Thursday, 17 September 2015

Cruachan Horseshoe

Monday was the last day before Andrew drove south to take up a new post as ADC at Northwood HQ.
It was our last chance to take to the hills together and we decided to make a circuit of Ben Cruachan, Drochaid Ghlas and Stob Diamh. We've both climbed these hills many times but never in such fantastic conditions. Warm sunshine, a gentle breeze and spectacular views (and only one other person on the ridge).
The perfect hill day with the perfect companion!


Next day was south to the Bealach Udal on the Kylerhea road to climb three Grahams from a starting height of 280m!
From the bealach it was a bit of a trudge over wet ground to the lochan which marks the start of Sgurr na Coinnich's summit ridge, and on to the summit cairn. A strong, icy wind was blowing so we didn't linger to enjoy the views, instead descending immediately to the col to start our climb up the formidable looking Beinn na Caillich. A stiff climb on steep ground took us to the summit cairn, then it was back over the shoulder of Sgurr na Coinnich and down to the bealach for lunch.
Ben Aslak, the third of our hills, only just makes Graham status so it was a pleasant and gradual climb to the summit where once again we enjoyed fantastic views.
With a bitter wind still blowing hard we made our descent and headed for the coffee shop in Broadford for a well earned bowl of soup.


Then it was off to Skye, after an excellent weekend in the Trossachs with some DoE groups who really got lucky with the weather.
Kay, Liz and Jane wanted to tackle some Grahams on Skye, based in Broadford YH and thankfully the weather held.
Day one was off to the Trotternish Ridge to climb The Storr and Hartaval in great conditions. We had a bit of fun exploring the fantastic rock formations around the Old Man of Storr and the Sanctuary before climbing to the summit via the broad grassy slopes of the north ridge. Over an early lunch we enjoyed breathtaking views to Raasay and the mainland peaks beyond before descending to Bealach a' Chuirn to climb to the summit of Hartaval.

September Sun!

September has been a great month so far for getting out on the hills, and luckily I've had a few days to myself to enjoy it.
In an attempt to up my Corbett count I started the month with a very enjoyable day on Beinn nan Imirean from Glen Dochart. Great views from the top but a stiff northeast wind made it too cold to linger long.
Next day I drove up Glen Orchy to climb Beinn Mhic-Mhonaidh from Eas Urchaidh. Conditions were perfect - warm sunshine and a gentle breeze to keep me cool as I climbed northeast up steep grassy slopes to reach the broad summit ridge. Wonderful views in every direction!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

.....and another one

Unst puffin

Stones of Steness and Ring of Brodgar

Scottish primrose

Unique to parts of the Orkney Isles, Caithness and North Sutherland, I finally got my first sighting of Primula Scotica, the Scottish primrose, on the cliffs at Yesnaby near Skara Brae. It flowers once in spring and once in summer and small clumps of it were flowering on consecutive trips to Orkney in July and early August.

Ardnave Chapel, Islay

Western Isles

The weather was not so good for a trip to the Outer Hebrides with Freda later in June but we made the most of our journey north from Vatersay and Barra to the Uists. In the end we had to cut our journey short due to the Calmac strike!

Garvellach Islands

June also saw my first landing on Eileach an Naoimh with an About Argyll group. Famous for its monastic ruins and Bernice cells, it's also the site where St Columba's mother Eithne is reputed to be buried.

Fair Isle

Luckily the high winds didn't affect the flight, and the group enjoyed a memorable day on the island

West Burra

A beautiful, if chilly, June day on Shetland.

Duke of Edinburgh expeditions in the Pentlands

Friday, 27 February 2015

Green Lowther

Had some time to myself today so took a walk up on to Green Lowther from Wanlockhead.
It was good to get out and I do like the hills around here, but it's pretty industrial what with the turbines everywhere and the telecoms masts. Still, no-one else around so got a bit of breathing space.
Definitely best with snow cover....

Loving the new signage - thanks Andy!!

Monday, 23 February 2015

Blackhope Scar

On Thursday Jane and I took advantage of some decent weather and set off towards Peebles to climb Blackhope Scar, the second highest of the Moorfoots at 651m
From Gladhouse Reservoir we followed a good track alongside the River South Esk before branching off to the east just south of The Kipps. The track took us up on to open moorland to the north of the summit, and a boundary fence leading right to it.
The sun shone and there was an icy wind blowing but thankfully the boggy ground was still pretty solid so our trudge across the wide open hillside was pretty straightforward and we reached the trig point fairly quickly.
Great views of Dundreich and the wind turbines........
A good one to blow away some cobwebs.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

An Teallach

Since I had come north specifically to volunteer as client while Tim prepared for his WML assessment it was pretty vital we found some decent snow, and early Friday morning we set off for An Teallach.
The plan was to walk in to Glas Tholl from Dundonnell House and climb directly up on to the summit of Bidean a Ghlas Thuill via a 300m snow and ice filled gully from the corrie floor.
Now I have reached the summit of this particular Munro a number of times but never by such a direct route! The route looked long and challenging, despite being only a Grade I climb. Still, I had every confidence in Tim who is an excellent guide. The snow was hard packed and the climb seemed relentless.
It took us over 3 hours to reach the ridge - I say 'us', I mean 'me' since I don't doubt that Tim could have danced up in under an hour!
In the end, we topped out just as the sun was setting over Sgurr Fiona and the surrounding mountains. Conditions were perfect and the views were magnificent.
We dropped back down into the corridor as darkness fell and headed back to the car, and a long drive home, under a canopy of stars. A truly awesome day!

Cul Beag

The weather the next day was bright and sunny with little chance of finding much snow in the hills near Achiltibuie so we decided to take a walk up Cul Beag. I had climbed Cul Mor a number of times but had never been on her smaller neighbour.
Tim and Kiera accompanied me on the short route from Loch Lurgainn up to the col on the north ridge and then south to the summit. The views of the surrounding hills were stunning - a big reward for a short day.
Little did I know what was in store for me the following day.....

Coigach and beyond

By the time I met Tim (and Kieran the dog) on Wednesday a lot of the previous week's snow had disappeared, requiring some changes of plan, and so we set off for Achnasheen and Fionn Bheinn. The plan was to slog up Creachan nan Laogh to the east ridge before dropping down north into the Toll Mor and contouring round then attempting a Grade II climb up to the summit. 

There was plenty of snow in this north facing corrie, temperatures had dropped and the wind had picked up. The climb was not too long but for me it was quite challenging and I was glad Tim decided to belay me. The slope got much steeper as we neared the cornice and it was with some relief that I hauled myself over the edge before belaying Tim back down to collect a nervous Kiera.

Very snowy conditions on the summit but pretty soon we descended below the snow line to pick up the car and drive to Coigach after a really enjoyable day.

Ben Vrackie

On Tuesday 10th I headed north to meet Tim in Assynt to spend a few days having some fun in the snow. Conditions were so good en route that I couldn't resist a stop at Pitlochry to climb Ben Vrackie, the splendid Corbett which overlooks the town.
Loch a Choire was frozen over and there was still a lot of snow left on the upper slopes. A keen wind was blowing at the summit so I only stayed long enough to enjoy the view before heading back down to continue my journey north


At 697m this Graham is the most south-easterly of the Lowther Hills and on a glorious February day 2 weeks ago Jane and I set off to climb it.
It's quite a long drive out via Thornhill but conditions were fantastic, with blue skies and just a few remaining patches of snow. It's a good track all the way to the summit where we stopped to enjoy a quick lunch and some great views.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Lowther Hills

Jane and I took to the hills again yesterday, heading south to climb Ballencleuch Law in the Lowther Hills.
Starting from Durisdeer we enjoyed an excellent, and reasonably short, hill day which stretched the legs nicely.
The weather switched from sun to snow showers to horizontal hail and strong winds, and from time to time we had wonderful views of the wild country around us.
Lots of grouse on the hill, and one beautiful lone mountain hare which broke cover as we approached.

Kilpatrick Hills

Last Sunday must have been the best day of the year so far, and Jane, Ann and I took the opportunity for a walk not too far from home.
Pristine snow, blue skies and sunshine made for some glorious views from the track to Greenside Reservoir and Duncolm, and Inverclyde and the hills of Cowal sparkled in the clear light.