Sunday, 23 September 2012

Going up is harder than coming down

This may be a bit of a generalisation, but on this occasion it was true (but may have been our own fault, koff….)

Whilst we were in Gairloch recently, David had bought me a new book from Cicerone, Scotland’s Best Small Mountains. It’s a lovely little book that picks out some cracking walks often overlooked because of something better known in the area, and the walk we’d chosen was one of those, Creag Dubh and The Argyll Stone. Creag Dubh is technically a lower top of Sgor Gaoith, the first Munro I climbed and the hill more often climbed on this ridge.

I had considered parking the car at Inverdruie and walking through to Loch an Eilein to avoid paying £1.50 per person, but I was glad we hadn’t in the end. I reasoned that we often use the footpaths around this area and the powder room facilities, but rarely the car park, perhaps we should occasionally to be fair,  to contribute to the upkeep of them!

After donning boots and gaiters, we set off towards said powder rooms, next to the shop and outside of which are a couple of picnic benches. Perfect then for a coffee break.

SDC14005A watched pot never boils, unless it’s a Flash!

After our coffee and Tiffin break, followed by a visit to the powder room, we set off along the west side of the loch on this beautiful, sparkly day.

SDC14009  Sparkly

SDC14014 The beautiful loch

There were lots of people around, some walking, with and without dogs (some of which were barely under control) and some on bikes, with and without children (none of which were under control). When we reached our turn off at the smaller Loch Gamhna, we found that we left all these distractions behind, which was a bit of a relief. It also meant we had a smaller audience for any navigational errors that might occur.

The walk we had chosen suggested taking an overgrown path that did not appear on my map, so we decided to walk on to the path marked at Drakes Bothy. Seemed like a good idea at the time. We should have known we may regret that decision when map and compass had to be deployed to find the path we wanted. Shortly after setting off, the path disappeared and we were left to struggle our way uphill through the overgrown heather, blaeberries and wet mossy undergrowth. According to my GPS, we rarely deviated from where the path should have been, but we never found it. I was less than happy (although not whiney) at this point, I found the going really tiring. And sore.

Eventually the path that should have been would take us to and across Allt Coire Follais so we headed in that general direction. Ahead of us a middle aged couple hove into view, and by their puzzled expressions, I guessed they were perhaps where they expected be to and we weren’t. Sure enough, when our paths met and we reached them, we fell onto a path. The path that we probably should have taken in the first place. Hey ho. Onwards and upwards.

This path was at least there, if a little wet in places and sometimes hiding amongst a new obstacle, jaggy juniper. It was much easier going though by comparison and I felt much happier to continue.

Upwards, forever upwards. Not long after we’d left the couple behind (who never reappeared) David’s mobile rang. Several times as it took a bit of finger fumble to answer. Ciara was at work and was feeling unwell, they would keep here there for a while then take her home for Rhiannon to look after. A little tricky perhaps, but as we were half way up a hill, not much we could do about it so we carried on.

SDC14019 A hint of the promised views

SDC14025 There is a path. Honest

SDC14028 Slow but steady and maybe a little whiney

The path took us into a little overgrown ravine and up a steep slope to step out onto a broad, open hillside where the views behind us really began to open up. It was still an uphill slog, quite wet and spongy moss, shorter heather but still time consuming and quite tiring. I may at this point been a little more whiney, but our goal was in sight and I ploughed on.

Not too much later, David was climbing the Argyll Stone and I almost sprinted to reach the cairn first.

SDC14030 Sprinting…almost

SDC14033 Made it!

I wandered back to The Argyll Stone and was dared to climb up to really appreciate the view. David may have been slightly surprised when I accepted the challenge. So was I.

SDC14038Don’t I look small up there?

SDC14039 But I look happy!

SDC14040Then I had to get down again

SDC14041  Still smiling though!

We had lunch in the shelter of the stone, the Flash was pressed into service again so that we could have Heinz Squeeze and Stir Tomato Soup along with our sandwiches, perfect for warming us as it was a little fresh up top. Soon we were on our way again, and I was practicing my map and compass work again just to make sure we took the right pathless route off the hill and down to meet the track out of Gleann Einich.

SDC14045 Leading the way, with confidence

SDC14042 Admiring my favourite hill, Mealle a Bhuachaille

SDC14046 Looking over the head of Gleann Einich towards Braeriach. If you look closely, someone had the icing sugar out overnight

Coming off the hill, though pathless, was much easier going underfoot as although damp in places, the heather was far less likely to snag misplaced feet. The lichen was wet and slippery in places but didn’t really catch me out. Much.

SDC14053 A split second earlier, I may have been in a small hole….

We soon found ourselves on the track that would lead us towards Rothiemurchus and back to the car park. A long, hard day but we had such a good time. A brilliant walk on a beautiful, autumnal day. Fantastic.

Roughly 10.9 miles, 2,333 ft total ascent, 1.4 mph moving average.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

An L of a lovely day

I had one of those lovely emails on Thursday, asking if I was doing anything on Saturday. As it happens, I wasn’t, so plans were hastily hatched and after dropping Ciara at work and Rhiannon having a haircut, I pinched the car and drove over to Ballater.
What a superb drive! I’ve not been beyond Tomintoul before, by car or on foot, so the Lecht was a new experience and quite entertaining. I wouldn’t like to attempt it in foul weather! The scenery is quite different over here and I really enjoyed the views, although as I was driving I was concentrating really, honest gov.
I made good time and arrived before Laura, so I had time to pick a good, shaded place in the car park to abandon the car and find the public conveniences. As they require 20p, I had no change and they ‘don’t do’ change, I had to wait, but Laura’s bus wasn’t long and the decision to snaffle a coffee before setting off was made, so we could both powder our noses before heading for the hills.
SDC13933A busy Ballater
SDC13934The church and war memorial 
We left Ballater over the bridge and turned south west towards Braemar. At the Bridge of Muick we took the track heading for Balintober and soon found ourselves heading uphill with woodland on our right and hills to our left.
We made a steady climb uphill, pausing for plenty of photographs and air as we went. The wildlife was stunning. Along with buzzards and kestrel, we were thrilled to hear red stags roaring in the hills and glens around us. It’s a really magical experience and given the fabulous weather, really made our day. The views over to the Cairngorms, Lochnagar and Mount Keen were incredibly clear.
SDC13938Towards Lochnagar
There was a brief pause for a snack while we enjoyed watching a large herd of deer on the hillside before making our way to the junction that would take us towards Craig Vallich. We passed the small, derelict hut before making our way to the end of the track, nearly at the summit.
SDC13940 The hut
SDC13942 First glimpse of Mount Keen
As it was rather rough terrain to the cairn, we enjoyed the views over Ballater before heading back along the track and then towards the Pannanich Hill. Again, a large herd of deer were spotted in the glen just below us and we were able to watch them for a while before they trotted off. An easy climb along good paths saw us at the trig, then down a little to find a sheltered spot for lunch. The 360 views from the top were absolutely stunning.
SDC13945 Views from Craig Vallich
SDC13946 Looking down on Ballater (and a herd of deer you probably can’t make out)
SDC13949 Laura makes like a bust
SDC13951 Views
SDC13952 More
SDC13955 Endless
SDC13957 On and on
SDC13958 And Mount Keen
We made our way off the hill quite steeply, following the track to the side of Craig Collich. It lead to a gate in the deer fence and onto a pleasant woodland path, with natural woodland to our left and plantation to our right. After a short nostalgic trip for Laura down the wrong path, we found ourselves tumbling onto the road again by the bridge into Ballater and all of a sudden, we fell into seats with coffee and cake on the table in front of us. Quelle suprise!
SDC13959 Steep track down to the woodland
SDC13963  View point gifted to the village
Laura ‘missed’ her bus, so I happily took her down the road to drop her at her doorstep before taking the very interesting Old Military Road to Gairnshiel Lodge and the return trip over the Lecht.
A thoroughly enjoyable and totally spectacular day. Thanks Laura, you turned up trumps again!
8.12 miles, 1679 feet and just over 5 hours 10 minutes, including stops, a guesstimate as ever as my battery ran out!

Friday, 7 September 2012

A little rant

I believe I may have mentioned somewhere before the annoying habit some companies have of charging extortionate rates of p & p as some sort of punishment for living in a beautiful part of the world. I've recently stopped using a couple of companies as they have now started charging except for a minimum spend. Only if I intend to meet that requirement will I use these companies. I had p & p issues with a small item that were resolved with the kind help of a fellow Challenger (for goodness sake Carl, get on with the write up!) before the Challenge.
Well, I was about to try something new that I'd read about elsewhere (can't remember where, but I got there from Alan's place and order the product online rather than buy off the shelf in the supermarket as it was cheaper and free p & p, my favourite. Oh, well, it is until you enter your postcode!!
No, I won't be buying from there then.
Grrr. Stomps off in a right old huff.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Not for veggies

Laura, look away now…

As part of their education, children do some work experience in the fourth year of secondary school.

Rhiannon did hers at her primary school.

Aedan is a little different. He is doing a bit of gamekeepering on the local estate.

I thought this might be quite interesting for him.

Little did I know he was going to pop back from ‘work’ at 8.30 am this morning with a bag of deer offal. He apparently showed quite some interest in the post morning shoot activities and the gamekeeper gave him the liver and kidneys as a ‘treat’.

Now, all I’ve got to do is come up with a recipe, although I won’t be cooking or eating it. I do meat, but not offal. David and the boys will enjoy, I’m sure.

Might even have to go for dinner with the girls, I can’t stand the smell.

Any recipe ideas out there?