Monday, 25 October 2010

Return to Portsoy

Last November we did this walk, but it wasn’t a complete success as it rained persistently and we ran out of daylight, so we had to abandon the walk at the Sandend distillery and I was thrown into the car of a complete stranger to get back to my car and return to rescue the girls.
We gathered at a really unsociable hour in Forres and as volunteer driver, I drove in the general direction of Buckie. Here, Jo and I abandoned the girls and drove on to Portsoy, left the car at Jo’s in-laws and cadged a lift to Finechty where we strolled west along the coast path back towards Buckie to meet the girls.
SDC10936 From the left Angela, Rikki, Judith, Sally and Jo
Jo and I turned on our heels as we joined up and continued east along the coast path for a comfort break in Finechty.
SDC10937 The toilets were open
SDC10938Finechty Harbour
It wasn’t long before we arrived at Portknockie and as we regrouped, some of us had second breakfast, in the street , beside sheds in front of a row of houses. Odd place…
SDC10941Portknockie SDC10944
Second breakfast
We continued on in fine, dry but very windy weather and as the wind was coming from a north-westerly direction, it was a bit chilly, but we were all suitably wrapped and managed to find shelter at regular intervals. It turned out that the path along most of this route is quite muddy and terribly slippery in places, but I don’t think any of us did more than the occasional graceful slide, not even me. The views along this coast line are stunning and the crashing waves added to the atmosphere.
SDC10945 Bow Fiddle Rock
SDC10947Looking behind us
SDC10955 Ah…
 On we went and soon arrived in Cullen Bay and walked along the sand as the tide rushed in towards us. We found two tiny streams to cross and passed a chap arranging his gear to do some kite surfing. Barmy, we thought, as we trudged along.
SDC10950Stream one    SDC10956
Stream two
And soon we were in Cullen. Last year, we desperately needed shelter at this point for a lunch break, but this year we were able to have a more civilised picnic at the table outside the powder room by the harbour.
SDC10963 Lunch stop
Powder room
SDC10961 Cullen harbour
SDC10962 SDC10965 Our skip
We popped round the corner to visit last years picnic stop, but I fear the council must have got wind of the six bag ladies that made use of their comfy recycling skip because the gates were locked, so I could only get a photograph through the bars.
At this point, we had to have a waterproof faff, (those that weren’t already kitted up, so not me then!) but we were soon on our way again, along the beach, passed the pet cemetery and foaming waves to climb up to the cliff path.
SDC10967Foaming waves
SDC10968Rather unpleasant cliff path
SDC10969And down the other side to the memorial,( but can’t remember what or who to, I had wobbly knees at this point,) to continue on towards Findlater Castle, an extraordinary place built into the jutting cliffs.
 SDC10970 Lovely rainbow
 Findlater Castle
It was a day of showers, but unfortunately mainly of hail which, with the force of the wind, was like a free course of exfoliation, just on one side of the face.
Onwards, ever onwards towards Portsoy, but first we had to tackle Sandend, the very reason we were back on these breathtakingly blustery cliffs.
SDC10975A lot of the paths along this whole route were edged with barbed wire. Lovely
SDC10977 Looking back towards Sandend
Last year, we crossed the river at the middle left of this photograph and walked along the beach only to struggle to find a way across again or onto the path. This year, as you can see, the tide was so far up the beach we couldn’t even have attempted to cross, so took mine and Angela’s route from last year up to the fence and over into the cow field. The cows were further away this time and totally oblivious to us as we worked as a team to get over the barbed wire fence safely. Why is the ground always lower on the other side? We went through the field, over the gate and down to the newly built bridge.
SDC10980 Which we crossed and then had a snack stop before finding the path again over the last cliff top. Actually, as we went up this path, we came across some steps from the beach. We hadn’t needed to cross the river a second time last year. I think if we hadn’t been so bedraggled and weary by that point, we might have been thinking straight and noticed them. Maybe.
SDC10982This was a lovely stretch of path, broad and trimmed, so much easier than the previous twelve miles. Portsoy soon hove into view and we once again had a spring in our step.
SDC10984Our goal, at last
SDC10985 The final harbour of our five harbours adventure
(Statistics from Finechty)
12.9 miles
4 hours 54 minutes walking
1 hour 37 minutes resting
Between 2.9 to 2.6 mph moving average, slower towards the end
1987 ft ascent
All in all, not a bad day!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

More along than up, take two

So, back to yesterday. (You may find it helpful to read the previous post first, to make more sense of this one!)
We set off along the good tracks once again, through Ryvoan pass, past the Green Lochan and off towards Bynack Stables. It’s always very busy around here, which is a draw back and we were passed by several walkers and cyclists, although mostly on their way back. We met one rather large group of around two dozen OAPs coming down the path from Ryvoan Bothy towards Glenmore. “Where’s the coach?” whispered David.
SDC10682@ On our way
SDC10686@ The Green Lochan was as green and strangely beautiful as ever, so we made the effort to go down the steps for a better view.
We soon had views of Ryvoan Bothy and Meall a Bhuachaille behind us as we continued up the winding path towards the remains of Bynack Stables and the little bridge across the River Nethy.
SDC10689@Ryvoan Bothy
The last time we were up there was for my **th birthday and we took our children (even the non-outdoorsy one!) up their first Corbett.
SDC10694On we went
When we reached the bridge, we had a lunch break whilst we enjoyed the views behind and ahead and counted red deer at the top of the hill in front of us.
SDC10702@The bridge over the River Nethy
SDC10707@ Looking towards Bynack Mor
Not clapping, gelling!
We crossed the bridge to find the ‘vague path’
We continued on this disappearing and reappearing path, staying close to the Nethy, clambering our way over rocks, through knee high heather, hopping boggy bits and over slightly cleared bits.
We had a GPS with us this time, to help us pinpoint where the path supposedly peters out and we should cross the ‘dried loch bed’, but we had also been set some navigational tasks by our team leader to practice map and compass skills. I also practiced my route finding skills and suggested we circumnavigate anti-clockwise (we went clockwise last time, it was a real mare!) or alternatively, cross where the ground was less green and therefore marshy looking, to try to keep dry feet. We could at least see the rubble of a previous settlement we were supposed to head for and pick up the next path, so that was the route we took. And stayed dry. Even when we had to cross Allt Fionna Choire!
SDC10718@ Spot the boggy bit
The path meanders on past a few small lochans before reaching the first ford and entering Abernethy Forest, then dropping down to the River Nethy.
SDC10726@ We crossed the first ford, Ministry of Funny Walks style
As Ciara and I waited for David and the boys to cross, Ciara had a little wobble and was understandably a bit nervous. I reassured her she’d be fine and David came back to give her a hand, but I was determined to cross alone…
Crossing the second ford
On foot
SDC10735And bum
SDC10736With style
This has obviously become a well known route, the tree trunk has been worn quite smooth and is muddy. It had been raining earlier. I had a mucky bum, but dry feet! (I did have to help in the end, but I didn’t cry.)
We had a bit of a struggle through the undergrowth to cross the little burn and climb the bank to rejoin the path, but we were all in one piece and mostly dry, Ciara and Aedan had gained a wet foot each somewhere along the way. The path winds it’s way gently back along the Pass to the bothy and then on to Glenmore Lodge once more and the  only reason it was getting dark at this point again was because we’d set off so late, just before midday, but we were in the car eating the rest of our snacks and drinking hot chocolate and soup before we needed to get torches out of our packs.
It was a better walk this time, there were definitely cleared bits in the middle of nowhere that helped and finding a better route across the the dried loch bed rather than struggling round the edge made up a lot of time. The weather was perfect, dry after a little early drizzle, clear but not baking sun and warm enough not to need a coat with no breeze to cause a chill at rest stops.
Roughly 10.3 miles
4 hours 30 minutes walking
1 hour 58 resting
1128 ft of up overall
This was obviously not a test of climbing ability, but of endurance. I think it’s the longest walk to date that the children have done and they all coped very well, they certainly weren’t as exhausted as I had been last time! It was also good to practice and gain confidence with my compass and map reading abilities in an area I know well enough to not get lost!
Another Grand Day Out.

More along than up, take one

David and I took the three that walk out again yesterday and we returned to a very familiar area, Glen More.

At this time of year, about six years ago (not entirely sure) David and I had a little trip to this area without children. We camped at Coylumbridge, an excellent site with the best toilet block ever. When we got up next morning, there was frost on the tent and it was a decidedly chilly day. We went to park the car near Glenmore Lodge and set off on foot for a little adventure. Little did I know…

We walked along relatively good paths, through sleet, snow and rain, to cross a bridge at what remains of Bynack Stables. Here, we were to take what was described on our route sheet as ‘a vague path’ downstream along the River Nethy. Vague was really non-existent in places, so when we were supposed to cross a dried loch bed ‘when the path peters out’, we missed it and struggled on through heather, bog, jumping streams and it went on and on forever. The best bit was a red deer stag, suddenly appearing on a high point ahead of us and posing for the camera we’d sadly forgotten. It was a little close for comfort considering the time of year, but he was a stag on a mission and had no interest in us.

We struggled on, eventually meeting the path we wanted, crossed a ford before heading into Abernethy Forest. We knew we had another ford to cross and I was horrified when we eventually found it. It was deep and fast, even a Landover would have struggled and after pacing the banks, we decided on a route downstream to cross the footbridge at Forest Lodge, adding roughly three miles to our walk, but we’d have dry feet. However, we met a lady working for the RSPB out for a quick walk before a meeting. After a brief chat, she assured us there was a safe way to cross at the ford, so we followed her down the track again.

“It’s over here,” she explained, as she disappeared up a steep bank and over the top. We followed. “Here it is!” she smiled, pointing to a large tree across the river. Up she hopped and trotted across said tree, closely followed by David. Up I clambered and paused, practicing some deep breathing exercises for a second or two. “You can go on your hand and knees if you like!” was the helpful call from hubby. Bum was my preferred option, although tricky with roots and then branches sticking out all over the place. I had visions of plopping into the raging torrent below and floating downstream.

We made it, followed the Mountain Goat up the opposite bank, across a further stream and up through more undergrowth to rejoin our path. “Please, don’t make yourself late, we know where we are, we’ll be fine!” I panted, desperately trying to gather my wits, and off she trotted.

It was far less eventful after that, but I was seriously flagging  by now and every step was just a step too far, this was before I’d really got back into walking seriously. After what seemed like an eternity, Ryvoan Bothy came into view and we knew we were nearly back to the car. We had, by this time, decided another night in the tent was beyond me. My boots were soaking from the bog hopping, I was sore and exhausted from all the holes I’d fallen down and so the Nethybridge Hotel seemed like a very good idea. Oh, the miracle of the mobile phone, within minutes, David had secured a double room with dinner, bed and breakfast. It was starting to get dark by this time, but the lure of a hot bath and a dram spurred me on and we were soon back to the car and on our way to a comfy bed and a hot meal.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

First and third

Yesterday, we decided to take three of our children up their first Munro (my third), the eldest having decided to stay at home, outdoors isn't her thing.
It was a beautiful day, clear blue skies, quite warm with a slight breeze. We'd chosen A' Chailleach, just north of Newtonmore. We left the car in the car park just before the bridge and set off on a lovely path past woodland and beside the Allt a Chaorainn. We easily found the small cairn marking the track down to the bridge.

 The rickety bride

Looking upstream, Allt a Chaorainn

Soon after the bridge, the ground became boggy and never really improved, the path was quite indistinct in places. The boys took the lead, as usual, but they travel light, unlike Ciara and myself who carry a little extra padding for comfort, (she's built just like her mother!) We eventually reached the bothy where we stopped for a lunch break before continuing up An Leitir and towards our goal.
Lunch at the bothy

We didn't mind too much that we were slightly off track, due to the disappearing path, we could see it wasn't going to give us any problems reaching the summit.

Woo hoo! (David managed to include himself in the picture, just to prove he was there too!)
 The views north
The views south. It looks a bit bleak and I suppose it would be on a rubbish day.

We knew we'd been off track slightly, so I practiced a bit of compass and map work to take us back down the true path to the bothy and it was no less boggy. It was quite a giggle as we bog-hopped our way off the hill and Ciara and I both took unplanned rests as we slid gracefully to sit in the bog.


I managed to sink up to my left knee in a bit of unexpected bog, but I was just checking the effectiveness of my beloved merino kit. My Icebreaker knickers dried quickly after their ducking (so did my Marmot scree pants) and my merino mitts kept my hands cosy despite being damp (and mucky, yuk!) and my Foothills socks are just amazing. Despite a good bog soaking and the initial freezing cold, my foot was soon warm and snug again inside my boot and there was none of the usual rubbing you might expect from a wet sock. Fabulous.
There was wildlife too, but no photographs as I wasn't in charge of the camera. We saw plenty of raven, they are so playful and obviously having loads of fun as they fly to and from wherever. There were mountain hare, golden plover, red deer hind, red grouse and loads of red/orange harvestman type spiders, I've never seen so many on a hill! We could hear red deer stags roaring in the glens below us which was an extraordinary experience, second only to being with my children atop their first Munro.

7.14 miles
3 hours 52 minutes moving
2 hours 22 minutes resting
1.8 average mph
2067 ft ascent