Monday 29 November 2010

Snow doesn’t stop play but does make life a little more interesting and deep holes…

Yesterday was a girly walk and so, we did, despite the accumulation of snow. Only one girly dropped out, but we understand that, she does live further afield along the coast. The intrepid six were Angela, Alison, Judith, Jo, Sally and me.

SDC11046 David and I cleared the car before we set off

SDC11047The tree was pretty

We left Forres after a change of plan. Normally, we would have taken a more off road route, but today the road seemed a better choice. We made our way out by the hospital, past the farm and the quarry and then up the long and winding (and uphill…) road to Califer Hill viewpoint.

SDC11050 A waterproof moment as the snow put in it’s first appearance on this walk

SDC11051 The road ahead

SDC11053 The road behind (or was it the other way around?)

We persevered and once we reached the viewpoint, we had a snack stop (and a comfort stop for some). There were a couple of abandoned cars which the nursing staff among us felt compelled to check for freezing inhabitants, but thankfully, none were found.

SDC11054Towards Burghead SDC11055Over Findhorn marshes and Culbin Forest towards Ben Wyvis, I think SDC11056In the direction of Loch Ness, maybe


Pretty snow!

So, on we walked and although road walking is not usually much fun, it wasn’t like walking on tarmac today and we just chatted and trudged our way through the tree lined lanes, with occasional snow flurries (dumps…) and blue skies. It was actually a really lovely atmosphere, very relaxing.

Then behind us was a noise. A vehicle, but not an ordinary vehicle. What could it be?

“Oh look! It’s a quad bike!”

“I’d laugh if it was Greg!” (Jo’s husband.)

And so it was! Alison had never been on a quad bike before. She has now!

SDC11059 Alison hitched a ride

SDC11060More pretty trees 


Onwards down the valley, the intrepid walkers trudge

We were soon heading down the other side of the hill to Angela’s house for a very civilised lunch of Carrot, Orange and Ginger soup and a slice of Chocolate Cake, yum. Alison had arrived before Pete and the little girls, so she’d had to do some breaking and entering to make sure the soup was on to heat up in time. Maybe there are hints of a miss spent yooff? There was some male company at the house, it’s a long time since we’ve had male company on a girly walk, so it was a welcome treat and a relief for Judith, as her leg muscles had gone into spasm again (as they did on A Return to Portsoy) so her husband had arrived to convey her home in warmth and comfort.

SDC11065 Soup! (It matches the table cloth. To hide spillage?)

SDC11062The lovely view from Angela’s kitchen window. (That’s not a ski jump, it would be heading the wrong way!)

SDC11063Weather from Angela’s window 

Soon, we were on our way, but a split group. Angela accompanied Sally part way to Pluscarden, Jo, Alison and I made our way towards Rafford before Alison and I completed the walk to Forres.

SDC11067Less snow on the road, later in the day

SDC11068Sheep in the gloom

I think Alison and I walked the furthest, 12.1 miles, Jo totalled 9.89 miles. I’m not sure how much Angela and Sally did, but it was 6.56 miles to Angela’s and a further 4 miles, roughly, to Sally’s, so Sally totalled 10.56 miles and Angela probably wasn’t far off. Judith managed a good, uphill walk with her poorly leg.

1195 ft ascent overall

2.7 mph average, surprisingly

We left at 10 am and Alison and I were back in Forres by 3.50 pm, so with stops, I think we had a good day!

You’re right, I didn’t explain the deep hole.

You see, I hate being passed by large vehicles on the road. I have a tendency to end up in the hedge, trying to get as far away as possible. This time, I went over the snow drift into the ditch (commonly known as a dyke in these parts, unfortunately) and landed up to my waist in snow. My lovely new gaiters still kept the snow and wet off my lower legs though!

Thursday 25 November 2010

Good stuff

In the previous post, I mentioned Webtogs and their excellent service, particularly free P & P.
This is always a bonus, and this website is one of the few that actually offers what they promise, free P & P. So often, I find I’ve placed items in my virtual basket, gone to checkout only to find that, because I have an IV postcode (included amongst a list of others), I am denied free P & P and would have to fork out as much as £15, or sometimes more! It’s ridiculous and obviously quite unnecessary, as this site proves. Not only that, but I ordered the items just before lunch on Tuesday and they arrived this morning. Fabulous service if you ask me!
And of course, new kit has to be worn. (Although, I did walk with ‘someone’ recently who had a new Paramo jacket, but hadn’t worn it “To keep it clean…”, or “For best!” as I put it.)
So I trotted upstairs, popped the leggings on underneath my Screepants (OTT? Naahh, bl***y freezing up here!) and then zipped up the gaiters and off I went.
Ok, the gaiters might have been overkill, but one just has to do these things.
I went to the marshes, thinking they might have been living up to their reputation. As luck would have it it was remarkably dry, so I kept the gaiters clean. And there weren’t any men with shooty-bang-sticks after the geese either, so that was a bonus.
Of course, I love my new leggings, (merino etc., etc.,) and the gaiters are at least comfortable with no condensation on the inside when I got home. They’ll have more of a test on Sunday on the Girly Walk, the path from Califer Hill to Sourbank is always a nightmare!
SG102401The debris

Retail therapy get out clause

This all started a while ago really. I’d been going through my kit to sort out what I wanted to take with me on the Challenge and to work out what, if anything, I needed or needed replacing. Actually, that could be a fib. I just like new kit. Anyway, I love  my layering system, it works for me, but whilst I’m very happy with my Smartwool base layer (merino is my friend) and bamboo tee-shirt, I wanted a long sleeve merino (as before) mid layer to replace the long sleeve bamboo. (I know, I want never gets…). I also tend to wear legging under my Paclites and the ones I currently use are an old pair of aerobic leggings that I’ve had since my early twenties. So, I’d surfed on and off for a while and picked the Icebreakers (and again…) that fitted the bill. I’d had to make a second choice of top because the one I really desired was unjustifiably expensive, but second choice would do the job. We’d also been discussing new gaiters. Our old ones (that’s not the royal ‘We’ by the way, David was included in this part) were Peter Storm and whilst they’ve done the job so far, we need something better now our walking has evolved into something more serious.

(And breathe.)

Imagine my utter delight when the first choice top was reduced by 40% and P & P free! I did debate for a while if I was maybe being a bit rash, a little hasty perhaps, but all of a sudden, there it was in my virtual basket, card details entered and they were winging their merry little way from NZ! Gosh, how did that happen.

I thought I might as well just go mad, and off I went to Webtogs to look for gaiters and the desired leggings. Rab Hispar gaiters were there, in our sizes and they had been very favourably reviewed in TGO Magazine. The Icebreaker Bodyfit 200 leggings (getting boring now.) were also there, with 10% off and free P & P!

The point, of course, was justifying said purchases.


On arriving home for lunch on Tuesday, darling hubby is welcomed with a peck on the cheek and a cheery,

“Hello darling!”

Suspicion duly aroused, darling husband responds,

“What have you done?”

(Why does he always think a sign of loving affection means I’ve done something?)

“I’ve bought my Christmas present from you to save you the stress and it was a bargain too, so I’ve saved you money!”

“Oh, great! Saves me the bother!”


Saturday 20 November 2010

A good balance

Laura and I met at Bridge of Brown this morning, both of us early again. We set off up the (steep!) road for a short distance, passed the cafe which was closed, to take a track along Allt Iomadaidh. It was a somewhat grey day, but actually not too cold with very little breeze apart from a short stretch up to our highest point of the day. We had a brief shower too, but that was a little later, whilst we were concentrating on keeping our feet dry.


We soon had this view behind us

The track started well, but we knew it wouldn’t last and we were soon splashing our way through puddles and bog, interspersed with a little mincing through the heather.

SDC11017This was a good bit ahead

SDC11018We happened upon this ruin and a brief discussion ensued about good places to pitch.

The track continued on across fairly open moorland with what would have been good views towards the Cairngorms, but there was some low cloud that hid the hills from view.

SDC11019 Would have been the Cairngorms

SDC11021 The view to our left

On we went with red grouse laughing at us all the way along our route, they knew something we didn’t, we thought. Even though we were chatting as we went, we managed to spot the junctions and pay attention to the correct route.

Once again, we were heading uphill and we did pause to look up the path to the top of Tom an t-Suidhe Mhoir and discuss how we would have made our way down off the other side, but not today. At this point, the breeze had picked up and there was a chill in the air. Onwards to find a lunch spot.

Soon, we were going down hill where we had a waterproof faff by the Burn of Brown, which we were to ford. Several times, if we followed the track marked on the map. We decided, however, discretion was the better part of valour. The left hand bank, where we eventually needed to end up, was broad enough to skirt along the edge of the burn without fording, which was a good plan as the burn was quite full and strong today. We met a couple and their dog coming in the other direction and they had obviously made the same decision, he assured us “There is a kind of track all the way.” Kind of was an over statement.

So, we slipped, slid and splashed our way along the bank, it was a tad wet in places, and boggy, but we persevered and David would have been so proud of me as I didn’t end up face down in the mud. Especially after having just claimed to be balancing so well without sticks… (Laugh? Me?)

We continued.

The path took us by a small wooded area and we decided it would provide enough shelter for a lunch break, so a comfy spot was selected and a picnic was had. It was actually a lovely spot with views out across the opposite hill with a ruined farm building, Tom Beag and Tombreck.

After lunch and a comfort break, we continued on up the slightly variable path, with more chatter, splashing, sinking and much giggling. Eventually, a little bridge came into view over the burn back to our cars.

SDC11023 The rushing burn

SDC11024 The photographs don’t do this fabulous mini-gorge justice, the patterns worn into the rocks were beautiful and the water was tumbling with incredible force on it’s way, the noise was tremendous.

SDC11026Beautiful parking

This was a lovely walk! Admittedly, it was a short walk, but we were taking a possible weather situation and lack of daylight into consideration to allow us both to travel safely to and from home.

6.96 miles

2.4 mph average

2 hours 55 minutes walking

1 hour 33 minutes resting/faffing

I had a lovely day and I’m already planning our next route. It seems we’re going to take it in turns to choose and plan a route and perhaps try to out do each other with the amount of mud and bog.

I think I’m winning at the moment.



Friday 12 November 2010

The trials and tribulations of route planning

Now, I've been planning this Adventure for more than two years. I've planned a solo route that became a team route and another route for the future, when I'm more experienced and feeling brave. (Plenty of time on my hands, ahem.) So, when I got the Envelope I'd been hoping for, I thought my plans would swing into action smoothly and my Route would be winging it's way through the ether to Roger and a vetter in just a few days, to avoid the rush.
Sitting in front of my 'puter with my Route on Memory Map, I decided I should do a bit of tweaking. I don’t want to start at Mallaig now without David. I’ve done this boat trip on my own before and wanted to start from here with my trusty side kick (I’m a softy, be gentle with me) plus I’d been less than impressed when we’d dropped into The Tomdoun last year to meet up with a few Challengers, so another good reason to adjust the start of my walk.
I also decided that the route towards the end would need some alterations to avoid a Big Hill without my trusty side kick to, er, ‘encourage’ me.
Doing these alterations, however, has led to a hiccup. I really wanted to plan in a day off. I really wanted to start with a few shorter days rather than three long ones and avoiding the Big Hill later on meant a long day after my hoped for rest day, which seems to defeat the object. It seems to be a little tricky to fulfil all my wishes, I’d never get a job as Santa.
I should be in a circus, all the juggling I’m doing.
My maths might improve with all the practice.
Might have to just bite the bullet.
I’ll give it some (more) thought…

Monday 8 November 2010

Laura, Louise and the Laughing Cows

I think they were you know.
We agreed a date and time to meet and were both early, always a good start. After a quick faff and a conflab, off we set on our little ramble on the Glenlivet Estate. It was a fine day, a light, cool breeze with some low cloud or mist on distant hills as we made our way on a reasonable track. It wasn’t reasonable for long.
As we trekked uphill, over stiles, through a gate and on into the bog, it became clear we walk in a very similar manner, a reasonable plod with heavy breathing and regular pauses uphill. Makes life a whole lot easier!
Towards the Ladder Hills
SDC11003 Curious Star Jelly stuff, must investigate!
On we trudged, slithered and squelched until we joined the Speyside Way and what a disgrace that was!
SDC11004 Upwards on the Speyside Way (this was the best bit)
And on we went, chatting all the way. ‘Cos we’re girls and we can!
Soon we reached Carn Daimh, with it’s pile of rubble and plinth, took a few photographs, admired the ravens and decided it was a bit chilly up here for lunch and we’d drop down the other side of the hill into the trees for shelter.Good move!
SDC11006The distillery
SDC11007 Rubble and plinth
Lunch was very pleasant. We sat sitting in front of a recently cleared area of trees that looked a little desolate but opened up views of the hills. Well, would have done had we been able to see them clearly, but I’m sure they were there. The path down this side of the hill and into the trees was a vast improvement and we enjoyed it while we could. Once we back into open ground, it deteriorated once more, but led to much hilarity and kept our spirits high, despite the wintry shower at this point. Onwards we ventured, following the virtual path through heather and bog to rejoin the dismal Speyside Way.
Making our way through the last bit of woodland was tricky and nearly led to wet pants, but we recovered ourselves and eventually emerged the other side, opting for the cyclists gate rather than another stile (there’d been a few) which would have taken us boggily downhill.
We had been following this track downhill, avoiding stiles where possible (our little leggies were tired of stiles) but in the distance I spied a large gathering of cattle. They looked a bit like a group of hoodies on a street corner and we felt they were best avoided. The avoidance plan eventually brought us out over a fence to a ford, just beyond the hoodies and on their side of the fence, but they’d obviously lost interest and just watched, probably having a good chortle at our expense. A plank was kindly placed to aid the fording, but wading through the mud either side to avoid wet feet seemed pointless, so we splashed through the shallows instead.
The farm track mud was not so easy to avoid and I managed to pick up about a pound per foot. Eugh.
We herded some sheep to a different field, I’m sure the farmer will have found them by now. Soon we rejoined our outward route and returned to find our cars, still alone.
I think other people know about this route. It would be lovely, if the path was as good as it should be. If I’d been on my own, I think I’d have found it quite demoralising, especially the sleety middle bit, but I was in excellent company and we had such a good giggle, I still  enjoyed myself.
We’ve agreed to meet again, I’ve challenged Laura to find something less boggy!
I think Laura has more photographs and maybe a few statistics over here, I forgot to switch my GPS on at the beginning of the walk. Nothing to do with the talking.

OO er

I'm in.
Now The Adventure begins. Yey!
(What have I done?)