Taking the Kids Wild (ish!) Camping…
Half way through the summer holidays and into my last week off work and there was one good weather day left (if the weather forecasts are to be believed!), so I gave the kids a few choices of possible activities… A bike, a hike or some camping. Unenthused I got a bedraggled “camping I suppose” answer!
Didn’t seem like my love for camping was a genetic factor then! With this in mind I wanted somewhere not too wild and somewhere we could bail out if the forecast bad weather moved in early! The forecast was for a fine evening and rain moving in around 8am the next morning. The grandparents live in the East Neuk and I know the area well, having spent all my summer holidays as a kid roaming the beaches and nooks and crannies on the coast down here. With my son suffering from nearly every allergy under the sun I knew I wasn’t going to going too wild and remoteJ
A nice flat area of grass next to the lighthouse and “Ruby Bay” was my intended pitch, but with this area on the Fife Coastal Path and also a very popular short walk I didn’t want to pitch up too early. Discrete camping and leaving no trace was the topic of conversation as I explained my reasoning to the kids as we headed off around 8pm. Two tents, four sleeping bags (yes 4!) three ground mats, four pillows (yes 4!) jackets, gloves , stove, sweeties, hats, extra socks and of course ipad, pods phones headsets (I needed a backup in case the TGO failed to entertain ;)). The load was heavy but I managed to get the kids carrying their own pillows (they were the ones who demanded two pillows each! Lol).
Before long the tents were up. Sunset was around 21.30 so I quickly set the kids a task of collecting some deadwood for a fire – if they could find enough! A handful of twigs arrived and the handful slowly grew larger as electronic devices drifted out of their thoughts. The forecast of clear blue skies failed to materialise though and sunset was a rather uneventful short burst of crepuscular rays - I was a little disappointed – but the kids were too busy looking forward to the camp fire to even notice J
With dusk approaching we got the fire going on a nice wee spot (below the high water mark) and it lasted longer than I thought, probably a good hour! Had my son had his way it would have been a 5 minute roarer with him wanting to add everything on at once lol! The only Apple that was being utilised was my daughters evening snack – an apple! Fire done and darkness had descended, we all had head torches so set off along the beach on a night time walking adventure (well that’s what the kids were enjoying!). 11pm arrived and it was time to get them to bed, I was also getting up at 04.30am to try and see if we would get a decent sun rise! The weeman was keen on joining me but I knew I’d let him sleep if he wasn’t already awake!
A little sleep later and it seemed I had only just got to sleep when I woke at 04.30am. A little shifting about and I rose and headed up to the light house to catch the sunrise. It was still a little cloudy but we got a brief blast of pink just before sunrise which was satisfying. Next thing I knew I saw a little head poking out of the tent and the weeman was quickly out and running up the hill to join me. He reached me just in time to see a glowing ball of fire rise over the horizon. The cloud was thin and tick enough to see the fireball and look directly at the sun rising – cracking and he seemed happy – absolutely no complaint or wanting to go back to bed to play with his electronics ! Braw!
Soon both of them were up and by 05.45 we were striking camp. By 06.00 we were heading back towards Grannies looking forward to a full Scottish Fry Up.
The Monsoon arrived at 07.00 and lasted about eight hours!!!
Been looking at getting this done for years! Finally did it nd a cracking day out. The scramble is made by the location and remote feel of this trip, nothing too technical and a grand day out in some big country!
I was 14 years old when I had my first taste of a day in the mountains. A group of older friends were doing a charity hike through the Lairig Ghru and asked if I wanted to join them. I remember being in awe of the massive mountains that reared up on the left hand side as we hiked in towards the Pools of Dee. They were dark and menacing with heavy clouds darkening their appearance. This may have been the initial hook that led to this addiction!
My next foray to this part of the world was back in July 2003 when I was a bit fitter than I am now!. I cycled in and up Glen Dee to continue on foot around six Munros on the Western side of the Lairig Ghru! A long day it was and enjoyable – the navigational skills were also tested that day!! I’ve been back to the Cairngorms lots but never really back into the Lairig Gru to any extent.
When I picked up “Classic Mountain Scrambles in Scotland” (Andrew Dempster) back in the late nineties, I noticed there weren’t too many easier scrambles in the Gorms. Fiacaill Ridge is a classic and has been done many times, but I always fancied Angels Ridge, but somehow had never found the time to try it out – until now….
My brother fancied Braeriach so I suggested a wee detour round to Angels Ridge as part of the route. The long summer days are a fine time to do this as the distances involved are large!
We set off from the Sugarbowl car park around 9am and it was blustery, the forecast suggesting arduous walking on higher areas in the morning – this may have included the 450m start point! It did however have the advantage of keeping any biting beasties at bay!
Soon we were at the Chalamain Gap, boulder hoping our way through as the cloud started to part. The skies were looking good! Dropping down we met the Lairig Ghru and continued up to the Pools of Dee, stopping for some lunch here. It was now after 11- and we hadn’t even started climbing properly yet! The best part of the walk (excluding the scramble) came next in my opinion. Skirting the hillside into the An Garbh Choire produced some stunning views down Glen Dee and also into the massive Corries that dominate the skyline – a superb place and well worth the effort. I had hoped the Corries may have provided some shelter but the opposite was true- the wind was whistling down off the plateau and seemed to intensify as it hit the corrie floor- I was starting to doubt if the ridge option may be a no goer due to the gusty wind!
Stopping at the tiny Garbh Coire Bothy (maybe better described as an emergency shelter!) we had a second lunch before starting to ascend in a steeper fashion! A short time later and we reached the shores of Lochan Uaine which turned out to be a little less windy, strange as this must be one of the highest bodies of water in Scotland perhaps? Third lunch (well sweeties) were had here as we lounged about taking in the views.
The ridge didn’t look too steep or narrow so we decided to give it a go and were soon scrambling up easy angled granite boulders with superb frictional propertiesJ As you get higher on the ridge there are few slightly steeper steps but nothing too difficult- it’s the location that makes this a special scramble!
Reaching Angels peak we decided to nip over to Carn Toul – it looked really close! About half an hour later and we were sheltering in the summit circle! The wind was at its worse here – literally blowing us about and we were glad to descend a little and leave the gales behind!
Back up to Sgor an Lochain Uaine and we had the last peak (or rise in the Plateau) in our sights. The cliffs and Corries that surround Braeriach must be some of the finest in Scotland and the hike round them was superb in these conditions. Although windy the skies were clear and the views amazing.
Knackered, we arrived on Braeriachs summit after four. Now it was the long walk back, finally reaching the car around 10 hours after starting. A long day but definitely worth the effort – a fine day in the CNP.
Our grand plans for a few days adventure in the North West Highland had been scuppered due to a series of deep Atlantic lows that were to provide some watering a high speed blasting in the mountains, so we decided to make a day trip in between the watering and see if the high speed drying would benefit us during this outing.
The overnight deluge had passed as we left the North Face car park but the remnants of the weather front had decided to stick around (seemed like they were waiting for the next front to see how much rain it would produce!!).
The atmosphere was damp as we trudged up the well-constructed path from the car park. This part of the walk is steep and I always breathe a sigh of relief when the first views of The Ben come into sight. Not only do the views improve but the gradient does too ;)! The lower ramparts of the major ridges were only just visible whilst the rest of the North Face was under a curtain of dark grey cloud.
Grey sheets filled the air as showers came and went and soon we were headed towards the cloud, following the right flank of the slanting gully that exists Castle Corrie.
After a little toing and froing on steep grass, we made it to the start of the route proper. The frictional properties of the easy angled rock was the same as the wet vertical grass and our progress was slowed as each foot placement wasn’t to be relied upon! The first difficulty was soon reached – a grimy, wet, slippery corner, although not the crux – it certainly felt like it today with water dripping down it and Teflon feeling surfaces! Over the top of this we continued up on what would have been relatively easy ground ;). A wet set of slabs led us into another dripping corner and we knew the crux corner was approaching.
Photo below of me taken by - SB-G
This turned out to be delightful. It was actually the only part of the route that was dry, and although exposed, the few moves here were fantastic, an absolute pleasure. The holds were all there and gear was in abundance. All too soon though it was over and a ledge provided numerous points for a belay. A short distance on and the route meanders up to a corner that is a little narrower – some thrutching and bridging may help, but it was also enjoyable. From here it is relatively straight forward and a teeter along a rooftop arête provides a little exposure and fun before the North Castle Gully meets you on the left to conclude the route.
From here the rain and cloud worsened and we navigated to the Pony Track before the long walk out. The second front had now arrived ;)
A trip to Glencoe and we decided to try out Broad Buttress.
Having been up Curved Ridge a zillion times (still one of my favourite hills days tho!) and North Buttress route a few weeks ago we decided to give Broad Buttress a try.
The guidebook rates this as 3 star , a whole star more than Curved Ridge or indeed North Buttress route – both amazing scrambles! Expectations were high J
Given its location the walk in is a bit shorter, however due to the reduced traffic this route receives , there was some heather bashing required before we reached the slabs that start the route!! Some padding up the slabby aprons was enjoyed as the rock was lovely and grippy (we experienced the opposite on our next outing on Castle Ridge!!).
As the name implies, the buttress is Broad and lots of variation and levels of difficulty can be had. As we approached a steep section we decided to rope up and climb a shorter slightly more difficult section which was great fun… The gradient then eased a little and we moved together enjoying some great scrambling. As always the views from this mountain were grand, with Rannoch Moor at our feet and Glencoe dropping away at our backs ;)
Soon we were at the top of the route with great views into the upper part of Great Gully- a great place to have some lunch J. After soaking in the views we traversed scree slopes until we reached the tourist path and descended into Coire na Tulaich.
A grand wee adventure… not too sure I’d rate it above Curved o North Buttress though it’s still a fantastic scramble J
June was a quiet month in the great outdoors for Steaming Boots, a lot going on with work and other stuff we only managed a wee trip to the Cairngorms. Interspersed with this I did managed two or three ascents of my local hills in Fife but apart from that June was a bit low on the adventure scale!! So to July and we have been off to a flyer, Sutherland and Glencoe already and a few more trips planned (as well as planning for the Alps later in the year - cant wait. The Adventure diary is open again and full steam ahead. First trip was to the magnificent Sutherland
Mention Assynt and the first few things that spring into my mountain brain start with an S! Suilven, Stac Pollaidh and then the mind wanders to the C’s – Cul Beag, Cul Mor , Canisp….
Beyond Assynt lies Sutherland, mountains such as Foinavan and Quinag take centre stage… A fabulous part of the country for sure.. So when flicking through the SMC Corbetts book a few years back I was intrigued by the “other “ mountains in the area. Ben Hee, Beinn Leoid, Glas Bheinn….. My interest was sparked… sometimes the lesser known hills in areas of such mountainous beauty hold their own little secrets – they usually give the best views to the better known hills!! Chrulaiste being my favourite example, although it’s secret has long left the building!
So a short spell of settled weather, in the North West saw me spilling over maps and investigating some nice easy wild camp options. I decided on Glas Bheinn, nice and close the road and giving the potential for some splendid viewsJ
Arriving at a small layby around 4pm (the Quinag car park was full!) I set off along a rather damp stalkers path. Soon after cresting a small rise (where Suilven came into view ;)) I decided that it was time to head upwards! Pathless and rocky near the top, I had to watch my footing.
Even a drenching from a few showers didn’t quail my excitement…. I was soon making my way around a magnificent Corrie that held Loch a Choire Dheirg. The views here were amazing, and these didn’t even include any mountains – just lochs, lochans and sea – this was going to be a grand place to take photos later…. A short walk to the summit Cairn and the sun came back out, the rays drying away the dampness caused by the earlier rain. There was more good news – lots of flat grassy ground to pitch. Of course I went for a pitch with a view and soon had a porch with Assynt laid out before it!
I love wild camping and I love taking piccies – especially of the sunsets and sunrises. However this is where summer in Scotland ain’t that good – there is only about 4 hrs between the two on top of a mountain at this time of year!! So after watching the sunset around 10.30, I headed off to sleep- for a whole 3.5hrs.
I woke at 03.30 and fumbled about the tent! Sunrise was meant to be at 04.30 but by the time I emerged from the tent it was nearer 4 and the sky was already turning an amazing shade over the summit. Cue lots of half a sleep panicking and I ran (well trotted and stumbled) to get to the summit before the light show ended.. Think I just made it – it was amazing as ever….
Feeling pleased with myself I then lazed in the tent with the door open and watched as the rising sun lit up Assynt… What an experience….
By 0530 the sun was up and it was time to head off. I was back in the car for 07.30 so decided on a wee trip past Lochinver and round the coast. An amazing car journey on a twisty road…. I had been so lucky! So much so that I didn’t even mind the 4.5 hr drive home J
Side note – with phrases like “watched with the tent door open” I know some of you will be wondering if the local wildlife came to play- well I can say with hand on heart that not one midge visited me whilst on the mountain (it was breezy the night b4 but still in the morning !! – they must have been waiting on my return at the car ;))
Something for June
So the glorious weather of late Spring had departed and Scotland was back to the usual mix of rain and gales – superbly Scottish summer weather ;) The spring weather had been enjoyed but June was quiet and only one mountain outing was enjoyed by the steaming boots twosome. The Steaming Boots team had a busy time ahead, limiting Mountain Time, however we look forward to an active few months coming up!
Unusually our June outing was to the Cairngorms…a little further east than our usual haunts!
We were keen to get some climbing in, but a marginal forecast saw us head for The Fiacaill Ridge and for some fun scrambling. The ridge is superbly located and easily reached but truth be told the scrambling is short lived. You get a feel for the ridge and just as you are warmed up, the plateaux appears in front of you after the final pull up! However it’s a grand way to reach the Cairngorm plateaux and today with high winds we had the ridge to ourselves. The same couldn’t be said about the plateaux, with many parties enjoying the one place in Scotland where the cloud and rain weren’t dampening the views from the summits!
Once on the plateaux, there are numerous option and lots of places to visit. However we had time limits today so I suggested popping down to try and get a snap of Loch Avon. We eventually reached a spot where we could just about capture the loch and stopped for a bit to eat and a photo. The winds were fierce and a drop down the Goat track was taken and back to the car in the relative shelter of the Corrie.
Not much happening apart from this outing but keep watching as the next few months look like we will be getting back into the Great Outdoors with a vengeance!
Some thoughts and reports from my outdoors activties...