the aching legs jarring my way off the hill.I finally got off the steep side and just had to contend with the tuffty boggy ground and many small burns to get across and at last I could see a reasonable distance.
the picture does not do the waterfall justice
A trail at last
 I picked up a trail which people have used to come to see the waterfall and enjoyed some easy walking for a change. The time was not bad either and I knew now that there was no danger of me running out of daylight so with Mp3 playing I headed off down to the Loch only 7 more miles to go.
Glen floor with loch in the distance 

Loch Callater

Making my way down the loch I arrived at the "lodge" where some of the estate workers had a fire going and a couple of people who were camping were gathered having a chat. I still had another 5 miles to walk before reaching Braemar but now it would be land rover tracks down to the main road.I was offered a lift from the main road to braemar by the couple who were wild camping if I would wait for them at their car at the end of the track as they would be down shortly. I must admit I was very tempted but after another three mile hike down to where the car was parked among a few others the heavens opened again so I went on.

the Glen in the distance is the start of the old road

I crossed the main road and picked up one of general Wades old roads on the other side of the glen to walk up to Braemar. I met up with Olga and Scott as they were walking out of Braemar to meet me and guess what the bloody sun came out and the sky was blue. They had booked a B&B for the night and had a change of clothes for me but first things first went to the pub and had a nice cold drink. On reflection I had walked my 15 miles in crap weather, been over 900 mtr, had not seen any good views,had sore feet and very tired legs but had I enjoyed myself You bet I had . I had laid a few ghosts to rest about being capable of doing solo walks and although had been well out of my comfort zone I was a happy 70+ year old bunny .