Sunday, 31 December 2017

So, that was 2017

It has been such a busy year! I don’t think I can actually remember everything that’s happened ad everywhere I’ve been.

Harry the Hernia was dealt with in early March and has caused no further problems. I didn’t complete the Challenge in May, but the problems I encountered were not related to Harry, hopefully the new pack David has bought me and the extra training to improve leg strength will help make next year’s crossing less painful.

Rhiannon finished her four year psychology course and graduated in June, she’s come home for a year to work locally before perhaps going back to continue her studies.

Aedan is competing at ever higher levels, he’s been to Europe and Australia and along with receiving a Merit award from Sports Aid Scotland he was also awarded Young Sportsman of the Year. He has been selected to represent Scotland shooting 10m Air Pistol at the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast Australia in April. A tad exciting.

Ciara is studying hard at university in Aberdeen, the same course that Rhiannon has just finished. She seems to be enjoying it and is also maintaining her shooting.

Conall did well in his first set of exams last summer and is now studying hard for the next set. He is hot on Aedan’s heels with regards his shooting and next year will enjoy still being a junior whilst Aedan starts his senior career.

There must  have been much walking and fitness, Mick and Gayle visited and Laura and I have enjoyed many walks together. There was also our last Duke of Edinburgh Award group to supervise over the summer, a Gold group who have been an absolute joy to support and encourage. I will miss them, but I am so pleased that the last group I have supported from the Open Award Centre that I have been co-coordinator of of were such a fantastic group.

My regular walks on Altryre put a smile on my face and song in my heart. Loving life and looking forward to more of it in 2018.

Sláinte mhath!

Last Walk of 2017

In June David and I went back to the gym (for me, the first time at the gym for more than 13 years) in a bid for me get fitter and make hills more comfortable, although not necessarily faster. On 31st October we ventured out for my first run outdoors for over 12 years. All the time I have been walking between 30 and 50 kilometres a week, to maintain my walk fitness. So on Friday, we decided to do a favourite walk to see if my hill fitness has improved any. In the event, I think it was a bit of an unfair test as there was quite a bit of snow and ice on the ground which inevitably impacted on our pace, although the Kahtoola Microspikes came into their own and definitely helped.

The favourite hill is of course, Meall a’ Bhuachaille, and we haven’t been there for over five years, I was happy to be back.

I didn’t get as many photographs as I would have liked as my camera battery doesn’t like the cold, but I didn’t want to hang about myself particularly, it was chilly. The lighting was rather wonderful. Fab day out with TTS.


Taken as we left Ryvoan Bothy


Looking along the Craiggowie ridge from the cairn


Roughly 9.16 km and about 529 m total ascent

Return to Culbin

We had attempted to walk to The Gut back here when a slight mishap meant we cut short our walk on that occasion. This time we hoped to make a better fist of it.

This walk was back in November, but I don’t remember anything significant. The weather was relatively fine but grey at times and we did have a little off path adventure, but we survived with just slightly damp feet. I seem to have taken more photographs on this walk.


New benches


Views from the top of the fire tower


Made it to the gut and rewarded with excellent views


Yep. We went through this


But it did improve!


Excellent views at lunch from our log pile


Thank you Laura, thoroughly enjoyed myself!

Roughly 14.6 km and 118m total ascent

Around The Bochel

The 12th October seemed like a good day to meet up with the Lovely Laura and go for a walk. We decided it was about time we returned to the Tomintoul area and gave The Bochel a go. We are quite familiar with the area and really should have been prepared for the mud fest that ensued, but it was a while since we’d been in the area and we had forgotten.

It was a grey day and it did attempt to rain later in the day, but it came to nothing in the end, despite the waterproof faff.

It all started very well, we parked the car at Tombae car park and set off a short way along the road before taking a track and crossing a bridge. Then it got…tricky. There were cattle. A substantial amount of cattle. They weren’t too close, but kept moving which didn’t please me. And the mud! The mud was utterly ridiculous. That is partly why I seem to have taken very few photographs. That and the fact we were talking quite a lot.


The boardwalk, short respite from the mud fest


Loved the sky


So, the plan had been to follow the footpath and then make our way uphill to the top of The Bochel, but we didn’t like the going much, after the mud fest it was a steep, heathery slope, our next least favourite ground for walking, so we decided to continue contouring for a while before making our way across and down the hill to meet the footpath. There we came across another slight issue with cattle, they were blocking the track we intended to follow up onto the road to avoid the return through the mud fest. To avoid the cattle, we went through a gate leading into the adjoining field (the gate between the two was open, but the cattle seemed uninclined to come through it) and walked quite quickly across to another gate (which  I think we climbed?) and into some trees. After a quick scout about, we decided our next course of action would be to follow the fence line along the edge of the trees and make our way to the road tat way. Much to my horror, we found we than had to climb a stile into the back garden of a small, occupied cottage and sneak through their gate to reach the desired track to the road, but we got there eventually!

Once on the track, we crossed a bridge and made it to the road. At Allanreid car park we made use of the picnic bench and had a rather late lunch. Soon after we walked along the road back to the car. Such fun!!

Roughly 10.8 km and 316m total ascent.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Going for Gold

We only had one group to support at the Open Award Centre this year, a group that we supported through Silver last year and had previously done their Bronze through the centre too.

Over the last three years, with a little natural wastage and movement of participants, we ended up with a group of four, two girls and two boys. We were able to encourage one of the parents, Nick (ML and former MRT) to give additional support in an advisory role and he and David were able to take the group out for their practice expedition in June. I took on a role of taxi, I dropped David and Conall at the start of the walk at Blair Atholl and left them to it. The following day I drove down to Auchlean and parked the car, then walked in to meet the group and supervisors south of Glenfeshie Lodge, to join them for the second camp and then to play taxi again the next day while the group walked out to Ruthven Barracks. Because of their experience and skills, they were able to complete three full days walking and two overnight camps as a practice.

The practice was a success. They started the expedition in fine weather and had a good first night. The second day there was a change in conditions, but they coped really well, navigating superbly through low cloud and rain over rough terrain and really impressing Nick, especially when they ducked into a sheltered spot, cracked out the Jetboil and had hot drinks and snacks.

The qualifier was nearly cancelled. We couldn’t get support from our local Assessors, which was really frustrating, the group had to apply to the Assessor Network and pay for an Assessor, which I find really annoying. John from Kingussie agreed at the last minute to Assess for them, which was fantastic.

We set off to Spean Bridge early on the Saturday morning, in time to meet John and set off around 10am. I was able to support the entire expedition, which was exciting, I love supporting the groups out and this was such a good group. As they set off to make their way to Meannanach Bothy for their first camp (outside, not in the bothy!) we had a little car shuffle to do. We drove both cars to Tulloch, parked up and then caught the train back. We then in turn set off for the bothy. We really took our time on the way, this was a Gold group, perfectly capable and competent and we did not need to see them until camp. We dawdled along but eventually caught up with them along Lairig Leacach a couple of kilometres short of Leacach Bothy. It was about this time we noticed a few midgies. They left ahead of us and we caught up with them again at the Leacach. We didn’t see them again, other than in the distance, until we reached Meannanach. After reaching the high point of the Penny Path, I started to suffer pain in my right thigh and knee, as we progressed downhill, it got worse, despite having taken painkillers. We made painfully slow progress and Nick was there ahead of us, unaware I was suffering.

As we pitched our tent, it became abundantly clear that there were midgies. More midgies than I have ever seen in my life, and I’ve seen a few. David went into the bothy to prepare our evening meals and I sorted the inside of the tent. We all ate in the bothy, had a wee chat about the day and the route for tomorrow, then we all retired. Both bothies were busy, Nick opted to stay inside rather than camp.

The following morning, I lay in the tent listening to the midgies swarming. I’ve never heard that before. When a slight breeze blew, the midgies were blown against the side of the tent and tumbled down the fabric like snowflakes.

Horrific. And amazing.

Anyway, they were up and away in good time and we wasted some time so as to give them space. We sauntered along, obviously on the route I’d taken on my Challenge earlier in the year. It was still a bit boggy in places. We had a few breaks, including lunch at the head of Loch Trieg, before Nick got ahead of us and we just plodded on. As we reached Loch Ossian, we could see a small group of people ahead of us near the Youth Hostel and guessed it was probably the group and Nick, but just strolled on, there was no need to fret. We eventually caught up with them just before Corrour Lodge. They were in fine fettle and indeed had been speaking to Nick. He’d gone on ahead and they were just killing time, being slightly ahead of schedule. They were due to camp along Uisage Labhair and this was where we found Nick and the Assessor.

We had a pleasant enough evening, but the midgies were still a nagging problem so we all retired at a reasonable time. I seem to remember there being rain. And it was due to get breezy overnight.

The next morning was wet. Somewhat unpleasantly wet. We packed up inside the tent completely before finally leaving the warm and dry and striking camp. The guys were ready to go and we all headed off, but in opposite directions. They were headed over the Bealach Dubh and down to Loch Pattack, we were headed to Corrour Station, to have coffee, cake, a pee and catch the train to Tulloch. There we retrieved the cars and drove towards Dalwhinnie. Nick opted to park near Inverpattack Lodge, we drove to Dalwhinnie station and walked in from there along Loch Ericht. In retrospect, we took the long route, possibly unnecessarily, but actually I quite enjoyed it. We found them all, along with Nick, at Loch Pattack, bang on time. They had had quite a wet, miserable day, but were still in reasonably good spirits and keen to get in to camp, but Nick suggested walking on a little further to get a sheltered spot. We walked in as a loose group, pitched, had dinner and retired. Midgies!

The last day dawned. We continued along the path behind them for a while, but they peeled off to make their way via Allt an t-Sluic to the quarry on the A889 to meet us, we strolled out to Nick’s car, he gave us a lift to collect ours before we had breakfast at the Dalwhinnie greasy spoon cafe. Mid afternoon, we met John at the quarry, closely followed by the group.

Not surprisingly, they passed. But they are an exceptional group and fully deserved to. Love ‘em to bits and am so proud of them.

I have no photographs of either expedition sadly as Conall had my camera in order to photograph and film their activities as part of their aim.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

An Unexpected Munro

As we walked with the boys to shooting early Friday evening, David asked if I’d like to do Meall a’ Bhuachaille the next day. Well yes! My favourite little hill, but I would have liked more warning, I had a birthday cake to bake. That saw me baking a Chocolate Fruit Mince Brownie at 21:00 on Friday night, in order to be prepared for Saturday.

We were up at a reasonable time yesterday as David planned to take Conall to work for 09:00 and we would the leave for the drive to Glenmore soon after. Bags were packed, kit and boots thrown in to the car and we were off by about 09;15. We’d driven through Grantown on Spey before David casually mentioned that if Meall a’ Bhuachaille went well, we could do Ben Macdui today (Sunday). I thought about this for a minute or two, “I think we should do Ben Macdui today.” David did not question this, “It’s up to you!” was all he said. So after a comfort stop and picking up lunch supplies in Aviemore, we made our way to the ski car park at Cairngorm. “Sure?” said David, “Yes!” said I, and we were off.

I’ve been up the first part of the path twice before, both times heading for Cairn Gorm, but the first time we abandoned as there was too much snow for my liking as we had three of the children with us, much younger at the time, and I thought it unwise. This time I found the climb much easier and good progress was made. We passed the herd of reindeer, but didn’t stop for photographs with the tourists, we’ve seen them before. We had a photograph stop further on and a first lunch stop before we made it up onto the plateau.


Meall a’ Bhuachaille, where had planned to be!


Looking towards Cairn Lochan


Crossing the first patch of snow before we got to the plateau

There was a moment before first lunch that it had briefly crossed my mind we had not seen anyone David knew yet, but there was time. Just after first lunch, instead of the usual “Morning!” or “Afternoon!”, David greeted a man approaching us with “Hi Chris!”. There he was, someone David knew. bound to happen. I took a couple of photographs while they chatted.


Looking north, across and along Lairig Ghru


Looking across to Braeriach

We chatted for a few minutes, then continued on our way, up and over to the plateau and the gentle stroll across boulders and snow and boulders and snow…and boulders and snow. We had seen a half a dozen folk or so as we’d climbed up, once on the plateau we could see hoards of folk that had presumably come across from Cairn Gorm, possibly from the funicular. We joined the end of the caterpillar making our way up to the summit, chatting briefly with a few folk we passed (I know, me passing folk on the way up!!) Once there, we politely queued to take photographs, a kind lady offered to take ours, but I declined. I don’t know where I think a stranger is going to run to with my camera… Obligatory selfie was taken, David took a few of me, then I took one of David (I don’t faff, click done!) then we vacated the trig for others to enjoy as we popped behind a handy wall to shelter for second lunch. It actually was quite sheltered too, which was a change! I took a few photographs of the views, then change my power stretch fleece and wind shirt for my Paramo Velez. I know I’m not working so hard on the way off a hill, and there would be a stiff chilled breeze in our faces on the way across the plateau as it had been at our backs on the way up, so the Velez to me was perfect.


I look quite happy to be there!




On top of the world










…more views


Busy summit

And off we went again.

There actually seemed to be far more snow and boulder fields on the way back and so many more cairns than I remembered, when I checked our track on Viewranger later, we had indeed taken a slightly different line off the summit, but it really didn’t matter, the going down always takes far less time than the going up, we really only paused for the odd mitt or water faff. And painkillers part way down, my right knee was beginning to whinge.

What an absolutely fabulous day out!! Loved it. And I think we can safely say I am healed.

Roughly 10.2 miles and 2,673 ft total ascent 6 hours and 14 mins including pauses and rests.

Will I walk today? …I promised to do David’s ironing, soooo…