It been a mixed year for my outdoor adventures- blighted by injury (and surgery). However it started off very well, following on from some nice conditions at the end of 2014….
January – Team Epic And TheATeam hit SCNL….. A look into SCNL and the team split, myself and Mark heading up Twisting gully with our compatriots going for Dorsal in a quiet SCNL. Conditions were a little lean, adding some difficulty to some moves but fun was had and a quick descent into Broad Gully required due to ferocious winds meeting us as we topped out.. A good start to the winter climbing for 2015 following a few hikes out and about including my annual trip up Ben Vrackie on the 1st….
February – A busy month in the depths of winter. Winter was here now and after a couple of climbs on the excellent Beinn Udlaidh and then further east in the magnificent Corrie Fee, we had high hopes for our long weekend later in the month….. The weather had other ideas… Plans had been hatched for climbs high on the Ben or tackling exciting winter ridges in the North West Highlands….. had it not been for the fact that we were lucky enough to get a 4 by 4 we wouldn’t have made it north of Dunkeld! The footage shows the road conditions and we couldn’t even head west at Dalwhinnie. However we still managed two lower hills, a feat in itself given the winter storms encountered!!
March – Glencoe in perfect winter conditions ??? First up and fine conditions hit Scotland. The plan – a climb on The Ben – The reality- a stop at Jacksonville car park showed the Buachaille looking beautiful – its picturesque profile lured us in and Crowberry Gully was tackled. An amazing day! The conditions persisted for a few more days and I decided a few days later for a quick blast up the Coe. A super early start saw me in SCNL with now one around. I blasted up and down Broad Gully and only started to meet the ant trail of people once out of the Corrie. Another memorable day- superb J
April – NOOOooooooooooo - Oh Bugger!!!! Some fine spring weather saw us head to the sea cliffs at Arbroath where fun was had climbing – a twinge in the knee soon forgotten about after sourcing some of the famous Arbroath SmokiesJ The next week I did some more Corbett bagging, not too many left to do south and east of Fort William now J. Two which had eluded me were The Brack and Ben Donich. I had a spare morning so head for Donich early and was hit by some of the last snow of the season early doors. A fine hike and back home mid morning…… The next day, a Sunday and I was working at my desk on the laptop for a few hours. I needed a cuppa so decided to make a brew and stood from the chair to head for the kitchen…….. I never made it as far as the kitchen. My knee buckled from under me when I tried to put my weight on it. It was catching, locking and giving way after only a few steps – I can only describe the feeling as someone throwing lego and broken glass in my knee!! This wasn’t good… I tried to work (I had to work not to let people down!) for the next three days minimum. I could hardly walk 10 foot. I was at a consultation the next week. X ray and a MRI showed the knee was full of debris and my articular cartilage was not how it should be. OCD was mentioned (but not the OCD you’re thinking off!! Lol. This was the start of my lay off……..surgery was required… One plus side – I now knew I had time to learn about drones….. as a consequence and having lots of spare time – I made a time lapse film (took ages to get all the footage together!!!-4 years of work ;))….
May-August – No strenuous activities i.e. no climbing up mountains etc etc that’s what the Doctor ordered me to do. However I found I could cycle albeit not as far and not at the same intensity, also you don’t always have to us your legs to get out and about. A trip to see the Wallabies (no idea if this island that has them or not but one of them does!!) on Loch Lomond gave some rest bite to my outdoor ban! The only thing that saved me going too mad was the fact that this year the summer weather was sh£*e! (excuse the language)
September- Still waiting on surgery but my knee was strengthening with the physio so I managed a bike ride up Glen Almond. It took an injury and wanting an easy (ish) day to return here. I couldn’t hike so the bike was ridden all the way – first trip out into the hill in months – Christ it felt good… Downhill on the MTB was fun too and the weather was superb!! (two weeks later I was back with the kids to show them Craignavar!!). A cracking Glen- note to self – don’t leave it 8 years before next visit…..
October – still no date for surgery but the weather was the best it had been since April. I took a big chance and headed for a wee hill called Ben a’An. Not high, close to the road , full signal and not demanding. The normal route was closed so the detour was via the Ben Venue car park. I struggled up this modest hill in stunning conditions, reaching the top as everyone left – perfect timing. I was in no rush and the pain in my knee was offset by some painkillers! I had a night to rest it before a painful descent. Not going to describe it – please watch the film as its one of the best sunsets and in particular – sunrises I’ve had – amazing … was the pain worth it – maybe…….;)
November – Surgery – After Ben a’An , I decided to keep to the bike and I had a sleepless night above Glen Tilt (also the darkest night on a hill). The Stags roared all day and all night, but sunrise from the Munro was stunning! More great weather followed and I had a late afternoon cycle above a spectacular inversion at Loch Turret J Then the letter appeared, surgery was scheduled for the end of the month. Turns out there is something called an articular condyle defect. Where the end of my bone should be nice and white with cartilage – turns out its red raw (well looks like that) with no cartilage! A few meniscal tears as a side factor too, but at least the ligaments in this knee are better than the other !!!! Time will tell what’ll need done, but I felt good after surgery… painful but what are painkillers for ;) jk! Was signed off for at least two weeks….
December – Testing knee – it was sore but was told to get it moving a do as much as possible mmm Beinn Chrulaiste. So I decided to be a landscape photographer for the day – never been on a trip to take a photo – this was my first (maybe last ?). Was an awesome day out. Usually up and down this hill in under two hours but spent over eight on it! Knee was sore and landscapes awesome so much photo taking and drone flying J Please watch the film as it came out ok and shows the beauty of the day better than my clumsy text! Next few trips were battling elements on small hills.
So for 2016 , I need to continue my rehab and continue to build the knee up. Have another appointment in February which I hope goes well…. Lots to do in 2016…..
I always look forward to the festive break, a good few days off work and as such more versatility of when to go to the mountains. Usually the weather breaks for a good few days and the choices of mountain days opens up. Thoughts of white peaks and blue skies always enter the mind’s eye view ;)
My last mountain jaunt was spectacular and blues skies and white peaks is exactly what I experienced. Call it karma, balance, Yin and Yang or whatever, but the weather decided to make up for its kindness on my next two mountain trips!!
short film : https://www.facebook.com/steaming.boots.71/videos/465024873686183/
First up we had pencilled in the 20th for a pre Xmas trip. As it turned out the forecast was looking miserable – gales and storm force gusts up high and heavy rain/sleet…. Plans for any climbs were changed for a walk up The Brack. Our route would give us some shelter and not going too high (The summit is about 787m) should ease us from the worst of the weather. I was personally very happy – not only at getting out – but The Brack is the last remaining Corbett for me to walk south and east of Fort Bill. My last hill before damaging my knee was its neighbour Ben Donich, so it seemed a good place to go as a first unclimbed hill post-surgery! Not too much to say about the hike apart from it follows a track through the forest and then strikes rather steeply uphill- a feature that caused much amusement on the return - the saturated, soggy ground and gradient equated to many slips and bum slides down the slopes!!
Buachaille Etive Beag
Short Video - https://www.facebook.com/steaming.boots.71/videos/467071036814900/
Next up was the annual Boxing Day hike. The forecast was looking better for the 27th but neither of us could make that day, so we met up at 0700 hrs near Tyndrum. Plans for broad gully or something similar were decided against due to the large amounts of new, wet snow that had and was continuing to fall. Once again the winds were forecast to be ferocious!! More storm force gusts and this time from an easterly direction. We pondered on Beinn Dorain but eventually decided to see how far up Buachaille Etive Beag we could go. We headed up the Lairig Eilde soon hitting the snow line. We were well sheltered from the strong easterlies here and progress was good through the deep drifts.
As we got higher we could see the spin drift and snow devils whipping their way over the Bealach and down the slopes toward us. It was an impressive if intimidating sight as we knew what was awaiting us at the bealach. As we approached all clothing was added and goggles out. We could hear the wind before the whipping snow devils hit us. As the wind smashed over the col the down drafts were impressive and sudden and we were stopped in our tracks a few times. As we reached the Cairn the winds were fierce but more constant in nature. The snow however was providing good if somewhat painful exfoliation on the small parts of skin still exposed to the gale. Painful “bullets” of snow gave red raw cheeks later !
We found a spot to hunker down and evaluate our position at about 750m and decided to head on a little more before re-evaluating. We were about 200m off the summit (958m). An increase in height saw an increase in wind and the final straw was on a snow field above a gully which was acting as a funnel for the wind. We forced our way across and at a height of about 850m made the decision to descend. A wise one at that. Descent was quick and we found ourselves back at the car for about 10.15. Although we hadn’t reached the top, it was nice being out and about and I think we were about the only people on the hill- had the place to ourselves. 24hrs later I suspect the Glen would have been heaving as blue skies retuned to the Scottish Mountains for a few hours. Writing this we are waiting on Storm Franky touching down, so looks like New Year’s hike maybe similar…
I love taking photos (I also love taking videos!) and when out hiking and enjoying TGO I have the camera out lots (probably too much!). However I have never set out on a trip specifically to take a photo, I always just snap away at subjects and landscapes that I like when out.
This trip was different. I knew a shot I wanted, it wasn’t a very original shot, and in fact the subject (a mountain- no surprises there) is probably the most photographed landscape in the UK. I have loads of photos of his iconic mountain but I wanted a specific shot. The mountain is Stob Dearg or The Buachaille or The Bookle;) and I wanted a winter shot with the Bookle and its Moat (i.e. the River Coupall).
So a late change in forecast around Thursday night showed a short settled spell arriving on Saturday after a few days of snow. It even showed clear skies for the morning, even better, I would also get the sun rising in to the bargainJ
So Research done, maps pored over, sun calc calculated, reports read, previous photos studied and I was off in the car by 0500AM – Ouch. Driving through and it was cloudy. I was really disappointed as I knew the chances of a sunrise were diminishing as I was coming in from the eastL However on arriving at a snowy (and busy) Altnafeadh layby (other parking spots to wintery to park in) I could make out that the tops were clear of cloud, but there was a dark blanket blotting out any chances of a sunrise !
I set off up Chrulaiste at a slow pace – snow was deep – fitness was low – but I had plenty of time. I had a location in mind and before long I arrived at the photo spot. I set the tripod up (something I don’t usually have!) and snapped away. No sunrise shot but I was happy with the moody dawn light on The Buachaille with dark skies behind.
A few more snaps and I made my way towards the top. The drifts were deep but I followed footsteps from the night before and soon met the owners of the footsteps on the way down. They had camped on the summit hoping to get star and sunrise shots but the cloud had thwarted these occurringL I was rather jealous remembering my wild camp here almost a year previously J
I reached the summit and sat for an hour. A thin line of blue had appeared on the Northern Horizon earlier and as I ate my lunch I watched this blue line expand and start to chase the dark skies southwards. Soon I had the sunglasses out and the day suddenly felt very alpine. Although not the best time to take photos, this afternoon was okay as the sun doesn’t reach very high in the sky and I noticed some nice shadows and lines. I headed back through waist deep drifts to take more photos…
All I can say was that it was absolutely stunning. I wish I and could’ve stayed out as per 12 months previously! I got back to the car and by the time I had dug myself out (rear wheel car are not very snow friendly!!) It was 3.30 and the sun was starting to sink. I hope the photos are ok, its my first attempt and I think I got the shot I was hoping for….
Thanks to the chaps from the JMCS (I think tats right?) who hung around to make sure I got my car safely on the road – much appreciated – hope the slide show was entertaining at Lagangarbh J
Some thoughts and reports from my outdoors activties...