Saturday, 31 March 2012

Spring isn’t my thing

Actually, that is a complete and utter, barefaced lie. I love spring, the birdsong, the trees and flowers bursting into life, the weather, the chocolate, it’s really that spring doesn’t really like me.

The last week has been increasingly more uncomfortable. I have managed to walk five days a week for four weeks in a row, broke the 100 mile mark for the month (not enough, but 50% better than the previous two!) and nearly doubled my total ascent to reach 4378 feet. (So much for going metric!) I found last year that walking daily made as much of a difference as the distance and ascent, so I just try to vary the length and height as the mood takes and get my legs used to the idea of plodding day after day.

My goal this week was to walk six days in a row, but it was not to be. All that wonderful warm spring weather after a fairly mild and frost free winter means that the pollen count has risen with a vengeance and the breeze is just blowing it around and aggravating the issue. My eyes are swollen, itchy and full of gunk. I can’t wear my preferred wrap around sunglasses because I can’t get my lenses in to facilitate their use. Tablets might help, except they are tricky. Loratadine knocks me out within half an hour of half a tablet and when I wake up I’m grumpy and grotty. No change there, some might say. I occasionally resort to Cetirizine. It takes a little longer before the half a tablet knocks me out, I probably won’t be unconscious for so long, but I will be tired and grotty for much longer. And I seem to be wheezing, which is unusual. Yuk, really, so I’ll stay indoors until the rain damps it all down for a while. We want rain for the heath fires (been some more, including locally, Dumfries and Galloway and Banchory, amongst other places) and to calm my hayfever before I get unfit!

Spring is beautiful though, I love it.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Into the blue

The weather Ooop North at the moment is stunning. Ridiculously warm in fact. Record breaking you could say. The sort of weather when one should go out for a walk. Except, somehow, it was too hot and I was feeling somewhat lethargic.

I’ve  also gone off walking the cycle path recently after a couple of minor incidents involving a cyclist and a fellow walker, (actually, she was a Proper Walker ‘cos she was Power Walking, tsk) but I decided I would miss the rush by leaving early and extending my route by a couple of my miles so returning slightly later. A gentle stroll to the beach and back might be quite refreshing, so off I went. I took a small daysack so that I could take some water (it was really hot!) and my camera.

SG103328Looking towards Roseisle

SG103329Ben Wyvis is in the Haar. Somewhere

SG103331 Looking into the blue


It was indeed quite a pleasant wee stroll, there was plenty of birdlife including hearing a chiffchaff in the same copse as I heard my first one last week and seeing my first pair of meadow pipits of the year. I think the chiffchaff is still lonely, there didn’t seem to be any replies to it’s calls. I kept an eye out for my osprey in the bay as I know EJ has returned to Boat of Garten and mine are usually a week or so behind, but there was no sign of them.

SG103337Towards Califer Hill

Then I went home.

Speaking of the weather, it has been very dry over the eastern half of the country. There have been a few heath fires already in the last week. I’m hoping we’re not going to have a repeat of last year…


Sunday, 18 March 2012

Ooops, I did it again

Having said I would probably never do another MYOG again after the first time, I found myself rummaging through the hat and gloves box (or rather, asking a child to because it’s Mothering Sunday ;-D) for elastic shock cord and cord locks. Why, I hear you ask, (go on, I know you want to!) well, because I’d had a flashback. Last Challenge, I’d not used a proper map case, but because my route was so straight forward and I was rarely alone, I’d not really had to use my maps. I knew, however, that I needed to find a better system. Whilst reading up on everyone’s Challenges last, I’d come across Bob and Rose’s Podcasts and remembered this morning that  Bob had shown us a useful looking map holder. I searched it out and have put together this:SDC12400 My version of a map holder

Now all I need to do is attach it to my rucksack and go for a walk!

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Victory dance!

Route Map 2

I have been wanting to do this for a while, well, couple of years really and thanks to something I remembered reading on Alan’s blog, I’ve figured it out!

Ok, so next time I’ll switch off the information at cursor…

Whoop, whoop!!

Oh, and in case you are wondering, that’s my 2012 TGO Challenge Route you are looking at.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

I did it my way

Yesterday, at long last, I was presented with a day of good weather for walking, so off I went!

I drove down through Nethy Bridge and parked up near Dorback Lodge. After some last minute faffing whilst I listened to a tawny owl calling in the nearby trees, I finally set off just past 10 o’clock whilst munching a Nature Valley bar. It had been a couple of hours since breakfast and I was peckish.

I passed a couple of friendly estate workers with their Landrovers and dogs and chose to take the left hand path after the kennels, striding off purposefully, full of confidence. About a couple hundred feet later, having passed through some trees, I consulted the map. I had a few moments of uncertainty and puzzlement until I decided I should have taken the right hand path, so backtracked  through the trees until I found a slight track that cut diagonally across to the correct path. I don’t think anyone noticed…

I strode on confidently, again, this time more certain I was on the right track!

SDC12373 View from the car

SDC12375 My aim, just to the left of that patch of snow

There were plenty of red grouse around, frequently giving me heart failure as they took flight over the heather, scolding me for causing a disturbance. I had researched this route before setting out and although the recommended route headed counter-clockwise through Upper Dell and followed Allt nan Garmhuinn, I decided to take a clockwise route, following a clear estate track on a more gentle incline all the way past Carn Ruadh-bhreac and almost all the way up Geal Charn Beag. This was easy and uneventful (apart from the heart failures). The estate workers passed me in their Landrovers with their dogs as I forded Allt Dearcaige on their way to do some hearther burning, exchanging a few more cheerful words as they drove by. I paused soon after for an early lunch to refuel for the last push up to Geal Charn Beag. After setting off again I soon came across a smart shooting hut. I didn’t check to see if it was open, but I suppose the veranda could have given some shelter if necessary. Luckily it was turning out to be a beautiful day.

SDC12377 My lunch time view

SDC12378 Shooting hut

I made my way up the slightly steeper track from here, pausing regularly to enjoy the views (ahem). I came across a stone structure that obviously has some significance but with no signage, I have no clue what that might be.

SDC12379 Towards Carn Ruabraich

SDC12382 Towards Tomintoul

SDC12385 Nice, but why?

Onwards and upwards, until, as expected, the track ran out. There was, however, on the other side of a boggy bit, faint signs of an ATV track. It’s not always the best thing to follow these, but it was headed in the right general direction and made the going a little easier for a while. After short time, I became uncertain again. I was worried that I was being led into a false sense of security, so I struck off north towards the higher ground that I could see. I probably missed reaching Geal Charn Beag by about 160 metres.

I spent some time floundering over peat hags and boggy bits. I spooked two mountain hares, still in their winter coats. They took off across the heather and hags from just about under my feet. More heart failure. Nearly treading on a rather large frog didn’t help. I began to lose confidence, questioning my ability and state of mind. Whatever possessed me to think I could find my own way up a pathless hill, let alone across Scotland? Eventually, I came a cross some water. Some reasonably sized pools. If I’d had my beloved 1:25,000, I would have known almost exactly where I was. Using my 1:50,000, I knew there was water up there and this gave me a lift, maybe I wasn’t so displaced. Soon, some fence posts hove into view. I had a sudden flash, I remembered reading somewhere about a line of fence posts, useful for navigating. Yes! Then noticed a second, parallel line of posts. Hmm. I followed the line of older posts northwards. The going was much easier at last, a mix of rock and crispy lichen covered ground and I strode along making excellent progress, but still pausing to enjoy the surrounding vista.

SDC12386 Spot the hare! (Couldn’t quite get the camera out quickly enough)

SDC12384 Cloud pouring over Ben Avon into Slochd Mor (…I think…)

SDC12389 Looking along Water of Caplich towards Bynack More

In the middle of nowhere, I found a footprint in the mud. How strangely reassuring! They may not have been up here, doing the same things as me, but they had at least been there. If there’s a way up, there’s a way down. Shortly after, I found something else I vaguely remembered reading about, also very reassuring. I munched my second Nature Valley bar here.

SDC12390 On top of a hill, in the middle of nowhere, a wrought iron gate

It’s interesting rock up here, white and sparkly and I could see quite a pile of it in the distance, so headed straight for it. Could this be the cairn?


But once I got there, I could see the cairn a little way ahead.

SDC12391 Woo hoo! My first lone hill!

SDC12392 Looking westish

SDC12393 Eastish

SDC12394 North. Ish.

Now to get off this damn hill.

Again, I knew this would be trackless and was beginning to think it might have been easier to find a way up than down, but strode off confidently, again, starting my way down the slope. I paused a while to consult the map (there’s a theme here) and decided I was perhaps heading for Coire an Uillt Mhoir rather than Coire an Allt Gamhuinn, which would take me more directly to the track, so I contoured round a bit and then headed down the rather steep, heathery slope. I had in fact made the right decision. I would not have liked this going up! As if by magic, the track I was after came into view much sooner than I’d expected and I dropped down onto it with relief. Following the track round a bend, I found another hut. This one had a bolt rather than a lock, so was possibly open, but I didn’t like the creaking and was keen to get back to the car now, so took a photograph and  moved off.

SDC12395 I wouldn’t have like to go up

SDC12396 Probably open hut

I had a few more fords on the way back, but I didn’t think twice about any of them, quite a change for me. I used to hate them and cause quite a fuss, but now I pick my route and go. As I approached Upper Dell, I made another executive decision. There was, according to the map, a track almost directly to where the car was parked, but I had a feeling it might be another hard to find path, so when I reached that point, if it wasn’t staring me in the face, I’d simply take the track up to the main route and return that way. Which I did.

As we all know, it’s not a walk with me unless I fall and true to style, yards before the kennels, I tripped over my own feet and ended up in a small, cursing heap. Almost leaping back up to my feet, I brushed myself off (the ground was really dry and dusty here, so I just spread it around a bit and added some handprints) and sneaked past the estate cottage, hoping no one was home. The car was right where I left it and after whipping off my boots and socks, replacing them with dry socks and shoes, I relaxed in the driver’s seat for a few moments before making my way home.

SDC12398 For Laura, homemade Fruit Mince Brownie and a milky coffee!

This was a strange one. I set off quite happily but found I had a crisis of confidence when faced with no obvious path. This is not good! However, I made decisions and continued, eventually finding each time I’d made the right one. This is good. I need a bit more practice to gain confidence. In the end however, I finished feeling quite chuffed with myself. I hadn’t really strayed from my intended route by much and I’d finished feeling not too knackered. Result!

As the GPS is currently on holiday south of the border, my best guess would be 17.5 km, 616m at roughly 4.5kmh average, 5 hours and 25 minutes total, including pauses.

Worth the wait.

To top it off, when I managed to drag my sorry carcass to the car to take eldest son to archery, it turns out he’s been talent spotted! He shot his first Plymouth on the club’s Compound bow last night and scored 534/600. It’s only the third time he’s ever shot it. Chap on the national squad is going to arrange for the national coach to come along and see him shoot, but first, he needs a new bow. Excellent news though!

Happy, happy, happy.