Saturday, May 02, 2009

Upper Derwent Valley

The grand plan is to walk the West Highland Way in August. So in preparation for that, and to try and get fit, Claire dragged me out (kicking and screaming!) for a walk round Ladybower, Derwent and Howden Reservoirs. Accompanied by Pete, Jack & Ed we set off confidently towards Slippery Stones. Lunch seemed like a good plan, and that was when the sheep decided to join us. I'm sure she was harmless enough, but Ed was pushed into action and he proved what a fine shepherd he would make. Claire still didn't manage to relax, but stuffed her lunch down and carried on walking quickly!

Arriving back at Fairholmes in good time, we decided to continue down to the A57 and do the complete circuit - fuelled of course by ice cream!

(Technical Data: distance = 24km, ascent = 200m)

Sunday, April 26, 2009


As usual at this time of year, I'm out with the students doing D of E. This year we had a few more that in previous years, so had to get a bit more creative with their routes. We decided that the best thing was to wait at the top of Crowden Clough and they would all come past us. Great in theory, not quite so good in practice.

Firstly, every D of E group in Britain was on top of Kinder on Saturday. And spotting which ones are yours from a distance is quite hard.

Secondly, not every group actually managed to come past us!

Thirdly, I'd failed to take into consideration that one of the groups would find us easily and then afterwards get badly lost. Never mind, they assured me that they would be fine following the path across Kinder. After all, if it's on the map then it must be there.....honest!

Despite these challenges, and the 10Kg tent that one student brought with him, we survived.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Lairig Ghru

For the past couple of years, I've wanted to walk the Lairig Ghru. It's one of those classic mountain journeys, that despite reaching over 800m is still 400m lower than the peaks around it.

I arrived at the Linn of Dee car park at 10pm, so decided to sleep in the car. The car park has eco-toilets, which is always a bonus for overnight stops, but no water.

Setting off early, the path starts off through some woodland. I had a full pack, so progress was slower than those who had arranged a pick up in Aviemore. A number of people passed me on mountain bikes, using them to cycle to Derry Lodge to save some time on a day out.

At Derry Lodge, there are a couple of options for routes depending on the plans you have. There were a few tents pitches around the area and it would make a good location for a wild base camp. Off the bulldozed paths, the ground around here was a little boggy, so I imagine it's a place to avoid after heavy rain.

As I headed up Glen Luibeg it was obvious that I would have to take the detour up to the footbridge rather than being able to ford the river on the direct route. Even at this stage of the walk, I wasn't impressed with adding extra distance.

Once across the footbridge, the next landmark I was looking out for was Corrour Bothy. This small building is one of the busiest remote bothies in Scotland, enabling many Munro baggers and mountaineers the chance to have shelter and not to have to return to Aviemore or Braemar for a roof over their head.

The bothy is a slight detour from the main path, and is at the foot of The Devil's Peak. I was very tempted to set up camp at the bothy and climb the Munro, but there was quite a bit of snow in evidence, and I didn't want to get part way up and then have to turn back.

As I approached the bothy there were a couple of people sat outside having lunch, so I thought it would be a good time to stop for food myself!

The "extension" on the left of the picture is the recent addition of an eco-toilet. Such is the demand on the bothy that the area was become littered with human waste, so this was fitted as a trial project. I can say that I helped with the trial and put it to good use!

After leaving Corrour Bothy, the path starts it's climb up to the Pools of Dee. From this point onwards I saw no other people at all, except for a couple of people off in the distance ahead of me. There were regular fly-bys from the RAF helicopter so not sure if they were out on exercise or the real thing.

Up to the Pools of Dee there is a good path, but that disappeared into the boulders and the large snow patches. Originally when I'd looked at the map, I though that maybe I could camp around here, but not a chance. Crossing the snow patches slowed me down considerably, and I was starting to get tired. The surroundings were amazing, and the isolation striking. The thought that I had no mobile reception and it would be another 14 hours at the least before anyone else came past certainly helped focus the mind when travelling across very uneven ground.

After what seemed like an eternity, the path re-emerged. I was still looking out for a suitable camp spot, but there was none to be found. I decided against heading up the Chalamain Gap to the ski centre and instead took what I thought was the path into Rothiemurchus. Fording the river while keeping my feet dry was a challenge that I failed. Despite walking a fair distance up and down the river, there was nowhere that I could easily cross, so the feet got wet and subsequently suffered greatly.

Once I entered the forest, I realised that there was not going to be anywhere I could pitch the tent, so I was committed to continuing to the wild camp spot beyond the Cairngorm Club bridge, or going to Glenmore campsite. By this point, my feet were sore and I had little energy left. I decided to head for the wild camp spot, but then after heading that way, changed my plan and decided that the Youth Hostel was a better option!

The last three miles were agony. By now my wet feet had formed blisters and every step was torture. I knew that if I stopped to rest that I would never get up again, so I just had to concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. Never has the end been so welcome, and thankfully there was a spare bed for me!!

(Technical Data: distance = 32.5km, ascent = 700m)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Montafon (Part 2)

I'd had a really good time in Montafon in February, so was looking forward to returning. It's always much easier the second time you work in a resort, and when it's in the same season then you know a lot of the key people. We had the same ski instructors, the hotel staff were largely the same and I knew the drill for things like the ice skating. The big difference was the amount of snow, and the temperature.

In February it has been cold enough to snow in the town. This time all the cafes had tables outside and were dong a good trade in ice creams. The other big advantage of this time of year is that the clocks have moved forward, so you get light evenings and nice sunsets.

The skiing conditions weren't too bad, but by afternoon the snow was heavy, and we had a few accidents. I managed a ride on a skidoo, but missed out on a helicopter trip as they had no room for me.

We also had a play on a contraption called a ski-fox. At first it was terrifying, but with a bit of practice it was easy to control and loads of fun.

It probably wouldn't rank as the best weeks skiing I've ever had, but hey, much better than a week in the office....and I get paid for it too!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Loch Morlich

Didn't manage too much of a walk today, as I needed to head back South to go back to work tomorrow, but found time to visit Loch Morlich. The fresh snow on the Cairngorms looked good in the sunlight and made me wish that home was a bit nearer!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Nevis Range

The conditions for today looked much better in the West, so despite staying in Aviemore last night, I decided that it was worth the drive back to Aanoch Mor. The sky was grey, but the upper runs were in really good condition. I did make the mistake of trying to ski from the restaurant to the Quad and made a few imprints on my bases :(

The recent snow was obvious on the Ben (shown below) and there weren't too many people trying to climb the gullies.

There was little wind up top, and I did briefly consider walking to the summit from the top tow, but decided against it. There were a few good looking cornices around, looking like they could go at some point soon.

After a grey day on the slopes, as I got the gondola down the sun came out. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to take a few snaps, I headed round to Corpach to get a good view of the Ben from a different angle to Aanoch Mor!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Glencoe Mountain

Of all the ski resorts in the world, the one I've been most desperate to ski has been Glencoe. While I'm sure there are 100s (if not 1000s) of "better" resorts out there, it is an area that I have spent a lot of time in in the summer and has some of the most spectacular scenery I've ever seen.

I wasn't even intending to ski today as I didn't arrive until midday. I went to enquire how much a lift pass for tomorrow would be and they told me that they were £15 per day. You can't ski for an hour at Xscape for that, so I was persuaded to hand over the credit card straight away.

The 1st stage up the mountain is the access chair which is a fairly old 2 man lift. At the top of this you can normally ski across to the other lifts, but the snow cover didn't reach this low, so they were running the Argo Taxi. (For those of you who only ski the 3 Valleys, and Argo is the make of all-terrain vehicle that many of the stalkers use in the hills - you don't see too many of them in Courchevel!!). After the short drive, it was the single chair, which was a challenge when carrying skis and having a safety bar that didn't work!

Eventually I made it up to the skiable area and got going. There were 6 others sharing my resort today, so no lift queues! I think there were more people out walking than skiing. But what an amazing experience. The snow was in very good condition, and with views across Rannoch Moor, who could wish for any more.