As we arrive at the end of 2014 I can reflect on what a bloody fantastic year its been for adventures. Paying homage to how lucky I've been I have listed below my top ten adventures of 2014 :)
At Number Ten... A winter wild camp far out west. Overlooking the sea this was an amazing adventure and what a sunset !!!!!
Number 2 - Amazing amazing trip in the last week of the year. Yes it was cold - but what more can you ask for - even the Northern Lights made an appearance!! happy days!!
NUMBER 1 - Coming in at Number 1 was our African adventure to climb the 3 highest peaks in North Africa. Organised ourselves the really was an adventure. Felt like an expedition from arriving in Morocco to hiring Mules , to climbing the peaks. An amazing experience......... now how the hell can 2015 match up!!! All the best to everyone :)
Mid November was my last blog, so I thought I better do a quick update. Being off now for Xmas I can look back on the last 5 or 6 weeks and say I’ve had a lot of fun in the outdoors!!
After two Bike n Hikes, one in Ardgour and one in Lochaber I saddled up again for a quick blast up my local hill, Ben Chonzie. The forecast was good for the morning so I left early and cycled the shores of Loch Turret before reaching the summit relatively early. It was towards the end of November and the snows had not properly arrived, although the views were stunning as always. Chonzie is my local Munro and I have been up it lots, but I think this is the first time I haven’t encountered any mountain hares!!!! Some piccies below……
Next up was my “other” local hill, a Corbett this time and possibly one of my favourite hills. If time is short, or if weather and driving condition as are marginally, this hill allows my mountain fix to be fed. Ben Vrackie is a magnificent hill – more about this later…. But a spinkling of snow on this visit gave a slight indication of what was to come!!
A wild and wet weekend was forecast at the start of December so we decided to get the kayaks out and stay low. Loch Lubnaig (N-S) was the chosen location. A nice paddle in the rain but in relative shelter (still windy tho~!!!) was had, before my friend (literally) unravelled his new toy. Experienced in SUP boarding in the Mediterranean this was his first shot in Scotland and my first shot ever!!! Video says it all really - a misadventure indeed J
Next up and after the sprinkling of snow on Vrackie a week earlier, a big dump hit the highlands. I had an afternoon free and was desperate to get to the snow – the solution – Ben Vrackie – again. A late start saw me leaving about 13.45 ish, reaching the summit after 15.00. A beautiful sunset ensued and I was a happy man, getting back to the car just as darkness enveloped the mountainside! Some piccies below….
Next up was erm – Ben Vrackie – again.. This time it was the Sunrise I was chasing. Only having a few hours to spare I was super super early and wading through thy deep snow in the dark! However it was a magical trip. I caught the sunrise form near the summit and was first on the hill on a busy day – given the number of people I met on the way down (and that was before 10am!!! I was home supping my cup of tea by 11 oclock!)
Short film and piccies below…
Finally we headed out to try and christen my new ice tools. A quick look through the binos suggested nothing was in at Bridge of Orchy s we headed down to the North facing Coire Daimh where the binos showed some ice forming. On closer inspection – not too much was yet in condition but we di find a short cleft with ice enough for a short pitch of climbing in the upper Coire. Fun indeed…. Now all we need is a good dump of snow and a good freeze …. Bring on 2015 J
Missed this blog from the start of November. The weather was brilliant for this...... report:
It’s a long way to the top….
The weather forecast was looking fantastic for the following day so I decided to head off to the west highlands to bag a solitary Corbett that remained on my “unclimbed list”. Having climbed the two Innse hills last month, Leum Uilleim was the last hill remaining in section 4 of the SMC Corbetts book! Nearly all the route descriptions I investigated gave a route from the station at Corrour, however having biked into Glas Bheinn, I wanted to do a similar thing with Leum Uilleim. As always , the internet was scoured and I found a mountain bike route called the Glean Iolairean circuit. The southerly half of this route seemed to take me to the Loch Chaiarain Bothy – exactly where I wanted to climb the hill from J
Not being a mountain biker, I naively thought the route would be a nice wide path – maybe even a four by four route. Looking at the map I was certain the track to the Blackwater Reservoir would be good and would maybe only deteriorate a little after that – how wrong I was!!
Anyway, I rose extremely early as I wanted to be back mid afternoon for the kids. I had estimated the route to take about 6.5 hours (based on good cycling track all the way!!). I left the house about 4 ish and headed off. The skies were clear and I couldn’t resist stopping and taking a few starry pics and experimenting with the new camera again. Pulling in to the Glen Etive road, I stopped and happily snapped away at the Buachaille! Dawn was now approaching to the east so I eventually headed back to the car and drove round to Kinlochleven – parking the car in the car park behind the COOP.
At 06.58 I headed off in marginal light up the good vehicle track or West highland way!! It was a steep pull and I must admit I did push nearer the top as I neared the power station and cottage. However once at this point the track levelled off. Next to the track is a concrete “path” which must have the pipes in it for the power works? Anyway I soon decided to cycle along this. It was smooth and exhilarating – easily one of the finest rides on the bike I have had. The path traverses high along the steep Glen above the River Leven and the views are epic. With steep drops in to Gorge like glen below. The sun was now rising over the Glencoe hills and illuminating the Mamores, lightening them up with a red Autumnal Hue. The very highest peaks had their first dusting of snow and the visibility was superb. Any water was frozen and there was a fine nip in the air. Couldn’t get any better!
I had read about the Navvies Grave yard, where those who lost their lives when building the Blackwater Dam were laid to rest. The dam was hand built without the aid of machinery by about 3000 Irish and Scottish “Navvies”, some of whom died during this time. The grave yard is located not far from the dam and is in a pretty lonely and remote spot. I stopped and visited it. This morning the weather was fine – making it hard to imagine the bleak conditions which batter this part of the country 90% of the time!
Back to the path, it was now about 08.45 and I decided to head along the top of the dam as I was unsure if there was a bridge below it to cross the outflow? I headed along the top and soon had to lift the bike over a gate at the far end. There was as sign stating unauthorised people are not allowed access – didn’t read this on the other side – oops!
The cycling up until this point had been sublime – smooth concrete, airy rides and blue skiesJ I was about to get a shock!! Heading off the dam I managed to miss the path and ended up pushing my bike across the moor for about 2.5km until I found the path along the side of the Allt an Ruadha Dheirg. 2.5km is not too far but given the rain in the previous days – the moor was very boggy – a rather frustrating push. Anyways – eventually found the path and started along it. As I mentioned before I’m no expert mountain biker and I must admit there were sections I found hard where the path was so narrow and deep the peddles kept caching the ground and if I came off the path to the side it was so wet and or icy that the bike was slipping or sinking into the bog!! So after a testing hour or so, I eventually reached the Bothy at Loch Chiarain. Here I left the bike, it was now 10.15. My turn around time was 12 but I was confident I would reach the summit in plenty of time……. I reached the summit at 11.55!! I was tired but the stunning views made it all worthwhile. To the east the Alder group and Loch Ossian looked fine, to the North the Loch Trieg Munros stood high above my last wild camp spot on the Innses. South and west Rannoch dominated with its glittering pools merging to the west with the peaks of Glencoe. And finally the white peaks of the Aonachs and The Ben shone against the blue skies. The visibility was superb….
A quick bite to eat and then it was the romp home. Hard to keep my eyes on my feet with the views!! The cycle back was again testing until the dam (lots of swearing) as I came off my bike a few times. Then the final 1.5km along the loch side was basically a bog, made worse this time by my tiredness! Cue more swearing!!! I hadn’t seen anyone until this point but near the dam caught up with a hiker who was hiking through from Corrour to Kinlochleven – I hope he didn’t hear my expletives !! – apologies if he did!!
Taking note of the Dams notice I now headed under the dam and eventually found my way back onto the superb concrete path J Rapid progress was now made and the brakes were tested on the descent – a good idea to check your brakes work before heading down here!!
Got back to the car for three – absolutely knackered but feeling very satisfied – a great day out.
Some thoughts and reports from my outdoors activties...