Sunday, 20 October 2013

Isle of Mull

Sadly, Jane, Liz, Kay and I were not quite so lucky at the beginning of October. We had intended to spend three days climbing Grahams in the island but the weather, more specifically the strong winds, got the better if us.
Our first attempt was to summit Corra-bheinn and Cruach Choireadail from Sleibhte Coire in Glen More. We followed the glen path for 3km to the col at 332m before striking out up the west ridge of Cruachan Death, but we were severely hampered by strong winds and it soon became apparent that there was little chance of reaching any summit cairns in such conditions. Retreat was the only option, made a little more palatable by coffee and cake in Craignure later on.
Bad conditions continued into the next day and so we drove (the long way round!) to the northwest of the island for a scenic and bracing low level walk round Treshnish, taking in the abandoned village of Crakaig and the illicit still on the shore. Needless to say, we indulged in more coffee and cake in nearby Calgary to end the day.
The next day was our last and the winds had abated, so we decided to start early and climb Beinn Talaidh before catching the ferry. It was drizzly and misty when we reached the summit cairn which was a pity since I think in better conditions it would have been a good hill to linger on, and from which to enjoy the views.

Lake District

Then summer returned, just in time for a long weekend based in Keswick, guiding a group of eleven for Glasgow Life. Actually it was raining as we drove down the M74 but as we crossed the border and headed west towards the north Lakes the sun broke through and stayed with us all weekend. Our 'legstretcher' after the drive was an afternoon walk on the west side of Derwentwater, taking in part of the Allerdale Ramble. We walked south from Hawes End to Grange in the shadow of Catbells and returned along the lakeside path - a warm, tranquil oasis amongst the rugged fells.
The next day we climbed Skiddaw from the hostel in early morning sunshine, taking the path round the steep flank of Latrigg up onto the main path over Jenkin Hill and Little Man towards the summit. As we passed the car park more people started to appear and it was a pretty crowded summit where we stopped for lunch! We descended over Carlside down to Millbeck, still in hot sun. Initially the going was very steep on loose ground, no doubt exascerbated by mountain bike use, and even when scree gave way to grass, the gradient remained a wee bit punishing on some knees.
Sadly there were no welcoming Lakeland hostelries in the vicinity, so it was a stroll back to the hostel and an early dinner.
On Sunday we drove to gorgeous Ullswater to climb Hellvelyn from Glenridding to the east. Group fitness dictated that we avoid  both Swirral and Striding Edge, but we had a great day on the hill, using the pony track for both ascent and descent. Once again, the views opened up for us and the previous day's sore muscles were forgotten.
The beautiful spot of Ashness Bridge on the east side of Derwentwater was our starting point for our final walk before the drive home. We made an enjoyable circuit of Blaeberry Fell and High Seat, high above the lake, in yet more sunshine. Not as boggy as I had been led to believe, and a picturesque descent back to the minibus and home.

Torridon in September

The plan was to spend 4 days climbing Grahams with Kay and Jane, based at Torridon Youth Hostel. The weather was very mixed throughout, with rain and very strong winds. Nevertheless, we managed to climb 5 Grahams in the 4 days, juggling our programme to suit the daily conditions.
Day one we trudged up the sodden slopes of Carn Breac to reach the summit shrouded in thick mist, so no stop before heading on to Beinn na Feusaige in an increasingly cold, strong wind which made it impossible to spend much time at all on the bare summit plateau. A steep descent west then southwest soon brought us back down into Glen Carton as rain started to fall.

Day two we set off very early to avoid worst of the gale force winds forecast for the afternoon, though these in fact never happenned. Our objective was Beinn a Mhuinidh so
from Incheril by Kinlochewe we followed the track northwest towards Slioch for about 3 km before climbing up heather covered slopes towards a waterfall breaching the cliffs. The going got pretty steep here and any slip would have had consequences, but we made it to a grassy amphitheater surrounded by crags and lochans. From here the climb to the summit was straightforward and views opened up north to Letterewe and An Teallach, west to Beinn Eighe and, of course, northwest to Slioch - fantastic! A long walk south 4km across a fairly damp plateau took us to an easy descent into Abhainn Bruachaig and Incheril.
The third day was a bit of a washout, but we plodded stoically up the grassy slopes that lead to the summit of Meall a Chaorainn in thick mist and heavy rain to tick our 4th Graham.
On day four we made an early start to climb Beinn na h-Eaglaise from the path up the Allt Coire Roill in the shadow of the magnificent Beinn Damh before driving home. The weather was kind to us and we enjoyed good views in all directions. The track as far as the Lochan at Drochaid Coire Roill is excellent and we were even lucky enough to meet a stag with some hinds on the col, though they did not linger long when we arrived.

Thursday, 3 October 2013


Two pretty lazy weeks walking on the Isle of Arran, and then it was back to work.  A couple of day walks for Glasgow Life and a weekend working for Outlook Adventures with a silver DoE group in the Trossachs were new experiences, and thoroughly enjoyable though the best of the summer weather had definitely passed by this time.

Early in September I met Rob in the Lake District to spend the day with him climbing Hellvelyn. It was warm and bright as we set off from Glenridding but by the time we reached Red Tarn the views were disappearing.  We climbed to the summit via Swirral Edge and descended over Striding Edge - a busy mountain by Scottish standards, so not a lot of solitude, but the mist did lift to give us some glorious views. The day was ended with a tasty cream tea by Ullswater - perfect!

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Shetland isles

While the rest of Scotland was sweltering in hot weather mid July, a bank of low cloud hung over these most northern isles! This necessitated a few tweaks to our planned walks but we still enjoyed a pretty packed programme, walking on Muckle Roe, Papa Stour and St Ninian's Isle.
Sadly our flight to Fair Isle was cancelled (only 1 flight went out that week!) but we substituted a long circular walk to Fethaland, visiting the old haaf fishing station instead (photo attached). A real treat!
The cliffs of Hermaness proved unwalkable due to high winds, heavy rain and bad visibility, but there were plenty of photogenic puffins at Sumburgh Head the next morning to compensate.
Eventually the sun shone on our last day on Mousa, where we had the island to ourselves, and continued to shine as our ferry home passed Fair Isle which was looking splendid in the evening light.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

The Small Isles

I love these islands and was thrilled to be asked to guide a group here again this year. The skies grew darker as our train journey from Glasgow to Mallaig progressed, and by the time we sailed the rain was horizontal. Disembarking on Eigg was a very wet affair!
The sun was shining on a glorious day the next morning and so it continued all week.
The girls at Eight Bread catered magnificently for us on the island, as did Ivy Cottage on Rum. We managed to walk most of Eigg, with fabulous views from the top of An Sgurr out to Muck and over to Rum. 3 days on Rum followed and our hikes took us into the heart of the Rum Cuillin on to Hallival, north onto Bloodstone Hill where we watched golden eagles soaring, and out to Kilmory Bay and the red deer project.
We stayed at the new temporary hostel at Kinloch Castle which is pretty good and definitely needed.

Galloway and beyond

These last few months have been crazy with work, with hardly a moment to draw breath let alone settle down to any admin.
June started with a beautiful week in Galloway, tackling the 4 Corbetts of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, Shalloch on Minnoch, Corserine and The Merrick from our base at Minigaff Youth Hostel. This is a great wee hostel - such a pity it's being considered for closure.
Then it was on to Orkney and Shetland for 10 days work with About Argyll, guiding an archaeology and walking tour. We had an archaeology lecturer with us as part of the group, and it was fantastic to get professional insight into the sites we visited - Ness of Brodgar, Maes Howe, Guirness Broch, Mousa and many more. We saw plenty of puffins on the cliffs at Hermaness and even caught some filming of a climb on the Old Man of Hoy, which was exciting

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Islay + Jura

Took a lovely trip to Islay and Jura week before last with 2 charming couples from Virginia. I was working for About Argyll and our programme included a couple of distillery visits along with an exploration of these beautiful islands. The sun shone, though the wind was pretty cold, and we managed to tackle some coastal walks as well as getting up close and personal with the Paps of Jura just 3 days before the annual hill race. Finlaggan, ancient seat of the Lord of the Isles, is always a special place to visit and did not disappoint this time either - there is certainly a real sense of history here.
My companions were i charmed by the islands and the people - I suspect they will return to the Hebrides before long.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Glen Lyon

In contrast to Knoydart, our outing last Saturday to climb Carn Gorm, Meall Garbh, Carn Maury and Meall nan Soybean was not quite so idyllic!
The sun was shining as we headed north up the Invervar Burn to climb northwest up grassy slopes to the summit of Carn Gorm. The strong wind forecast for later in the day was already blowing, carrying with it flurries of snow, and we trudged on in deteriorating visibility. Snow ceded to rain, and the views which make this high level circuit a joy were sadly non existent. By the time we reached the summit of Carn Mairg the wind was blowing around 35-40mph, so we decided to descend by Allt Coire a Chearcaill to Invervar over sodden ground. I think we all enjoyed ourselves, despite the challenging conditions!


The weather recently has been pretty dismal so I thought I'd cheer everyone up with a couple of photos taken in Knoydart at the beginning of April. Perfect conditions for a brief trip to this glorious part of Scotland to climb Ladhar Bheinn. At sea level the sun was warm though quite a cold breeze blew, and from the top we had a wonderful 360 degree vista of snow topped mountains, interspersed with plumes of smoke rising from many small hill fires.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Beinn Chabhair

Yet another beautiful day at the end of February saw Richard and I toiling up the side of the Ben Glas waterfall in warm spring sunshine en route to Beinn Chabhair. There was real heat in the sun which was already beginning to melt the frosted moorland and the ice in the burn by the time we stopped for a breather
at Lochain Beinn Chabhair. A steep climb took us on to the north west ridge of the mountain where deep pockets of hard packed snow and some icy sections on the north facing slopes meant a careful progression to the summit cairn. Blue skies, pristine snow and sunshine, and fantastic views! We descended along the ridge to Lochain a' Chaisteil and back down the side of Ben Glas waterfall where we had the pleasure of meeting Benji, a handsome ginger and white cat, taking a stroll up the hill with his two young companions. Safe on a lead, he seemed to be enjoying his day just as much as we had.

Saturday, 2 March 2013


The very next day Jane, Rob and I took to the hills again, driving to Lochgoilhead to climb 2 Grahams to the north of Beinn Bheula - Beinn Lochain and Stob na Boone Druim-fhinn. Fine weather once again, though to say we had a few problems negotiating fallen trees at the start of our climb would be an understatement! After a struggle we reached open ground and a steep climb up the south east ridge of Beinn Lochain. Eventually we reached a grassy col and from there it was only a short climb to the summit cairn. It was too cold to hang about for long so we headed north over grassy slopes to our second Graham of the day, and our descent to Lettermay, thankfully via a proper firebreak this time.  Another very enjoyable day with Rob reaching the halfway mark of his Graham count!

Luss hills

Last Thursday I spent the day climbing 3 Grahams with Jane, Rob and Derek. The weather was still holding as we completed a very enjoyable circuit of Beinn Eich, Cruach an t-Sidhein and Doune Hill from the head of Glen Luss. A great walk, and good to catch up on all the chat!

Ben Vorlich

The next day we decided to climb Ben Vorlich up the south east ridge from Inveruglas. Once again the conditions could not have been better as we climbed steeply away, over rough ground, from the Loch Slot track. I like this route up the hill, and today the sun shone on the snow covered ridge all the way to the summit where, once again, we had fantastic views to savour.

Arrochar Alps

What fantastic weather it has been lately for some hillwalking so, not wanting to drive very far, I headed off to Arrochar with a couple of folk to climb Beinn Ime. Conditions were perfect as we climbed steeply up the path from Succoth to Bealach a' Mhaim. The Cobbler looked magnificent in the sunshine and hard frost ensured the bealach was not as boggy as usual, making for easy progress to the slopes of Beinn Ime. Still quite a lot of snow cover on the upper slopes, hard packed and icy in places, and great views to enjoy as we grabbed a quick sandwich at the top before heading down.